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Nurse Practitioner Career GuideEverything you need to know about the comprehensive role of a Nurse Practitioner, including the responsibilities, educational requirements, and substantial impact of this profession in healthcare. Explore the vital skills and knowledge that Nurse Practitioners bring to their practice, adeptly providing primary and specialty care through diagnostics, treatment, and patient education.

Getting Started: Nurse Practitioner FAQs

What is a Nurse Practitioner?

A nurse practitioner (NP) is an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) with specialized education and training, enabling them to diagnose and treat illnesses, prescribe medications, and provide comprehensive healthcare services. NPs often work independently or collaboratively with physicians, focusing on patient-centered care and health promotion in various healthcare settings.

What does a Nurse Practitioner do?

Nurse practitioners (NPs) provide a broad spectrum of healthcare services, including diagnosing and treating medical conditions, ordering and interpreting diagnostic tests, prescribing medications, and offering preventative care such as vaccinations and health screenings. They also offer patient education, manage chronic conditions, and may specialize in areas such as family medicine, pediatrics, women's health, or adult-gerontology care.

What's the demand for Nurse Practitioners?

Nurse Practitioners (NP) are in high demand because they have specialized knowledge and can fill the need for primary care and experienced staff in outpatient centers, hospitals, and rural areas. Here are some specific areas driving demand for this skilled and important specialty within the nursing profession:
  • Expanding healthcare needs: With an aging population and a greater focus on preventive care, the need for healthcare services is rising. NPs are well-positioned to meet these needs due to their training in both primary and specialty care.
  • Physician shortages: There is a well-documented shortage of physicians, particularly in primary care and in rural areas. NPs are increasingly filling these gaps, providing essential healthcare services where physicians are scarce.
  • Cost-effectiveness: NPs provide high-quality care often at a lower cost than physicians, which is appealing to healthcare systems looking to deliver efficient and effective patient care.
  • Scope of practice expansion: Many states have expanded or are considering expanding the scope of practice for NPs, allowing them to practice independently without physician oversight. This change increases the potential roles and settings in which NPs can work.
  • Healthcare reform and access: Ongoing healthcare reforms in many countries, including the expansion of healthcare access under various policies, have increased the number of individuals seeking medical services, thereby raising the demand for healthcare providers, including NPs.
  • Specialized care needs: NPs are not only in demand for primary care but also for their expertise in specialized areas such as geriatrics, pediatrics, mental health, and chronic disease management.
  • Increased recognition and acceptance: There is a growing recognition of the high level of care provided by NPs among patients and within the healthcare community, further driving demand.

How much does a Nurse Practitioner make?

Nurse Practitioner salaries depend on many factors such as the specialty of advanced practice nursing and location of the job. According to, on average in 2023, NPs in the U.S. made an annual salary of $107,000.

How do you become a Nurse Practitioner?

All NPs need to graduate from an accredited graduate nurse practitioner program, pass specialty board certifications, and obtain state licensure as both a registered nurse (RN) and an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN). Additional certification in areas of specialty practice, while not required, are valuable.
  • Here are the key stages of achieving your career as a Nurse Practitioner:

  • Get an Associate of Science in Nursing (ASN) or Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN)
    You must first complete a nursing program. This can be an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) or a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). A BSN is often preferred and can open more opportunities, but an ADN is a valid pathway to becoming an RN.
  • Pass the NCLEX-RN
    After completing your nursing education, you must pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN) to become a licensed registered nurse. This is a requirement in all states.
  • Get a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN)
    Focus on a specialty such as family and primary care, women’s health, geriatrics, or psychiatry.
  • Get your Board Certification from the American Nurses Credentialing Center
  • You’re ready to work as a Nurse Practitioner

Where can a Nurse Practitioner work?

Nurse Practitioners (NPs) have a wide range of employment opportunities across various healthcare settings, thanks to their advanced training and diverse skill set. Here are some common places where NPs can work:
  • Hospitals: NPs are employed in different departments of hospitals, such as emergency rooms, intensive care units, and specialty areas like cardiology or oncology.
  • Primary care clinics: Many NPs serve as primary care providers, working in family practice, internal medicine, or pediatric clinics.
  • Specialty clinics: NPs with specialized training can work in clinics focusing on specific areas like dermatology, women’s health, mental health, or geriatrics.
  • Urgent care centers: NPs are often found in urgent care, providing acute care and treatment for non-life-threatening conditions.
  • Long-term care facilities: NPs work in nursing homes and assisted living facilities, focusing on the health needs of the elderly or chronically ill patients.
  • Community health centers: These centers serve diverse populations, often focusing on underserved communities, where NPs play a key role in providing accessible healthcare.
  • Educational institutions: NPs can work in school health services or as faculty members in nursing schools and universities.
  • Telehealth services: The rise of telemedicine has opened up opportunities for NPs to provide care remotely, especially in areas with limited access to healthcare.
  • Private practice: Depending on state laws, some NPs open and operate their own private practices, offering a range of healthcare services.
  • Government and public health agencies: NPs may work in public health, contributing to policy development, community health programs, and epidemiological research.
  • Corporate and occupational health: Some NPs work in occupational health settings within corporations, providing healthcare and wellness programs to employees.
  • Research and development: NPs engage in clinical research, contributing to medical studies and healthcare innovation.

