Best Kentucky Nurse Practitioner Programs

Gayle Morris, MSN
Updated August 30, 2023
Students interested in pursuing a nurse practitioner degree in Kentucky can review this page to explore the state's best nurse practitioner programs.
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During the 2019-2020 academic year, more than 36,000 nurse practitioners (NPs) completed their programs. They joined the more than 270,000 NPs licensed in the U.S. More than 70% of NPs deliver primary care in their practice, helping to fill the current primary care physician shortage.

The need for NPs continues to grow throughout the country. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects employment for these individuals to grow 45% from 2020-2030, which is significantly faster than average.

Prospective students can research nurse practitioner schools in Kentucky with this guide and links to some of the top programs. In addition to what to look for in a master of science in nursing (MSN) program, readers can explore how to apply and ways to use the degree after graduation.

Our Methodology: We use a data-driven methodology to rank the best nurse practitioner programs, making it easier to find a program that works for you. We base this methodology on metrics that we believe matter most to students, including academic quality, affordability, reputation, and program offerings.

Keep reading to learn more about nurse practitioner programs, or go straight to our list of the best NP programs in Kentucky.

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Learn More About the Top NP Programs in Kentucky

#1 Best Kentucky Nurse Practitioner Programs

Spalding University

  • Location-markerLouisville, KY
  • 4 year
  • Campus
Average Tuition
  • In-State$25,200
  • Out-of-state$25,200
  • Retention Rate70%
  • Acceptance Rate79%
  • Students Enrolled1,629
  • Institution TypePrivate
  • Percent Online Enrollment37%
  • AccreditationYes
#2 Best Kentucky Nurse Practitioner Programs

Western Kentucky University

  • Location-markerBowling Green, KY
  • 4 year
  • Campus + Online
Average Tuition
  • In-State$10,802
  • Out-of-state$26,496
  • Retention Rate73%
  • Acceptance Rate97%
  • Students Enrolled18,171
  • Institution TypePublic
  • Percent Online Enrollment41%
  • AccreditationYes

What Can You Do With a Nurse Practitioner Degree?

Each nurse practitioner must have an MSN or doctor of nursing practice (DNP) degree to practice professionally. The education provides the necessary training and knowledge necessary for professionals. An individual with this education can work as a:

  • Nurse practitioner
  • Nurse educator
  • Clinical nurse specialist
  • Public health nurse
  • Nurse administrator
  • Nurse midwife

Most programs provide education in one of four nurse practitioner primary care areas. The nurse practitioner degree prepares nurses to diagnose health conditions, order and interpret tests, and prescribe medications and therapies.

Nurse practitioners can then specialize in other areas after completing their degrees. Available areas include:

  • Dermatology
  • Orthopedics
  • Gastroenterology
  • Cardiology
  • Pain management
  • Adult-gerontology
  • Neonatal
  • Aesthetic

Learn more about four popular nurse practitioner career paths below.

  1. 1

    Family Nurse Practitioner

    According to the AANP, 69.7% of NPs are certified as FNPs. They provide preventive guidance and care from infants to senior adults and are a vital resource to communities.

  2. 2

    Acute Care Nurse Practitioner

    NPs in this role are educated, certified, and licensed to provide care for people with chronic, complex, or critical illnesses. The role often cares for worsening health conditions or traumatic events, leading to work that primarily occurs in hospitals.

  3. 3

    Pediatric Nurse Practitioner

    Pediatric NPs are educated and certified to care for children from birth through early adulthood. They are primary and specialty healthcare providers who are experts in pediatrics and advocates for children.

  4. 4

    Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner

    NPs in this role focus on the care of women across the lifespan, often specializing in obstetrics and gynecology. They provide health and wellness counseling, contraceptive care, STD screening, and care during pregnancy and menopause.

What To Look For in a Kentucky Nurse Practitioner Program

Prospective students must consider key metrics to find the best nurse practitioner programs in Kentucky for their needs. These factors include the admission requirements, program curriculum, accreditation, test scores, and clinical experience.

  1. 1

    Admission Requirements

    Most schools apply some basic program requirements and unique conditions that candidates must meet for admission. Applicants should carefully check the requirements for each prospective school.

  2. 2

    Program Curriculum

    Candidates should check the required and optional curriculum to determine if it meets their career goals. For example, students who want to practice cardiology may seek out schools with optional coursework and clinical experience in the field.

  3. 3

    Clinical Experience

    Accredited schools require clinical experience. However, they have flexibility in how the experience is formatted and whether they help with placement. Students should determine if these factors may interfere with their life circumstances.

