Adult Nurse Practitioner: Career Definition, Job Outlook, and Education Requirements

Research what it takes to become an adult nurse practitioner. Learn about education, licensing requirements and job growth to find out if this is the career for you. Schools offering Family Nurse Practitioner degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is an Adult Nurse Practitioner?

An adult nurse practitioner is an advanced practice nurse who specializes in providing care to adult patients. Their duties may vary by state, but most nurse practitioners are qualified to prescribe medication and order various kinds of diagnostic and lab tests. Adult nurse practitioners will also take patients' medical histories, create treatment plans, analyze test results and evaluate a patient's progress. They may need to consult with doctors or other health professionals, as well as counsel the patient on his or her treatment and care. Depending on their place of work and responsibilities, adult nurse practitioners may have the opportunity to conduct original research if they choose. The following chart provides an overview about becoming an adult nurse practitioner.

Degree Required Master's degree
Education Field of Study Nursing
Licensure or Certification All states require registered nurses to be licensed, advanced practice nurses usually need licensure as well; specialized board certification is available
Key Responsibilities Examine patients, assess and diagnose health issues; order diagnostic testing and analyze results; prescribe medication and treatment; advise patients about treatment plans
Job Growth (2014-2024) 35% (for all nurse practitioners)*
Mean Salary (2015) $101,260 (for all nurse practitioners)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

What Are My Tasks as an Adult Nurse Practitioner?

Adult nurse practitioners are registered nurses who focus on providing care to adult patients. In all states, adult nurse practitioners can write and prescribe medications. You may also specialize in a specific aspect of adult care, like gynecology or cardiology, or in a specific interest area, like HIV/AIDS management and treatment. You oversee the work of registered nurses and nurse's assistants, work with patients to diagnose and treat illnesses, order diagnostic tests and manage the long-term health of patients.

What Job Outlook Can I Expect?

Adult nurse practitioners work in both acute and chronic care settings. You can work in hospitals, nursing facilities, private medical offices, intensive care units and a range of treatment centers. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicted that job opportunities for all nurse practitioners would grow between 2014 and 2024 by 35% (www.bls.gov). Advanced nurse practitioners with an advanced education will be particularly desirable, especially in areas that may not be able to afford the salaries of licensed physicians.

Nurse practitioners made a mean salary of $101,260, as of May 2015, according to the BLS. Working in physicians' offices brought nurse practitioners a mean salary of $99,760. California and Alaska paid nurse practitioners the most, stated the BLS.

What Should I Study?

All adult nurse practitioners are registered nurses who hold at least a Bachelor of Science in Nursing. In order to become a licensed adult nurse practitioner, you must complete a 2-year Master of Science in Nursing degree program. In both undergraduate and graduate degree programs, you'll take coursework in subjects such as anatomy, physiology, pharmacology, medical terminology, disease prevention, health promotion and medical science. As a graduate student, you'll pursue more advanced coursework and receive specialized training in adult care. Both programs include clinical experiences to give you hands-on practice with patients.

What Credentials Will I Need?

All states require nurses to have licensure. The National Council of State Boards of Nursing offers the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN) exam (www.ncsbn.org). This exam is used by most states for licensing requirements. Once registered for the exam, you can take the exam at your local testing center.

The American Nurses Credentialing Center offers certifications for nearly every nursing specialty (www.nursecredentialing.org). To be eligible for the Adult Nurse Practitioner certification exam, you must be a licensed RN, have knowledge in disease prevention, hold a master's degree (or higher) and have over 500 clinical hours.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

There are several alternative options for those interested in working in the medical field with various kinds of patients, including occupational therapists, physician assistants and speech-language pathologists. All of these positions require at least a master's degree. Occupational therapists work with patients that are disabled or recovering from illness or injury. They use different therapy techniques to try and improve the skills a patient needs to work and perform daily tasks. Physician assistants are probably most closely related to nurse practitioners as they examine and treat patients. However, they often work in a team of physicians and surgeons. Speech-language pathologists work with patients suffering from communication or swallowing disorders. They will diagnose these conditions and work to improve a patient's abilities.

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