Nurse Practitioner: Career and Salary Facts

Explore the career requirements for nurse practitioners. Get the facts about job duties, education, salary, and licensing 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 Is A Nurse Practitioner?

A nurse practitioner is a medical professional with a master's degree in nursing. Nurse practitioners are highly trained, and they are qualified to perform many duties commonly associated with physicians. They may assess patients, order tests, diagnose the patient, and prescribe medication and treatment. Nurse practitioners may opt to specialize in a particular field of medicine, such a neonatal care, geriatric health or psychiatric and mental health. As part of their duties they may consult with doctors and other medical professionals, and they need to be familiar with the latest approved treatments for conditions in their field of medical expertise. Nurse practitioners may also educate patients and their families about medical conditions, treatments and how the diagnosis will impact their daily life.

Degree Required Master's degree
Education Field of Study Nursing
Licensure or Certification Licensure as a registered nurse (RN) is required; board certification is available
Key Responsibilities Provide primary health care to patients of all ages; obtain patient history, conduct examination and diagnose medical issues; order diagnostic testing and analyze results; prescribe medication and treatment and maintain patient records
Job Growth (2014-2024) 35% for all nurse practitioners*
Median Salary (2015) $98,190*

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

What Would I Do as a Nurse Practitioner?

As a nurse practitioner, you would perform many of the same functions as a physician, taking medical histories, performing physical examinations, diagnosing common illnesses and prescribing medications. You could specialize in family medicine, women's health, pediatrics or other areas of healthcare. Some states allow nurse practitioners to work independently from licensed doctors, while others require NPs to work with a physician.

What Education Do I Need?

Since NPs must hold a master's degree, you need to begin your nursing education with a bachelor's degree program before seeking graduate education. There are hundreds of Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree programs in the United States, and some universities offer accelerated master's degree programs where you would earn both your BSN and Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) simultaneously. MSN programs require that you have completed your BSN and are a registered nurse (RN) before enrolling. Your degree programs would combine classroom education with clinical experience. At the master's level, you can define the specialty you'd like to pursue as an NP and focus on that area in your studies.

How Do I Become Registered or Certified?

After you have completed your BSN program, you can take the required National Council Licensure Examination that the National Council of State Boards of Nursing offers to become an RN (www.ncsbn.org). After completing your master's program, you may choose to become certified as an NP. The American Academy of Nurse Practitioners and the American Nurses Credentialing Center offer certification exams for nurses with graduate-level education in areas such as pediatrics, gerontology and acute care.

What Salary Could I Earn?

PayScale.com reported in October, 2016 that nurse practitioners in the 10th-90th percentile range made total earnings, which includes bonuses and profit sharing, in the range of $71,728 - $113,050. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported in May 2015 that nurse practitioners made a median annual wage of $98,190 (www.bls.gov). The nursing profession in general is expected to have excellent employment opportunities, and nurse practitioners specifically may see an increase in demand as people seek more cost-effective healthcare solutions.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Nurse practitioners perform many duties that are comparable to the work of physicians and physician assistants, and they also share a common career field with registered nurses. Physicians need a doctoral degree, and they are more extensively trained than nurse practitioners. They may supervise nurse practitioners and physician assistants. Like nurse practitioners and physicians, physician assistants may see patients, review their medical history, order tests, diagnose their condition and prescribe medication and treatment. They need a master's degree. Registered nurses need a bachelor's degree, and they work under the supervision of nurse practitioners, physicians and physician assistants. They follow the care plans developed by those medical professionals and may administer medications or other treatments to patients, and monitor their progress.

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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