Types of Nurse PractitionersTypes of nurse practitioners

Interested in continuing your nursing journey? You may be considering becoming a nurse practitioner (NP).

There are many different types of nurse practitioner careers, in which NPs perform different types of care. However, they are all experienced nurses who have sought out advanced education and training through nurse practitioner programs to start a nurse practitioner career.

This guide to different types of nurse practitioners includes information about their responsibilities, education requirements, and salary information for nurse practitioner jobs. 

What Do Nurse Practitioners Do?

NPs are advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) who have skills and practice abilities that go above and beyond those of registered nurses (RNs). An NP’s responsibilities will vary depending on the specific nurse practitioner career path she or he is pursuing and practice restrictions in the state in which she or he practices. The NP scope of practice typically includes authority to:

  • Perform advanced physical assessments
  • Diagnose acute and chronic health problems
  • Develop treatment plans
  • Order diagnostic tests and provide referrals
  • Prescribe medications (prescribing authority will vary by state)
  • Order non-pharmacologic treatments
  • Educate patients

NPs can also pursue careers focused on research, administration, and policy advocacy. If you’ve ever asked, “What does a nurse practitioner do?”, this guide answers that question for seven specific types of nurse practitioners.

Top Nurse Practitioner Career Paths

This section includes median national salary information, duties and educational requirements for a variety of nurse practitioner career options. No matter which nurse practitioner career options interest you, job growth looks strong. 

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, overall openings for nurse practitioner jobs should grow by 45% through 2032, 15x the national average for job growth. The national median salary for all types of nurse practitioners was $125,900 in May 2022.  

Every NP has a specific population focus. Find nurse practitioner career options you’re passionate about with this look at seven of the top NP specialties. All salary information for the NP specialties below comes from PayScale.com surveys and is current as of spring 2024.

1. Family Nurse Practitioner Careers

Average Salary: $103,438 (source)
Educational Requirements: MSN Degree plus FNP certification
Summary of Responsibilities: Provide primary care to patients across the lifespan.

One of the most popular types of nurse practitioner is the family nurse practitioner (FNP). FNPs provide family primary care to patients of all ages, usually within a primary care setting. FNPs can treat patients from birth to the elder years, including frail elderly patients. 

FNPs also play an important role in empowering patients to care for themselves by educating patients and their families about managing conditions, caring for injuries, or making healthier lifestyle choices.  

RNs who want to become FNPs should complete an MSN-FNP program and seek board certification from the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC).

2. Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner Careers

Average Salary: $111,709 (source)
Educational Requirements: A Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree plus board certification from the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC).
Summary of Responsibilities: Provide immediate care to acutely injured or ill patients.

Acute care nurse practitioners provide patient care in hospitals and other settings where there are patients who need immediate medical treatment due to injury or illness. 

They can diagnose, treat, and provide patient education about injuries and conditions. They can also provide healthy lifestyle counseling.

3. Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner Careers

Average Salary: $109,299 (source)
Educational Requirements: MSN plus Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Certification board certification
Summary of Responsibilities: Adult NPs provide health care to patients from early teens onward.

Adult-gerontology primary care nurse practitioners work with patients from the late teenage years onward, providing treatment for acute and chronic conditions in a primary care setting, such as health clinics, or as a hospitalist in acute or long-term care. Some adult-gerontology NPs may work with specific populations, such as college students, correctional facility inmates, or military patients. 

To get started on an adult-gerontology nurse practitioner career path, earn an MSN and become board-certified as an Adult-Gerontology Primary Care NP or Adult-Gerontology Acute Care NP. Both certifications are available through the ANCC.

4. Neonatal Nurse Practitioner Careers

Average Salary: $117,396 (source)
Educational Requirements: MSN plus a minimum of two years’ experience in an NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit) and certification
Summary of Responsibilities: Provide advanced care for newborns, particularly those born prematurely, during high-risk deliveries, or with post-birth complications.

Neonatal nurse practitioners (NNPs) care for the very youngest and most vulnerable patients: newborn infants who are very sick, premature, or injured after birth. NNPs take complete responsibility for their patients, monitoring specialist equipment such as incubators, assessing the infant’s physical condition, prescribing medications and administering interventions. 

This type of nurse practitioner has knowledge and skills to cope with neonates who need resuscitation, neonates who were exposed to drugs in utero, and ensuring parents can bond with their seriously ill child.

