If you’re a registered nurse looking for ways to advance your career, then you may be interested in whether you can earn a degree to become a nurse practitioner online. Distance and online education has become the new normal for many students, especially professionals who don’t have time to sit for traditional courses on a college campus. As a nurse, your schedule may be so unpredictable that you can’t set aside time for on-campus lectures or lab work. Fortunately, online nursing programs are not only possible but widely available from top-ranking schools throughout the country.
The Role of a Nurse Practitioner
Nurse practitioners take on the same duties as registered nurses, but they also have a higher level of responsibility and can perform tasks that regular nurses can’t. For instance, nurse practitioners can write prescriptions, diagnose and treat certain conditions, and work independently from physicians. They may also be the only medical professional that a patient interacts with. Like doctors, nurse practitioners can also specialize in certain subfields within the medical community, such as women’s health, psychiatry, pediatrics, or emergency and trauma. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average nurse practitioner earned just under $103,000 in 2014, and job growth is much faster than the average for other occupations. By 2024, job demand will increase by 31 percent.
Earning the MSN Degree
To become a nurse practitioner, you need a master’s degree, which is typically a Master of Science in Nursing. Many schools offer a traditional MSN program, but colleges and universities today also offer an online program leading to the master’s degree. You’re more likely to find a completion program. These programs assume that applicants already have a bachelor’s degree in nursing and that they’re working in the field as registered nurses. Coursework is streamlined for maximum efficiency and time. Some programs take just one to two years to complete, but some may be more comprehensive and time-consuming. There are also “bridge” programs available that accept nurses with associate’s degrees, but it’s more common for an MSN program to accept someone who holds a bachelor’s degree. In addition to the educational requirement, nurse practitioners need to be licensed and certified by the state where they intend to practice. Some nurse practitioners also earn a doctorate.
Incentives for Higher Education
It’s important to note that you may not be compensated monetarily if you pursue an online master’s in nursing according to U.S. News and World Report. Nurses with graduate-level degrees don’t always earn more money, and those who do may only earn about $10,000 more in starting pay per year. Working as a nurse practitioner does offer a greater chance for advancement, and the title comes with more prestige and a better reputation. Most nurses who earn their MSN do so because they want to provide a better level of care to their patients. Medical facilities are also more likely to hire nurses with advanced education and specialized skills.
Related Resource: Top 30 Online Masters of Science in Nursing (MSN) Degrees Ranked by Student-Faculty Ratio
Earning a master’s degree in nursing can be a significant investment in time, money and energy, but online programs enable students to advance their careers without sacrificing schedules. Becoming a nurse practitioner gives nurses a competitive edge in a growing industry. If you want to earn a degree to become a nurse practitioner online, then there’s a wide array of options from today’s top schools.