What areas can a Nurse Practitioner specialize in?

NPs provide care across the lifespan from conception to death, as women’s health nurse practitioners, neonatal nurse practitioners, pediatric nurse practitioners, adult nurse practitioners, and geriatric nurse practitioners. NPs work in preventive and primary health care, provide acute care services in all hospital units, and serve as specialty healthcare providers (e.g. allergy, immunology, hematology, oncology, gastroenterology).

Can a Nurse Practitioner prescribe medication?

Nurse Practitioner (NP) who are licensed by their state boards of nursing may prescribe non-controlled medications. An NP's ability to prescribe controlled medications is state-dependent and requires the NP to obtain a Drug Enforcement Administration license.
6 Reasons Why Nurse Practitioners Are So Important in Healthcare
Nurse Practitioners (NPs) are integral to the healthcare landscape. NPs are highly skilled professionals who bridge gaps in healthcare access, provide holistic patient care, emphasize patient education, advocate for sound healthcare policies, and significantly improve healthcare outcomes.
  • Provide Care to Underserved Areas
    One of the most vital roles NPs play in the healthcare system is in providing care to underserved areas. In rural and urban areas alike, there is often a shortage of healthcare providers. NPs, with their advanced training and the ability to work independently or collaboratively with physicians, help fill this void. They are often more willing to practice in underserved areas, where patients may have limited access to medical care, ensuring that communities receive essential healthcare services. By delivering care where it is needed most, NPs become the frontline healthcare providers in these regions, ensuring that healthcare access is not compromised.
  • Holistic Approach to Healthcare

    NPs bring a holistic approach to patient care, treating not only the physical aspects of an illness but also considering a patient's psychological, emotional, and social well-being. This patient-centered care model focuses on the whole person. NPs often spend more time with their patients, developing trust and understanding that helps them tailor treatment plans to individual needs. This approach leads to better patient satisfaction and improved health outcomes, as it addresses the root causes of health problems and fosters long-term well-being.
  • Emphasis on Patient Education
    Education is a key component of the care that NPs provide. NPs educate patients about their health conditions, treatment options, and the importance of preventive measures. This focus on patient education empowers individuals to take an active role in managing their health, make informed decisions, and adhere to treatment plans. When patients understand their health and the rationale behind their treatments, they are more likely to comply with medical recommendations, leading to better outcomes and a reduced likelihood of complications or readmissions.
  • Advocacy for Healthcare Policy
    Nurse practitioners engage in healthcare policy advocacy at local, state, and national levels. They are well-positioned to advocate for policies that improve access to care, enhance the scope of practice for NPs, and address healthcare disparities. NPs use their clinical experience to inform policymakers about the challenges patients face, offering valuable insights into potential solutions. Their advocacy efforts lead to more inclusive healthcare policies and regulations, ensuring that patients have access to high-quality care from a variety of healthcare providers.
  • Cost-Effectiveness Compared to Physicians
    Cost-effectiveness is a significant advantage of utilizing NPs in healthcare systems. NPs can provide many of the same services as physicians at a lower cost, making healthcare more affordable for individuals and healthcare systems alike. By delivering high-quality care, emphasizing prevention, and managing chronic conditions efficiently, NPs help reduce the overall cost of healthcare. This cost-effectiveness is particularly important in addressing the escalating healthcare expenses that many individuals and nations are grappling with.
  • Improvement in Healthcare Outcomes
    NPs enhance patient outcomes. NPs focus on preventive care and early intervention helping to reduce the progression of diseases and complications. NPs are skilled in managing chronic conditions, which account for a significant portion of healthcare expenditures. Their expertise in coordinating care, monitoring patient progress, and adjusting treatment plans as needed results in improved health outcomes, fewer hospital readmissions, and a higher quality of life for patients.
We help patients when they have to make difficult decisions. We help provide information that they need to make those types of decisions.
Lauren, NP, Palliative Care
A Nurse Practitioner provides primary and specialty care, helping patients holistically through diagnostics, treatment and education.
What's the average salary for a Nurse Practitioner?
In the U.S., Nurse Practitioners on average make an annual salary of $107K according to 2023 data from
Woman looking at three screens with differing icons cartoon graphic
6 Key Attributes of a Career as a Nurse Practitioner
  • Higher salary
    Earn more for by having advanced skills and responsibilities.
  • Independent
    Prescribe medications, work on your own or even start your own practice, depending on the state you work in.
  • Managerial
    Oversee other nurses and help improve healthcare for all.
  • Patient-facing
    Work hands-on, directly with patients.
  • Structured
    Follow a routine that allows you to anticipate and prepare for every situation.
  • Varied
    Take on different tasks, patients, and situations every day.
The Challenges & Rewards of Being a Nurse Practitioner

