Copyright

Nurse Practitioner (FNP): Career Summary and Educational Overview

Working as a nurse practitioner requires significant formal education. Learn about the education, job duties and licensure to see if this is the right career for you.

Nurse practitioners are advanced nurses who can prescribe medicines and provide some treatment of patients. Nurse practitioners first become registered nurses and then completing a master's degree in nursing. Some states also require additional certification of nurse practitioners beyond that of a registered nurse.

Essential Information

Nurse practitioners are healthcare professionals who provide care to patients of all ages, from adolescents to the elderly. They are part of an in-demand profession. These advanced practice nurses are required to have an extensive nursing education, typically including a master's degree. Additionally, they must be licensed as registered nurses, at a minimum, and often as nurse practitioners, depending on state regulations.

Required Education Master's degree in nursing
Licensure and Certification State licensing as a registered nurse mandatory in all states; many states require additional licensing or certification as a nurse practitioner, obtained through the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC)
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 35% for nurse practitioners
Median Salary (2015)* $98,190 for nurse practitioners

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Nurse Practitioner Career Summary

Nurse practitioners (NPs) are very similar to physicians in some ways; they are trained to meet most health care needs, including some acute conditions. Like physicians, many NPs can also prescribe medication. In other ways, nurse practitioners are like registered nurses (RNs). They assess, monitor, diagnose and treat patients. They gather and review information and make new entries into patients' health records. They administer medicine and IVs, perform medical procedures and inform patients on best health practices.

NPs might serve as general practice, adult practice or pediatric nurse practitioners, or in many other roles. The majority of nurses of all types are employed in hospitals. However, physician offices, convalescent homes and health clinics are among locations which will see a rise in nurse employment, due to technological advances and an increase in outpatient procedures.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), career opportunities for nurse practitioners were anticipated to grow at a rate of 35% from 2014-2024, which was much faster than average (www.bls.gov). The BLS made this prediction because of the growing need for health care services, especially among the baby boomer population. The median salary for nurse practitioners was $98,190, as reported by the BLS in 2015.

Find schools that offer these popular programs

  • Clinical Nursing
  • Critical Care Nursing
  • Direct-Entry Midwifery - LM, CPM
  • Licensed Vocational Nurse Training
  • Mental Health Nursing
  • Neonatal Nursing
  • Nurse Anesthetist
  • Nurse Assistant or Patient Care Assistant
  • Nurse Midwife
  • Nurse Practitioner or Family Nurse Practitioner
  • Nursing Administration
  • Nursing for Adults and Seniors
  • Nursing Science
  • Occupational Health Nursing
  • Operating Room and Surgical Nursing
  • Pediatric Nursing
  • Public Health Nurse or Community Nurse
  • Registered Nurse

Nurse Practitioner Educational Overview

While RNs require a four-year bachelor's degree in nursing plus a state license to be able to work, the minimum educational requirement for nurse practitioners is generally a master's degree. Additional state requirements may apply, and vary by state. Some states require evidence of work experience prior to acceptance into a graduate program; other states maintain that a nurse practitioner must be certified in an area of specialization after graduation prior to opening a practice.

Master of Nursing Science

Several colleges and universities across the United States offer graduate-level work in nursing. Majoring as a nurse practitioner in master of nursing degree programs usually requires two years of education. Coursework combines hands-on clinical residency with lectures and seminars. Common courses include:

  • Healthcare assessment and management
  • Advanced pathophysiology
  • Advance pharmacology
  • Ailment diagnosis and reasoning

Licensing and Certification

Basic licensing as a registered nurse is required for all NPs to legally conduct nursing work in the field. In order to be licensed as RNs, candidates must pass the National Council Licensing Examination for Registered Nurses, known as the NCLEX-RN. Passing this exam demonstrates that applicants have the knowledge and skills necessary to work in the nursing field.

Some states will be satisfied with the RN requirement in order for a nurse to work as a nurse practitioner, but many states or employers will require additional certification specific to NPs. The American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) offers NP credentials to applicants who pass an additional examination (www.nursecredentialing.org). Completing NP educational requirements is necessary in order to take the exam.

The Family Nurse Practitioner - Board Certified, or FNP-BC, is a credential awarded to family nurse practitioners who pass the exam, which is administered by the ANCC. In order to keep the credential current, NPs must complete continuing education every five years to update and demonstrate knowledge consistent with current healthcare practices for the profession.

A career as a nurse practitioner typically requires a master's degree and state licensure. Nurse practitioner job growth is expected to be much faster than the job market as a whole. The median salary for this profession is around $98,000.


What is your highest level of education?

Some College
Complete your degree or find the graduate program that's right for you.
High School Diploma
Explore schools that offer bachelor and associate degrees.
Still in High School
Earn your diploma or GED. Plan your undergraduate education.

Schools you may like:

Popular Schools

The listings below may include sponsored content but are popular choices among our users.

  • What is your highest level of education completed?

    • Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) in Nursing Administration
    • Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) in Nursing Educaiton
    • RN to BSN

    What is your highest level of education completed?

    • Master of Science in Nursing - Doctor of Nursing Practice Path, Executive Leader Specialization
    • Doctor of Nursing Practice
    • Master of Science in Nursing - Doctor of Nursing Practice Path
    • Master of Science in Nursing to Doctor of Nursing Practice Path, Family Nurse Practitioner Specialization
    • Accelerated BSN to MSN
    • MS in Nursing - Adult Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner
    • MS in Nursing
    • Master of Science in Nursing to Doctor of Nursing Practice Path, Adult-Gerontology Nurse Practitioner Specialization
    • Bachelors of Science in Nursing - RN to BSN

    What is your highest level of education completed?

    • Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP)
    • Doctor of Nursing Practice with an Emphasis in Educational Leadership
    • EdD in Organizational Leadership - Health Care Administration
    • MBA and MS in Nursing - Leadership in Health Care Systems
    • MBA and MS in Nursing: Nursing Leadership in Health Care Systems (dual degree)
    • MS in Nursing: Nursing Leadership in Health Care Systems
    • M.S. in Nursing: Nursing Education
    • MBA: Health Systems Management
    • MS in Health Care Administration
    • BS in Nursing (Registered Nurse - R.N. to BSN)
    • BS in Health Care Administration
    • BS in Health Sciences: Professional Development & Advanced Patient Care
    • Bachelor of Science in Behavioral Health Science

    What is your highest level of education?

  • What is your highest level of education completed?

  • What is your highest level of education?

    • Master of Science in Nursing: Undecided
    • Master of Science in Nursing: Nurse Administrator
    • Master of Science in Nursing: Clinical Nurse Leader
    • Master of Science in Nursing: Clinical Nurse Leader Certificate
    • Master of Science in Nursing: Nurse Educator

    What is your highest level of education completed?

    • MS in Nursing (from BSN) - Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner
    • MS in Nursing (from BSN) - Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner
    • MS in Nursing (from BSN) - Family Nurse Practitioner
    • MS in Nursing - Bridge for Registered Nurses - Adult & Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner
    • MS in Nursing - Bridge for Registered Nurses - Adult & Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner
    • MS in Nursing - Bridge for Registered Nurses - Family Nurse Practitioner
    • BS in Nursing (BSN) - RN-BSN-MSN Track

    What is your highest level of education completed?

  • What is your highest level of education completed?

    • MSHS Medical Laboratory Sciences
    • MSHS in Immunohematology and Biotechnology
    • MSHS in Molecular Diagnostic Sciences
    • MSHS in Translational Microbiology

    What is your highest level of education?

Find your perfect school

What is your highest level of education?