How to Become a Nurse Practitioner

If you have considered a career in nursing, but would like to do work that closely resembles the work of a doctor, you should think about becoming a nurse practitioner (NP). The men and women who pursue this path in health care often need the supervision of a licensed physician. However, in some states they can practice independently. 

What do nurse practitioners do?
A nurse practitioner, or advanced practice nurse, manages common medical issues, but also has the authority to treat more complex diseases and illnesses. The majority of nurse practitioners provide holistic, multifaceted comprehensive care. They evaluate patients' health by looking at their history, performing physical examinations, ordering results from laboratories and interpreting findings from diagnostic tests and procedures.

They are responsible for the continued care of their patients and develop individualized care plans, prescribe medications or treatments, suggest consultations or referrals and coordinate with other departments for specific health care services. NPs are often called to promote health education by ordering screenings, suggesting preventative therapies (immunizations, smoking cessation, weight loss) and offering counseling relevant to particular medical issues.

What type of degrees or training do nurse practitioners have?
Many NPs first earn their bachelor's degree in nursing (BSN)  from an accredited training program. After obtaining their BSN, candidates often complete an additional two to six years of study to earn their master's or doctorate degree in nursing. During this phase, candidates go through intensive courses in anatomy, pharmacology, diagnosis and medical ethics. At this time, students can focus on a specialty like women's health, oncology, geriatrics, acute care, family practice, pediatrics or psychiatry.

In order to practice in the U.S., NPs have to take and pass a license exam. Before you take this exam, you need to have a degree from an accredited program and board certification.

Why should I pursue a career as a nurse practitioners?
There are many reasons why someone would want to pursue a career as a nurse practitioner. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment for nurses is expected to grow 20 percent through 2022. NPs are also well paid. They earn an average annual wage of $89,960 and the top 10 percent earn $120,000 a year.

This article is sponsored by Western Governors University, a nonprofit, accredited, online university. WGU offers online RN to BSN, BSN to MSN, and RN to MSN degree programs to working nurses who already have a current RN license. To find out more, please visit

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