Learn how to become a nurse practitioner

How to Become a Nurse Practitioner

Nurse practitioners play a key role in the medical environment and provide advanced services to their patients. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts rapid growth in this in-demand field over the next few years. Nurse practitioners are in a larger category of healthcare professionals known as advanced practice registered nurses. 

Most nurse practitioners begin with a two-year or four-year degree in nursing, and then spend a few years in the profession as a licensed practical or a registered nurse. These experiences can provide valuable perspective when taking on more responsibility as a nurse practitioner in a private practice, clinical environment or in hospitals. Acquiring experience in real-world settings can often offer added support when applying to advanced practice nursing programs.

The job description nurse practitioner candidates can expect after graduation will vary considerably depending on the environment in which they perform their duties:

  • Research nurse practitioners generally work in clinics and laboratory environments
  • Some nurse practitioners are responsible for overseeing and supervising other nurses in hospital or clinical environments
  • In rural or underserved areas, nurse practitioners may be the highest ranked healthcare professionals on site
  • Nurse practitioners also work in private practices supporting the work of physicians and performing routine examinations with or without supervision

Nurse practitioner salaries also vary widely. According to the BLS, the median range for the annual salaries nurse practitioner professionals can command is $98,190. This means that about half of all nurse practitioners made more than this amount in May 2015. Individuals who worked in hospitals typically made more; those involved in state, local and private education were among the lowest paid in this profession.

How Long Does It Take to Become a Nurse Practitioner?

Depending on the route chosen, becoming a nurse practitioner can take between five and nine years. Most advanced practice registered nurse programs require that applicants have a diploma or associate degree in nursing prior to acceptance. Some nurse practitioners begin working in the medical field after completing a two-year educational program that allows them to obtain their registered nursing license; others opt for a four-year bachelor's of science in nursing (BSN) program. In general, however, a master's degree is required to qualify for most nurse practitioner positions in the medical marketplace. Accelerated or online programs may be available to allow aspiring nurse practitioners to achieve success more quickly.

Steps to Becoming a Nurse Practitioner

The process to become a nurse practitioner typically involves a few basic steps that include the following.

Step 1: Enrolling in and completing an accredited associate degree in nursing program is usually the first step toward a career as a nurse practitioner. Students receive a thorough grounding in the basics of nursing care and are typically asked to complete hands-on training in a medical facility or private practice environment.

Step 2: Achieving licensure is usually the next step. Most nursing students opt for the registered nurse credential because of the increased employment opportunities and salaries available to those with this medical license. Some students may prefer to apply for licensure as a licensed practical nurse before they pursue a career as a registered nurse. In both cases, licensure occurs at the state level.

Step 3: Completing a bachelor's or master's degree from an accredited institution is generally the next requirement for prospective nurse practitioners. Coursework for these students typically includes perspectives on aging and geriatrics, pharmacology, assessment strategies, basics of mental health nursing, community and public health issues, pediatric studies and leadership training in the nursing field. A specialization may also be required for nurse practitioners who plan to work in certain areas of the medical industry.

Step 4: At this stage, most nurse practitioners take one or two years to obtain advanced experience in the healthcare environment. This may be required for certain advanced certification options.

Step 5: A national certification is commonly required for nurse practitioners. These professional credentials may require a standardized test; for example, the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners offers certification based on education, experience and the successful completion of a computer-based examination.

By completing these steps, aspiring nurse practitioners can achieve success in their chosen career path.

How to Become a Nurse Practitioner after BSN

Students who opt to pursue a BSN rather than an associate degree or a certificate program as their initial step can generally go directly to the later steps in the process outlined above. By moving directly to the BSN without intermediary certification or associate degree programs, nurses can streamline the process and may be able to begin their career as a nurse practitioner more quickly.

GMercyU, Your Pathway to Success

Students can start their educational journey toward licensure and practice in the nursing field at Gwynedd Mercy University. The programs and guidance available at this elite institution can provide real support for aspiring nurse practitioners in the modern educational environment. Contact our Admissions office today at 844-707-9064 or send an email to accelerate@gmercyu.edu to learn more about our nurse practitioner degree programs. We look forward to the chance to help you achieve your career goals.