How to Renew Your Nurse Practitioner Certification

Joelle Y. Jean, FNP-C, BSN, RN
Updated June 21, 2023
    Don’t let your nurse practitioner certification expire. Here is a comprehensive guide on how to renew your AANPCB and ANCC nurse practitioner certification.
    Nurse listening to a lectureCredit: Getty Images
    • There are two credentialing bodies for certification of nurse practitioner boards: The American Academy of Nurse Practitioners Certification Board (AANPCB) and The American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC).
    • The AANPCB and ANCC have different requirements for certification renewal, so it’s important to visit your credentialing website and download their NP recertification/certification renewal handbook.
    • If you let your certification expire, you risk not being able to practice in your state and not being allowed to use the AANPCB and ANCC credentials.

    Last summer, on a beautiful July evening, instead of going out for cocktails with friends, I was glued to my computer finishing up the continuing education (CE) requirements for my nurse practitioner (NP) certification. Yes, I ignored my NP friend who told me to look into the requirements. And yes, I also ignored the emails warning me my certification was about to expire.

    Renewing your NP certification isn’t difficult, but you must be organized and know when it will expire. Having a record of all your documents, like CE certificates and how many hours you precepted an NP student, will be useful when submitting your application. There are also fees. If you follow a budget, ensure you have enough funds for renewal and CE fees.

    Don’t wait till the last minute like I did to renew your certification. In this comprehensive guide, I will discuss what certification is and why it’s important, the requirements for AANPCB and ANCC renewal, what to do if your certification expires, and the consequences of working with an expired certification.

    The Difference Between Licensure and Certifications for Nurse Practitioners

    Before you can practice as a nurse practitioner, you must have a license from your state board of nursing (SBON). It is a legal requirement to have a license to practice as an NP, and your license must be renewed every three years. Certification is different.

    According to the ANCC, certification is “the process by which a nongovernmental agency or an association grants recognition to an individual who has met certain predetermined qualifications.”

    A certification relates to the additional education that an NP has in conjunction with their license.

    Being a certified nurse practitioner allows you to:

    • Validate competency, knowledge, and skills in your role and clinical specialty.
    • Seek continued licensure, reimbursement, and employer recognition.

    NPs who become board-certified demonstrate professional knowledge in their role and the specialty they focus on for entry into practice. They must renew their certification every five years.

    Types of Certifications for Nurse Practitioners

    There are two credentialing bodies for the nurse practitioner board’s certification:

    1. The American Academy of Nurse Practitioners Certification Board
    2. The American Nurses Credentialing Center

    The AANPCB is a nonprofit organization certification program for nurse practitioners. The certification board credentials:

    • Adult nurse practitioners
    • Adult-gerontology primary care nurse practitioners
    • Emergency nurse practitioners
    • Family nurse practitioners
    • Gerontologic nurse practitioners

    The ANCC, a branch of the American Nurses Association, is the largest certification body for advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs). The ANCC certifies psychiatric mental health nurse practitioners.

    When you are preparing to take the board exam as a new NP, you have the choice to either take AANPCB or ANCC. Taking both is not recommended.

    How to Renew Your Nurse Practitioner Credentials (Before They Expire)

    Certification renewal requirements vary by the credentialing body, but the general steps to renew are the same.

    1. Visit your credentialing website. There you will find all the information you need to recertify and any current renewal updates.
    2. Read their certification renewal handbook. The handbook is a comprehensive outline detailing your renewal requirements.
    3. Gather the documents needed for recertification.
    4. If you have any questions, find the contact information from your credentialing website. It includes their phone number, email address, mailing address and fax number.

    Both credentialing programs allow you to recertify up to 12 months before your recertification due date.

    The AANPCB and ANCC have different requirements for certification renewal. As a nurse practitioner student, it might be important to review the requirements before deciding which boards to take.

    AANPCB Requirements for Certification Renewal

    For Family Nurse Practitioner and Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioners Recertification: *

    Option One

    Recertify by Practice Hours and Continuing Education

    • Requirements must be completed within the current five-year period of certification.
    • Current U.S. or Canadian professional nursing licensure required.
    • Practice Hours: Minimum of 1,000 practice hours as an NP in the population focus of certification performing one or more roles of direct patient care provider, administrator, educator, and/or researcher. Practice must be during the 5-year certification period.

