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Becoming A Nurse Practitioner

Becoming A Nurse Practitioner
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With so many people looking into becoming a nurse practitioner, one of the key questions they have is how long does it take to become a nurse practitioner? We’ve compiled a helpful guide that will help you figure out how long it takes to become a nurse practitioner so you can plan your future career.


Why Become A Nurse Practitioner

Individuals are increasingly looking for a stable career path that will remain in need for the foreseeable future, and one of the most in-demand jobs of the future are nurse practitioners.

If you are a nurse already, there are plenty of great opportunities for nurses to advance their career, and one of those potential career paths is to become a nurse practitioner.

Becoming a nurse practitioner means that you can help treat patients in greater ways than a traditional nursing degree would allow. In addition, nurse practitioners receive extra education so they can provide more treatment than a regular nurse is able to.

If you have a passion for going above and beyond to help treat others to give them as much care as possible and aid them on their journey to a full recovery, then you should consider becoming a nurse practitioner.


What A Nurse Practitioner Does

Nurse practitioners help provide treatment and care in a variety of healthcare locations, such as a hospital, physician’s office, or various healthcare clinics. In addition, nurse practitioners might work in primary care or specialty care facilities that focus on family health, acute care, or pediatric care.

Nurse practitioners have the authority to order diagnostic exams, interpret diagnostic exams, diagnose health issues, perform physical exams, determine treatment plans, perform medical procedures, provide counseling services, provide necessary immunizations, and in many cases provide medication through prescriptions.

Typically, nurse practitioners will provide care that focuses on disease prevention, health education, and general care education.

As one can see, a nurse practitioner has plenty of responsibilities when dealing with a variety of patients who present their own set of challenges in providing care. As a result of these increased responsibilities, many nurse practitioners will specialize in a practice so that they become an expert in one field.

Some common specialties include dermatology, occupational health, endocrinology, and sports medicine.

Most nurse practitioners work independently, and will often work hand in hand with doctors and physicians to ensure that the treatment and care options the nurse practitioner is recommending is the best treatment plan to follow.


Nurse Practitioner Responsibilities Versus A Physician


Nurse Practitioner vs Physician - How Long Does It Take To Become a Nurse Practitioner


With so many of the responsibilities listed above being similar to a physician’s responsibilities, one might be asking what the differences are between the two.

As most nurse practitioners require an extensive education with clinical experience, many note that physicians require the same amount of education requirements. While the education is similar, it isn’t the same.

Doctors and physicians require extra courses, and extensive clinical experience. While a nurse practitioner has to have clinical experience as well, the clinical experience isn’t as extensive or as long in duration.

Physicians will take educational courses that are focused on helping treat life threatening injuries and chronic illnesses, whereas nurse practitioners won’t be required to know how to treat those complex issues.

When a nurse practitioner receives a patient that they believe to have a chronic illness or a life threatening concern, they will often recommend that the patient seek care from a physician or doctor to provide more detailed treatment plans and options.


Nurse Practitioner Misconceptions

Now that we’ve covered what a nurse practitioner does, there are a few common misconceptions to get out of the way before we can help you understand how long it takes to become a nurse practitioner.

One common misconception that nurse practitioners face is that they are just like any other nurse. While nurse practitioners are similar to nurses in many ways in that they provide care to patients, and their career paths are a direct result of plenty of nursing pathways, they aren’t just nurses.

Nurse practitioners are required to obtain additional courses and post-secondary certifications and licenses that separate them from traditional nurses. While nurses obtain a significant amount of education, nurse practitioners obtain even more education to understand general care techniques in greater detail than those of a regular nurse.

In addition, one other common misconception is that nurse practitioners can only provide care in a certain branch of nursing. This stems from the thinking that all nursing is the same, when in fact, there are so many different nursing fields available.

There are roughly 100 different nursing career specialties. And while there aren’t as many nurse practitioner specialties, nurse practitioners don’t just specialize in one specialty. As we covered above, nurse practitioners can specialize in dermatology, occupational health, endocrinology, sports medicine, and others.


Nurse Practitioner Salary Ranges


Nurse Practitioner Annual Earnings - How Long Does It Take To Become A Nurse Practitioner

One consideration many make before choosing a career path, is whether or not the occupation is financially secure. Understanding what the salary for a nurse practitioner is, is important to understand whether or not it is financially worth it to obtain the So before we break down how long it takes to become a nurse practitioner, we’re going to settle the concern for you.

