California Nurse Practitioner Licensure Guide - 2022

Nurse Practitioner Licensing Guide for the state of California

Last Reviewed: October 4th, 2022

To practice as a nurse practitioner (NP) in California, you must be licensed by the Board of Registered Nursing (BRN). This is the chief licensing authority for the nursing profession in the state and they issue licenses to registered nurses (RNs) and advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) – this includes NPs. The board recognizes up to six different types of APRNs:

  • Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS)
  • Nurse Midwife (NMW)
  • Nurse Anesthetist (NA)
  • Nurse Practitioner (NP)
  • Public Health Nurse (PHN)
  • Psychiatric/mental health nurse (PMH)

Licensing is important for gatekeeping the quality of persons allowed to practice in a given profession. The BRN is meticulous about who is allowed to practice as a registered nurse or stand in the capacity of an APRN, such as an NP.

NPs are seasoned nurses with additional knowledge and skills in psychosocial assessment, physical diagnosis, and management of health particularly in primary care. To become one, you must complete a postgraduate preparatory program and obtain national certification in one or more specialty areas. The California BRN is specific about what programs count as valid during the application process.

A valid RN license is a compulsory requirement for all applicants as an NP is essentially a registered nurse who is qualified to carry out tasks that are considered beyond the scope of RNs. As California is not a party to the Nurse Licensure Compact (NLC), holders of valid multi-state licenses are also required to apply for an RN license to practice in the state.

The reason for the boycott of the compact has been attributed to the BRNs concern with variations in the quality of training received by nurses allowed to practice in California. Hopefully, as more synchronization develops within the nursing educational system, we can expect California to make the transition. 

For specific requirements to CA NP licensure and limitations of practice, see below:

California NP Licensing & Scope of Work