How to Become a Nurse Practitioner (NP)
Whether you’re a working nurse looking to advance your career or a soon-to-be member of the postsecondary education community, there are paths that’ll lead you to the title of nurse practitioner. How do you obtain that title for yourself? It won’t happen overnight, but it may be easier than you think. Here is a step-to-step guide, touching on topics like educational requirements, job duties, salary and career outlook, to becoming a nurse practitioner and landing your first position.
What is a Nurse Practitioner?
A nurse practitioner is an advanced practice registered nurse who has completed an advanced nursing program and passed a national certification exam. Nurse practitioners provide primary and specialty health care services, including the diagnosis and treatment of diseases, the management of chronic conditions, and the promotion of wellness and disease prevention. They also order and interpret diagnostic tests, prescribe medications, and counsel patients on how to manage their health.
Compared to registered nurses, a nurse practitioner has more authority over their patient’s care. This is due to their advanced skill set and additional clinical experience, yielding a postgraduate degree. With this authority, nurse practitioners are even authorized to practice independently of physicians in some states.
What is the Job Outlook for Nurse Practitioners?
For the foreseeable future, nurse practitioner is a stable profession to work towards entering. The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts the field of nurse practitioner will grow by more than half before 2030, making it one of the country’s fastest-growing jobs. This gives those who work to become nurse practitioners a better professional outlook than some others who spend the same amount of time studying to enter reeling industries.
How Long Does It Take to Become a Nurse Practitioner?
If you’re interested in becoming a nurse practitioner, you’re probably wondering how long it will take to complete the necessary training. The answer depends on a few factors, including your educational background and the state in which you plan to practice. In most cases, prepare for a process that takes approximately 6-to-7 years before you can begin working professionally as a nurse practitioner.
The educational prerequisites require a bachelor’s degree, usually takes 4 years to complete, while postgraduate degrees are designed to take 2-to-3 years. However, there may be ways to accelerate this process. Direct Entry Master of Science in Nursing or MSN programs may help expedite the overall process, while experienced nurses may be able to complete the postgraduate portion of their education faster than normal.
Steps to Becoming a Nurse Practitioner
Make Certain the Field is Right for You
If you’re curious about this line of work and want to know how to become a nurse practitioner, the first steps begin with some introspection. Are you a patient person with empathy and good listening skills? Are you equally adept at leadership and problem solving? Practicing nurse practitioners say these are important prerequisite skills for burgeoning nurse practitioners to come equipped with.
They also say nurse practitioners will most likely take on the role of providing primary care during their career, which includes taking appointments with patients and writing prescriptions for them.
Obtain a Bachelor’s or Associate Degree
If you’re currently earning your living as a registered nurse and are wondering how to become a nurse practitioner, there’s good news: you’re already on your way! Nursing requires most—if not all—of the attributes mentioned in the above step, so you’ll already have a good idea of your compatibility with the professional life as a nurse practitioner. Nursing also requires a completion of Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) program or an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) program. These programs will cover the academic requirements necessary to continue on to become a nurse practitioner.
Planning ahead is great, though, and if you’re looking at nurse practitioner as an endgame for your academic career, you’ll need to obtain one of those two degrees before advancing further. Luckily, if you aren’t already a working nurse, you can find programs with coursework designed to get you to RN as quickly as possible before moving you onto a master’s. Look for programs called Direct Entry Master of Science in Nursing or MSN programs. These will help provide a classroom education as well as an ample number of clinical hours for your certification.
Obtain a Postgraduate Degree
After earning a degree and a license—along with the added benefit of experience, since most postgraduate programs like to see real-world application—you’ll want to pursue a postgraduate degree in one of those aforementioned programs. A Master of Science in Nursing works for now, but beginning in 2025, the standard for nurse practitioners will require the completion of a Doctor of Nursing Practice or DNP program.
Holders of a Bachelor of Science in Nursing can apply to a master’s program and utilize the traditional tract, but it’s possible to find programs that build in progression from an undergraduate degree to a master’s or a doctorate.
As with other high-level fields of study, nurse practitioner programs are built around different specialty areas, like geriatric care or pediatric care. Choose your specialty based on desired patents and salary, as the patients will tell you a lot about what your day-to-day will look like and the salary will be decided on how in-demand your specialty is.
Apply for and Maintain Your License
After completing your education, you’ll need to pass the NCLEX, or National Council Licensure Examination. If you’re a practicing nurse, obtaining and maintaining a license shouldn’t be a new process for you. Apply for your new nurse practitioner’s license, and make sure you obtain the legal ability to issue prescriptions if you live in a place that requires a separate license for that kind of thing. Then, adhere to the parameters of license renewal, such as continuing education or clinical time.
How to Land a Nurse Practitioner Position
Once your hard work and the long hours finally pay off, you will have earned your nurse practitioner license and you’re ready to join the ranks of other working healthcare professionals. After getting this far and becoming a quality hire, you don’t want to settle for less than quality job search tools.
The Job Network is a great job search tool for landing a job as a nurse practitioner. The site offers a variety of resources, including resume samples, job search tools, and articles with advice on how to succeed in the healthcare field. It also has a database of nursing jobs from around the country, which can be searched by state, city, or keyword. Explore TheJobNetwork’s healthcare job board to discover open positions, ace your interviews and land your first job as a nurse practitioner.