How to Become a Nurse Practitioner (NP)

Nurse practioners devote their time and efforts to provide healthcare to patients. They usually specialize in a particular area like doctors do. NPs must at least get a master’s degree (although some states/specializations may require a doctoral degree) in nursing to be eligible for licensure.

Should I Become a Nurse Practitioner (NP)?

The scope of duties for an NP vary from one state to another. Some states require them to practice under the direct supervision of a physician or with a collaborative agreement, while other states give them freedom to work without supervision. Typical duties of NPs include,

  • Performing check-ups
  • Requesting lab tests
  • Deciding on treatments for health problems such as infections and viruses etc.
  • Refer patients to specialists, if needed
  • Refilling prescriptions and so on.
Education Required A master’s degree
Major Requirement Nursing
License/Certification Must obtain a nursing license
Experience/Training At least 1 year of experience in the chosen area of specialization
Key Skills Compassionate, Emotional Stability, Detail-oriented, Physical Stamina; Communication, Critical-thinking, Problem-solving, Observational Skills etc.
Annual Mean Salary (2019) – National $111,840 (Nurses Practioners)
Job Outlook (2018-2028) 26% (Nurse Anesthetists, Nurse Midwives, and Nurse Practitioners)

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (2019)

Career Outlook

In 2019, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics reported 200,600 Nurse Practitioners (NPs) employed in the US. Job opportunities for Nurse Anesthetists, Nurse Midwives, and Nurse Practitioners are expected to grow by 26% between 2018 and 2028. Moreover, Community Food and Housing, and Emergency and Other Relief Services was listed as the highest paying industry for this occupation with an annual mean salary of $139,140.

Steps to Becoming a Nurse Practitioner

If you are interested in becoming a licensed Nurse Practitioner (NP) in the US, this step-by-step guide can help you get started!

1. Complete a Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing Completing a 4-year bachelor’s degree in Nursing is the first step of this journey. Numerous universities in the US offer this degree such as, the UCLA and the University of San Francisco etc.

2. Clear the NCLEX-RN Exam: All graduates of bachelor’s in Nursing must clear the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN) to be able to apply for licensure.

3. Get a Master’s Degree in Nursing and Specialize The minimum required education for an NP is completion of a master’s degree in Nursing with a specialization. Many universities in the US, like the UCLA and the University of San Francisco among others, offer this degree with following specializations.

  • Acute Care
  • Family Medicine
  • Neonatal Care
  • Women’s Health and so on.

4. Licensure and Certification : Licensure and certification are 2 different things. Getting certified means the Nurse Practitioner is competent enough to provide care in their area of specialty. Whereas, obtaining a license means having legal permission to practice. A Nurse Practitioner must be licensed as an APRN. Several different certifications are available for nurse practitioners which are offered by,

  • The American Academy of Nurse Practitioners Certification Board
  • The American Nurses Credentialing Center
  • The Pediatric Nursing Certification Board

4. Career Advancement and Field Experience : Completing a Doctor of Nursing Program (DNP) can help you advance your career and get a better pay. Most employers prefer hiring candidates with higher level of education with at least 1 year of field experience. Therefore, earning this degree would benefit you the in long run.

How Long Does It Take to Become a Nurse Practitioner?

The duration of becoming a Nurse Practitioner may vary for each individual based on their personal decisions regarding education and work experience. However, including 4 years of BSN, 2 years of MSN and a few years of work experience and licensure acquisition etc., it may take about 7 to 10 years. It may take longer for those who complete a DNP (Doctor of Nursing program).

What Are the Requirements of Becoming a Nurse Practitioner?

To be able to work as a Nurse Practitioner, you must:

  • Possess an accredited Bachelor’s degree in Nursing
  • Have passed the NCLEX-RN exam
  • Graduated from a master’s degree in nursing with a specialization
  • Have a state issued license to practice

How Much Can I Make as a Nurse Practitioner?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), Nurse Practitioners working in the US earned an annual mean salary of $111,840 in 2019. In addition to that, California was named as the highest paying state ($138,660) for this occupation.

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