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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.