Starting Your Career

National Certification Expectations for Entry-Level NPs

As NP students approach the end of their academic program, they must prepare to achieve national certification by an accredited NP certification body.  Certification indicates that certificant NPs have successfully passed an assessment of professional knowledge in their population focus. Certification is further used by regulatory bodies as a major consideration that a graduate of an accredited NP academic program meets the requirements for recognition to practice as an NP.

In 2008, AANP and other organizations participated in a process through which the Consensus Model of APRN Regulation was developed by the APRN Consensus Work Group and the National Council of State Boards of Nursing APRN Advisory Committee.  The Consensus Model provides definitions of APRN practice, titles, and specialties, as well as describing the relationships between licensure, accreditation, certification, and education.

The Consensus Model (2008) defines certification as "the formal recognition of the knowledge, skills, and experience demonstrated by the achievement of standards identified by the profession", differentiating it from licensure, the "granting of authority to practice" (p.7). The Consensus Model further specifies that in order to be recognized to practice (meet licensure requirements), NPs and other APNs must have completed an accredited graduate NP program and completed a certification program meeting recognized standards, indicated by accreditation by the American Board of Nursing Specialties or the National Commission for Certification Agencies.  Accreditation provides evidence that a certification program follows established testing procedures and provides psychometrically sound examination which assess core and role competencies. In addition to accreditation, APRN certification programs used for licensure must promote ongoing competence.

The following resources are available to help you learn more about certification and the relationship between accreditation, certification, and licensure.