How to Become a Nurse Practitioner
Nurse Practitioner Careers & Degrees

Nurse Practitioners are professionals who can provide specialty and primary health care to patients.

They work very closely with patients and other health care professionals and are responsible for the coordination of patient health care.

Individuals who want to become a Nurse Practitioner also known as an NP or Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRNs) will have a passion working with people and the health care field.

These professionals have more advanced education than Registered Nurses (RNs), have more responsibilities and may also have the ability to provide primary and specialty health care to their patient independently or in conjunction with doctors and physicians.

In addition, these professionals may also opt to choose a specialization such as anesthesiology, midwifery or work with a specific group.

Education Requirements to Become a Nurse Practitioner

Individuals who want to become a Nurse Practitioner will need to seek a degree at the Master’s level, gain clinical experience, secure a national certification and be a Registered Nurse (RN) in the state they practice in.

Individuals who want to become a Nurse Practitioner must first attend an undergraduate program with a focus on Nursing or a closely related field.

Most APRN Master’s programs seek candidates who have a minimum of a Bachelor’s degree.

During their Master’s program, individuals will take courses in physiology, pharmacology and anatomy in different settings such as classroom instruction and in a clinical setting.

Some APRN programs offer the ability to prepare students for the RN licensure needed to practice as a Nurse Practitioner.

If a program does not offer this, a student must seek this licensure before applying for jobs or seeking certification in their state.

After completing a Bachelor’s degree, a Master’s and attaining a Registered Nurse license, individuals must then seek certification in the state they reside or wish to work in.

Currently, there is no standardization for APRN certification, but the National Council of State Boards of Nursing is seeking to do just that.

Visit NCSBN for more information about this organization.

The standardization of this profession will include: completion of a graduate degree from an accredited institution, licensure to be a registered nurse, testing and certification of a national exam and acquiring a second license for a specialty such as anesthesiology or midwifery.

Nurse Practitioner Job Description

Nurse Practitioners typically perform the same duties as Registered Nurses.

To learn more information about their patients, they will read their medical background, symptoms and create and implement plans for a patient’s care using that information.

Nurse Practitioners are also able diagnose patients from the information gleaned from their medical files and diagnose a variety of health problems.

To further understand a client’s medical concerns, Nurse Practitioners may also order diagnostic tests and take the time to analyze the results.

If a test comes back positive for an illness or infection, a Nurse Practitioner will also determine a patient’s treatment and prescribe a medicine.

If needed, a Nurse Practitioner will refer to a physician, doctor or other health care professionals.

Other duties Nurse Practitioners are responsible for include: performing physical exams, operate medical equipment, perform research for uncommon medical ailments and meet with patients and their families to discuss the management and treatment of illnesses, injuries or disorders.

Nurse Practitioner Salary and Career Path

Nurse Practitioners earned a median annual wage of $96,460 in 2012.

Exact wages will depend on the level of experience and the industry an individual works in.

For example, Nurse Practitioners working at state, local or private earned a median annual wage of $101,990 in 2012 while professionals who worked at state, local or private universities or colleges earned a median wage of $88,070.

Job projections for Nurse Anesthetists, Nurse Midwives and Nurse Practitioners are expected to grow by 31 percent through the year 2022.

This growth is attributed due to the increase in demand for health care services prompted by healthcare legislation, the large aging population and a recent interest for preventative care.

Nurse Practitioners are busy health care professionals who perform a variety of tasks that assist in the improvement of their patients.

Their tasks are similar to that of Registered Nurses but in addition have the capacity to diagnose common illnesses, provide treatments and give medicine, sometimes without the supervision of a Physician.

