Nurse Practitioner Career Guide

Nursing Program Search

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If you are a registered nurse who has mastered health assessment skills and acquired a sound knowledge base of common health problems and diseases, consider taking your career to the next level and study to become a nurse practitioner.

Nurse practitioner programs are on the rise because a nurse practitioner is an advanced practice registered nurse who delivers high-quality, cost-effective health care for patients.

Present changes in health care reform are opening doors for numerous career opportunities for nurse practitioners. NPs work in all areas of the medical field; if there is a particular area in medicine that you find intriguing, chances are there is a nurse practitioner program for it.

Some popular nurse practitioner programs to choose from are:

  • Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) – provides primary care for patients of all ages across the lifespan; from maternal-newborn patients, infants, children, and adults. They perform well check-ups with a strong focus on preventative medicine.
  • Neonatal Nurse Practitioner – cares for preterm and full-term infants who are growing and have critical illnesses. They work with and educate parents during this challenging time in their lives. Neonatal nurse practitioners work independently and as part of a health care team to give their patients top-quality care.
  • Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner – specialize solely in women’s health issues and preventative care. Their focus is on women’s reproductive and gynecological needs. Women’s Health Nurse Practitioners also provide women’s well care, prenatal and postpartum care.
  • Pediatric Nurse Practitioner – provides primary care for newborns, infants, and children. They also provide primary care for teenagers until they are 18 years of age. They focus on teaching children and teens healthy choices and educate parents on preventing childhood diseases and illnesses.
  • Adult Nurse Practitioner – provides care for patients 18 years of age, adulthood, and geriatrics. Their focus is on preventative care and management of chronic illnesses and diseases. They also educate patients and family members on healthy lifestyle choices.
  • Psychiatric /Mental Health Nurse Practitioner – provides care for psychiatric patients of all ages. They diagnose, treat and prescribe medications for patients with mental health problems. Psychiatric Nurse Practitioners also provide therapy for patients who are depressed, experiencing anxiety and have suicidal thoughts.
  • Geriatric Nurse Practitioners - Is a nurse practitioner who specializes in the care of the elderly population. They diagnose illness, perform physical examinations and prescribe medications. Geriatric Nurse Practitioners work in nursing homes, for hospice and home care services. Many geriatric nurse practitioners have their own businesses.
  • Emergency Nurse Practitioners – are specially trained nurse practitioners who take care of patients with urgent primary care needs, acute illnesses and minor injuries in the emergency room. Emergency nurse practitioners care for patients who frequently present to the ER for non-emergent problems because of lack of medical insurance.
  • Oncology Nurse Practitioners – provide care for patients with cancer and hematologic diseases; they also educate their family members.  Oncology nurse practitioners address psychological as well as physical issues patients experience during this time in their lives. They work in oncology units in hospitals, cancer, and specialty clinics.
  • Nephrology Nurse Practitioners – work with patients who have chronic and end-stage renal disease. They educate patients about the importance of a renal diet, fluid restrictions and monitor pertinent lab date integral to their treatments. Nephrology nurse practitioners work in dialysis out-patient clinics and on nephrology units in hospitals.
  • School Nurse Practitioners – care for students in colleges and universities. They manage minor illnesses and disease and focus on preventative medicine. They promote anti-smoking and teach healthy lifestyle choices.

Education Requirements

In order to become a nurse practitioner, you have to attain a Masters Degree or a Ph.D. in Nursing. There are several educational paths leading to either of these degrees which make you eligible to sit for nurse practitioner state board exams.

There are master degree programs for nurses who have a bachelor's of science degree in nursing and accelerated programs for an associate degree nurse to attain a master's degree.

Nurses who already hold a master's degree can take a program to attain a nurse practitioner certificate to become eligible to sit for state board exams or they can pursue a Ph.D. in nursing. Each state has a policy for nurse practitioners scope of practice. They may not be able to perform certain types of medical procedures in all states. It is highly recommended to research your state's policy for nurse practitioners scope of practice before enrolling in a program.

What does a nurse practitioner do?

NPs demonstrate advanced leadership skills in their community, advocating and practicing preventative healthcare. Nurse practitioners diagnose, treat chronic diseases and acute illnesses. They order and interpret lab work and diagnostic tests. Nurse practitioners also prescribe medications. 

Where do nurse practitioners work?

Nurse practitioners are mid-level primary care providers who either work independently in their own practice or with a doctor. They also work in hospitals, out-patient clinics, and schools. Nurse practitioners also work for home care agencies and in many types of specialty clinics.

Job Outlook and Salary

Nurse practitioners make significantly more money than registered nurses. Salaries are also depended upon geographical area of the place of employment. The median salary for a nurse practitioner in the United States is $91,790.

The job outlook for this profession continues to grow for several reasons, such as the aging population needing more care from mid-level providers. Another reason is many aging physicians retiring from medical practices are being replaced by nurse practitioners since their care is more cost-effective without compromising the quality of care.


Written by

Carrie Cronkite BSN, RN

Carrie has been a registered nurse for 14 years and works at a local hemodialysis outpatient center. She has experience in cardiac nursing, orthopedic rehabilitation and [...]