nurse practitioner how to become

Last Updated on September 1, 2023

How‌ to Become a Nurse Practitioner: A Pathway to Advanced Nursing Practice


The field of healthcare continues to evolve, with the role of nurse practitioners becoming more prominent and vital ​than ever before. Nurse practitioners ‍(NPs) are advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) who play a crucial role in providing high-quality, patient-centered care. Becoming a nurse practitioner⁤ requires a ‌commitment to education, clinical experience,⁢ and a passion for improving healthcare outcomes for individuals across the lifespan. In this article, we will explore the essential steps to follow in order ‍to‌ become a ⁤nurse practitioner.

1. Obtain an Undergraduate ​Nursing Degree:

The first step towards becoming a nurse practitioner is obtaining a Bachelor of ‍Science in Nursing (BSN). ⁣Many universities and colleges offer accredited​ nursing programs, which provide students ​with a

Collegelearners will provide you with all the relevant information you are looking for on how to become a nurse practitioner without a nursing degree, how many years of school to be a nurse practitioner, what does a nurse practitioner do, and so much more.

nurse practitioner how to become

Nurse practitioner administering a blood pressure test to a patient

PART ONE What is a Nurse Practitioner (NP)?

A Nurse Practitioner (NP) is an Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN) that has earned either a Master’s of Science in Nursing (MSN) or a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP). They can serve as either a primary or specialty care provider. This guide will explain how to become a nurse practitioner, what they do, how much you can make and more.

Nurse Practitioners earn a higher salary, have more responsibility and more career opportunities than many other types of nurses. This guide will cover what a nurse practitioner does, how much they make, how to become one, and more.

Nurse Practitioners have more authority than Registered Nurses and have similar responsibilities to that of a doctor. They can serve as a primary care or specialty care providers and typically focus their care on a specific population such as families, children, or the elderly. As clinicians, they focus on health promotion and disease prevention in their patients. 

PART TWO How to Become a Nurse Practitioner

If you’re looking to become a nurse practitioner, you’ll need to complete the following steps.

Steps to Becoming a Nurse Practitioner


The first step to becoming a nurse practitioner is becoming a registered nurse. You’ll do this by enrolling in either an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) or Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing (BSN) program. 


If you don’t already hold a BSN, you may want to enroll in and earn your Bachelor’s in Nursing Science degree. Nurses who have their ADN can enroll in accelerated RN-BSN programs, many of which can be completed online. It is possible to go straight from your ADN to an MSN program if you want to skip the step of earning your Bachelor’s degree, however. (More on that in step four.)


Some nurses may choose to skip this step and go right into enrolling in a graduate program, while others choose to get a few years of experience under their belt before continuing their education. 


The simplest route to becoming a nurse practitioner for RNs who already have their bachelor’s degree is by earning a master’s degree.

For RNs without bachelor’s degrees, there are RN-to-MSN programs. You may also see such programs called ADN-to-MSN (which means Associate Degree in Nursing to Master’s).

Some institutions offer doctoral degrees like Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) programs, which is the highest level of nursing education available. 


The specifics for NP licensure are set by the individual states, which means that you will have to search the requirements to become an NP in the state that you plan to work in. There is also talk of a national model for NP licensure, but currently, it does vary from state-to-state. You can view complete state-by-state requirements to become an NP here and be sure to check with the school you plan on attending. 


Congratulations! You’ve made it and now you’re ready to find your first job as a nurse practitioner. You can work with a nurse recruiter or check out nursing job boards to help find the right position for you. 

PART THREE What Do Nurse Practitioners Do?

NPs are health care providers that can prescribe medication, examine patients, order diagnostic tests, diagnose illnesses, and provide treatment, much like physicians do.

Their experience as working nurses gives them a unique approach to patient care, while their advanced studies qualify them to take on additional duties that are usually left to physicians.

In fact, as reported by the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF), it’s estimated that NPs can provide 80-90 percent of the care that primary care physicians offer.

Nurse Practitioner Scope of Practice

Nurse practitioners have full practice authority in 25 states, meaning that they do not have to work under the supervision of a doctor.

In the remaining states, NPs still have more authority than RNs, but they need a medical doctor to sign off on certain patient care decisions.


Map of nurse practitioner NP practice authority in US

PART FOUR Nurse Practitioner Specialties

In addition to being a general nurse practitioner, NPs can also specialize in a specific population. They will often attend a nursing program that allows them to specialize in this area and obtain clinical competency. If they choose a specialization, they’ll also need to become certified in the specific specialty area.

  1. Family Nurse Practitioner
  2. Acute Care Nurse Practitioner
  3. Aesthetic Nurse Practitioner
  4. Pediatric Nurse Practitioner
  5. Emergency Nurse Practitioner
  6. Adult-Gerontology Nurse Practitioner
  7. Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner
  8. Neonatal Nurse Practitioner
  9. Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner
  10. Orthopedic Nurse Practitioner
  11. Oncology Nurse Practitioner

Family Nurse Practitioner

Family nurse practitioners or Family Practice Nurse Practitioners (FNPs) provide primary health care services for individuals and families throughout the lifespan. They often act as a primary care provider for their patients and this can be especially rewarding for those who enjoy developing long-term relationships and getting to know people over time.

