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Nurse Practitioner (NP)

Nurse practitioners (NPs) are advanced practice nurses who can deliver primary or acute care to different patient populations. Like physicians, they can perform physical exams, order treatments and medications, refer patients to specialists, and provide ongoing monitoring.  

Some NPs work together with physicians; others can work independently.  The variety of practice types differs by specialty area and location in the country. Nurse practitioners follow the nursing model of promoting health and preventing disease, so they seek opportunities to improve their patient’s quality of care through teaching.

Education Requirements

NPs must complete a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree and successfully pass the state's NCLEX-RN exam. Nurses with ADN degrees will need to obtain their BSN first or attend either a BSN to MSN or BSN to doctoral degree program.  Before attending NP school, a nurse should gain experience in their desired interest area. 


Certified nurse practitioners must complete an MSN or doctorate degree.  There has been a push to require NPs to have DNPs, so starting on that path is worth considering.  


Each NP specialty area requires clinical hours. Each state has different rules about licensing and certification. You can check your state here and here.

How to advance/career pathway

Nurse practitioners select a study area for their focus (outlined below) then later apply for national certification.  

  • Family (Nurse Practitioner, FNP): “across the lifespan”
  • Adult-Gerontology: acute care or primary care
  • Women’s Health/Gender Related
  • Pediatrics (PNP): acute care or primary care
  • Neonatal
  • Psychiatric/Mental health

RESPONSIBILITIES

The American Association of Nurse Practitioners has links to all the national certification organizations.

  • American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC)
  • American Academy of Nurse Practitioners Certification Board (AANPCB)
  • American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (AACN)
  • Pediatric Nursing Certification Board (PNCB)
  • American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP)
  • National Certification Corporation (NCC)

MOST COMMON CASES

Within their focus area, NPs can further sub-specialize in a specific practice area such as: 

  • Orthopedics
  • Cardiology,
  • ED,
  • Oncology
  • Palliative care
  • Nephrology
  • Neurology, etc.

How to become a

Nurse Practitioner (NP)

  1. Complete an ADN or BSN program in nursing
  2. Pass the NCLEX-RN exam and apply for your RN license
  3. Have one to two years of experience working as an RN
  4. Apply and complete either an MSN or doctoral program to become a nurse practitioner and determine your area of specialization
  5. Apply for your Nurse Practitioner Certification after meeting prerequisites.

Specialty Groups and Communities

American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP)

  • Mission: “The American Association of Nurse Practitioners® (AANP) empowers all nurse practitioners (NPs) to advance quality health care through practice, education, advocacy, research and leadership.”
  • Cost: $55-125, annually.
  • Perks: Free CE courses, savings on AANP Fall Conference registration, discount on American Academy of Nurse Practitioners Certification Board application, free monthly subscriptions to JAANP and JNP, Member Advantages Program savings on travel, products and professional services, and more.

Nurse Practitioner Healthcare Foundation (NPHF) 

  • Mission: “The mission of the Nurse Practitioner Healthcare Foundation is to improve health status and quality of care through nurse practitioner innovations in clinical practice, education, research, health policy, service, and philanthropy.”
  • Cost: Donation and volunteering opportunities.
  • Perks: Free CE credits and access to additional resources.

The Pros

  • More respect due to a higher level role
  • Able to make a more significant impact in patient and family care
  • Variety of practice areas with a growing demand
  • Increased responsibility but still can defer to the physician

The Cons

  • Increased exposure to contagious diseases
  • Increased responsibility to manage difficult patients
  • Increased legal risk 
  • Must obtain and maintain more education
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Personality Traits

  • Critical thinker, attentive
  • Enthusiastic
  • Strong patient advocate
  • Team player and an excellent communicator
  • Enjoys patient teaching to promote health
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Average Salary

Nurse practitioners typically make between $77k - $120k, with a median salary of $95,538. For the most up-to-date salary information, check out Salary Explorer.

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Certifications

The American Association of Nurse Practitioners has links to all the national certification organizations.

  • American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC)
  • American Academy of Nurse Practitioners Certification Board (AANPCB)
  • American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (AACN)
  • Pediatric Nursing Certification Board (PNCB)
  • American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP)
  • National Certification Corporation (NCC)
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Work Setting

Hospitals, clinics, schools, long term care facilities, urgent care facilities, correctional facilities, and home healthcare

Interested in learning more about what it’s like to be a Nurse Practitioner? We spoke to one to find out. Read What Does a Nurse Practitioner Do?