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How to Become a Nurse Practitioner

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A nurse practitioner is a registered nurse with graduate-level education who performs physician functions such as prescribing medications. She must begin her career as a registered nurse and go on for further education. NPs must also be licensed and certified in all states. You can take different routes to become a nurse practitioner, depending on the point from which you start.

Nurse Practitioner Education

If you are an RN with an associate degree or nursing diploma, you must either complete a bachelor’s degree in nursing and then enter a master’s program, or find a bridge program designed to take you through your master’s education without a separate bachelor’s degree program. If you have a bachelor’s degree in a non-nursing field, you can become an NP by earning an RN and then going on for the master’s degree program. If you are already an RN with a bachelor's degree, you can enter an NP master’s program. The master’s degree is the minimum educational requirement, although the American Association of Colleges of Nursing notes a doctorate in nursing may become the entry-level requirement for NPs at some point in the future.

Licensing and Certification

You must pass a separate licensing exam to become an NP, even if you are already licensed as an RN. In addition, you must earn a specialty certification to practice. Specialty certifications are available for NPs in a variety of areas. Some are specific to a patient population and others are specific to both a patient population and a practice area. Examples of the former are the gerontological NP and the school NP, while examples of the latter include the adult-gerontology acute care certification and the pediatric primary care NP certification.

2016 Salary Information for Nurse Anesthetists, Nurse Midwives, and Nurse Practitioners

Nurse anesthetists, nurse midwives, and nurse practitioners earned a median annual salary of $113,040 in 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. On the low end, nurse anesthetists, nurse midwives, and nurse practitioners earned a 25th percentile salary of $97,350, meaning 75 percent earned more than this amount. The 75th percentile salary is $134,660, meaning 25 percent earn more. In 2016, 203,800 people were employed in the U.S. as nurse anesthetists, nurse midwives, and nurse practitioners.


About the Author

Beth Greenwood is an RN and has been a writer since 2010. She specializes in medical and health topics, as well as career articles about health care professions. Greenwood holds an Associate of Science in nursing from Shasta College.

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