Nurse Practitioner Career Education Overview

Nurse practitioners require a significant amount of formal education. Learn more about the degree programs, licensing requirements and job duties to determine if this is the right career for you.

Once you become a registered nurse, you have the option of further study to become a nurse practitioner. These advanced practice nurses typically have a master's degree, though doctoral-level programs are also available, and must pass a national certification exam.

Essential Information

Nurse practitioners are advanced practice nurses. Individuals interested in this profession will need to complete at least a master's degree in nursing, which includes extensive clinical practice requirements. Both RN licensure and nurse practitioner licensure are requirements as well.

Required Education Master's degree
Licensing Requirements RN licensure and nurse practitioner licensure; voluntary specialty certification is available
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 35%
Median Salary (2015)* $98,190

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Career Education Overview for Nurse Practitioners

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), nurse practitioners provide primary nursing and healthcare services in specialty areas, such as acute and family care. Unlike standard RNs, they treat patients by diagnosing conditions, prescribing medications and performing other crucial procedures. Nurse practitioners also provide consultative services to help patients remain healthy. They may collaborate with other medical professionals when making a diagnosis or determining the method of treatment.

Postsecondary Training

Aspiring nurse practitioners must first become registered nurses (RNs). The RN profession generally requires earning a nursing diploma, Associate of Science in Nursing or a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). These programs typically include coursework in health assessment, ethical issues and nursing skills. Students also complete clinical rotations under the supervision of experienced medical professionals in hospitals and other facilities, which help them develop clinical skills and gain experience working with patients. Some schools have simulation laboratories that allow students to practice clinical procedures on-campus prior to being their rotations.

Licensing Requirements

Upon completion of training, students must pass the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses. The National Council of State Boards of Nursing administers this exam, which tests individuals on the skills and principles of the nursing profession. Some states have additional licensing requirements and continuing education standards to maintain eligibility.

Graduate-Level Training

Registered nurses must complete a master's or doctoral degree nurse practitioner program to become a nurse practitioner. RNs that already completed a master's degree in another field of nursing may enroll in a post-graduate certificate program for nurse practitioners. These curricula integrate clinical training with theoretical coursework, such as research methods and professional issues. Students may also choose to specialize in an area such as family nurse practitioner and complete the appropriate electives, labs and clinical experiences.

Certification Information

Graduates of an advanced program may consider becoming certified in their specialty in order to demonstrate their proficiency. The American Academy of Nurse Practitioners and the American Nurses Credentialing Center offer their own respective certifications for nurse practitioners. Becoming certified generally entails passing a qualifying exam. Once certified, nurse practitioners may be required to complete continuing education courses to maintain their credentials.

Career and Salary Information

The BLS predicts a 35% job growth for nurse practitioners for the years 2014-2024. This growth is considered to be faster than the national average for all jobs. Nurse practitioners earned $98,190 as a median annual wage in May 2015, according to the BLS.

Once you become licensed as an RN, you must earn at least a master's degree in order to become a nurse practitioner. If you already hold a master's degree in another field of health science, you may earn a post-graduate certificate as a nurse practitioner. With a job growth projection much higher than that of all other occupations, opportunities are rife for a career as a nurse practitioner.

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