Question: Are there any online post-master’s PNP certificate programs?

Answer: Yes! There are many partially or fully online post-master’s pediatric nurse practitioner (PNP) certificate programs available from a wide range of high-quality, accredited institutions. Because post-master’s certificate programs are designed for nurses who already have at least master’s degrees in nursing, GRE scores are typically not required for admission. At a range of 12 to 40 credit-hours, programs can take anywhere from 12 to 36 months.

PNPs are advanced-practice nurses who provide pediatric healthcare to children of all ages in primary, acute, or specialty care settings. PNP responsibilities include managing pediatric illness, providing pediatric healthcare maintenance, diagnosing illnesses, managing mental health issues in children and teens, performing physicals, prescribing medications, ordering and interpreting lab and test results, and providing childhood vaccinations.

In order to practice as a PNP in primary or acute care, an RN must complete their post-master’s certificate program at an institution accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) or the Accreditation Commission for Nursing Education (ACEN). Following graduation from a CCNE- or ACEN-accredited program, PNPs can seek certification from the Pediatric Nursing Certification Board (PNCB) as a Primary Care Certified Pediatric Nurse Practitioner (CPNP-PC) or as an Acute Care Certified Pediatric Nurse Practitioner (CPNP-AC). Certification is also available from the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) and the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (AACN).

Admission Requirements for Post-Master’s PNP Certificate Programs

Admissions requirements for online post-master’s PNP certificate programs are specific to each institution, and applicants should always carefully review admissions pages or speak to admissions officers to understand unique requirements for admission to desired programs.

Because students applying to post-master’s certificate programs have already completed master’s degree programs, GRE scores are not required for acceptance. However, all post-master’s PNP certificate programs require proof of previous academic success. The minimum GPA threshold for admission into PNP certificate programs is generally 3.0, though some programs have a higher minimum. The weight of an applicant’s academic history used to calculate GPA varies between programs. Some programs calculate GPA using only graduate-level coursework, others take into consideration the cumulative GPA between undergraduate and graduate coursework. Some programs calculate a minimum GPA with only nursing-specific coursework. To demonstrate GPA, students must submit official transcripts from all post-secondary institutions attended.

In the case that a program requires prerequisite coursework as a precursor to admission, official transcripts will also be used to ensure that students have completed specific prerequisite coursework at the required level of mastery. A common requirement is successful completion of an undergraduate or graduate statistics course with a “C” grade or higher. Proof of capacity to succeed in academic settings may also require applicants to submit letters of recommendation from immediate supervisors or former nursing faculty members who can speak to an applicant’s aptitude. Not all online PNP certificate programs require letters of recommendation.

In addition to proof of academic success, there are certain experiential requirements needed for admission into a post-master’s PNP certificate program. All PNP programs require that applicants have a valid, unencumbered RN license. Most PNP programs require that applicants have some experience working as an advanced care practitioner or in a clinical setting. For programs that require clinical experience, one year is often the minimum threshold for acceptance. Practical experience in pediatrics is not always required, but often recommended.

In some circumstances, programs also require that applicants have earned professional certifications like Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS), Pediatric Advanced Life Support (PALS), or other relevant CPR courses before admission or to the start of the program. Applicants are expected to submit recent resumes or CVs with their application to prove a number of years or hours worked in a clinical setting.

Finally, NPs considering an online post-master’s certificate program should take time to ensure that the program is offered in their state of residence. Every certificate program is required to adhere to the education regulations specific to each state in which the program is offered. Some programs are open to students living anywhere, some are limited to students residing in certain states or states who have opted into state authorization reciprocity, and others are only available to students living in the state where the institution exists.

Length of an Online Post-Master’s Certificate PNP Program

The length of a post-master’s PNP certificate program varies depending on how many credit-hours a student can transfer; the structure of the individual program; whether a student chooses to study full- or part-time; and the availability of required courses. The minimum number of course hours for PNP post-master’s certificate programs comes in around 12, while the greatest number of course units required is around 40. For some programs, this required credit-hours is a static number for all students, while other programs allow previously completed coursework to be transferred in for credit toward the certificate.

Choosing to study full- or part-time, in conjunction with course availability will also determine how long it takes for a student to complete a post master’s FNP certificate. Those studying full time may be able to complete a post-master’s certificate program in one to two years, while those choosing a part time option may find completing the certificate takes two to three years. Another consideration for those choosing between full- and part-time attendance should note that there is often a cap for how long one can take to earn the degree, usually five years or less. Because some online PNP certificates have limited on-campus requirements, the timing of on-campus courses may extend the total time required to complete a post-master’s FNP certificate.

Online Post-Master’s FNP Certificate Program Requirements

Completion of online post-master’s FNP certificates may require in-person presence, and all will require the completion of certain number of clinical hours and completion of coursework at a certain level of mastery.

Of the available online post-master’s certificate programs in nursing, some can be entirely completed through online coursework and do not require physical presence on a college campus for completion. In other circumstances, students might need to attend on-campus courses, orientations, intensives, or practicums. Programs with travel requirements expect students to spend some time doing in-person learning on campus or at a partnering healthcare center. On-campus requirements for online post-MSN PNP certificates are generally structured as a continuous block of time, so as to be minimally disruptive to the lives of working professionals.

Depending on the program, students will need to complete faculty- or preceptor-supervised direct patient care clinical hours. Some programs require that clinical hours be completed with faculty within the program, while other programs simply require the student find a local preceptor to supervise clinical hours. Some schools assist with preceptor matching, while others expect students to find a preceptor without assistance. For students wishing to gain PNP certification from the AANP or AANC following graduation, the minimum threshold for supervised clinical hours is 500.

In order to earn the certificate, students are also required to complete all coursework at a specified level of mastery. Most institutions require a “B” grade or higher in all courses to confer the certificate, although some only require a “C” or higher.

Post-MSN PNP Curriculum and Sample Courses

Below are examples of the types of required courses for students completing a post-MSN certificate:

PNP Certificate Core Courses:

  • Ethics in Nursing and Healthcare
  • Advanced Pharmacology
  • Advanced Pathophysiology
  • Biostatistics
  • Principles of Practice Management
  • Advanced Nursing Assessment, Healthcare Policy & Finance

PNP Speciality Courses:

  • Issues for Pediatric Acute Care Nurse Practitioner
  • Diagnostic Reasoning and Clinical Decision Making for Pediatric Advanced Practice Nurse
  • Primary Care of Children with Special Healthcare Needs
  • Foundations of the Well Child
  • Episodic Care of Infants, Children and Adolescents in Primary Care
  • Management and Care of Adolescents in the Primary Care Setting
  • Pharmacology for the Pediatric Nurse Practitioner
  • Health Promotion/Disease Prevention & Issues for Pediatric Health Nurse Practitioners
  • Family and Child Development