Learn How To Become: Nurse Practitioner

For those looking to become a Nurse Practitioner, the following guide provides insight into educational requirements, salary data, and an overview of the position.

Many registered nurses go on to become a nurse practitioner, a step up within their field. In the world of nursing, earning a practitioner’s license is the equivalent of a masters degree. Those who earn this license have the option of working for a physician or offering their services on more of a freelance basis. Doctor’s offices and hospitals often hire nurse practitioners in order to support the medical staff. As with any branch of medicine, those who wish to become a nurse practitioner will want to decide on the specialty they are the most interested in.

Industry Overview

A nurse practitioner is considered to be known as an Advanced Practice Registered Nurse. Part of the job requirements for any nurse practitioner often involve overseeing other nurses working in a particular hospital or doctor’s office. In addition, they provide the majority of the care to patients to provided by doctors. 

The smartest nurse practitioner choose one particular specialization when it comes to patient care. For example, some become a family or pediatric practitioner while others concentrate on neurology, obstetrics or other similar areas of medicine. 


Nurse Practitioner Salaries According to State

As of May 2014, the average nurse practitioner was earning $97,990 per year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In general, nurse practitioner employed by a hospital will have a higher salary than those employed by a private doctor’s office. 

The five highest paying states for nurse practitioner are Alaska, California, Oregon, Massachusetts and Hawaii. Those in Hawaii earn the highest salaries, at $115,870 per year. Those in Massachusetts earn the lowest of these five salaries, at $107,230 per year. 



How To Become a Nurse Practitioner: A Step-by-Step Guide

1. Become A Registered Nurse (RN)

Anyone who wishes to become a nurse practitioner will need to first become a registered nurse if they have not already done so. Candidates for a nursing degree can pursue an associates, bachelors or both. Depending on how dedicated one is to their chosen profession they can become a licensed practical nurse before reaching the status of registered nurse. In order to become a licensed practical nurse, as well as a nurse practitioner, candidates must register for a state nursing license and get a passing grade on a standardized national test. 

2. Complete Your Bachelor’s Degree

When pursuing a bachelor’s degree as a nurse practitioner most candidates will earn their degree in nursing. Though they can major in a related field, nursing is the preferred field to earn a degree in. In the process of earning a Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing students generally spend time in clinic. They are also required to take classes on subjects such as community health, supervision, research, quantitative skills, communication and management. It is not unusual for nursing students to have earned an associate’s degree and to have already worked in the field before pursuing their bachelors degree. What is known as a bridge program can help candidates make the transition from registered nurse to nurse practitioner. 

3. Acquire Hands-on Experience

Experience is invaluable when it comes to the nursing industry and, therefore, it is recommended that future nurse practitioners work in the field before pursuing this position. Gaining work experience in nursing before studying to become a practitioner is something that many candidates believe make them a stronger and more effective nurse practitioner than they would be otherwise. Gaining work experience in a clinical setting before pursuing this degree gives candidates the skills they need for future success. 

4. Get a Master’s Degree

It is not possible to become a nurse practitioner without earning a graduate degree. In many cases, universities will not allow a student to pursue a graduate degree as a nurse practitioner until they have spent time working in the field. In other cases, universities give students the option of working as a registered nurse while studying for their graduate degree to become a nurse practitioner. 

Nursing graduate schools vary in their qualifications; some will allow registered nurses with an associates degree to take classes while others will require their students to have already earned a Bachelors Degree in Nursing. Some universities accept graduate students that have their bachelors degree in a science or health related field. 

The degree most commonly earned by candidates is the Master of Science in Nursing. This is the lowest degree one can have and still working as a nursing practitioner. Changes in the field are starting to dictate, in some cases, that to work as a nurse practitioner in the near future one will need to have a Doctor of Nursing Practice degree. 

Candidates looking to work in health administration or nursing research and education will sometimes go on to earn the appropriate PhD for their field. 

All candidates for a nurse practitioner degree must take general nursing courses as well as specialized training. This is when one chooses what branch of the field they want to work in; for example, psychiatry, primary/family care and women’s health. 

When studying for a graduate degree in nursing students will have to participate in clinical training as well as classroom education. The classes required of students include pharmacology, anatomy and physiology. They also have to take classes related to their specific field which could include gerontology and pediatrics. 

Completing a masters degree in the field takes most students anywhere from 18 months to 24 months if they attend school full time. Those pursuing a Doctor of Nursing Practice degree full time generally graduate within two to three years. 

4. Acquire Certification and Licensing

Getting licensed by the state one chooses to work in is essential. Licensing requirements for nurse practitioners vary from one state to another. Degree candidates can check the requirements for their state to find out which graduate level programs they can take to qualify them for the state nurse practitioner license, 

If a candidate chooses the right specialization they can earn a national certification that lets them work as a nurse practitioner in any state. There are many professional associations that will certify one as a nurse practitioner. Three examples of this type of association are the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners, the American Nurses Credentialing Center and the Pediatric Nursing Certification Board. In order to earn national certification from any of these organizations one needs to be e registered nurse, with a set number of clinical experience achieved.