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

Answer: Yes – There are online programs for students interested in earning a post-master’s certificate in the Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner (WHNP) specialty. These programs are open to registered nurses (RNs) and/or current APRNs who possess a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN), and want to become nationally certified WHNPs. While some programs accept RNs with an MSN in any nursing focus, others require applicants to already have APRN certification in a specialization other than women’s health. Generally, online post-master’s WHNP certificate programs consist of between 18 and 40 credits, requiring approximately 12 to 15 months of full-time study to complete.

Women’s health nurse practitioners are advanced practice nurses trained to provide comprehensive care for women of all ages, from adolescents to the elderly. Along with primary care, health promotion, and disease prevention, they focus on women’s reproductive health, particularly issues involved with childbearing. To practice as a WHNP, RNs must earn a graduate-level degree in the specialty from a program accredited by either the Accreditation Council for Education in Nursing (ACEN) or Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE). This will qualify them to sit for the national WHNP certification exam administered by the National Certification Corporation (NCC), and subsequently apply for state-level licensure from their state’s board of nursing.

For nurses who already possess an MSN in another field, post-master’s WHNP certificate programs offer the most direct path to obtaining WHNP certification. To learn more about online post-MSN WHNP certificate programs, including their typical admissions criteria and graduation requirements, read through the sections below.

Admission Requirements for Post-MSN WHNP Certificate Programs

There are essentially two different types of post-master’s WHNP certificate programs based on their admission requirements. The first, referred to on this site as New or Second Specialty programs, are open to any master’s-trained RN, whether their MSN is in an APRN specialty or an indirect care specialization such as nursing administration, clinical nurse leader, or nursing education. The second type, which we refer to as Second Specialty programs, only admit students who already possess APRN certification in an area other than WHNP. This means applicants must have earned their MSN in an APRN specialty, and are now pursuing an additional certification as a women’s health nurse practitioner.

The main difference between these two pathways is the number of MSN-level courses students must take as part of their post-master’s program. Since APRNs will have already completed some of this coursework during their MSN studies, they are typically allowed to either transfer those credits towards the post-master’s certificate or waive these courses in the certificate program. For APRNs, these two types of programs (New or Second Specialty vs. Second Specialty) are basically the same, as most schools simply perform a gap analysis of previous MSN coursework to determine exactly how many credits students need to earn their post-MSN WHNP certificate. The key difference is that New or Second Specialty programs also accept RNs with an MSN in a non-APRN field.

Along with the degree requirements outlined above, all online post-master’s WHNP certificate programs require applicants to hold a current and unrestricted RN license in their state of practice. Additionally, most programs have a minimum GPA requirement that must be met in order to be considered for admission. Many schools also require prospective post-master’s students to have a certain amount of professional nursing experience before they can enroll, typically one to two years. Depending on the program, additional admission requirements may include prerequisite coursework in topics such as statistics or health assessment, a personal statement essay, or letters of recommendation from past academic or professional supervisors. These requirements will vary by school and program, so students should carefully review all admissions criteria before applying. The best way to get up-to-date information about the requirements associated with any online WHNP program is to contact the admissions office at your school of interest.

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

Several factors will determine how long it takes students to complete a post-master’s certificate in the WHNP specialty. These programs can be structured in several different ways, and as such, may require a larger time commitment at some schools than others. In addition to this, APRNs pursuing their second specialty through an online post-MSN WHNP certificate program can often graduate in less time than RNs pursuing their first ARPN certification. As noted above, this is due to the fact that APRNs are typically allowed to waive certain MSN-level core courses they already completed in their master’s program. RNs who earned their MSN in a non-APRN specialty will need to complete these particular courses as part of their post-master’s certificate program. In some cases, APRNs may only need to take the WHNP-specific portion of the curriculum in order to earn their certificate. For all post-MSN certificate programs, schools typically perform a gap analysis of students’ previous MSN coursework to determine the exact number of credits needed to graduate.

Students can choose to pursue an online post-master’s WHNP program on either a full- or part-time basis. Some schools offer both options, while others offer one or the other, which may impact where students decide to enroll. A full-time program typically takes less terms overall to complete; however, they require a larger time commitment from students on a weekly basis. Conversely, in a part-time program, students take fewer courses each term, but spread their studies over a longer period of time. Schools generally recommend that students enroll in a part-time program if they intend to work full time while pursuing their certificate, in order to allow them enough time each week to devote to coursework and clinical practicum requirements. Most full-time post-MSN certificate WHNP programs take between 12 and 15 months to complete. Students pursuing their certificate on a part-time basis might finish in anywhere from 16 to 24 months, based on the number of courses they take each term. Again, actual program lengths will depend on both the school and a gap analysis of students’ MSN coursework.

Online Post-MSN WHNP Certificate Program Requirements

Most online post-master’s WHNP certificate programs require the completion of around 18 to 40 course credits. As mentioned above, this number depends on the program itself, as well as a gap analysis of students’ MSN transcripts. RNs who earned their MSN in an indirect care concentration such as nursing administration or education typically need to take more courses during their WHNP certificate program than students who earned their MSN in an APRN field. In most cases, non-APRNs must complete coursework in foundational clinical topics such as advanced health assessment, pharmacology, and physiology before they can begin specialized WHNP courses.

In either case, post-MSN WHNP students will also need to fulfill a certain number of clinical practice hours during their certificate program. This number typically ranges from 500 to 700 hours; however, some programs may require more than that. Online WHNP students can expect to complete their clinical hours at a local health care facility, where they will train under the supervision of a preceptor. Some online programs help match students with placement sites and preceptors in their area, while others leave it to students to find these on their own. It is important that students fully understand how a school handles clinical placements and the number of clinical hours required before they enroll in any online WHNP program.

Along with this, some online post-master’s certificate programs include one or more mandatory on-campus sessions, where students are required to visit campus for orientations or clinical training intensives that can last several days at a time. In order to provide some clarity on the travel requirements associated with these programs, OnlineFNPPrograms.com only classifies a WHNP program as “online” if it requires three or fewer campus visits per year.

Post-MSN WHNP Curriculum and Sample Courses

In an online post-master’s WHNP certificate program, the curriculum is largely comprised of MSN-level specialization courses focused on training students in women’s health nursing. As discussed earlier, students may need to complete additional graduate coursework in core nursing topics before beginning WHNP specialization courses. This all depends on the focus of their MSN program and a gap analysis of their graduate transcripts. While exact course titles will vary by school, here are some examples of MSN-level core courses and specialization courses students can expect to find in an online post-master’s WHNP certificate program:

MSN Core Courses:

  • Advanced Health Assessment
  • Advanced Pharmacology
  • Advanced Physiology/Pathophysiology
  • Leadership in Advanced Practice Nursing

WHNP Specialization Courses:

  • Primary Care of Childbearing Women
  • Postpartum Care
  • Contemporary Issues in Women’s Health
  • Primary Care of Adolescents and Adult Patients
  • Primary Care of Elderly Women

For more information about online WHNP programs, including descriptions of many of the courses listed above, check out our Online Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner Programs page.