Nurse practitioners generally earn between $91,486 and $107,113 annually. As a nurse practitioner, you can expect to earn between $43.98 and $51.50 hourly.

For those registered nurses who are debating on whether or not they should go back and become a nurse practitioner in their career path, we’ve also detailed the difference a typical registered nurse makes compared to a nurse practitioner.

Registered nurses typically earn between $54,620 and $81,080 annually. This means that there is a potential increase in annual earnings between $10,406 and $52,493. If you were to break down the earnings hourly, then it would potentially be an increase of $5 and $25.24.

In addition to enhanced financial compensation, one other compensation benefit to becoming a nurse practitioner is the option for bonuses and better employee benefits.


Nurse Practitioner Career Projections


Nurse Practitioner Career Job Outlook Projections - How Long Does It Take To Become A Nurse Practitioner

So now that we have covered how much you might potentially earn as a nurse practitioner to help you decide whether or not you should become a nurse practitioner, the question remains of whether or not nurse practitioners will be in need for the foreseeable future.

According to the BLS, nurse practitioners have a job outlook of 31% over the next decade. This means that their job outlook is expected to grow much faster than the average occupation over the same period of time.

In other words, those nurses who would like to enhance their career by becoming a nurse practitioner can rest assured that the need for nurse practitioners is in high demand moving forward.


How Long To Become A Nurse Practitioner

Answering the question of how long does it take to become a nurse practitioner really depends on the starting point of your career journey, as there are plenty of different pathways of becoming a nurse practitioner.

To become a nurse practitioner, every single nurse practitioner has to have relatively the same education and clinical experience backgrounds. Nurse practitioners are required to have a degree in nursing, a graduate degree in nursing, and additional certifications and state licenses.

To become a nurse practitioner, all nurse practitioners are expected to have a Bachelor’s degree in Nursing. A BSN typically takes a standard four years. After receiving their BSN, many states require a RN licensure later on if you wish to obtain a nurse practitioner license.

In other words, depending on the state, it might be best to obtain your RN licensure now, instead of holding off later.

After someone has obtained a BSN, the next step is a graduate nursing program to work towards a master’s degree program in nursing. These master’s degree programs have a focus on teaching clinical reason through the use of psychology and various research methods. In addition, these programs stress the use of clinical experience.

While working towards a master’s degree in nursing, nursing practitioners will select a specialty to study.

Some of the common nurse specialties nurse practitioners choose to study include adult, pediatric, family, clinical, or psychiatric nursing.

After a graduate program for a master’s in nursing, then individuals have to obtain state licensing. Depending on the state, certain states ask that you obtain and possess a current RN licensure before obtaining a nurse practitioner license. This means that those individuals who decided to wait to obtain their RN licensure have to get that before moving forward.

Once a registered nurse has obtained their nurse practitioner license, there are several states that also require additional certification to operate in the state for extra protection and safety standards.

Most states will also require that you obtain licenses to prescribe medicine, which is one of the core competencies of being a nurse practitioner. Many of these licenses will require separate examinations, so you cannot take them all at the same time - and are complex enough that you won’t want to take them at the same time.

Each one of these examinations and certifications/licenses require extensive amounts of studying and preparation. These examinations typically occur every 3 weeks to a month frequency, so you have to schedule and wait for these examinations in advance.

In addition, some of these certification and license exams require a certain time gap between taking the test in the future if you don’t have a passing score.

Each one of these steps to obtain the required education and license to become a nurse practitioner takes time, and the time to become a nurse practitioner can increase with some of the complications mentioned.

In order to break down the question how long does it take to become a nurse practitioner, we’ll cover the following starting points on your journey to becoming a nurse practitioner:

  • Student
  • Associate’s Degree of Nursing
  • Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing
  • Bachelor’s Degree in Other Study
  • LPN to NP
  • RN to BSN


Become A Nurse Practitioner As A Student (No Degree)


Nurse Practitioner - How long does it take to become a nurse practitioner
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If you are a student looking to become a nurse practitioner, then the estimated time to become a nurse practitioner is roughly six years. This number is relatively standard for all new students who are looking to become nurse practitioners.

