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Nurse Practitioner: Jobs, Duties, Education, and Salary Information

Career News October 17, 2013

The field of Nursing continues to be one of the fastest-growing careers in the country. Qualified nurses are constantly in demand, making it an excellent field for those interested in working in medicine. Given their level of specialization, Nurse Practitioners are essential for providing care where there is a shortage of available doctors.


Nurse Practitioners are advanced practice nurses who have received additional training after becoming Registered Nurses. Nurse Practitioners have been trained to diagnose patients, consult on treatment options, and educate patients on preventative measures. Some Nurse Practitioners can prescribe medication. Nurse Practitioners work in a variety of settings, including hospitals, in- and out-patient clinics, rural health care facilities, or Public Health clinics. They can specialize in specific fields and work as anesthetic nurses, obstetrics nurses, nurse-midwives, family practice nurses, and pediatric nurses — just to name a few specialized areas. Nurse Practitioners are an integral part of a patient’s health care team, providing a holistic approach to all aspects of care.

In some under served areas, Nurse Practitioners provide primary care to individuals and families in need.

Work Environment and Job Duties

Job settings for Nurse Practitioners vary based on their focus, but most work in clinics, hospitals, or private doctor’s offices. Some Nurse Practitioners may also work in the military, private institutions, or colleges and universities.

In addition to diagnostics and other aspects of patient care, Nurse Practitioners may be required to:

•Supervise nursing staff
•Order tests
•Make referrals
•Prescribe medication
•Assist in procedures
•Perform physicals
•Provide post-operative care
•Discharge patients

Nurse practitioners sometimes spend hours on their feet, interacting with many patients during the workday. They will occasionally be expected to work long shifts, sometimes on weekends, holidays, or evenings. A Nurse Practitioner must be patient, compassionate, and able to function effectively in emergency situations. Nurse practitioners must work with all kinds of people in need of medical attention. Therefore, they also must be reliable, knowledgeable, and able to speak confidently and clearly to their patients about the care they receive.

Given the importance of the occupation to providing superior patient care, Nurse Practitioners must be able to function independently, make autonomous decisions in emergencies, utilize highly developed logical reasoning skills, and step in when doctors are unavailable.

Although there may be administrative advancement available for Nurse Practitioners, overall, there are generally few advancement opportunities for the position. This is primarily due to the fact that the occupation is already a highly advanced practice, requiring top-notch leadership and decision-making skills.

Requirements and Education

In order to become a Nurse Practitioner, candidates must first complete a Registered Nurse degree program at an accredited institution, and then receive certification via the National Council Licensing Examination for Registered Nurses. Candidates must complete a Master’s of Science in Nursing degree program, which may take two to three years. Overall, Nurse Practitioner candidates are required to have worked as a Registered Nurse in a hospital, clinic, or other health care facility before becoming an advanced practice nurse.

Nurse practitioners generally focus on a specialty while working toward their Master’s of Science in Nursing. Specializations can include:

•Women’s Health
•Family Health
•Cardiac Vascular
•Acute Care
•Occupational Health
•Pain Management

Nurse practitioners can become certified in special fields, such as Certified Nurse Anesthetists, or Certified Nurse Midwives. They can also pursue higher degrees in Nursing, like a Doctorate degree.

Salary and Career Outlook

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Registered Nurses’ median pay is $64,690, or $31.10 per hour, as of 2010. The job growth outlook through 2020 is 26%, faster than the national average. Given that Nurse Practitioners are advanced practice nurses and require more education and experience, they stand to make more money than RNs. reports the average salary for a Nurse Practitioner at $95,000 as of January 27, 2013. Salaries may fluctuate depending on a Nurse Practitioner’s area of specialization and state in which they work. Here are some general salary expectations based on specialization:

•Urgent Care Nurse Practitioner: $93,000
•Oncology Nurse Practitioner: $108,000
•Dermatology Nurse Practitioner: $126,000
•Psych Nurse Practitioner: $96,000
•Emergency Nurse Practitioner: $109,000
•Certified Nurse Midwife: $93,119 (median)
•Certified Nurse Anesthetist: $158,563 (median)

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