Two Orthopedic Nurse Practitioners Examining X-rays

How to Become an Orthopedic Nurse Practitioner

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

Two Orthopedic Nurse Practitioners Examining X-rays

As a Registered Nurse (RN), you have the opportunity to specialize in an area of healthcare that piques your interest and sparks your passion.

(Click here to learn how to become a Registered Nurse)

Every nursing specialty is different. They each have their own job responsibilities, patient groups, and unique work environments. Most of these specializations may also require specific academic qualifications and certifications.

This career guide will focus on the nurses who specialize in providing care to patients dealing with musculoskeletal issues, Orthopedic Nurse Practitioners (ONPs).

The orthopedic specialty treats patients with broken or fractured bones, injuries, or chronic conditions such as arthritis. The role of an Orthopedic Nurse Practitioner centers on helping people manage their orthopedic injuries (or diseases) while educating their patients on how to treat and alleviate their symptoms.

(Click here to see our full list of the highest paying nursing jobs)

If you’re interested in helping people regain their strength and mobility, we hope this guide will inspire you to explore this enriching career opportunity further. Please continue reading to learn how to become an Orthopedic Nurse Practitioner, as well as their unique job responsibilities, salary*, and educational requirements.

Orthopedic Nurse Practitioner Definition

What is an Orthopedic Nurse Practitioner?

Orthopedic Nurse Practitioners are Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRNs) who care for patients with musculoskeletal injuries or diseases. They work alongside physicians to help patients recover from surgery, rehabilitate from injury, and return to full mobility.

Orthopedic Nurse Practitioner: Job Description

What Does an Orthopedic Nurse Practitioner Do?

Orthopedic Nurse Practitioners help patients with musculoskeletal issues, including broken or fractured bones, osteoporosis, arthritis, joint replacements, and other injuries or diseases. They often assist Orthopedic Surgeons in the operating room and follow up with patients throughout their recovery to ensure patients are regaining their strength and range of motion.

Orthopedic Nurse Practitioner: Day-to-Day Responsibilities

Some of the day-to-day responsibilities of Orthopedic Nurse Practitioners include:

  • Providing care for people who have musculoskeletal disorders, injuries, and degenerative conditions
  • Informing patients about their condition and medical history
  • Educating patients and their families regarding their treatment while promoting healthier lifestyle habits
  • Assist Orthopedic Surgeons throughout surgery and follow up with patients after their operation
  • Create pain management schedules for patients while monitoring their medications for reactions and allergies
  • Conducting routine health assessments and physical examinations
  • Monitoring patient vital signs and monitoring patients throughout their recovery

Orthopedic Nurse Practitioner Jobs

Where Do Orthopedic Nurse Practitioners Work?

Orthopedic Nurse Practitioners can find work in various healthcare settings, including doctors’ offices, outpatient care clinics, and hospitals. Because of the versatile nature of their profession, Orthopedic Nurse Practitioners can also work in other settings, such as health agencies, assisted living centers, and rehabilitation centers.

Ecstatic students smiling and laughing

Orthopedic Nurse Practitioner Schooling & Certification

How Long Does it Take to Become an Orthopedic Nurse Practitioner?

What Degree Do You Need to Become an Orthopedic Nurse Practitioner?

Becoming an Orthopedic Nurse Practitioner involves extensive education and training. At a minimum, you must earn a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree to become one.

While a master’s degree may seem strenuous, the hard work does pay off in the end. Orthopedic Nurse Practitioners rank among the highest paying nursing jobs in the US.

Here are the steps required to become an Orthopedic Nurse Practitioner: 

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

The first step to becoming an Orthopedic Nurse Practitioner is earning your BSN (Bachelor of Science in Nursing) degree. A BSN program will take three to four years to complete if you have no prior nursing education or experience.

If you already have an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN), you can enroll in an RN-to-BSN program. These bridge programs are convenient and can be completed in as little as 20 months.

Accelerated nursing programs are also available to Licensed Vocational Nurses or Licensed Practical Nurses who already have their associate degree in vocational nursing (ASVN). These LVN-to-BSN pathways allow you to skip the first three semesters of the bachelor’s degree program.

2. Pass the NCLEX-RN Certification Exam

Upon earning your bachelor’s degree, the next step to becoming an Orthopedic Nurse Practitioner is earning your nursing license. To do that, you must pass the NCLEX-RN or the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses. With the NCLEX, you’ll be certified to enter the workforce as a registered nurse (RN).

