How to Become a Nurse Practitioner

Brandi Glass
8 min read
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Working as a nurse practitioner is a fulfilling career that empowers you to make a significant impact on patients' lives. This role also offers job stability and attractive wages.

Keep reading as we break down everything you need to know about how to become a nurse practitioner. We’ll explore the degrees you need, the nurse practitioner salary you can expect to earn, and nurse practitioner resume tips and templates.

What is a Nurse Practitioner?

A nurse practitioner is a highly qualified nurse trained to provide comprehensive care to patients. Different types of nurse practitioner specialties cater to specific populations or medical areas, such as pediatrics, family medicine, and mental health.

What Does a Nurse Practitioner Do?

A nurse practitioner delivers patient care, with responsibilities varying across different types of nurse practitioner specialties. They assess patient health, diagnose and treat illnesses, prescribe medications, and develop treatment plans.

How to Become a Nurse Practitioner

Becoming a nurse practitioner requires achieving a BSN and RN licensing, followed by either an MSN or a DNP. Let’s take a closer look at how to become a nurse practitioner.

The nurse practitioner resume is impressive. It takes many years of study to meet minimum nurse practitioner requirements. You’ll begin by becoming a registered nurse, which requires achieving your Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) and passing your NCLEX-RN.

The next step is to meet the minimum requirements to enroll in graduate study. Some colleges require a certain number of hours of clinical experience as a registered nurse before you can sign up for a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) or a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP).

Not sure whether to sign up for an MSN or a DNP? The DNP is far more thorough, although it also takes more time and increases the nurse practitioner schooling cost.

After achieving your nurse practitioner education, you’re ready to apply for your nurse practitioner license. Some applicants also study additional, specialist certifications to deepen their knowledge and better meet the requirements of a nurse practitioner job description.

How Long Does It Take to Become a Nurse Practitioner?

The many steps to become a nurse practitioner mean that it takes most people at least six years. Many nurse practitioners will spend eight years or more to become a nurse practitioner, due to nurse practitioner schooling, licensing and exams, and building clinical experience as a registered nurse.

How Long is Nurse Practitioner Training?

Achieving all the qualifications for nurse practitioner will typically take six to eight years of full-time study. Your BSN is a full four-year degree, although if you already have a bachelor’s degree, you can sign up for a shorter ABSN instead. An MSN takes two years, while a DNP can take four years or longer.

A Day in the Life of a Nurse Practitioner

Over the Shoulder Shot of Medical Practitioner getting Medicine from Shelf

If you’re wondering why become a nurse practitioner, a quick look at a typical workday may help you reach a decision.

A nurse practitioner spends their time providing patient care, collaborating with other healthcare professionals, and fulfilling administrative duties.

They review patient schedules, assess health conditions in patient consultations, conduct examinations, and develop treatment plans. In order to provide a higher standard of care, they may consult with specialists, provide guidance to nursing staff, or discuss complex cases in team meetings.

In addition to direct patient care, nurse practitioners dedicate time to administrative tasks, such as documenting patient encounters and completing insurance paperwork.

Nurse practitioners also focus on patient education around disease management, lifestyle choices, and preventive measures. They may participate in community health initiatives or educational programs to promote wellness.

Nurse Practitioner Salary: How Much Does a Nurse Practitioner Make?

The average nurse practitioner salary in the US is $120,680. That’s according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). However, there are many factors that can affect a nurse practitioner’s wages, including their specialism, healthcare setting, location, and years of experience.

Nurse Practitioner Salary Ranges

The majority of nurse practitioners earn between $79,470 and $163,350 a year. The average nurse practitioner salary tends to be slightly higher in home health care services, as well as in outpatient care centers and general medical and surgical hospitals.

How Much Does a Nurse Practitioner Make an Hour?

Nurse practitioners make $58.02 an hour on average. Lower-paid nurse practitioners may earn as little as $38.21, while higher-paid nurse practitioners can achieve wages of $78.54 or more.

Is Becoming a Nurse Practitioner a Good Fit for Me?

Becoming a nurse practitioner is a huge investment of time and money, so it’s worth asking yourself if this career is a good fit for you.

You’ll need essential nurse practitioner skills and traits, including:

  • Critical thinking
  • Communication
  • Empathy
  • Time management
  • Adaptability
  • Leadership
  • A passion for lifelong learning

It’s worth reflecting on why become a nurse practitioner: to provide advanced patient care that makes a real difference to people’s health, well-being, and quality of life.

If that sounds inspirational to you, and you possess the above key skills, then a nurse practitioner role could be an incredibly rewarding career.

Where Can a Nurse Practitioner Work?

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Nurse practitioners can be found in a variety of healthcare settings. They play a vital role in hospitals, serving in departments including emergency medicine, intensive care, and pediatrics.

Nurse practitioners may also work in primary care settings, such as family medicine practices, internal medicine offices, and community health clinics. They can also practice in specialized clinics, long-term care facilities, and educational institutions.

