Advanced Nurse Practitioner Schooling and Education
A nurse practitioner is a type of advanced practice nurse who is required to have at least a graduate degree in a designated specialty area of nursing. Get information on certification options, and learn what the job growth predictions and salary expectations are for registered nurses.
What You Need to Know
If you are a registered nurse with a bachelor's degree in nursing, you can advance your career by attending an accredited graduate degree program to become a primary care provider in your choice of a variety of medical specialties. Upon graduation, you can obtain professional certification through your choice of certification organizations.
|Job Outlook (2021-2031)||46% increase (for all nurse practitioners)|
|Programs||Nurse practitioner graduate-level programs require candidates to have bachelor's degree in nursing and be licensed as a registered nurse|
|Certification||Professional certification is available in several medical specialties|
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
What Is a Nurse Practitioner?
As a nurse practitioner, you serve as the main provider of health care services to your patients. You will often specialize in working with a particular group of individuals, such as children or the elderly. Nurse practitioners work in what is considered to be an advanced practice specialty field of nursing. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that in 2021 there were 234,690 nurse practitioners working in the country, and that this number is expected to grow 46 percent between 2021 and 2031 (www.bls.gov). Nurse practitioners made an annual median wage of $120,680 in 2021.
How Do I Get Started?
To practice as a nurse in the U.S., you must have a degree from an approved nursing program in order to take the National Council Licensure Examination, or NCLEX-RN, to get your license. You should obtain either a diploma, an associate's degree or a bachelor's degree from an accredited nursing school. A Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) program provides you with the most training, as well as the prerequisite credits needed to enroll in a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) program.
What Kind of Education Do I Need to Become a Nurse Practitioner?
If you want to get a job as a nurse practitioner, you will need to obtain at least a master's degree in the nurse practitioner specialty in which you want to work, if not a higher-level of graduate degree. Although you will generally study nursing as a single major at the graduate level, degree programs which train you specifically to become a nurse practitioner or to work in a specialized area of this field are common at the master's and doctorate levels.
Schools that offer these types of programs include:
- Chamberlain University
- Vanderbilt University
- George Washington University
- Johns Hopkins University
- University of Pittsburgh
- Duke University
What Will I Study?
Graduate level studies in nursing often include advanced coursework in health assessment, pathophysiology, pharmacology and nursing leadership. Some programs offer coursework online, though clinical experiences must be attended at healthcare locations. Other courses you can expect to take include:
- Population health
- Healthcare policy
- Nursing informatics
- Primary care of the adult
- Primary care of the child
- Primary care of the elderly
How Can I Become Certified?
After you graduate, there are a number of certifications that you can earn from professional nursing organizations to prove that you are able to work as a nurse practitioner. The American Academy of Nurse Practitioners offers designations in the profession, for example. Certifications are offered in sub-specialties, such as pediatrics, adult care, family care and geriatrics. You earn a certification by taking an examination. To sit for one of these examinations, must obtain your RN license and hold an accredited degree in the nurse practitioner specialty in which you want to become certified. You may also have to have some supervised experience as a nurse practitioner.