My life as a Palliative Care Nurse Practitioner

Meet Lauren, a Palliative Care Nurse Practitioner, whose role involves managing chronic illnesses through whole-person care. Her path to becoming a Nurse Practitioner involved juggling full-time work and studies, motivated by the impact she knew she could make. She attends to patients in diverse environments, collaborating with healthcare teams and families.
A Day in the Life of a Palliative Care Nurse Practitioner
A Day in the Life of a Palliative Care Nurse Practitioner

Video transcript

0:06 I am a nurse.

0:08 [Speaking to patient] "How [are] you feeling today?"

0:11 I am a Palliative Care Nurse Practitioner. The type of patients I take care of have chronic illnesses. Palliative care is considered whole person care. You just connect all the specialties and everything that’s going on with a person.

0:25 [Patient speaking] "When I go get that shot—that's what makes me sick."

0:28 If they’re in pain or have nausea or if they’re short of breath, I make recommendations to their doctor and follow them for symptom management. 

0:37 My decision to become a Nurse Practitioner wasn’t an easy one. I went to school full-time, I worked full-time, and I just knew that the hard work would pay off because I'd really make a difference. We help patients when they have to make difficult decisions. We help provide information that they need to make those types of decisions.

0:57 [Speaking to patient] "Your oncologist will continue to watch that."

1:01 I take care of patients in their home, in long-term care facilities, in the hospital. I go to where the patient is.

1:08 [Speaking to doctor] "Right now, like your patient that you had last time..." 

1:11 When you take care of the patients it’s like being part of a team with the doctors, the nurses, the patients, and their families.

1:18 [Doctor speaking] "She’s very independent."

1:20 You really can make a patient feel better when they’re going through the worst time of their life.

1:28 Adam was one of my patients. He suffered a battle with Hodgkin’s disease, and he passed away. Every year, Adam's family has a memorial walk and I’m a part of that.

1:42 [Unknown speaker] "The Proceeds will benefit Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and Memorial Sloan-Kettering."

1:48 I believe in life we all take care of each other. When you take care of somebody and you’re a good person, people, in turn, take care of you. 

1:55 There absolutely is a life outside of nursing. I’m currently engaged and I’m going to be getting married next year. One of the things I love about running with my fiancé is I'm faster than him and I beat him home every time. Nursing has taught me to enjoy life, to love life, to love others, and to care for people. And you get that love and that care back.

2:25 [Unknown speaker] "...a little apprehensive about her going home." 

2:27 "Think it would be helpful if, maybe, we could arrange a family meeting..."

2:30 Palliative care has changed my life. It’s made me live a better life. I’m a daughter, I’m a sister, I’m a fiancé, I’m a friend, I’m a runner, I’m a coach. Becoming a Nurse Practitioner with the best decision I’ve made next to being a nurse.

Learn More About the Profession
Join an Organization
Become a member of a Nurse Practitioner organization to find career opportunities, learn from your colleagues, and support the profession.
Learn more about the profession at the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP).
Specialized Nurse Practitioners
  • Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP)
    Explore the rewarding role of a Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP), encompassing key responsibilities and the impact on patient care. FNPs are central to long-term, personalized healthcare, often building lasting relationships with patients.
  • Gerontological Nurse Practitioner
    A Gerontological Nurse Practitioner is a multi-disciplined primary healthcare provider who helps patients manage the physical, mental, and social effects of aging.
  • Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner
    Everything you need to know about becoming a Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (PHMNP), including a psychiatric nurse practitioner's responsibilities, education requirements, and the importance of this work in providing mental health care.
Watch: A Day in the Life of a Family Nurse Practitioner
An Oncology Nurse’s role is also patient-facing.
A Nephrology Nurse is another type of long-term care nurse.
Paying for Nursing School
Learn more about how to fund your education with nursing scholarships.
Nurse in scrubs typing on a keyboard


  • What is a Nurse Practitioner? | Source:
  • What services do Nurse Practitioners (NP) offer? | Source:
  • What does a Nurse Practitioner (NP) do? | Source:
  • Can a Nurse Practitioner (NP) prescribe medication? | Source:
  • What areas can a Nurse Practitioner (NP) specialize in? | Source:
  • What qualifications does a Nurse Practitioner (NP) need? | Source:
  • How much does a Nurse Practitioner (NP) make? | Source:
  • 6 Reasons Why Nurse Practitioners Are So Important in Healthcare | Source:

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