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1-Year Nurse Practitioner Programs Online: Find the Shortest Degrees

1-year nurse practitioner programs online prepare you with the skills and knowledge to advance your career. Keep reading to learn more.

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A female nurse practitioner in green scrubs smiles while using a laptop in a brightly lit office with blinds and a plant.

You’ve done your time in the trenches; now’s the moment to take the next step in your career by studying to become a nurse practitioner (NP). As an NP, you can look forward to a sizable pay bump, more responsibility, and the opportunity to provide more advanced care to your patients. If you want to become an NP as soon as possible, online learning is your best bet. The shortest online nurse practitioner program options out there can help you graduate and get back to your career in as few as 12 months. However, the convenience of accelerated learning comes with its own set of challenges and considerations.

In this guide, we’ll talk about what to expect when you enroll in a 1-year nurse practitioner program online. We’ll look at some of the shortest online nurse practitioner program options; offer tips on finding and evaluating potential programs; and talk you through common challenges students face when they pursue a 1-year nurse practitioner program online. So, if you’re ready to make your move toward becoming an NP, settle in and let us guide you through the process.

Spotlighting Standout Nurse Practitioner Programs Online

Before you dive into your program search, learn more about what you’re getting into when you sign up for a 1-year nurse practitioner program online. In this section, we’ve highlighted three excellent accelerated NP programs that offer examples of the format and resources you can expect. Even if none of these are the perfect fit for you, you can use them as a yardstick for evaluating the quality of your other options.

Kennesaw State University

The family nurse practitioner (FNP) MSN at Kennesaw State University is among the shortest online nurse practitioner programs. This program is also a great example of how hybrid coursework can look in an accelerated NP program. While students primarily take classes online, they meet in person two weekends each month to participate in hands-on training. Regular face-to-face meetings with peers and professors help students build relationships, stay engaged with the community, and practice working collaboratively in healthcare settings.

Kennesaw is also committed to making advanced degrees in nursing accessible for everyone. The FNP program accepts up to nine hours of transfer credits, which — if you have them — can considerably shorten your graduation timeline. Online students also benefit from reduced student fees, paying $438 per credit rather than the $964 per credit that in-person students pay.

The University of Texas at Arlington

The accelerated FNP program at The University of Texas at Arlington (UTA) is a solid option if you’re looking for a 1-year nurse practitioner program online. The school’s curriculum is designed to prepare students for responsible roles in health promotion, disease prevention, and clinical management. To this end, your coursework will focus heavily on leadership skills, culturally appropriate care, advanced care strategies, and diagnostic skills. Throughout the program, you can expect your classes to incorporate evidence-based practices, collaborations with outside healthcare providers, and engagement with real-world scenarios.

Nursing students at UTA benefit from a host of student support services that can help you stay on track and make the most of your classes. As you’d expect from a quality school, each MSN student is paired with a dedicated advisor who helps them plan their degree and connects them with school resources. But UTA goes above and beyond by maintaining online student support services specifically focused on academic support for graduate nursing students.

Western Governors University

If you’re on the hunt for the shortest online nurse practitioner program, the online FNP program at Western Governors University (WGU) might be just the ticket. WGU is one of a very few schools that offers self-paced coursework. This means no deadlines and no exam dates – you have the freedom to work as fast or as slow as you’d like. And unlike most schools, WGU charges a flat rate of $6,525 per term, which covers as many classes as you can knock out in six months. So, if you’re on the one-year NP track, you can expect significant savings with WGU versus traditional pay-per-credit programs.

The nurse practitioner program at WGU also stands out for its many specialization options. FNP students at WGU pursue concentrations in adult, pediatric, or special populations primary care.

Sample Timeline of a 1-Year Online NP Program

Enrolling in a 1-year nurse practitioner program online means you’re signing on for a very intense 12 months. Set yourself up for success by making keeping track of important milestones along the way. Below, we’ve highlighted the typical timeline of a 1-year online NP and offered some advice on how to prep.

6 Months Before

Start getting your ducks in a row. Research potential programs and prepare your applications. Fortunately, the application process for online NP programs can be pretty fast. For example, at Purdue University, you only need to apply to their accelerated online nurse practitioner program two weeks before the start of classes.

But applications shouldn’t be the only thing on your mind. This is also the time to figure out your budget to support yourself through school. If you’re planning to work during your NP program (which we honestly don’t recommend for such intensive study), figure out how you’ll manage all those responsibilities or arrange to take a leave of absence. Research financial aid and scholarship options to help cover your tuition.

First 6 Months

The first half of your program is going to be very coursework-intensive. Some schools warn that you should plan to study for eight to ten hours a day. So be prepared to take in a lot of new information and have a solid strategy in place for managing your time.

You’ll be focusing on the essential skills and know-how that NPs use every day in their practice. These topics might include courses in leadership, advanced nursing practice, pathophysiology, and diagnostics.

Because you’ll be so focused on coursework, many students are especially prone to burnout, stress, and loneliness during the first six months of their program. We’ll share ideas on how to plan for and overcome these challenges below.

Last 6 Months

During the second half of your program, you’ll be mostly focused on completing your practicum hours. Depending on your program and location, you’ll typically partner with a healthcare provider in your area or a campus-affiliated organization to complete your clinical rotations. You’ll likely still have some advanced coursework on your plate, too.

