If you are a registered nurse, or a current nursing student, looking to become a primary healthcare provider, then you will need to pursue at least a master’s degree to be a nurse practitioner. Although some nurses may be dissuaded by rising tuition expenses for attending graduate school, it is a great time to start the additional training needed to earn the designation of nurse practitioner. Due to healthcare reforms and an aging baby boomer population, employment for nurse practitioners is expected to skyrocket at the rapid rate of 33.7% before 2022. In order to determine whether pursuing a master’s degree in nursing would be the right fit for you, the following is an overview of what you could expect by becoming a nurse practitioner.
What is a Nurse Practitioner?
As highly trained, patient-focused healthcare professionals, nurse practitioners (NPs) provide holistic comprehensive care with individualized treatment for patients at various stages of life. Since NPs often complete their clinical training in a nursing specialty area, most will specialize in a specific patient population, such as neonatal, pediatric, family, geriatrics, women’s health, oncology, or psychiatric-mental health. Although roles can differ slightly based on their specialty, the majority of nurse practitioners are responsible for performing physical examinations, diagnosing common illnesses or injuries, providing immunizations, managing chronic health concerns, analyzing laboratory tests, prescribing medications, and educating patients on healthy habits to promote wellness.
Job Opportunities as a Nurse Practitioner
Certified nurse practitioners can find abundant job opportunities in today’s thriving healthcare industry. Nurse practitioners can fulfill leadership patient-care positions working in hospitals, community clinics, physician’s offices, mental health centers, universities, employee health facilities, schools, military bases, and even government agencies. In addition to finding employment at these healthcare facilities, around 15% of NPs in the United States have opened their own independent practices or nurse-managed health centers to deliver patient care. The best job prospects for nurse practitioners can be found in rural and inner-city communities as healthcare organizations try to bridge the gap in areas underserved by physicians.
Degrees Needed to Become a Nurse Practitioner
In order to begin the journey towards becoming a nurse practitioner, you will need to first earn a two-year associate’s degree or four-year bachelor’s degree from an accredited nursing program. You will then need to take the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN). Once you have received a passing score, earned an unencumbered RN license, and obtained work experience in the nursing field, you can pursue a master’s degree to be a nurse practitioner. At both traditional and online colleges nationwide, the Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree often comes with nurse practitioner tracks in a variety of specialty area. Within the two to three-year program, you will receive a blend of didactic nursing theory and hands-on clinical practicum in preparation for this advanced practice nursing role.
Overall, nurse practitioners are in-demand. NPs are advanced practice nurses that provide comprehensive acute and/or primary care to patients throughout the lifespan from birth to late adulthood. While you will need a master’s degree to be a nurse practitioner, you can be on the pathway towards earning a lucrative annual salary of $95,070 without the added time and expenses that are needed to become a physician.