Duties, Responsibilities, Schooling, Requirements, Certifications, Job Outlook, and Salary

How to Become a Nurse Practitioner

Duties, Responsibilities, Schooling, Requirements, Certifications, Job Outlook, and Salary

Duties, Responsibilities, Schooling, Requirements, Certifications, Job Outlook, and Salary

There are several different nursing specialties that registered nurses (RNs) have the ability to pursue once they’ve earned their license. Each specialty has its own specific job responsibilities, work environments, and benefits. To reach these positions, there are varying education and certification requirements. For many nurses, becoming a nurse practitioner (NP) serves as the general next step in their career.

Nurse practitioners are RNs with advanced degrees and training, enabling them to work with a specialized group of patients. Once they’ve earned their graduate-level education, they can explore various fields to discover the nursing specialty that interests them the most.

We’ve put together a comprehensive guide for anyone who’s wondering how to become a Nurse Practitioner. Continue reading to better understand the role of a nurse practitioner, their responsibilities, school requirements, job outlook, and salary.

Nurse Practitioner Definition

What Is a Nurse Practitioner?

Nurse practitioners are advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs). They have earned advanced degrees in nursing, most commonly a Master’s of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree or Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree.). Nurse practitioners typically require a state APRN licensure, as well as a national certification in a patient group focus.

Due to their specialized education and training, nurse practitioners can provide higher levels of care than RNs, and hold responsibilities that RNs do not. For example, nurse practitioners have the ability to prescribe medications to patients while RNs don’t. They also have the ability to earn certifications in a larger variety of nursing specializations than RNs.

Nurse Practitioner: Job Description

What Does a Nurse Practitioner Do?

Nurse practitioners provide basic preventative health care to their patients. They can prescribe medication, examine and diagnose patients, and provide treatment. They perform many of the same job duties as a physician, and their advanced experience and training makes them increasingly indispensable to hospitals and healthcare facilities.

Nurse Practitioner Jobs

Where Do Nurse Practitioners Work?

Nurse practitioners can find work in a variety of healthcare settings, such as hospitals, nursing homes, and physician’s offices.

Some of the daily responsibilities held by a nurse practitioner include:

  • Assisting in providing primary care to patients
  • Administering medicines and treatments
  • Diagnosing acute health issues
  • Conducting diagnostic tests such as x-rays and EKGs
  • Educating patients on medication and managing their health
  • Maintaining medical records of patients

Nurse Practitioner Schooling

How Long Does It Take to Become a Nurse Practitioner?

What Degree Do You Need to be a Nurse Practitioner?

How Long Does It Take to Become a Nurse Practitioner?

Becoming a nurse practitioner requires extensive education and experience. While the benefits of becoming a nurse practitioner are great, you’ll have to dedicate about 6 – 8 years to higher education in order to become a NP.

The total time it takes to become a nurse practitioner varies depending on whether or not you decide to gain work experience as an RN before earning your graduate degree. Here are the steps you’ll need to take in order to become a nurse practitioner:

1. Earn your Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree

A common first step to becoming a nurse practitioner is earning your Bachelor of Science in Nursing Degree (BSN). A BSN program will take about 4 years to complete , unless you’ve already earned your associate’s degree in nursing (ADN). Students who’ve already earned their ADN can enroll in an RN-BSN program which can be completed in as little as 20 months.

2. Pass the NCLEX-RN exam

Once you’ve earned your BSN, you’ll have to pass the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN) in order to earn your nursing license. Once you’ve passed the NCLEX, you can be licensed as a nurse (RN) and prepared to jump into the workforce.

3. Gain Experience Working as an RN

There are different opinions when it comes to higher education in nursing. For some, the accelerated path of education is seen as the most efficient option. Others find that rushing through nursing school to earn a graduate degree may leave you unprepared for the career responsibilities that lie ahead.

RNs with prior work experience have acquired a solid foundation in nursing and are better prepared to become effective nurse practitioners, once they’ve graduated. Furthermore, many graduate schools require a few years of experience before accepting students into their nurse practitioner programs.

4. Earn a Graduate Degree

The minimum degree requirement for becoming a nurse practitioner is a Master of Science in Nursing degree (MSN). An MSN degree is the most common graduate degree earned by nurse practitioners. You may also earn your PhD in a field related to healthcare administration or nursing education. MSN degrees usually take about 18-24 months to complete, while doctorate degrees typically require 2-3 years of full-time education.

5. Obtain State License and Certification

Once you’ve earned your graduate degree, you’ll be one step away from officially becoming a nurse practitioner. Prior to entering the workforce, you’ll need to obtain your state-specific advanced practice nursing license, as well as a national specialty certification. Earning your specialty certification qualifies you to enter your chosen nursing specialty or profession.

Nurse Practitioner Salary

How Much Do Nurse Practitioners Make?

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that the median annual wage for nurse practitioners was $107,030 as of May 2018.

The lowest 10 percent of APRNs earned less than $80,670, while the highest 10 percent earned more than $182,750.

Nurse practitioners rank amongst the highest paying nursing specialties.

Highest Paying Industries for Nurse Practitioners

Some of the highest paying industries for nurse practitioners include:

IndustryAnnual Median Wage
Personal Care Services$139,770
Community Food and Housing, and Emergency and Other Relief Services$131,930
Religious Organizations$126,650
Computer Systems Design and Related Services$121,490
Residential Intellectual and Development Disability, Mental Health, and Substance Abuse Facilities$117,440

Highest Paying States for Nurse Practitioners

Some of the highest paying states for nurse practitioners include:

StateAnnual Median Wage
California$133,780
Alaska$122,880
Massachusetts$122,740
New Jersey$122,100
New York$120,970

Highest Paying Cities for Nurse Practitioners

Some of the highest paying cities for nurse practitioners include:

CityAnnual Median Wage
New Bedford, MA$156,980
San Francisco, CA$150,790
Spokane, WA$148,440
Sumter, SC$145,890
Vallejo-Fairfield, CA$145,400

 What is the Job Outlook for Nurse Practitioners?

The BLS reports that overall employment of nurse practitioners will grow 36% by 2026. This is significantly higher than the average growth of all occupations (7%).

NPs also have the greatest job outlook amongst APRNs. Nurse practitioners will be needed to care for the baby-boom population. They will also be needed to treat the growing number of patients with acute and chronic health conditions.

Nurse Practitioner Career

Are you ready to start your career as a Nurse Practitioner?

Whether you’re a nurse looking to take the next step in your career, or if you’re just starting your nursing journey, becoming a nurse practitioner is one of the best ways to dive deeper into the world of nursing. You’ll have to commit time and money to education, but the increase in salary, benefits, and job outlook pays off over time. If you’re looking to become a nurse practitioner, you can start by earning your BSN degree at Provo College.

Click here to learn more about our BSN program.