It’s no wonder a large number of registered nurses (RNs) are looking to advance into nurse practitioner (NP) roles. Nurse practitioner ranks as the No. 1 best healthcare job and the No. 2 best overall job on the U.S. News and World Report’s 100 Best Jobs of 2023 list due to strong demand, high salaries, and above-average job satisfaction.
To become an NP, nurses need to select a specialization area and then obtain certification to practice in that area. Many NPs choose to earn a second certification in a different area of focus, which can offer even greater opportunities for advancement. Post-master’s NP certificate programs offer the education that can prepare NPs to gain a second, or dual, certification.
What Is Dual Certification for Nurse Practitioners?
Nurse practitioners (NPs) are advanced-level nursing professionals who provide many of the same services as physicians, but with a holistic approach that emphasizes both disease prevention and overall wellness.
To perform the high-level tasks typically required of nurse practitioners — including ordering and reviewing diagnostic tests and monitoring patient medication responses — they need to hold advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) licenses. To gain this licensing, nurses generally need to be certified in their selected areas of specialization.
Certification provides national recognition of nursing professionals’ education, knowledge, and skills in treating a particular patient population. Once a nurse practitioner gains certification in one area, they can then choose to add another specialty certification to gain dual certification.
Nurse Practitioner Certifications
Common NP certifications and their populations of focus include:
- Adult-gerontology acute care nurse practitioner (AGACNP) — Acute care for adults of all ages
- Adult-gerontology primary care nurse practitioner (AGPCNP) — Primary care for adults of various ages
- Family nurse practitioner (FNP) — Primary care for patients of all ages
- Pediatric (primary care) nurse practitioner (PNP) — Primary care for patients from birth to young adulthood
- Psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner (PMHNP) — Mental health care for individuals, families, and groups
In 2022, 70% of U.S. nurse practitioners were certified as FNPs, according to the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP). In fact, 88% of NPs held certification in some type of primary care.
Demand for Dual Certification
A national shortage of healthcare providers has led to an increased demand for medical professionals who hold dual certification, with expertise in more than one area of specialization, according to The Journal for Nurse Practitioners.
Ninety-nine million people across the country lived in primary care health professional shortage areas (HPSAs), for instance, and 158 million lived in mental health professional shortage areas, according to a January 2023 report from the U.S. Health Resources & Services Administration (HRSA). FNPs who also hold certification as PMHNPs are equipped to help fill the gaps in both types of care.
In addition, nurse practitioners in general are experiencing high demand. They can anticipate employment in their field to grow 46% between 2021 and 2031, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
Nurse Practitioner Certifying Organizations
Nurse practitioners obtain their certifications from one of several national organizations. The focus areas of certifications offered vary by organization. The key certifying bodies are:
- American Academy of Nurse Practitioners Certification Board (AANPCB)
- American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (AACN)
- American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC)
- National Certification Corp. (NCC)
- Pediatric Nursing Certification Board (PNCB)
Benefits of Dual Certification for Nurse Practitioners
In addition to ensuring that patients have more options for getting the type of care they need, dual certification can provide nurse practitioners with a host of benefits. The following are some of the ways that dual certification can positively impact NPs’ careers:
Build on Success
By definition, NPs are nursing leaders who are experts in their area of specialization. Adding a second certification enables nurse practitioners to build on this accomplishment by exhibiting their expertise — and being regarded as leaders — in an additional area of focus.
Gaining a second certification allows nurse practitioners to broaden their expertise. This knowledge can inform their work in both of their areas of specialization, helping them to identify and address a more well-rounded range of concerns in their patient population.
Treat More Patients
NPs who hold certifications in more than one practice area specialize in treating more than one type of patient population. This designation can create more opportunities to attract and treat patients, and it can set them apart when they seek new jobs.
<h3>Earn More Money</h3>
NPs generally earn annual salaries that are above the national average. The median annual salary for nurse practitioners was $120,680 in May 2021, according to the BLS. But certain NP certifications can be more lucrative than others and adding one of those specializations has the potential to lead to a higher salary. The following focus areas are among those with the highest earning potential, according to the employment website Indeed:
- Adult gerontology
For example, while the median annual salary for PMHNPs in November 2022 was about $99,000, according to compensation data provider Payscale, salaries reached as much as $140,000 with experience, bonuses, and profit sharing.
Steps for Getting Nurse Practitioner Dual Certification
NPs typically perform a variety of tasks related to patient care; they often order and review tests, diagnose patients’ conditions, and prescribe medications. This level of responsibility requires advanced education, training, and licensing in addition to certification.
Before they can seek national certification and state licensing, nurse practitioners need to be RNs who have completed a graduate-level program focused on the patient population they want to serve. NPs who have one certification and want to add a second need to take some additional steps. The process for nurse practitioners to seek dual certification includes:
1. Gain Knowledge and Skills
Earning certification requires education that provides the skills and expertise necessary to care for a specific patient population. While some programs allow nursing professionals to work toward certification in two areas simultaneously, many NPs who want two certifications already have one and are adding another.
For licensed and certified nurse practitioners, seeking certification to serve an additional patient population typically starts with pursuing additional education focused on that area of specialization. Because they already hold advanced degrees, these NPs could select post-master’s nurse practitioner certification as a cost-effective option that focuses on the specialization they want to add.
2. Take the Certification Exam
After completing the education and training program for the additional certification, NPs need to take the exam required by the certifying body for that specialization area. NPs seeking a second, or dual, certification as a PMHNP could qualify by passing an exam from the ANCC, for example. Those seeking FNP certification need to pass an exam offered by the AANPCB or the ANCC.
3. Renew the Certification
NP national certification typically requires periodic renewal. This process varies according to the certification and the organization providing it, but it generally includes participating in professional development and meeting practice hour requirements.
Expand Your Horizons as a Nurse Practitioner
Nurse practitioners provide services that can help address healthcare shortages, while enjoying the benefits of a well-paying job that’s in high demand. If you’re an NP who wants to build on those benefits by adding a new certification to your work, explore Maryville University’s online Post-Master’s Nurse Practitioner Certificate programs.
Through flexible, supportive, and convenient scheduling and courses that are perfect for working professionals, the program can help you gain the knowledge and skills you’ll need to pursue NP certification in a new area. You can prepare for certification as an:
Discover how one of Maryville’s can help you achieve your goals as a nursing leader.