Students can expect to work towards a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Nursing. From there, they then apply to graduate nursing schools. It is best for students to apply to graduate nursing schools while they are in their final year of their BSN program, so as to cut down time between programs.

If a student elects to take a semester off while working part-time and filling out graduate nursing program applications, the length of time to become a nurse practitioner increases.

One of the steps involved in getting into a master’s program of nursing requires pre-graduation tests, resume submissions, interviews, and in some cases applicable experience. The applicable experience could potentially be any clinicals you had to undergo while obtaining your BSN.

After getting into a graduate nursing school program, students will be able to determine which specialty they wish to pursue, and work towards it over the course of their education. One part of the master’s degree in nursing requires clinical experience.

During this clinical experience, students will get a first hand experience of interacting with and caring for patients. They’ll learn in depth about proper care treatment pathways, treatment procedures, and other nurse practitioner core competencies.

After completion of a graduate program in nursing, one of the requirements is to get licensed. The license needs to continually be renewed every few years, and in order to maintain the license continuing education requirements must be met.


Become A Nurse Practitioner With An Associate’s Degree in Nursing (ASN)

For those individuals who already have an ASN, their journey to becoming a nurse practitioner is already partially started, and requires an additional four years. The first step to becoming a nurse practitioner is to continue your education and achieve a BSN.

There are plenty of ASN to BSN programs available, or the recommended path is to pursue a bridge ASN to MSN with a Nurse Practitioner focus. These bridge programs ensure that you only take the recommended courses to cut down on optional courses or electives that take excess time and monetary resources.


Become A Nurse Practitioner As A Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN)


Nurse Practitioner Clinical Experience - How Long Does It Take To Become A Nurse Practitioner

If you are a licensed practical nurse or a licensed vocational nurse, you can become a nurse practitioner within four years. Typically, LPNs or LVNs require an associate’s degree or an LPN diploma. Depending upon the relevant coursework, these classes can be applied to future coursework requirements and reduce the amount of additional education needed.

In addition, as a licensed practical nurse with experience, you might be able to get around having to do extra clinical experience. Many institutions will see your valuable experience and apply it to give you credit instead of having to take separate clinical experience courses.


Become A Nurse Practitioner With A Bachelor’s Degree In Nursing (BSN)

If you already have your Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing and are looking to become a nurse practitioner after a BSN, then you only require two years of additional education and clinical experience until you are a nurse practitioner.

You can elect to obtain your registered nurse licensure, as many graduate programs will ask you to have it already - or you can apply to programs without it and obtain it later.


Become A Nurse Practitioner As A Registered Nurse (RN)


Nurse Practitioner X-Ray - How Long Does It Take To Become A Nurse Practitioner

If you are one of the nurses who took an accelerated program to becoming a registered nurse, but do not have a BSN, then you need to work towards a BSN first and then pursue a graduate degree program. Depending on your registered nurse experience or registered nurse diploma, the amount of additional education you require for a BSN will differ.

One great benefit of becoming a nurse practitioner as a registered nurse is that a lot of the required clinical experience, you already possess. Many institutions will allow you to use this vital professional experience towards your graduate program to become a nurse practitioner.

But traditionally it will take an additional 2 to 3 years of education and time before you can become a nurse practitioner.


Become A Nurse Practitioner With A Bachelor’s Degree (No Healthcare Degree)

If you have a Bachelor’s Degree in a separate concentration that isn’t a healthcare related or nursing related field, then you can still become a nurse practitioner in three years or less. Having a bachelor’s degree already means that you don’t have to take additional gen-ed courses that many individuals are required to take.

Some institutions will ask that you take a concentrated program to catch up on pre-med essentials in the healthcare industry, while others will simply enroll you into a program to get started on a Master’s Degree in Nursing right away.

Depending on the institution you choose, the time it takes to become a nurse practitioner will fluctuate based on whether or not the institution and graduate program you apply to will transfer credits from previous degrees or programs.


Summary Of Being A Nurse Practitioner

Now that we have broken down how long it takes to become a nurse practitioner, the next step is to begin your journey towards becoming a nurse practitioner. Best of luck to you when preparing your nurse practitioner career path, as it is a rewarding one with plenty of career opportunities available.


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