How Do I Become A Nurse Practitioner?

Answering the question, “How do I become a nurse practitioner?” requires a basic understanding of a nurse practitioner’s duties, work conditions and licensing. A nurse practitioner is an advanced nurse with additional training in an area of specialization such as family practice, neonatal or pediatrics. Nurse practitioners can perform duties often performed by doctors, such as independent diagnosis and treatment. In rural areas, a nurse practitioner often functions as the primary care practitioner.

What’s it like to be a nurse practitioner?
Working conditions vary based on specialty, location and practice setting. Practitioners specializing in neonatal and acute trauma care conduct a majority of services in a hospital setting. Nurse practitioners do not work a typical nine to five shift. A nurse practitioner in a hospital setting may work rotating shifts, with on-call hours to provide immediate patient care. Rural area practitioners may perform morning, evening or late night house calls for patients with limited or no transportation. All nurse practitioners must stay atop of new medical technologies and treatments. This may involve additional training, research and attending medical conferences.

To become a nurse practitioner, you must meet state requirements. All nurse practitioners must hold a registered nursing license. Registered nurse education varies by choice of study. A Bachelor of Science in Nursing can take at least four years, while an Associate Degree in Nursing takes two years. A Diploma in Nursing is a hospital-based course of study that can last three years or more. Diplomas in nursing are now the least common method of licensing.

According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, 38 states require a master’s degree. The length of a graduate program varies based on full- or part-time study. Part-time study averages between three to five years of study. Full-time study ranges between two and three years. Most schools require a bachelor’s degree for entry into a master’s program. To become a nurse practitioner, speak with a career counselor at an accredited educational facility.

The District of Columbia and 11 states have no advanced degree requirements to become a nurse practitioner. However, the nurse must meet other state requirements, such as passing a state board exam, obtaining malpractice insurance and advanced pharmacology training. Practitioners can increase marketability by obtaining a doctoral degree in nursing. According to Advance for Nurse Practitioners, by 2015, a doctorate will be the standard requirement to become a nurse practitioner.

Salary based on setting, gender and education
According to a 2011 survey conducted by Advance for NPs & PAs, nurse practitioners working in an emergency department setting earned $103,722 per year followed by neonatal nurse practitioners who earned $99,810. Nurse practitioners in an elementary or secondary school setting earned $69,945, while those in a college health setting earned $60,684 annually. Family practice nurse practitioners received an annual salary of $89,506.

Male nurse practitioners earned $7,396 more than female practitioners in 2011. According to the survey, a male practitioner earned $97,329, while a female nurse practitioner earned $89,933.

A nurse practitioner with an associate’s degree earns $84,695 annually compared to $84,451 for practitioners with a bachelor’s degree. Nurse practitioners with a master’s degree earned $90,250, while those with a doctorate earned $97,566.

Growing public interest in a long, healthy life creates excellent career opportunities for nurse practitioners. According to Marla Salmon, past director of the Division of Nursing for the US Department of Health and Human Services (1991-1997), nurse practitioners can perform 60 to 80 percent of preventative and primary medical services, while providing cost-effective, premium and individualized medical treatment.

Further Resources

American Nurses Association

American Academy of Family Physicians

State Regulations of Nurse Practitioner Practice

2009 National Salary and Workplace Survey of Nurse Practitioners

Advance for NPs & PAs: National Salary Report 2011

John Hopkins Magazine: Nurse at the Helm: Joseph Anthony