The Ultimate Guide to the Nurse Practitioner Career

A nurse practitioner (NP) provides primary care to patients in hospitals and other healthcare facilities. A NP is responsible for recording and analyzing a patient’s history, performing physical exams, ordering diagnostic tests, prescribing physical therapy and other similar tasks. There are two types of Nurse Practitioners: Clinical and Administrative. Within these two types are a variety of specialties to choose from such as Pediatric, Family and, Adult care, Geriatrics, Women’s Health, Neonatal, Acute care, and Occupational Health. When pursuing an MSN degree, the program choice can be broad but also very specific; it is just a matter of choosing the best specialty for the type of nursing career desired.

What are the different types of nurse practitioners?

Clinical Careers

  • Clinical Nurse Specialist: A clinical nurse specialist (CNS) is an advanced-practice nurse who provides care to a specific age group or health concern. These nurses work closely with physicians and healthcare teams to ensure comprehensive patient care.
  • Nurse Anesthetist: A certified registered nurse anesthetist (CRNA) is a trained expert with advanced skills in the organization and management of anesthetic agents. A CRNA works with surgical teams and their support staff to control patient safety and minimize pain.
  • Nurse Midwife: A certified nurse mid-wife (CNM) provides prenatal, intrapartum, and postnatal maternity care to expectant mothers. CNMs offer gynecologic examinations and often prescribe medication.
  • General Nurse Practitioner: A nurse practitioner (NP) offers patient care in various subspecialties such as cardiology, infectious diseases, rheumatology, primary care, pediatric oncology, among other areas. NPs serve as the primary care provider and can stand in for physicians.

Administrative Careers

  • Clinical Nurse Leader: A clinical nurse leader (CNL) is prepared to step into a leadership role by overseeing patient care and casework management. A nurse leader supervises other nurses and motivates staff to perform at high expectations and standards. This role contributes to the development of curriculums and clinical instruction seminars for nursing students.
  • Nurse Administrator: A nurse administrator is typically high-ranking or the head nurse at a hospital or health clinic. This role is responsible for various administrative tasks and provides managerial support to an entire department. Physicians rely on nurse administrators to manage and monitor the staff to ensure that all proper procedures are followed.
  • Nurse Educator: A certified nurse educator (CNE) has a unique role in the healthcare industry. The CNE trains new practitioners in a clinical/field setting, develops a curriculum and other instructional strategies.
  • Nurse Manager: Nurse managers are accountable for both administrative and nursing roles by directing and monitoring staff as well as managing patient care. Hospitals and other healthcare facilities depend on nurse managers to observe, compare, and identify the best practice methods. This role often handles budgets, prepares reports, and drafts manuals regarding departmental operations and procedures.

What does a nurse practitioner do?

A nurse practitioner provides diagnosis, treatment, consultation, and follow-up under the supervision of one or more physicians in the practice, depending on each state’s practice regulations. NPs provide specialty and age-appropriate medical care at the level of training completed. NPs are responsible for a number of general nursing duties including, gathering patient histories, working with doctors to order diagnostic tests, and performing routine examinations. NPs may also be in charge of tasks such as taking blood, checking vital signs, delivering meals, and maintaining records. Below are specific descriptions of various NP job duties:

  • Diagnosing: NPs can order diagnostic testing and view results to make an official diagnosis. In all states, nurse practitioners can write prescriptions, and in some states, they do not have to be under supervision of a doctor. Many facilities still rely on doctors to perform complex diagnosis, but nurse practitioners are more than qualified to make a simple diagnosis.
  • Primary Care: A NP can act as the primary caregiver when a doctor is not available. In some states, NPs must work in collaboration with a doctor, but in other states, this is not required. That means that you could even open your own practice as a nurse practitioner in some locations. An NP specializes in one area of medicine, like oncology or geriatrics, so the care given specifically depends on their specialty.
  • Medical Recordkeeping: With any medical facility, there is a lot of paperwork that needs to be completed. NPs are responsible for maintaining patient records and writing reports, among other things. Paperwork is one of the most important duties of an NP because incorrect paperwork can lead to dangerous drug interactions, an incorrect diagnosis, and other patient mix ups.
  • Management: Many NPs assume management positions at a hospital or healthcare facility. For example, an NP can work as a nurse manager which involves the supervision and scheduling of staff and overall department administration.

What are the requirements to become a nurse practitioner?

The most common requirements to become a nurse practitioner include a minimum of a master’s degree in advanced nursing, a valid RN license, and passing a national certification or state-issued examination. Many states require continuing education classes or maintenance of a national certification to renew a license, and some states require nurse practitioners to obtain special licensing in order to prescribe medication. Below are the required steps to becoming a nurse practitioner:

  1. Earn a Nursing Degree- Completion of an undergraduate degree program prepares students for entry level positions in clinical settings.
  2. Become a Registered Nurse (RN)- Each state requires a practicing nurse to have an RN license.
  3. Complete an MSN degree in Nursing- RNs with a bachelor’s degree who are interested in becoming NPs can qualify for the position by earning a master’s or doctoral degree in nursing.
  4. Obtain an Advance Practice Nurse Licensure- Most states require additional licensure for advanced practice nurses. In addition to an NP license, others within this field include clinical nursing, nurse anesthetics, and nursing midwifery.
  5. Obtain Specialized Certification- The successful completion of a graduate degree program and licensure requirements prepare graduates to sit for certification examinations specific to their careers.

How much do nurse practitioners make?

Salaries vary depending on the area of practice, work location, and employer. For example, an acute or intensive care nurse commands a higher wage than non-specialist RNs. Below are the median salaries of some of the most common and sought-after nursing careers:

  • Clinical Nurse Specialist- $62,985 – $106,133
  • Nurse Anesthetist- $80,123 – $171,695
  • Nurse Midwife- $67,222 – $100,640
  • General Nurse Practitioner- $57,810 – $100,289
  • Clinical Nurse Leader- $76,000
  • Nurse Administrator- $77,000
  • Nurse Educator- $73,000
  • Nurse Manager- $80,000


MSN programs provide students the core foundation and knowledge necessary to be successful and advance in their field. Becoming a nurse practitioner opens many doors and provides numerous career opportunities. Visit our list of accredited schools and degrees to find an MSN program that meets your needs, and begin your career training today.

Featured Nurse Practitioner Programs

Purdue University

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