How To Become a Nurse Practitioner

By Jordan Fabel •  Updated: November 15, 2021  •  8 min read  •  Health
Approved Course is reader-supported. If you buy through links on our site, we may earn a small commission.

When you learn how to become a nurse practitioner, you will become a very advanced nurse. This type of career will put you at a high level within the nursing industry. You will need plenty of training and education to become a nurse practitioner.

If you’re looking for a career that allows you to help others, this is a good choice. As a nurse practitioner, you will be able to help patients in many different ways. Before entering this career, or any career, it’s best to understand the job duties. Let’s look at what a nurse practitioner does and how you can become one.

ow To Become a Nurse Practitioner

Job Duties of a Nurse Practitioner

As a nurse practitioner (NP), you will become an advanced type of registered nurse. You will be qualified to provide both primary and specialty health care services. Some of the common job duties of a nurse practitioner include:

As a nurse practitioner, you will be able to do many things a doctor can do. It’s also possible to specialize in an area, such as geriatrics, pediatrics, or obstetrics. You can work independently and even have your own practice.

However, many nurse practitioners will work alongside physicians and other healthcare workers. They can provide a higher level of care than other nurses without supervision in many states.

How To Become a Nurse Practitioner in 6 Steps

Step #1 – Do Well in High School

You will need plenty of education to become a nurse practitioner. Doing well in high school is a great start. If you want to get into the best college programs, take as many AP or honors courses as you can and keep your GPA up.

It can also help to score high on the SAT or ACT. With a higher score, you can unlock degree programs you might not have access to with just an average score. The right SAT or ACT prep course can make a big difference.

Step #2 – Get your Bachelor’s Degree

You will need a bachelor’s degree to become a nurse practitioner. You want to make sure you get into a good nursing program and do very well. A high GPA in your nursing program can help you become a nurse practitioner.

You can start with an associate’s degree in nursing. If you take this route, you can become a registered nurse by passing the National Council Licensure Exam for Registered Nurses. It’s common to earn your associate’s degree halfway through your bachelor’s program.

Step #3 – Get Nursing Experience

It’s very valuable to gain nursing experience while you’re completing your bachelor’s degree. After completing your associate’s degree, you can work as a registered nurse and gain clinical experience. This will help you gain access to better job opportunities in the future.

Step #4 – Complete Your Master’s Degree

Even after earning your bachelor’s degree, you’re not done yet. If you want to become a nurse practitioner, you will need a master’s degree. This degree will be a Master of Science in Nursing and will take two to four years to complete.

Step #5 – Become Licensed

Every state will be a bit different but will require you to become licensed to work as a nurse practitioner. Typically, you will need a Master of Science in Nursing degree, along with a valid RN license. You will also need to complete the necessary clinical hours and pass the national certification exam.

Most nurse Practitioners will choose a specialty, which will determine the organization offering the national certification. These include:

You may need additional certifications to go along with licensing, depending on your specialty.

Step #6 – Get a Doctor of Nursing Practice Degree

You don’t need to get a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree to work as a nurse practitioner. However, this is the highest degree level for a nurse and can lead to a higher salary. It will likely take two or three years to complete this degree.

Nurse Practitioner vs. Registered Nurse

You may be wondering what the difference is between a nurse practitioner and a registered nurse. They sound similar, but they are very different. You only need an associate’s degree to become a registered nurse. Nurse practitioners need a master’s degree.

As a registered nurse, you can provide a level of care much lower than a nurse practitioner without supervision. Nurse practitioners can provide many of the same health care services as a doctor, while a registered nurse cannot.

In addition, a registered nurse will not earn nearly as high of a salary. Since nurse practitioners can provide primary care, prescribe medications, diagnose illness, and treat illness, they earn a much higher salary.

Frequently Asked Questions About Becoming a Nurse Practitioner

How much can I make as a nurse practitioner?

Listed as one of the top-paying nursing jobs on, as a nurse practitioner, you can earn an average salary of about $112K per year. It’s also common for NPs to earn some overtime pay each year making the salary even higher. Your experience level can also translate into a higher salary.

Some employers pay a significantly higher salary for nurse practitioners than others. you can earn well over $150K per year with the right employer. Your location will also help to determine your overall salary. New York, Texas, Maryland, and Georgia tend to pay a higher-than-average salary for nurse practitioners.

If you gain the right skills, you can also earn a higher salary. Mental health counseling is the top skill for nurse practitioners. It can also be very helpful to gain skills in behavioral health, acute care, and critical care.

What type of benefits do nurse practitioners often receive?

When you become a nurse practitioner, you will likely gain access to many benefits. It’s common for NPs to get health insurance with vision and dental insurance. You will also gain access to a 401(k), paid time off, a flexible schedule, and loan assistance. Some nurse practitioner positions may also provide relocation assistance or mileage reimbursement.

What type of hours will a nurse practitioner work?

The hours for a nurse practitioner may depend on your specialty. However, it’s common for an NP to work a 40-hour workweek with occasional overtime. Shifts tend to range from 8 to 12 hours, as well.

Where will I work as a nurse practitioner?

When you become a nurse practitioner, you will likely work in a clinic, hospital, emergency room, nursing home, or private physician officer. Some nurse practitioners will work for the public health department or in a school or college.

How long will it take me to become a nurse practitioner?

If you want to become an NP, you will need to get a four-year bachelor’s degree, along with a nurse practitioner master’s degree. This will likely take between six and eight years.

Will I perform surgery as a nurse practitioner?

You will not perform complex surgical procedures, but you may be able to provide some invasive treatments. It’s also common for nurse practitioners to assist before, during, and after surgery. It’s common for a nurse practitioner to spend more time with the patient before and after surgery than the surgeon or doctor.

During surgery, a nurse practitioner may assist the surgeon with opening the area, providing suction, working the laparoscopic camera, and suturing wounds.

Will I be able to deliver a baby as a nurse practitioner?

If you want to deliver babies as a nurse practitioner, you will need to gain the right level of certification. Even a registered nurse can deliver a baby if the doctor doesn’t make it into the delivery room fast enough. However, any type of nurse will need special training to deliver babies without supervision, such as a Certified Nurse-Midwife (CNM). This type of nurse is allowed to deliver babies without supervision.

Nurse practitioners can gain the necessary certification to become a certified nurse-midwife. Both NPs and CNMs require a master’s degree. If you pass the American Midwifery Certification Board examination, you can deliver babies as a nurse practitioner.

Becoming a nurse practitioner will likely provide you with a very rewarding career. Not only will you get to help people daily, but you will also be well compensated. This is one of the highest-paying careers in nursing and does require an advanced education.

If you want to work as a nurse practitioner, follow the steps for how to become a nurse practitioner above. This will lead you to a wonderful career in nursing you can enjoy for many years to come.

Jordan Fabel

Jordan Fabel

Covering different 'paths' that people's lives can take. Creative, foster parent, ticket dismissal, you get the idea. Exploring the requirements, certifications, exams, and obviously, approved courses along each path.