(Click here to read our NCLEX-RN Exam Review & Study Guide).

3. Earn your Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) Degree

To become eligible for Orthopedic Nursing Certification (ONP-C) from the Orthopaedic Nurses Certification Board (ONCB), you’ll have to earn a post-graduate degree from an accredited program. Most Masters in Nursing (MSN) programs take about 18 to 24 months to complete. However, by earning your MSN, you set yourself up for higher earning potential and a greater job outlook for the rest of your nursing career.

4. Gain Experience Working as a Nurse Practitioner

The ONP-C certification also requires a minimum of 2,000 hours of practice working as an APRN before the exam. Some of the hours earned in your MSN program may count towards that total.

5. Get Certified as an Orthopedic Nurse Practitioner

The final step to becoming an Orthopedic Nurse Practitioner is passing the ONP-C certification exam provided by the Orthopaedic Nurses Certification Board (ONCB). The ONC-P certification examination is a competency-based examination that provides a valid and reliable assessment of an Orthopedic Nurse Practitioner’s entry-level clinical knowledge and skills. There are 135 scored questions and 15 unscored questions on the exam, for a total of 150 questions.

Here is a breakdown of the test specifications provided by the ONCB:


  • Degenerative Disorders (53 questions)
  • Orthopedic Trauma (24 questions)
  • Sports Injuries (19 questions)
  • Inflammatory Disorders (11 questions)
  • Metabolic Bone Disorders (11 questions)
  • Congenital/Pediatric (8 questions)
  • Musculoskeletal Tumors (4 questions)
  • Neuromuscular (5 questions)


  • Clinician/Practitioner (85-95 questions)
  • Educator (13-23 questions)
  • Manager (3-9 questions)
  • Consultant (11-19 questions)
  • Researcher (3-9 questions)

Medical professional holding a cup of coffee while typing on a laptop

Orthopedic Nurse Practitioner Salary

How Much Do Orthopedic Nurse Practitioners Make?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the average salary* of Nurse Practitioners (which includes Orthopedic Nurse Practitioners) was about $118,000 per year or about $57 per hour as of 2021. The top 10% of Nurse Practitioners can make over $163,000 per year.

Highest Paying Industries for Orthopedic Nurses

According to the BLS, these are the industries where you’re most likely to find the top-paying jobs for Orthopedic Nurse Practitioners:

Industry Average Hourly Pay Average Salary
Home Health Care Services $64.03 $133,170
Psychiatric Hospitals $63.38 $131,830
Outpatient Care Centers $62.11 $129,190
General Hospitals $59.12 $122,960
Physicians’ Offices $55.23 $114,870

Highest Paying States for Orthopedic Nurses

According to the BLS, these are the states where you’re most likely to find the top-paying jobs for Orthopedic Nurse Practitioners:

State  Average Hourly Pay Average Salary
California $72.99 $151,830
New Jersey $65.87 $137,010
New York $64.39 $133,940
Washington $62.90 $130,840
Massachusetts $62.28 $129,540

Highest Paying Cities for Orthopedic Nurses

According to the BLS, these are the cities where you’re most likely to find the top-paying jobs for Orthopedic Nurse Practitioners:

City Average Hourly Pay Average Salary
San Jose, CA $95.13 $197,870
Napa, CA $88.80 $184,700
Fairfield, CA $86.72 $180,380
San Francisco, CA $85.18 $177,160
Yuba City, CA $76.57 $159,260
San Luis Obispo, CA $73.70 $153,300
Sacramento, CA $73.58 $153,050
Santa Rosa, CA $73.15 $152,150
Santa Cruz, CA $72.25 $150,280
Fresno, CA $71.04 $147,760

What is the Job Outlook for Orthopedic Nurse Practitioners?

According to the BLS, the job growth for Nurse Practitioners is projected to increase by 45% from 2020 to 2030, which is much faster than the average for all occupations (8%).

Much of this growth will result from an increase in the demand for healthcare services and preventative care for the aging population in our country. This will directly affect the job outlook for Orthopedic Nurse Practitioners.

Smiling healthcare professional bandaging a patient's leg

Orthopedic Nurse Practitioner Career

Are you ready to start your career as an Orthopedic Nurse Practitioner?

There are a ton of different specialties you can pursue as a nurse. If you love helping patients recover from injury and restoring their mobility, then becoming an Orthopedic Nurse Practitioner could be a fantastic career choice for you!