How to Apply for Nurse Practitioner Jobs

Applying for nurse practitioner jobs is the last, but far from the least important, of the steps to become a nurse practitioner. A little extra effort at this stage will help you find the ideal nurse practitioner role and embark on a fulfilling career path in healthcare.

The first step you need to take is finding open nurse practitioner positions that align with your qualifications and career goals. Online job boards, professional organizations, and hospital websites are excellent sources for discovering job listings.

Once you've identified potential opportunities, focus on building a winning nurse practitioner resume and cover letter. Make use of resume templates specifically designed for nurse practitioners. They can help you effectively highlight your nurse practitioner skills, education, and clinical experience. Tailor your resume to address the specific nurse practitioner requirements and nurse practitioner skills mentioned in each nurse practitioner job description.

Similarly, customize your cover letter for each application, using nurse practitioner cover letter examples as a guide. These nurse practitioner cover letter examples will help you structure your own cover letter.

The purpose of a cover letter is to show that in addition to the required qualification for nurse practitioner, you possess the right motivations. Be sure to showcase your passion for patient care and emphasize how your unique skills and experiences make you the ideal candidate for the position.

After you have submitted your applications, prepare for potential interviews by researching nurse practitioner interview questions. Interviewers may ask about your clinical knowledge, patient management skills, and ability to work in a team environment. By familiarizing yourself with common nurse practitioner interview questions, you can develop convincing answers that demonstrate your competence and commitment to the nurse practitioner role.

Don’t overlook the value of networking with other healthcare professionals while you job hunt. They can provide valuable insight and support, as well as potential job leads.

Nurse practitioner RR resume template

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

We’ve rounded up answers to some of the questions that keep coming up among readers curious about how to become a nurse practitioner.

What is the Difference Between Nurse Practitioner and Physician Assistant?

Nurse practitioners and physician assistants take on similar tasks, but there are some key differences between them. Nurse practitioners specialize in one patient population, while physician assistants are generalists who can work with any patient. Nurse practitioners also take a holistic, wellness-oriented approach, while physician assistants hone in on medical treatments for a specific condition.

How Many Years to Become a Nurse Practitioner?

For most people, becoming a nurse practitioner will require six to eight years of full-time study, in addition to clinical experience as a registered nurse.

What Degree Do You Need for a Nurse Practitioner?

To work as a nurse practitioner, you’ll need a series of degrees. First, you need a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). Then, you’ll have to complete either a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) or a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP).

How to Become a Nurse Practitioner Without a Nursing Degree

You cannot work as a nurse practitioner without a nursing degree. If you don’t yet have nurse practitioner education but you hold a different bachelor’s degree, don’t panic: you won’t have to return to school for a full four-year undergraduate course. You can get your nurse practitioner education through an Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (ABSN) before proceeding to graduate study.

How to Become a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner

To become a pediatric nurse practitioner, you’ll want to carefully select a nursing Master’s or Doctorate program that allows you to specialize in pediatrics. After graduating, you should also apply for a specialty certification through the Pediatric Nursing Certification Board.

How to Become a Dermatology Nurse Practitioner

If your aim is to work as a dermatology nurse practitioner, look for graduate nursing programs that allow you to specialize in dermatology.

How to Become a Neonatal Nurse Practitioner

A graduate nursing program will give you the knowledge you need to become a neonatal nurse practitioner. However, make sure your degree has a neonatal nursing specialism. Most nursing colleges will offer Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degrees and Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degrees with neonatal specialisms.

How Much Does It Cost to Become a Nurse Practitioner?

The nurse practitioner schooling cost depends on the college in question, if you’re an out-of-state or in-state student, your choice of degrees, and whether or not you qualify for scholarships or bursaries. A Master of Science in Nursing can cost as little as $10,747 or as much as $92,560. You should also budget for your nursing license application fees.

How to Become a Family Nurse Practitioner

Aspiring family nurse practitioners must achieve either a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) or a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) with a family nurse practitioner specialty.

How to Become a Nurse Practitioner In California

Becoming a nurse practitioner in California requires first achieving your registered nurse license through studying for a BSN and passing your NCLEX-RN exam. Once you have your registered nurse’s license, you can enroll for a board-approved graduate degree. Most nurse practitioners opt for a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN). After graduation, you’re ready to apply for your nurse practitioner license.

How Many Years of Schooling to Become a Nurse Practitioner?

It takes a minimum of six years of full-time schooling to become a nurse practitioner. First, you’ll spend four years studying for your BSN. Then, you’ll need to achieve either a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN), which will take around two years, or a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP), which can take as many as four years.

How Long Does It Take to Become a Nurse Practitioner After BSN?

Once you’ve achieved your BSN, you’ll need to gain clinical experience as a registered nurse before studying for your Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) or Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP). This means two to four years of further education, in addition to your time as a registered nurse.

How to Become a Palliative Care Nurse Practitioner

The first step to becoming a palliative care nurse practitioner is achieving your registered nurse license. Then, you have to enroll in a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) or Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) with a palliative care specialism.

Start your journey towards becoming a nurse practitioner today with Rocket Resume!