  4. 4


    Program accreditation ensures a common quality standard between programs across the U.S. It enhances the quality of care administered by the NP and opens the door for an MSN graduate to complete a DNP — the terminal nursing degree.

  5. 5

    Program Length

    NP students must complete a standard number of credits and clinical hours. However, there is some flexibility in how they can complete these hours. Programs may offer all-day Saturday coursework for working nurses, online options, and part-time or full-time alternatives.

  6. 6

    School NCLEX Pass Rate

    Colleges and universities with MSN programs also have bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) programs. The NCLEX pass rate for the BSN program indicates the program’s strength and its success in preparing new nurses.

  7. 7

    School Graduation Rate

    The published graduation rate reflects the percentage of students that complete the program. Schools with low graduation rates may not offer enough academic support, less-experienced faculty, or longer completion timelines.

Applying to a Nurse Practitioner Program in Kentucky

Admission criteria to a nurse practitioner school in Kentucky vary depending on the school. Requirements will also differ based on whether the program is a direct admission MSN program for students with non-nursing bachelor’s degrees or a bridge program. For example, the RN-to-MSN program requires an unencumbered, active RN license in the state, which is not a requirement for a direct admission program.

  • check-circle

    Admission Materials

    An applicant must possess an unencumbered, active RN license with at least one year and sometimes two years of clinical experience, prerequisite coursework, and a strong academic history. Programs may also require all or some of the following for admission: a statement of purpose and goals, letters of recommendation or reference, and an in-person or online interview. Association membership and volunteer work are also favored.

  • check-circle

    GPA Requirement

    Each candidate must typically have a 3.0 overall GPA with a grade of “C” or better in an undergraduate statistics course.

Why Is Nurse Practitioner Program Accreditation Important?

Accrediting organizations for nurse practitioner programs include the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education and the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing. Accreditation ensures that the program offers an education meeting rigorous standards.

Primary reasons for choosing an accredited nurse practitioner program in Kentucky include:

  • Students cannot receive federal financial aid while attending an unaccredited program.
  • Accreditation indicates a quality education.
  • Unaccredited coursework is not transferable or recognized by other programs.
  • Students graduating from accredited programs are more competitive in the job market.
  • Accredited schools foster a culture of continuous improvement and academic quality.
  • Accreditation sets standards for professional certification and licensure.
  • Accredited schools have qualified faculty and resources to support student achievement.

Paying for a Nurse Practitioner Program in Kentucky

The cost of a nurse practitioner program depends on several variables. These factors may include program length, whether you pay in-state or out-of-state tuition, online or in-person coursework, and if you may work while in the program. These factors play a role in your out-of-pocket costs and any available financial aid options.

Students in nurse practitioner schools in Kentucky can pursue several sources of funding. Working students may have tuition reimbursement benefits from their employers. Don’t overlook this potential benefit. If it is not available, you may be able to negotiate help with your institution by promising to work at the hospital for one or two years as a new NP.

Students may also be eligible for scholarships or grants from local organizations or national associations. Learners may also be eligible for student loans after completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). These government loans may be subsidized or unsubsidized. Direct PLUS loans are also available for graduate students to help pay for college.

Common Questions About Nurse Practitioner Programs

question-mark-circleHow much do nurse practitioners make in Kentucky?

According to May 2021 BLS data, the annual average wage for a nurse practitioner in Kentucky is $106,080. This figure falls just above 50% for the U.S. However, the cost of living is 11.4% lower in Kentucky than the average in the U.S.

question-mark-circleAre nurse practitioners in high demand in Kentucky State?

The nonmetropolitan area of east Kentucky has one of the highest concentrations of jobs throughout the U.S. Nurse practitioners continue to help ease the shortage of primary care physicians in the state. There is a high demand in the state for primary care NPs and those in some specialty practices, such as oncology.

question-mark-circleHow long does it take to become a nurse practitioner in Kentucky?

It takes 6-8 years to become a nurse practitioner. To obtain your RN license, you need 2-4 years of education. Most programs then require you to possess 1-2 years of experience before admission to a two-year MSN program.

question-mark-circleCan nurse practitioners practice independently in Kentucky?

Nurse practitioners in Kentucky practice under a reduced practice regulatory structure, in which the NP must practice under a regulated, collaborative agreement with a healthcare provider. The NP cannot open their own practice, but they do have full prescriptive privileges and can practice independently within another practice.

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