    Continuing Education Requirements

    • 100 advanced practice continuing education contact hours.
    • Pharmacotherapeutic CE Requirement: A minimum of 25 CEs of the 100 CEs completed must be advanced pharmacology CE.
    • The following advanced life support courses are accepted but not required:
      • Advanced burn life support (ABLS)
      • Advanced cardiac life support (ACLS)
      • Advanced life support in obstetrics (ALSO)
      • Advanced trauma life support (ATLS)
      • Neonatal resuscitation program (NRP)
      • Pediatric advanced life support (PALS)
    • Basic life support (BLS) is not accepted.
    • Preceptorship Hours (Optional): Preceptor hours may be converted to CE credits. Up to 120 practice hours precepting an advanced practice student may be converted to up to 25 non-pharmacology CE credits.

    Option Two

    Recertify by Examination

    • Take and pass the appropriate certification examination before the expiration of the current certification.
    • Current U.S. or Canadian professional nursing licensure required.
    • Allow sufficient time (~120 days) for application processing, exam scheduling, and the potential for exam retake.
    • Candidates are allowed only two opportunities to test per calendar year.

    * For adult NP, gerontologic NP and emergency NP recertifications, reference the AANPCB NP Recertification Certification handbook.

    ANCC Requirements for Certification Renewal

    For All Participating APRN Recertification:

    1. A current, active registered nursing license
    2. 75 continuing education hours
    3. Completion of one or more categories listed below:
    • Continuing Education Hours (CH): 75 CH in the certification specialty. You may select this category and the Mandatory 75 Continuing Education (CH).
    • Academic Credits: Five semester credits or six quarter credits of academic courses in your certification specialty.
    • Presentations: One or more presentations totaling five clock hours in your certification specialty.
    • Evidence-Based Practice (EBP), Quality Improvement Project (QI), Publication, or Research EBP/QI Project EBP/QI Project: One completed EBO/QI project that demonstrates the use of a problem-solving approach. Publication One article published in a peer-reviewed journal or book chapter; five different articles published in a non-peer-reviewed journal; primary author of content related to your certification specialty. Research An Institutional Review Board (IRB) research project or a completed dissertation or thesis, or doctoral project related to your certification specialty.
    • Preceptor Hours: A minimum of 120 hours as a preceptor for students in an academic program related to your RN or APRN specialty; or provide clinical supervision to clinicians in a formal fellowship, residency, or internship program related to your RN or APRN specialty.
    • Professional Service: Two or more consecutive years of volunteer service during your certification period with an international, national, state, or local healthcare-related organization; accepted volunteer activities include serving on boards of directors, committees, editorial boards, review boards, task forces, and medical missions.
    • Practice Hours: A minimum of 1,000 practice hours in your certification specialty, completed within the five years preceding the date on your renewal application submission. Practice hours are not required to renew your certification.
    • Test or Portfolio Sit for and pass the current test: This option is not available for certifications listed as “Renewal Only”.

    Expired Nurse Practitioner Certification Grace Period

    It is your responsibility to renew your certification before it expires. But if it expires, AANPCB and ANCC have rules in place.

    According to the AANPCB handbook, extensions beyond five years are not granted. If your certification expires:

    • You cannot present your credentials as an AANPCB-certified NP, or use your NP-C credentials after your name.
    • You cannot renew online.
    • You must contact AANPCB by email to submit an “expired certification” application.
    • Requirements include a paper application, an additional processing fee, and all CE and practice requirements.
    • You must contact your SBON regarding your ability to work with an expired certification.

    Once you renew your certification and it is reviewed by AANPCB staff, the certification will be reactivated.

    According to the ANCC handbook, when there is a lapse or gap in your certification:

    • APRNs cannot present credentials as ANCC-certified.
    • APRNs whose certification is expired and is within two years from the date on which the certification expired can reactivate the certification.

    APRNs whose certification has expired more than two years from the date on which it expired and the same board exam is available may:

    • Reactivate the certification by submitting an application.
    • Complete the mandatory 75 continuing education hours.
    • Retest
    • Pass the certification examination in the same role, population, or specialty as the expired certification.
    • Pay all required fees.

    To stay organized, AANPCB and ANCC allow you to upload and keep track of your CEs on their website once you create an online account.

    Retired Nurse Practitioners with Expired Licenses

    AANPCB-certified NPs with retired license numbers will automatically expire five years after certification. NPs who are ready to retire from professional practice should complete the certification status change request form on AANPCB’s website.

    You can either email, fax, or mail the form to AANPCB. AANPCB does not have a retired credential.

    ANCC does not allow you to renew or reactivate your certification with a retired examination or portfolio assessment. Certifications two or more years past the expiration date cannot be reactivated. However, the ANCC has a retired certified nurse recognition program.

    When renewing your certification, remember that each state board of nursing has its own rules and requirements, so be careful not to generalize. In certain states, NPs can practice without credentials. However, renewing your NP credentials shows a lifelong learning commitment to yourself, your organization, and, most importantly, your patients.