Serving as either primary or secondary care providers, nurse practitioners (also known as NPs) work with doctors to diagnose illness, prescribe medicine and treat patients. Advanced practice registered nurses, a category that includes nurse practitioners, is potentially a strong career choice because of both the higher salaries and strong career growth relative to other jobs both in and outside the field. NPs can potentially benefit from a booming job market. In addition, it's a career that can pay off more quickly than other advanced jobs in health care. Whereas M.D.s may invest seven to 11 years in their education and residency, NPs can be ready to work after two years of graduate school.

How to Become a Nurse Practitioner

The steps to becoming an NP may vary depending on your prior health care experience. If you're starting from scratch, the "Consensus Model for APRN Regulation," published by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing, recommends that you take the following steps to become an NP:

  1. Complete a registered nursing degree program and earn a license. If you're interested in finding out how you can pursue a degree in nursing, take a look at the best schools for nursing.
  2. Earn a master's degree
  3. Perform a supervised clinical experience
  4. Earn a license to be an NP

If you have a medical degree in another area your path might be a little different. Please consult the American Association of Nurse Practitioners for more information on possible paths to becoming an NP. The AANP offers additional information on its website about how to become a nurse practitioner, as well as details on the core competencies that NPs need in nine major areas, including:

  • Scientific foundation
  • Leadership
  • Quality
  • Practice inquiry
  • Technology and information literacy
  • Policy
  • Health delivery system
  • Ethics
  • Independent Practice

Nurse Practitioner Salary and Career Outlook

As with most jobs, how much you can make as a nurse practitioner depends on things like location, experience, and education level completed. Here's an idea of what nurse practitioners might expect to make in the coming years, in addition to job outlook numbers:

CareerTotal EmploymentAnnual Mean Wage
Nurse Practitioners200,600$111,840
2019 Occupational Employment Statistics and 2018-28 Employment Projections, Bureau of Labor Statistics,
Article Sources

 How to Become a Nurse Practitioner

Article Sources
  • Student Resource Center, American Association of Nurse Practitioners,
  • "Consensus Model for APRN Regulation: Licensure, Accreditation, Certification & Education," National Council of State Boards of Nursing, July 7, 2008,
  • Nurse Practitioner Core Competencies, The National Organization of Nurse Practitioner Faculties,
  • Long Term Occupational Projections for Nurse Practitioners, Projections Central,
  • Occupational Employment and Wages: Nurse Practitioners, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, May 2013,
  • Nurse Anesthetists, Nurse Midwives and Nurse Practitioners, "Occupational Outlook Handbook