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November 17, 2022
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Nurse Practitioner: What Nurse Practitioners Are and What the Job Includes

What is a nurse practitioner as an occupation? Nurses are known to give a variety of healthcare services to patients and help in many types of cases. To be precise, what does nurse practitioner do? NPs usually have the following responsibilities:

  • Compiling and keeping patients’ medical histories.
  • Assessing progress in treatment, defining a diagnosis, chronic illness, injury, etc. Nursing diagnosis is divided into:
    • Risk-focused.
    • Health promotion-focused.
    • Problem-focused.
    • Syndrome-focused.
  • Writing prescriptions for remedies.
  • Creating individual treatment plans.
  • Performing required treatments.
  • Educating patients about medical conditions, treatments, and ways to prevent those conditions from developing.
  • Ordering tests to diagnose conditions and performing laboratory work.

Hence, the roles played by nurse practitioners are very significant, and that is why they are one of the fastest-growing areas of medicine in the US. However, the profession also demands high flexibility.

what is a nurse practitioner

As a rule, nurse practitioners work in different environments: hospitals, patient homes, private medical offices, schools and colleges, labor centers, mobile and community clinics, etc. They can as well go beyond these and offer services at home.

What Is the Difference Between Nurse Practitioner and Physician Assistant?

Despite the broad spectrum of responsibilities and functions of a nurse practitioner, it needs further clarification, such as what exactly makes the profession stand out and differ from the role of physician assistant.

They both are healthcare professionals who may seem to carry similar services. They both can diagnose patients and write our prescriptions and need board certification and training. However, the paths to achieving the qualifications are quite different.
So, what is the difference between nurse practitioner and physician assistant? Here are the main points setting physician assistants (PAs) apart:

  • Working in primary care settings.
  • Obtaining a wider medical education than NPs and not having a specialty field.
  • Functioning in tandem with physicians and being interdependent on them.
  • Being able to switch areas of practice without the need to recertify.

Thus, unlike NPs, physician assistants are educated in general medicine, don’t focus on a special medical field, and do not hold practice authority apart from a physician. A nurse practitioner degree, however, doesn’t enable them to change practice areas easily and instead needs them to obtain new specialty certification.

How to Become a Nurse Practitioner

Now, what degree do you need for a nurse practitioner job? Nurse practitioners can be of different types: Registered Nurses (RNs) and Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRNs). The second is reached when a person gets an advanced degree. A nurse practitioner must earn at least a master’s degree and undergo training to receive a nursing license. Oftentimes a higher degree, such as a doctoral, is needed.

nurse practitioner

Anyone targeting this career needs to follow several steps:

  • Become a registered nurse (RN).

The first and most fundamental step in pursuing a career as an NP is achieving a degree. Getting one means you will not only be able to apply for a license but will be well-versed in the necessary medical knowledge.

A degree like an associate degree in nursing (ADN), bachelor of science in nursing (BSN), or diploma are common. A BSN usually allows a nurse practitioner to cover more credits and get deeper into a chosen field, so it is often recommended.


  • Get a bachelor’s degree.

If you haven’t reached a BSN, think of an appropriate bachelor’s program to enroll in. A great plus will have an ADN – with this degree, and one can start a BSN program. Many of such nurse practitioner programs are available online.

However, bridge programs are becoming increasingly popular solutions as they allow you to cover BSN and DNP right away after the ADN, skipping the bachelor’s degree. This means accelerated professional growth.


  • Get nursing experience.

As a rule, a young nurse practitioner must gain some work experience after a bachelor’s degree. This period falls on the time between getting a bachelor’s diploma and a graduate degree such as a master of science in nursing (MSN) or doctor of nursing practice (DNP).


  • Choose a graduate program.

Next, there is an advanced degree to get apart from the basic one you already have. They are master of nursing science (MSN) and doctor of nursing practice (DNP). The latter is the highest level of education for practitioner nurse.


  • Passing exams.

Exams allow you to prove the knowledge you obtained during years of study and move on toward licensing as a nurse practitioner. All RNs have to pass National Council Licensure Examination and a certification exam in the chosen profile area.


