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Steps to Becoming a CRNP or CNS in Pennsylvania

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Get your Graduate Degree in Pennsylvania
Earn your National Certification in Pennsylvania
Apply for your State Certification in Pennsylvania
Renewing your License and Certification in Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania Job Statistics

  • 2015 mean salary for NPs in PA: $92,670
  • 2013 NCLEX-RN pass rate for Pennsylvania: 85%
  • 2016 active RN licenses in PA: 217,528
  • 2016 active CRNP licenses in PA: 11,349
    • 8286 have prescriptive authority, and may prescribe Schedule II, III and IV controlled substances
  • 2016 active CNS licenses in PA: 227

The Pennsylvania Department of State, State Board of Nursing (phone: 717-783-7142, st-nurse@pa.gov) recognizes and grants certification for two different types of advanced practice nurse: certified registered nurse practitioner (CRNP) and clinical nurse specialist (CNS).

Holding an active and unrestricted RN license is a prerequisite to CRNP and CNS certification in Pennsylvania.

  • If you are applying for a graduate temporary practice permit, choose “graduate registered nurse permit” for the license type. If you are applying for initial licensure by examination, choose “registered nurse” for the license type. The application forms for both can be found here.
  • If you hold an RN license outside of the state of Pennsylvania, you can apply for RN licensure by endorsement in two ways: Licensure by endorsement with temporary practice permit or licensure by endorsement with examination and temporary practice permit. The application forms for both can be found here.
  • If you are an internationally educated RN, you can apply for licensure by endorsement with exam by downloading the application here.
  • If you have ever held a Pennsylvania nurse license, your license must be reactivated. Do not complete the endorsement application. Instead, contact the board at 717-783-7142.

The following steps describe the process for becoming certified as a CRNP or CNS in Pennsylvania.


Step 1: Get Your Graduate-Level Education

To be considered for CRNP or CNS certification, you must complete an accredited, Board-approved graduate-level CRNP or CNS program that awards an advanced degree. All advanced practice nursing programs are either master’s programs, RN to master’s programs, RN to nursing doctorate programs, graduate certificate programs, or pilot/accelerated programs that award master’s degrees at minimum.

You can download a complete list of existing in-state Board approved CRNP and CNS programs here.

All programs recognized by the Board must be from a regionally accredited college or university, or have current national accreditation through the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE), the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC), or the National League for Nursing Accrediting Commission (NLNAC)

Course Requirements

All CRNP and CNS graduate programs must contain the following components:

  • Graduate nursing core
    • Research
    • Health care policy and organization
    • Ethics
    • Professional role development
    • Human diversity and social issues
    • Health promotion and disease prevention
  • Advanced nursing practice core
    • Advanced health/physical assessment
    • Advanced physiology and pathophysiology
  • Specialty content specific to the chosen patient populations
    • Neonatal
    • Pediatrics
    • Family/lifespan
    • Adult/Gerontology
    • Women’s health
    • Psychiatric/Mental Health

Applicable to CRNPs only:

  • Advanced pharmacology – Your CRNP education will include a well-grounded understanding of pharmaceutical principles, including the cellular response level. This area must also include both pharmacotherapeutics and pharmacokinetics.

Clinical Experience

You must receive advanced clinical experience in your chosen specialty or patient population. As such, you are required to meet the minimum national certification requirements (minimum of 500 clinical hours). You will need additional hours if your specialty provides care to multiple age groups or if you will practice in multiple care settings. Your expected graduate competencies maintained by the national certification agencies will be the main determining factor in determining the length and specifics of the clinical component of your education.

Prescriptive Authority for CRNPs

You may practice as a CRNP with prescriptive authority when you have successfully completed at least 45 hours of coursework specific to advanced pharmacology and successfully received prescriptive authority approval in Pennsylvania.

The coursework must be either part of your CRNP education program or completed as continuing education outside of your CRNP education program.


Step 2: Earn Your National Certification

After receiving your postgraduate education, you must become certified through a Board-recognized national certification organization:

If you hold an unrestricted certification to practice, you may also apply for certification in an additional specialty. To be granted certification in an additional specialty, you must meet the educational and national certification requirements for that particular specialty.