RNs interested in this nurse practitioner career option should have at least two years of work experience in an NICU, an MSN-NP degree, and seek board certification as a neonatal NP from the National Credentialing Center (NCC). More information about neonatal nurse practitioner jobs is available from the National Association of Neonatal Nurses (NANN).

5. Pediatric Nurse Practitioner Careers (Acute or Primary Care)

Average Salary: $93,937 (source
Educational Requirements: MSN plus Pediatric Nurse Practitioner (Adult or Primary care) certification
Summary of Responsibilities: Provide primary or acute health care to patients under the age of 21, either as independent primary care practitioners or as part of a pediatric acute care team.

Pediatric nurse practitioners treat infants, children and young people under the age of 21. They may work in primary care settings, performing many of the same duties as a family nurse practitioner. They also may work within hospitals and clinics on a pediatric acute care team. 

In addition to providing diagnoses, creating treatment plans, making referrals and prescribing medications (subject to state laws), pediatric NPs can also provide counseling and advice to children, young people, and their families.

RNs interested in pursuing pediatric nurse practitioner career options should earn an MSN and seek board certification. Pediatric NP certification options in primary care or acute care are available from the Pediatric Nursing Certification Board (PNCB).

6. Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner Careers

Average Salary: $119,433 (source)
Educational Requirements: MSN, plus Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner board certification
Summary of Responsibilities: Provide primary mental health care to patients, including medication and therapy/counseling

Psychiatric mental health nurse practitioners (PMHNPs) provide primary mental health care to patients coping with mental illness. PMHNPs can assess patients’ mental health needs, provide psychotherapy or mental health counseling, and prescribe medication to treat a full spectrum of psychiatric disorders. PMHNPs can also provide family counseling services.

PMHNPs often work in private practice. This type of nurse practitioner can also work within health-care teams at hospitals, correctional facilities, military facilities, schools, and other institutions where a mental health practitioner may be needed on call.

To pursue a psychiatric nurse practitioner career path, RNs should earn an MSN and pursue board certification from the ANCC.

7. Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner Careers

Average Salary: $101,257 (source)
Educational Requirements: MSN, plus Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner board certification
Summary of Responsibilities: Provide primary or acute health care to female patients across the lifespan, typically from adolescence onward

Women’s health nurse practitioners (WHNPs) provide primary or acute care to older girls and women of all ages. WHNPs can provide OB/GYN care, including pap smears, pelvic exams, pre-natal care and counseling or advice to women navigating menopause. They can also make referrals to specialist OB/GYN practices.

To pursue a women’s health nurse practitioner career path, RNs should earn an MSN and pursue board certification from the NCC.

How to Become a Nurse Practitioner

If you are wondering how to become a nurse practitioner, it all begins with graduate nursing education. You will need to earn a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree and complete at least 500 hours of precepted clinical experience under the supervision of a nurse practitioner or other APRN. To apply to an MSN, you will need to be an actively licensed RN who holds a bachelor’s degree in nursing.

If you already hold an MSN without a specialization, you can pursue a post-master’s certificate, which offers the courses and clinical practicum experience you need to pursue board certification for nurse practitioner career paths.

Once you have graduated from your MSN or post-master’s coursework, you need to obtain board certification for your chosen nurse practitioner career option. You will take a board certification examination and then apply for certification or a license to practice—per your state’s requirements. Once you are board-certified and licensed, you can pursue jobs as an NP. Most types of nurse practitioner certification are administered by the ANCC, as noted in the sections above. 

You will need to maintain your certification in order to continue to qualify for nurse practitioner jobs. In most cases, this means completing regular professional development activities and renewing your certification every three to five years.

Become a Nurse Practitioner with GMercyU

If you want to take the next step toward a nurse practitioner career, choose Gwynedd Mercy University. For more than 60 years, the Frances M. Maguire School of Nursing and Health Professions has trained nurses who provide superior care and lead in the field. 

Our nurse practitioner programs, which offer three specialty tracks, continue that tradition of excellence. You'll take online, synchronous courses complemented by in-person clinicals — and your own personal Clinical Coordinator will shape a clinical experience tailored to your specific goals. 

Start your journey today! Contact our Admissions office at 877-707-9064, email us at accelerate@gmercyu.edu, or complete the form below. We look forward to the chance to help you achieve your career goals.

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