Though it entails a considerable amount of education, you'll find that once you become a nurse practitioner, you have a choice of specialization areas. In this way, you can fine-tune your career to suit your interests and skill-sets.
Aspiring nurse practitioners (NPs) must complete a master's degree program. A nurse practitioner degree program prepares nursing students to provide primary care to families and treat patients. These programs offer courses in anatomy, physiology and nursing skills, in addition to a clinical practicum, in which students work with doctors, nurses and patients within a healthcare setting. Several specializations are available. A state license is also necessary, and professional certification is usually required.
|Required Education||Master's in nursing|
|Other Requirements||State license, professional certification available|
|Projected Job Growth (2014 - 2024)*||35% for nurse practioners|
|Median Salary (2015)*||$98,190 annually for nurse practitioners|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
All states require nurses to be licensed. Licensure generally includes completing a state board approved nursing program. Graduates must then take the National Council Licensure Examination to earn their license. Some states may have additional licensing requirements.
Aspiring nurse practitioners must complete a Master of Science in Nursing. Students take coursework in acute care, psychiatric management and patient relations. Students may specialize in fields, such as pediatrics, emergency care or psychiatric care. Programs also include nursing practicums that allow students to gain on-the-job experience in a specialized setting such as a pediatric care ward. Other specializations include:
- Family practice NP
- Adult practice NP
- Neonatal NP
- Acute NP
- Geriatric NP
- Mental health NP
- Occupational health NP
- Women's health NP
Nurse practitioners may need to be professionally certified, depending on their state and employer. The American Nurses Credentialing Center offers certification examinations for a variety of NP specialties. Eligible applicants take a qualifying examination, and those who pass become board certified in their specialty. Most certifications require renewal every five years, which may be done through completing continuing education coursework and other board approved activities.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that nurse practitioners earned a median annual wage of $98,190 in 2015. The lowest-paid 10% earned $70,540 or less annually, while the top 10% earned $135,830 or more annually in 2015.
Once you've earned your RN license, you can start on the path toward earning a master's degree through an accredited program, which is required if you want to become a nurse practitioner. Most states require that whether or not you choose to specialize, as a nurse practitioner, you must sit for a certification examination administered by the American Nurses Credentialing Center.