National certification examination areas of specialty include:

  • Acute Care
  • Adult
  • Adult Psych/Mental Health
  • Family
  • Family Psych/Mental Health
  • Gerontological
  • Neonatal
  • Oncology
  • Pediatric
  • Pediatric Acute Care
  • Pediatric Primary Care
  • Women’s Health


Step 3: Apply for Your State Certification

To apply for CRNP or CNS certification in Pennsylvania, you must submit an application to the Board for review and approval. You can download all CRNP and CNS applications here.

Initial CRNP Licensure by Examination

In addition to a completed application for initial CRNP certification, you must also include the following:

  • Proof of completing a Board-approved education program and official transcript

 If you graduated from an out-of-state nursing program, you should request that the official transcript be sent directly from that program to the registrar of the State Board of Nursing. No student copies or student-submitted copies will be accepted. The transcripts must also designate the degree or certificate awarded, as well as the month, day and year the program was completed.

  • Proof of your current national certification in your area of specialty
  • Personal check, cashier’s check or money order for $100 made payable to the “Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.” A check or money order drawn on a foreign bank is no accepted unless “U.S. Funds” is identified on the check or money order

Mail application, supporting documents and fee to: Pennsylvania State Board of Nursing, P.O. Box 2649, CRNP Applications, Harrisburg, PA 17105-2649.

CRNP Licensure by Endorsement

If you are applying for certification by endorsement, you must include your completed application and the following:

  • Verification of your current, unrestricted licensure or certification as a nurse practitioner by the proper licensing authority of the territory, state, or foreign country
  • A copy of the licensure or certification requirements that were in force when you were initially licensed or certified by another jurisdiction along with a copy of the criteria – provided by the jurisdiction’s board of nursing or licensing authority – under which you were initially licensed or certified
  • An official transcript from your nurse practitioner program
  • If you graduated from an out-of-state nursing program, you should request that the official transcript be sent directly from that program to the registrar of the State Board of Nursing. No student copies or student-submitted copies will be accepted. The transcripts must also designate the degree or certificate awarded, as well as the month, day and year the program was completed.
  • Proof of your national specialty certification.
  • Personal check, cashier’s check or money order for $100 made payable to the “Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.” Cash and credit cards are not accepted. A check or money order drawn on a foreign bank is no accepted unless “U.S. Funds” is identified on the check or money order.

Mail application, supporting documents and fee to: Pennsylvania State Board of Nursing, P.O. Box 2649, CRNP Applications, Harrisburg, PA 17105-2649.

Your application will remain on file for one year if you are missing the required documentation or if you fail to complete the application in full. If you fail to complete the application within the one-year period, you will need to submit a new application.

You can check to see if your CRNP certification has been issued by visiting the Pennsylvania online license verification service page.

Prescriptive Authority (CRNP)

If you are applying for prescriptive authority, you must include the following with your completed application:

  • Evidence that you have completed the required 45 hours of course work in advanced pharmacology
  • Personal check, cashier’s check or money order for $50 made payable to the “Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.”
  • Each additional application for CRNP prescriptive authority is $30 and does not require verification of advanced pharmacology

Mail application, supporting documents and fee to: Pennsylvania State Board of Nursing, P.O. Box 2649, CRNP Applications, Harrisburg, PA 17105-2649.

Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS)

If you want to apply for a CNS designation, you must complete a Board-approved clinical nurse specialist program or an educational program in a related discipline previously recognized for national certification by one of the Board-approved CNS national certification organizations:

  • American Nurse Credentialing Center (ANCC)
  • American Association of Critical Care Nurses (AACN)
  • Orthopedic Nurses Certification Board (ONCB)
  • Oncology Nursing Certification Corporation (ONCC)

To apply for CNS certification in Pennsylvania, you must request that verification of your national certification be sent directly to the State Board of Nursing from the appropriate national certification organization (non-official transcripts, such as student copies or copies submitted by the student, are no acceptable).

If you have not been nationally certified by one of the agencies recognized by the Board, you must submit:

  • An official transcript of the NLNAC or CCNE accredited program along with course descriptions
  • Work history in the CNS role
  • Three professional recommendations from individuals familiar with your work in the CNS role
  • Transcripts detailing any additional advanced nursing
  • Proof of national certification(s) currently held

The Application for Clinical Nurse Specialist form can be found here. The completed application must be sent with a personal check, cashier’s check or money order for $100 made payable to the “Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.” Cash and credit cards are not accepted. A check or money order drawn on a foreign bank is no accepted unless “U.S. Funds” is identified on the check or money order.

