MSN: Nurse Practitioner (NP) Degree Programs

A nurse practitioner (NP) is one of four types of advanced practice registered nurses, the others being clinical nurse specialists, nurse anesthetists, and nurse midwives. A Master of Science degree in nursing (MSN) along with status as a registered nurse are required before becoming a nurse practitioner. NPs serve as primary and specialty care providers in a number of areas, including general practice, acute care, adult health, family health, psychiatric and mental health, and women’s health, to name a few. For adult, gerontological, and family nurse practitioners, the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) offers a certification program.

How to Become a NP

To become a nurse practitioner, students typically complete the following steps:

  1. Complete an Associate’s Degree in Nursing or a Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing program
  2. Earn a Registered Nurse Certification
  3. Meet the professional experience conditions
  4. Choose an area of specialization such as pediatrics, geriatrics, or women’s health
  5. Enroll and complete an MSN degree with a nurse practitioner concentration
  6. Obtain NP certification and proper licensure (requirements vary by state)

NP Salary and Career Information

The expected salary, career growth, and work environment for a nurse practitioner might include:

  • According to The Bureau of Labor Statistics, in May 2013 the mean annual wage of a nurse practitioner was $95,070.
  • Job Prospects: Very good to excellent
  • Job Setting: Private practices, nursing homes, hospitals, public health organizations, boards of health and education, educational institutions, home health care agencies

NP Qualifications

To become a nurse practitioner, students are typically required to meet the following job qualifications:

  • NP Advanced Practice Certification
  • Experience and possibly additional certification in a specialty area including: neurology, oncology, rehabilitation, trauma nursing, adolescent health, neonatal, pediatric oncology, pediatric pulmonary, school health nursing, anesthesiology, community health, home health care, hospice nursing, occupational health, women’s health

NP Job Description

A nurse practitioner is typically responsible for the following job duties:

  • Examine patients to evaluate their medical and physical conditions and develop specific care plans based on health assessment
  • Work closely with physicians and other medical professionals to aid in patient diagnosis
  • Act at point of contact for patients when physician is not on site or unable to unavailable for consultation
  • Develop a plan of care that address patients’ unique conditions and prescribe proper medication (prescriptive authority varies by state)
  • Provide educational and therapeutic support to patients on how best to manage symptoms
  • Consult with other nurses and medical professionals to improve patient outcomes

Doctor of Nursing Practice Programs

Some students choose to enroll in a Doctor of Nursing Practice program. These programs are designed to prepare advanced practice nurse to leaders improve access to quality of care and reduce health disparities. If you’re interested in earning a DNP, applicants typically need a graduate degree from an accredited program, an active license or multi-state privilege to practice as a registered nurse, and licensure as a Nurse Practitioner in the state in which you practice.

Currently there is an initiative by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) to require the DNP as the entry-level degree for all APRN roles, including the nurse practitioner, nurse anesthetist, and nurse midwife. At this time, most states require a master’s degree to obtain licensure and do not specify a DNP requirement for nurse practitioners.

Nurse Practitioner Specializations