Types of Nursing Certification

As the nursing shortage continues, it becomes more critical to fill nursing vacancies with skilled, highly qualified registered nurses. An estimated 100,000 nursing jobs go unfilled every year, and more than 500,000 RNs are expected to retire within the next five years.

Nurses with specialty training in fields like gerontology and informatics are becoming more important to delivering quality care to patients.

Value of Nursing Certifications

Nursing certifications have many benefits. They help nurses provide a higher quality of care to patients which, in turn, leads to higher patient confidence in nurses’ skills. Nursing certifications also benefit the nurses themselves, as they can open up career opportunities that might not be available otherwise.

Types of Nursing Certifications

Choosing the right certification has a significant impact on a nurse’s job performance, as well as on career opportunities and professional growth.

Specialty Certifications


The Critical Care Registered Nurse (CCRN) certification provides nurses with the training and knowledge required to care for acutely ill patients. CCRN-certified nurses provide direct care to patients in intensive care units, neonatal units, trauma centers, and other similar environments.

There are two extensions of the CCRN certification: CCRN-E and CCRN-K. CCRN-E is for nurses who, like those who are CCRN certified, provide similar direct care but remotely, such as through telehealth programs. CCRN-K certification equips nurses to provide non-direct care in roles that influence the organization and patient care as a whole.

CCRN certifications are available to experienced RNs and can be renewed every three years. RNs who pursue such certifications typically have an associate or bachelor’s degree.


A Progressive Care Nursing Certification (PCCN) allows nurses to provide care for acutely ill adult patients whose conditions are only moderately stable or are at elevated risk of instability. Such nurses must provide intensive care to their patients, and the PCCN certification denotes a level of vigilance required to deliver such care.

The PCCN-K certification, an extension of PCCN, is for nurses who provide non-direct care that impacts acutely ill patients and the organizations that care for them.

Like the CCRN, PCCN applicants must have extensive clinical experience and can renew their certifications every three years.

Subspecialty Certifications


The Cardiac Medicine Certification (CMC) ensures that nurses have the knowledge required to provide direct medical care to cardiac patients. The Cardiac Surgical Certification (CSC) allows nurses to provide postoperative care to cardiac surgical patients.

CMC and CSC candidates must also hold a nationally-accredited nursing specialty certification (such as a CCRN, PCCN, ACNPC, or CCNS) and can renew these certifications every three years. CMC and CSC applicants must be licensed RNs or advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs), so education for such a certification ranges from an associate degree to a Doctor of Nursing Practice.

Advanced Practice Certifications


The Acute Care Nurse Practitioner Certification (ACNPC) provides the baseline level of certification required for graduate-level nurse practitioners to provide patient care to acutely, critically, or chronically ill individuals across a variety of settings. An extension of the ACNPC, the ACNPC-AG certification allows nurse practitioners to provide the same care for adult-gerontology patients.

Both the ACNPC and ACNPC-AG nursing certifications can be renewed every five years. A current RN or APRN license is required, and candidates must have completed a graduate-level nursing education program.


The Certified Clinical Nurse Specialist (CCNS) provides graduate-level nurses with the certification required to provide advanced patient care to adults, children, and infants. The CCNS has three acute care extensions: the ACCNS-AG, for adult-gerontology patients; the ACCNS-P, for pediatric patients; and the ACCNS-N, for neonatal patients.

These certifications can be renewed every five years, and all of them require RNs or APRNs to have completed a graduate-level nursing education.

The Education You Need

Rivier University offers several online nursing degrees.

Online RN to BSN Rivier’s online RN to BSN is a two- to four-year degree that provides students with all the skills they need to advance their careers as RNs.
Online Master of Science in Nursing: Nursing Education Our online master’s in nursing education program provides students with the knowledge and skills to train others to become nurses.
Online Master of Science in Nursing: Leadership in Health Systems Management Those who want to lead other nurses can do so with Rivier’s online health systems management degree.
Online Master of Science in Nursing: Family Nurse Practitioner Nurses who are interested in becoming nurse practitioners can take advantage of Rivier’s online family nurse practitioner program.
Online Doctor of Nursing Practice The online Doctor of Nursing Practice degree (DNP) is a terminal nursing degree for advanced practice nurses who work in a clinical environment.