These practicum hours are an essential step in gaining firsthand experience that you can build on after graduation. Oftentimes graduates are offered jobs at their practicum site, so this is a great time to start networking and identifying post-graduation career opportunities.

Features of Accelerated Online Nurse Practitioner Programs

Now that you’ve explored examples of accelerated online NP programs, let’s talk about the big picture. All the best online NP programs have some key features in common. Being mindful of and prioritizing the qualities below can have a huge impact on the program you choose and your experience in it.

Affordable Tuition & Fees

School is stressful enough without having to worry about crippling student loan debt. So, when you’re picking your program, we strongly encourage you to set a budget and stick with a school that you can afford and that meets the criteria for licensure in your state. Once you’ve chosen an affordable program, reduce your tuition costs even further by seeking scholarships, fellowships, and grants to cover your cost of living and/or tuition.

Flexible Schedule & Enrollment Options

When it comes to flexibility, online nursing programs are hard to beat. Typically, most classwork is asynchronous, so you can study when and where works best for you. Many programs also run accelerated eight-week terms that allow you to focus on fewer classes at a time and take breaks when needed. During your research, you’ll also notice that many schools offer year-round start dates for their online nursing programs, so you won’t have to wait for back-to-school season to begin working on your degree. Depending on your academic background, you can also seek out direct entry NP programs that offer a flexible, expedited route from RN to MSN.

Focused Curriculum

With so much to learn and so little time, it’s essential that all your coursework is highly relevant to your goals. So when you choose a 1-year nurse practitioner program online, commit to one that focuses on essential knowledge and skills without any fluff. To achieve this, most accelerated programs offer different emphases that prepare you for different NP career tracks. In the world of online NP degrees, FNP programs are by far the most popular. But many schools, such as The University of Alabama at Birmingham, have a range of NP specializations including women’s health, pediatric nursing, acute care, and adult gerontology.

Robust Transfer Credit Policies

If you’ve already completed relevant coursework, you want it to count. Many online nursing schools are happy to apply your completed credits toward your NP degree as long as they’re relevant. However, there’s typically a limit to how many transfer credits they will accept, so keep an eye out for programs whose transfer credit policy covers whatever credits you’ve already completed.

Challenges and Solutions of 1-Year Nurse Practitioner Programs

Completing an online NP program in a single year is an efficient way to earn your credentials and advance your career as quickly as possible. But accelerated online NP programs also present unique challenges. Here, we’ll outline some of those challenges and offer tips on how to overcome them.

Clinical Placement Logistics & Locations

Although online NP programs allow you to complete your coursework remotely, it goes without saying that hands-on learning is an essential part of training to become a nurse practitioner. If you live near your program’s campus, it’s easy to coordinate in-person hours with campus partners.

But what if you live far away from your program’s home? Fortunately, online nursing schools have ample experience with this conundrum. Typically, they’ll help you connect with a local healthcare provider that can oversee your practicum hours. For example, the 1-year nurse practitioner program at Vanderbilt University offers multiple placement options for remote students, depending on their location and goals.

However, it’s important to note that, due to licensing policy, not all schools can offer placements in all areas of the country. As you research programs, be sure to confirm that your school can arrange for clinical placements in your state.

Intensive Coursework

Traditional NP programs take up to two-and-a-half years to complete. Even accelerated programs usually involve 18 months of study. When you condense this coursework into a single year, “intense” is a bit of an understatement.

Before your program starts, plan for how to cope when things get intense. Ideally, rustle up enough funding to study full-time without having to work. Consider, too, what support systems you have available. If you have a partner, maybe they can cover for you on housework during intense periods. Or perhaps you have family that can help.

Fortunately, most online NP programs offer multiple other timelines for students. So, if you find yourself overwhelmed, there’s almost always an option to slow things down to a more sustainable pace.

Limited In-Person Interaction with Peers and Mentors

When you’re enrolled in an intensive online program, you’ll be spending a lot of time in front of your computer, alone. One of the downsides of online learning is that you don’t have as many opportunities to develop relationships with your colleagues and instructors. This can feel very isolating and may make it difficult to build the connections that will help you after graduation.

But don’t despair! When schools offer 1-year nurse practitioner programs online, they have a plan to help foster community. Many programs, like the one at Emory University, use the cohort model and offer small class sizes to help encourage connections. Other schools offer a mix of interactive and asynchronous classes to balance flexibility with opportunities to interact in real time. Additionally, there are usually ample opportunities to attend virtual office hours or networking events. You can also consider setting up virtual study groups with your classmates to incorporate some socializing into your homework time.

Finally, even if you don’t have classmates to hang out with, set aside some time for connecting in person with friends and family. Maintaining a reasonable work-life balance helps ensure your accelerated schedule is sustainable.

Stress and Burnout

We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: Accelerated online NP programs are intense. If you’re not careful, it’s easy to burn out before the year is over. You’ll be studying most of the day, prepping for exams, and fitting in your practicum hours. It’s a lot to have on your plate.

We’ve already mentioned the importance of a solid support network and spending time with real people. But there are other strategies to consider. For example, prioritize your health. Eat well, get enough sleep, and incorporate exercise into your day. Taking care of yourself is an important factor in managing stress and your mental health. Additionally, set aside time each week to do something fun — and not school-related. Getting out of the house and blowing off steam can be a lifesaver when you’re feeling overwhelmed. Finally, consider making a study schedule. Sticking to a routine and setting boundaries helps prevent school from taking over your life.