The below information is based on the 2019 BLS national averages.
  • Annually
  • Monthly
  • Hourly

National Average Salary

$111,840
$81K
$92K
$111K
$127K
$152K
10%
25%
50%
75%
90%

Average Salary by State

StateAvg. Annual Salary
Alabama$99,570
Alaska$115,890
Arizona$111,480
Arkansas$105,840
California$138,660
Colorado$106,760
Connecticut$115,140
Delaware$112,430
District of Columbia$111,950
Florida$101,510
Georgia$105,670
Hawaii$124,000
Idaho$110,860
Illinois$107,860
Indiana$106,380
Iowa$109,910
Kansas$100,550
Kentucky$99,560
Louisiana$106,240
Maine$106,960
Maryland$111,800
Massachusetts$122,240
Michigan$108,660
Minnesota$122,850
Mississippi$110,740
Missouri$105,050
Montana$109,120
Nebraska$105,450
Nevada$115,970
New Hampshire$110,680
New Jersey$123,810
New Mexico$111,930
New York$122,550
North Carolina$105,890
North Dakota$110,950
Ohio$103,780
Oklahoma$113,200
Oregon$113,430
Pennsylvania$101,950
Rhode Island$115,310
South Carolina$100,680
South Dakota$102,230
Tennessee$96,510
Texas$115,440
Utah$105,240
Vermont$105,840
Virginia$109,110
Washington$126,920
West Virginia$103,170
Wisconsin$112,130
Wyoming$118,110
Guam$72,970

The top earning state in the field is California, where the average salary is $138,660.

These are the top 5 earning states in the field:

California - $138,660
Washington - $126,920
Hawaii - $124,000
New Jersey - $123,810
Minnesota - $122,850
* Salary information based on the May 2019 Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) Survey for Nurse Practitioners, OCC Code 29-1171, BLS.
* Employment conditions in your area may vary.

Frequently Asked Questions

QuestionWhat is a nurse practitioner?

Nurse practitioners coordinate patient care and may also provide specialty or primary healthcare to patients.

They are also referred to as advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs).

APRNs have a variety of responsibilities, including recording the patient’s history and symptoms, performing physical exams, operating medical equipment, and giving treatments to patients.

When needed, nurse practitioners may consult with doctors and other healthcare providers.

They may work independently or in collaboration with physicians.

Some states allow nurse practitioners to also prescribe medication and to order medical tests and diagnose health problems.

Nurse practitioners may specialize in working with a specific population group; for example, some work exclusively in geriatric healthcare while others work only in pediatrics.

QuestionHow much does a nurse practitioner make?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for nurse anesthetists, nurse midwives, and nurse practitioners was $113,930 as of May 2018.

Salaries in this field vary widely; some nurse practitioners may earn less than $80,000 while others make more than $180,000 a year.

QuestionHow much does it cost to become a nurse practitioner?

Nurse practitioners must hold a master’s degree in one of the fields in which they specialize and also need a state license, which means that they must pass a national certification exam.

Accredited master’s degree programs in nursing include both classroom education, with courses in anatomy, physiology and pharmacology, and clinical training.

Most programs that train APRNs prefer candidates with a bachelor’s degree in nursing but bridge programs for registered nurses with an associate’s degree in nursing are also available at some schools.

Bachelor’s degree programs in nursing can cost anywhere between $40,000 and more than $100,000 a year, depending on the school you choose.

Master’s of Nursing programs are also available online and can cost between $30,000 and more than $60,000.

QuestionWhat is the demand for nurse practitioners?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the employment of nurse anesthetists, nurse midwives, and nurse practitioners is expected to grow 26 percent from 2018 to 2028.

Nurse practitioners will be needed especially to work with the elderly and to collaborate with other healthcare professionals in order to provide preventive and primary care.

The number of job opportunities varies depending on the specialty; APRNs who specialize in working with the elderly and those who are willing to relocate to areas that are underserved by healthcare providers should have good job prospects.

QuestionHow long does it take to become a nurse practitioner?

Nurse practitioners need a master’s degree in their field of specialty, which can be obtained in approximately 2 years.

In order to be eligible to enroll at a master’s degree program, you will typically need a bachelor’s degree in nursing, which can be obtained after approximately 4 years of post-secondary study.

APRNs may also choose to earn a Doctor of Nursing Practice degree or a Ph.D.

In order to be eligible for enrollment at a graduate program, you may also need some experience in the field; exact requirements depend on the field of specialty.

In conclusion, if you want to become a nurse practitioner, you will need at least 6 years of training beyond high-school.

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