Mail the application, supporting documents and fee to: Pennsylvania State Board of Nursing, P.O. Box 2649, Harrisburg, PA 17105-2649.


Step 4: Renewing Your License and Certification

Your CRNP certification (and prescriptive authority approval) or CNS certification will expire at the same time as your registered nurse license on a biannual basis. A notice of your application renewal will be forwarded to your address before the biannual period ends.

Biannual Renewal

In order to renew your CRNP or CNS license, you must:

  • Verify the completion of required Board-approved general and pharmacological (as applicable) continuing education
  • Submit proof of your current national certification (for those certified after February 7, 2005)
  • Complete the appropriate renewal application found here
  • Biannual renewal fee made payable to the “Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.” Cash and credit cards are not accepted.
    • $75 for CRNP and $25 for prescriptive authority (as applicable)
    • $50 for CNS

Send renewal application, fees, and documents to the Pennsylvania State Board of Nursing, P.O. Box 2649, CRNP Applications, Harrisburg, PA 17105-2649.

Continuing Education Requirements

During each biannual renewal period, you’ll be required to complete 30 hours of Board-approved continuing education. You must complete your continuing education requirements before the end of each biannual renewal cycle. If you fail to meet these requirements, you will be subject to formal disciplinary action. The Board may, however, waive the continuing education requirements in the event of illness or undue hardship.

If you are renewing your prescriptive authority, you must complete a minimum of 16 of the 30 hours in pharmacology. All pharmacology continuing education activities must deal with pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics of board categories of drugs or drugs used in your specialty, and to analyze the relationship between pharmacologic agents and physiologic/pathologic responses.

Your continuing education should be specifically related to your specialty. All continuing education activities should meet the Boards standards of approval:

  • Board-approved CRNP or CNS educational programs that hold current accreditation issued by a national nursing accreditation organization
  • National and international nursing organizations and their state and local affiliates
  • National and international medical and osteopathic organizations and their state and local affiliates
  • National pharmaceutical organizations and their state and local affiliates
  • National nursing specialty organizations
  • Continuing education programs approved by other state boards of nursing for advanced practice nurses or nurse practitioners

Inactive Status Reactivation

If you place your CRNP or CNS certification on inactive status, you do not need to meet your continuing education requirements during the inactive period. However, before re-activating your certification, you must show proof that you met the continuing education requirements.

If your Pennsylvania CRNP or CNS certification has been inactive or has lapsed for five years or longer, but you have a current RN license and meet the continuing education requirements, you’ll need to provide proof of your current national certification in the specialty area for which you are seeking reactivation and show evidence that you have practiced in another jurisdiction within the last five years under a current license or certification.

Prescriptive Authority Reactivation

If you have placed your prescriptive authority on inactive status for less than three years, you are not required to meet the continuing education requirements while in active status. However, upon reactivation of your prescriptive authority approval application, you must show proof that you have met the continuing education requirements.

If your prescriptive authority approval has been in inactive status or lapsed for three years or longer, you may reactivate it by either completing at least 45 hours of coursework in advanced pharmacology or by providing evidence that you have practiced as a CRNP with prescriptive authority in another jurisdiction for at least one of the last three years. The scope of the prescriptive authority in the other jurisdiction must be equivalent to the prescriptive authority in Pennsylvania.

Contact the Board for applications for reinstatement. Send the completed application(s), along with your inactive certification renewal fee of $100 and your inactive prescriptive authority approval fee of $50 (if applicable) to: Pennsylvania State Board of Nursing, P.O. Box 2649, CRNP Applications, Harrisburg, PA 17105-2649.

Advanced Practice Nursing Associations in Pennsylvania

Consider joining one of the professional associations that support the profession in your state:


Pennsylvania Nurse Practitioner Salary

The American Academy of Nurse Practitioners reported in their 2011 National NP Compensation Survey that nurse practitioners in the Mideast region, including Pennsylvania, earned an average base salary of $94,337 and enjoyed a total average income of $101,112. Advance for NPs & PAs, a peer reviewed journal, reported that NPs in Pennsylvania saw salaries increase in recent years, from $84,000 in 2010 to $85,752 in 2011, an increase of 2.6%. Nurse practitioners in Allentown reported an average income of $82,831 while NPs in Philadelphia were some of the best compensated in the state, reporting an average of $93,074 in 2011.

