How to Become a Nurse Practitioner

What is a nurse practitioner?

Nurse practitioners are highly trained professionals who have taken graduate level education and ascended to the next level from being a registered nurse (RN) or licensed practical nurse (LPN). They have the capability to operate both independently, or with a physician’s practice. A good many NPs find work at clinics and hospital, where they assist individual doctors as well as entire teams.


The journey towards an NP career starts with becoming an RN nurse or an LPN / LVN nurse, from where you go for a bachelor’s degree and then onto a master’s degree. There are lots of career paths to specialize in from pediatrics to geriatrics to psychiatry, and the nurse starting salary in most regions in the US is significantly higher than the national average income (if you start with an RN qualification) – you can verify this from any established job and salary guide online.

If you’re interested in taking this career path, this in-depth guide will definitely help you out.

What does a nurse practitioner do?

how-to-become-registered-nurseNurse practitioners are a classification of APRNs or Advanced Practice Registered Nurses with clinical training and advanced education that makes them fit to provide high-level care and/or undertake tasks that regular RNs or LPNs cannot.

They are focused on specific segments of the populace, such as adult medicine, geriatrics, pediatrics, or mental health. While the rules governing this profession differ between various states, nurse practitioners are normally assigned tasks such as diagnostics, physical checkups, ordering and assessing diagnostic results and handling the treatment of patients. They are also permitted to give prescriptions within certain scopes.

Depending on the state, the nurse practitioner could work independently or under the physician supervision. With the ongoing shortage of doctors who specialize in internal medicine and primary care, many US states are starting to allow NPs to have their independent practices without any supervision from a physician.

What are the different types of nurses besides NPs, and what duties do they perform?

There are a number of different types of nursing jobs available for you to pursue in the US, depending on your level of education and experience:

What is a registered nurse and what does a registered nurse do?

how-much-does-a-nurse-makeBecoming an RN is the first step in many professional nurse’s careers, and involves getting an associate/bachelor’s degree, or a diploma from a licensed institution. Keep in mind that diplomas have diminished in popularity due to employers’ increasing preference for candidates with college degrees.

RNs perform tasks such as record maintenance, medicine administration, consulting with other healthcare professionals, patient monitoring, and educating families as well as individual patients. They are expected to stay abreast of developments in the medical field and are frequently required to assist physicians and other healthcare providers who are assigned to the patients.

What is an LPN and what is LPN job responsibilities?

Some people choose to become a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) before becoming an RN – but they still need to pass a standardized national test before getting their license, just as in the case of an RN. LPNs work with both physicians as well as RNs, performing tasks such as patient observation, vital sign measurement, fluid sample collection, intravenous medical administrations, wound dressing, patient assistance, and family training.

What is an LVN?                                                                                                                                         

Licensed Vocational Nurse (LVN) is a different name for the LPN job – LPNs are called LVNs in California and Texas.

How much does a nurse make?         

How much money does a nurse make a year – this is an important consideration when deciding whether you want to pursue this career or not – and here’s a summary to give you an idea:

How much does a registered nurse make?

The average US RN salary is $67,930 at present, converting into an hourly rate of $32.66. The highest registered nurse salary is $94,120 by state, in California.

How much does an LPN make?

The average US LVN salary / LPN salary is $42,400, translating into $20.30 per hour. Connecticut pays the highest by state, at $53,560 per annum.

How much does a nurse practitioner make?

According to the Labor Statistics Bureau, the average annual salary for NPs in May 2014 was $97,990 – more than twice the average national salary of $45,790. The highest paying mainland states for NPs are California, Alaska, and Oregon – offering over $110K a year.

How to become a nurse?

Going for an LPN/LVN qualification is the first step for most aspiring NPs:

How to become a registered nurse?

As mentioned above, to become an RN, you must enroll into a bachelor’s or associate degree program offered by an accredited higher education school, or a diploma program from an approved vocational school (not preferred these days).

Next, you have to clear the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN).

Some people go for an LVN / LPN qualification before becoming an RN:

How to become an LPN / how to become an LVN?

To become a licensed practical nurse, you must complete an education program (diploma/certification) approved by licensed-practical-nursetheir state, and then pass the National Council Licensure Examination for Practical Nurses (NCLEX-PN).

You can optionally go for additional professional development certifications such as those for long-term care, immunization, dialysis, gerontology and so on, to distinguish yourself in the practical domain.

The next step involves achieving an undergraduate and later, a graduate degree in nursing:

Go for Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree

This is a major milestone towards becoming an NP, and you can go for it directly after high school (without having to worry about how to become an LPN / LVN). Most professional choose to do those certifications for the work experience in any case, and there are specific RN-to-BSN / LPN-to-BSN bridge programs available that let you pursue a bachelor’s degree in nursing while you work.

Go for a graduate degree

Pursuing a master’s program often requires working in the field for some years, as most schools put hands-on nursing experience as a prerequisite for enrollment into their master’s programs. However, there are also options available where the students are allowed to gain RN work experience as they pursue graduate education.

Some schools admit students with RN qualifications, whereas others require a bachelor’s degree in nursing or another field related to science/health. All schools, however, require real-life RN experience in one form or the other.

Getting a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree entitles you to pursue a nurse practitioner license. However, this isn’t the ceiling, since you can go to a Doctor of Nursing Practice degree afterward, or a Ph.D. in a relevant field such as research, healthcare administration, or nursing education.

Acquire a state license and certification

After getting your graduate level degree, you must seek a license from a recognized national institute such as the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners, American Nurses Credentialing Center and the Pediatric Nursing Certification Board.

Some organizations advise NPs to seek extra qualifications related to a particular patient demographic.