How to Become an Adult Nurse Practitioner in 5 Steps

Explore the career requirements for adult nurse practitioners. Get the facts about job duties, education, licensing and certification requirements to determine if this is the right career for you. Schools offering Family Nurse Practitioner degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Does an Adult Nurse Practitioner Do?

Adult nurse practitioners are advanced practice nurses who focus on treating patients that are 18 years of age and older. As a nurse practitioner, you will perform many nursing duties as well as some more advance tasks. You will have the ability to conduct physical exams and consult with patients on how to improve or maintain their health. You will also have a large role in ordering diagnostic tests, diagnosing health problems, creating treatment plans and monitoring a patient's recovery. This includes observing how patients respond to treatments and making adjustments when needed. As with all medical professions, you will be responsible for keeping detailed records and knowing when to consult with doctors. This level of nursing is also research intensive, so you may find many research opportunities available to you. The following chart provides an overview about becoming an adult care nurse practitioner.

Degree Required Master's degree
Education Field of Study Nursing
Key Responsibilities Provide primary health care for adults, obtain patient histories, conduct examinations, assess patient health, order diagnostic testing and analyze results, advise patients of health issues, maintain patient records
Licensure or Certification Licensure as a registered nurse (RN) is required; board certification in adult care is available
Job Growth (2014-2024) 35% increase (for all nurse practitioners)*
Median Salary (2015) $98,190 (for all nurse practitioners)*

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

What Is an Adult Nurse Practitioner?

An adult nurse practitioner is a registered nurse (RN) who has completed specialized training and is qualified to provide primary care to adults. As a nurse practitioner, you emphasize disease prevention and health promotion. You examine patients, evaluate medical histories and perform order medical tests. Additional responsibilities include developing treatment plans, prescribing medications, monitoring treatment and responding to side effects.

Step 1: Become a Registered Nurse

At a minimum, you need a 2-year associate's degree to become a registered nurse. Associate's degree programs in nursing teach you about human physiology, medical terminology and pharmacology. Programs mix classroom instruction with clinical experience. Courses that touch on family health, adult care and elder care will be helpful to your long-term training as an adult nurse practitioner. After graduating, you will be eligible to take the registered nurse licensing examination (NCLEX-RN).

Step 2: Earn a Bachelor's Degree in Nursing

You need to earn a bachelor's degree to qualify for a graduate degree program. Many 4-year schools offer RN-to-BSN programs that let you apply your credits towards a bachelor's degree program. Programs emphasize further education in medical science and provide you with additional opportunities to gain working experience in a clinical setting. Courses also address topics that prepare you for graduate study, such as nursing leadership or research. If you didn't take the NCLEX-RN exam after earning an associate's degree or have entered a bachelor's program directly, you will be eligible to take the exam once you graduate.

Step 3: Complete an Adult Nurse Practitioner Program

Adult nurse practitioner master's degree programs prepare you to address the health issues of patients who have reached their physiological maturity. Academic and clinical coursework emphasize disease prevention and management and promotion of healthy lifestyles. Programs may also integrate content from gerontology, physical therapy and occupational therapy. Master's degrees are typically earned in two years.

Step 4: Find a Job as an Adult Nurse Practitioner

Employment opportunities are available with outpatient clinics, home healthcare providers and private medical practices. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that about 126,900 nurses worked as nurse practitioners in 2014. Specific figures for adult nurse practitioners weren't available. According to the BLS, employment for all nurse practitioners is projected to increase 35% from 2014-2024, with approximately 44,800 job openings arising from new positions, retirements and turnover. Employment will be driven by the need to find lower cost medial alternatives.

Step 5: Obtain Adult Nurse Practitioner Certification

Many employers prefer that adult nurse practitioners obtain certification. The American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) and the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) both offer certification exams in the field. To be eligible for the ANCC's exam, you must have an active RN license and a master's degree or doctorate from an adult nurse practitioner program. The graduate degree program must also include a minimum of 500 hours of clinical practice and include advanced health assessment and pharmacology courses.

You need to have graduated from an adult nurse practitioner master's degree, post-master's certificate or doctorate program to be eligible for AANP certification. As of 2014, the test consisted of 150 multiple-choice questions; 15% of the questions did not count in the final score. The certification lasts for five years, and you may renew it either by retaking the exam or by completing 75 hours of continuing education and 1,000 hours of clinical practice.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

There are a number of areas nurse practitioners may specialize in. Whereas adult nurse practitioners specialize in patients above the age of 18, pediatric health nurse practitioners specialize in working with children and teens, and geriatric health nurse practitioners specialize in working with patients late in their life. Nurse practitioners may also specialize in different types of health such as psychiatry. Aside form becoming a nurse practitioner, registered nurses looking to pursue advanced positions may also pursue training to become nurse anesthetists who specialize in the administering of anesthesia, or nurse midwives who specialize in child birth and women's health.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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