Acute Care Nurse Practitioner

Acute Care Nurse Practitioners (ACNPs) are advanced practice registered nurses that provide care to patients in acute care and/or hospital settings. Acute Care NPs see patients when they are sick, admitted to the hospital, or after a surgical procedure and/or trauma. Their focus is solely on caring for the adult population with complex diseases.

Pediatric Nurse Practitioner

Pediatric Nurse Practitioners are Advanced Practice Registered Nurses whose sole focus lies in treating children from infancy through the time they become adults. They see patients on a one-on-one basis, offering care ranging from well check-ups and immunizations to diagnosing illnesses and treating chronic and acute conditions. 

Emergency Nurse Practitioner

Emergency Nurse Practitioners assess, diagnose and manage injuries and illnesses that need urgent care. They are able to work with or without supervision, determining which patients need the most immediate care, making decisions about treatment, monitoring patient conditions and providing education and consultation.

Adult-Gerontology Nurse Practitioner

Adult-Gerontology Nurse Practitioners specialize in the care of adults from adolescence all the way up to geriatric care. They work with patients and their caregivers on managing chronic conditions, diseases, and other health conditions.

Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner

Psychiatric Nurse Practitioners or Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioners (PMHNPs) specialize in the mental health needs of adults, children, families, groups, and/or communities. They help individuals cope with different psychiatric disorders and illnesses and can also help people with substance abuse disorders. 

Neonatal Nurse Practitioner

Neonatal Nurse Practitioners care for premature and sick newborns including diagnosing them, providing treatment plans, and prescribing medication. They can also can assist in delivering patients in certain settings. 

Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner

A Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner (WHNP) specializes in the comprehensive care of women throughout their lives. They focus on reproductive, obstetric, and gynecological health and usually work in a primary care office setting, rather than a hospital or delivery room.

Orthopedic Nurse Practitioner

An Orthopedic Nurse Practitioner focuses on the care and treatment of patients suffering from musculoskeletal problems. These can include disease and/or injuries of the bones, muscles, joints, and supporting connective tissue. 

Aesthetic Nurse Practitioner

Aesthetic Nurse Practitioners specialize in cosmetic medical procedures that improve their patients’ appearance. They examine and evaluate patients, counsel them on a variety of procedures, perform those procedures, and care for them as they recover. 

Oncology Nurse Practitioner

An oncology nurse practitioner provides comprehensive care to patients who have been diagnosed with cancer. They collaborate with other healthcare providers including physicians to develop treatment plans for cancer patients. 

PART FIVE Nurse Practitioner Salary

Nurse practitioners earn an average annual salary of $117,670 in the United States according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics as of May 2021, which places their income at more than double the average annual salary for all other occupations.

Nurse Practitioners make, on average, around $30,000 more than Registered Nurses each year. And compared to an LPN’s annual wages of $46,240, becoming an NP will more than DOUBLE your earnings.

Nurse Practitioner Salary by State

Nurse Practitioner salaries can vary by location, place of employment, experience, and specialty. So, after you become an NP, additional specializations can drive your salary up even higher, and give you more career opportunities.

StateMean AnnualAvg HourlyCost of Living
District of Columbia$116150$55.84+49.20%
New Hampshire$112,460$54.07+0.80%
New Jersey$130,890$62.93+21.00%
New Mexico$117,050$56.28-4.30%
New York$126,440$60.79+35.20%
North Carolina$108,370$52.10-5.80%
North Dakota$111,070$53.40-98.90%
Rhode Island$117,300$56.39+22.10%
South Carolina$101,190$48.65+0.50%
South Dakota$103,080$49.56+2.80%
West Virginia$105,220$50.59+4.30%

Nurse Practitioner Salaries by Specialty

General Nurse Practitioner$115,800
Family Nurse Practitioner$105,898
Adult-Gerontology Nurse Practitioner$90,102
Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner$107,309
Pediatric Nurse Practitioner$121,659
Acute Care Nurse Practitioner$110,076
Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner$91,454
Orthopedic Nurse Practitioner$100,035
Emergency Nurse Practitioner$113,840
Neonatal Nurse Practitioner$124,756

PART SIX Nurse Practitioner Career Outlook

Nursing is already a stable, in-demand career. But becoming a Nurse Practitioner can give you even more job security.

The BLS predicts that nurse practitioner jobs will increase by 45 percent from 2020 to 2030, which is much faster than most other careers.

The need for primary care is also expected to rise over the next five years because of the aging population. NPs will help meet this increasing demand, especially in underserved areas.

PART SEVEN Which Schools Have the Best NP Programs?

There are numerous NP programs throughout the country, so our panel of nurses ranked them based on reputation, certification pass rate, cost, accreditation, and acceptance rates to determine that these are some of the best options out there. Because nursing careers take different forms, the top 10 NP programs are ranked in no particular order.

About the author

Study on Scholarship Today -- Check your eligibility for up to 100% scholarship.