Registered Nurse Salary

Area name
Employment
Annual mean wage
Allentown-Bethlehem-Easton PA-NJ
7700
68840
Altoona PA
1640
63840
Erie PA
3470
54910
Harrisburg-Carlisle PA
6840
64490
Johnstown PA
2060
43190
Lancaster PA
3710
61010
Lebanon PA
990
65350
Newark-Union NJ-PA Metropolitan Division
19580
77830
Philadelphia PA Metropolitan Division
44720
72100
Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington PA-NJ-DE-MD
64870
72480
Pittsburgh PA
28920
61250
Reading PA
3170
61930
Scranton--Wilkes-Barre PA
5940
57570
State College PA
1080
56590
Williamsport PA
920
56700
York-Hanover PA
3520
71210
Youngstown-Warren-Boardman OH-PA
5310
55080
Far Western Pennsylvania nonmetropolitan area
3460
53020
West Central Pennsylvania nonmetropolitan area
3200
53580
Northeastern Pennsylvania nonmetropolitan area
2370
54340
East Central Pennsylvania nonmetropolitan area
6650
69650

Health Diagnosing and Treating Practitioners Salary

Area name
Employment
Annual mean wage
Allentown-Bethlehem-Easton PA-NJ
60
64810
Newark-Union NJ-PA Metropolitan Division
310
82010
Philadelphia PA Metropolitan Division
260
67220
Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington PA-NJ-DE-MD
490
69990
Pittsburgh PA
210
64150

Nursing Instructors and Teachers Salary

Area name
Employment
Annual median wage
Allentown-Bethlehem-Easton PA-NJ
Estimate Not Released
66350
Erie PA
160
63760
Harrisburg-Carlisle PA
230
77160
Lancaster PA
Estimate Not Released
66200
Newark-Union NJ-PA Metropolitan Division
260
86480
Philadelphia PA Metropolitan Division
1180
61630
Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington PA-NJ-DE-MD
Estimate Not Released
66490
Pittsburgh PA
790
64170
Reading PA
170
73300
Scranton--Wilkes-Barre PA
130
56610
West Central Pennsylvania nonmetropolitan area
40
74220
East Central Pennsylvania nonmetropolitan area
Estimate Not Released
67870

Nurse Administrator Salary
(Includes Nurse Managers, Directors, and Chief Nursing Officers)

Area name
Employment
Annual mean wage
Allentown-Bethlehem-Easton PA-NJ
790
88550
Altoona PA
160
Estimate Not Released
Erie PA
240
71050
Harrisburg-Carlisle PA
750
92140
Johnstown PA
230
57280
Lancaster PA
380
Estimate Not Released
Lebanon PA
80
93260
Newark-Union NJ-PA Metropolitan Division
2180
113360
Philadelphia PA Metropolitan Division
5700
100630
Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington PA-NJ-DE-MD
7360
103320
Pittsburgh PA
2610
84410
Reading PA
430
114370
Scranton--Wilkes-Barre PA
720
77100
State College PA
140
92000
Williamsport PA
140
88410
York-Hanover PA
210
87550
Youngstown-Warren-Boardman OH-PA
620
72930
Far Western Pennsylvania nonmetropolitan area
340
75210
West Central Pennsylvania nonmetropolitan area
350
69150
Northeastern Pennsylvania nonmetropolitan area
220
69230
East Central Pennsylvania nonmetropolitan area
510
73200

These tables provide salary and employment information compiled by the US Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics in May 2011. The data contained herein does not include self-employed nurses in independent practice.

When responding to the salary survey, some advanced practice registered nurses identified themselves as RNs while others identified themselves as health diagnosing and treating practitioners. When available, both sets of data were included for comparative purposes.

* These figures represent earnings that are at or above $90.00 per hour or $187,199 per year. The Bureau of Labor Statistics does not publish earnings beyond $90.00 hourly or $187,199 yearly.

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