  • Earn advanced practice nursing licensure.

Being licensed by the state opens up doors for professional practice. Applying for a license includes a series of steps:

    • Submitting results of your exams and certifications to the state’s board.
    • Submitting the same to a separate Nurse Practitioner Prescriptive Authority to gain the right to prescribe medications. (only required in a few states).
    • Continuing coursework in order to keep your license’s position.

These are the nurse practitioner requirements in a nutshell.

How Long Does It Take to Become a Nurse Practitioner

When running for a career as a nurse, one should get ready to spend 6 to 9 years on education alone. This study time is required to fulfill a bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral program. Still, everything depends on your starting point – the degree and additional qualifications you already hold.

However, as mentioned above, the answer to ‘How long does it take to become a nurse practitioner?’ can be a bit different. For example, some NPs start working with patients after graduating from accelerated education programs that last nearly 2 years. Still, in most cases, a nurse practitioner would need a master’s degree to move up the ladder and find more opportunities.

How Much Does a Nurse Practitioner Make

‘How much does a nurse practitioner make?’ is another essential question for anyone pursuing this path? A nurse’s salary depends on several factors. They include:

  • City and state.

Salaries can vary a lot based on location. Cities with millions of inhabitants offer a more competitive year’s salary than countryside areas. Still, an average yearly nurse’s salary across the US has been estimated at $115,800. States located in far-fetched regions tend to pay less to medical workers. E.g., Alabama’s nurses get paid only $99,570, whereas those lucky enough to practice in NY get $120,000 and up.

  • Education and experience.

A number of applicable certifications and their levels plays an enormous role. For example, nurses with doctoral degrees are usually welcome in most high-paying vacancies, which isn’t true for every bachelor’s degree holder.

  • A medical position.

Your salary will be different depending on whether you practice in a hospital, governmental or private institution, or a mobile clinic. As a rule, private practices offer more generous earnings for nurse practitioners than average American hospitals.

Nurse Practitioner Schooling: MSN vs. DNP

The topic of nurse practitioner education is wider to fit into one paragraph. So, there is more to know about nurse practitioner schooling. This is the key answer to how to become a nurse practitioner so let’s delve in.

If you’re in doubt about what higher level of education to pick, consider the peculiarities and differences between a master of nursing science (MSN) and a doctor of nursing practice (DNP).

In America, students receiving an MSN nursing degree are trained to deal with patients and provide care in the most practical aspects. If your goal is not only lifelong learning (which has a big role in both qualifications and after graduating, too), think of DNP. As a doctor of nursing practice, you will be more seasoned in healthcare research. That is why it is the highest level one can reach.

Earning both degrees takes 3 to 5 years and will definitely pay off in the future, as well as come in handy with the knowledge and skills they help to build up.

P.S. If getting a doctorate looks like a huge challenge because of lots of research and academic tasks, use the official and reputable DNP writing services.

Nurse Practitioner Degree

Before delving into the best education programs, let’s see the most popular areas that nurses these days focus on.

  • Family nurse practitioner (FNP).
  • Pediatric nurse practitioner.
  • Women’s nurse practitioner.
  • Geriatric nurse practitioner.
  • Neonatal nurse practitioner.
  • Occupational health nurse practitioner (OHNP).
  • Adult nurse practitioner.

If any of these seems like your vocation, don’t hesitate and take action to land the nurse practitioner job.

Nurse Practitioner Programs to Take Family Practitioner Programs in the US

For illustration and informing you about what education is worth. Here are some top programs to take for a family practitioner.

  • Duke University, North Carolina.
  • Vanderbilt University, Tennessee.
  • Emory University, Georgia.
  • Columbia University, New York.
  • University of California-San Francisco, California.

All programs are offered online and in person and offer all it takes to provide excellent primary care to patients of all ages. They prepare you for advanced clinical practice, including perinatal and pediatric practice, as well as help to promote a healthy lifestyle and educate patients in versatile ways. The tuition is worth $1,800 per academic credit on average.

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