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How to Become a Nurse Practitioner

A degree may open the door to a variety of opportunities and diverse career paths. The degree programs offered at CTU will not necessarily lead to the featured careers. This collection of articles is intended to help inform and guide you through the process of determining which level of degree and types of certifications align with your desired career path.

To become a Nurse Practitioner, a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) is required. It's also required to become licensed. This can be done by passing the NCLEX & ANCC exams.

If pursuing specialization in the field of nursing, you might consider the path of a nurse practitioner (NP). A nurse practitioner is a type of advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) who has additional training that enables them to serve as primary care providers with or without the supervision of a doctor. They may keep their practice general or specialize in areas such as anesthesia, geriatrics, psychiatry or family nursing. An NP’s daily activities may be similar to those of doctors, typically working in hospital and clinical health care settings and performing tasks such as diagnosing, providing primary care, medical record keeping and management.1 As a result, nurse practitioners must attend school for a number of years longer than registered nurses (RNs) in addition to embodying a particular set of qualities.

Skills and Characteristics

Nurse practitioners are required to carry out all the typical duties of a registered nurse working in a specialized field. These tasks can include collecting patient information, ordering and evaluating test results, specialist referrals, and diagnosing and treating injuries or illnesses. Additionally, they may provide primary care and consultation, offer diagnosis, perform treatment, prescribe medicine, deliver specialty care and administer hospital managerial positions. They may also specialize in a specific area such as oncology, the study of cancer.1

Nurse practitioners must possess a number of key personal qualities. They should have a strong sense of compassion and good interpersonal and communication skills to deal with patients effectively. It's important that they know relevant math and science and are able to both problem solve and think analytically. Self-confidence and strong leadership skills also serve well in this career.2

Required Education

To make the transition from registered nurse to nurse practitioner, NPs must attend school for several more years than RNs. They must first become an RN and keep their license in good standing. Then, if they do not already have one, the RN should complete a BSN program to earn their Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree. Afterward, they must earn a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN).2 Graduate coursework may include classes on topics such as pathophysiology and pharmacology as well as clinical rotation hours. Nurse practitioners may take coursework to specialize in a wide variety of areas, including acute care, anesthesia, family health, gerontology health, pediatrics, psychiatric/mental health, neonatal, oncology and women’s health.3

Certifications and Licenses

ARPNs, including nurse practitioners, must earn at least a master’s degree in a specialty role. NPs must also be licensed registered nurses in the state and pass a national certification exam. Certification is required in most states to use an ARPN title and is used to show proficiency in a nurse anesthetist, nurse midwife or nurse practitioner role.4

Job Market and Salary

In May 2016, there were 150,230 nurse practitioners in the United States.5 The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that the employment of nurse anesthetists, nurse midwives and nurse practitioners will grow at a rate of 31% from 2014 to 2024.6

This accelerated growth is expected to be driven by rising demand for health care services due to legislative health care reforms and a growing emphasis on preventive care. They will also be needed to keep aging baby boomers healthy and to assist patients with chronic and acute conditions, suggests the BLS.7 Demand is expected to be high in inner cities and rural areas. States with high published numbers of employment for nurse practitioners are New York, California, Florida, Texas and Ohio. Metropolitan areas with the highest level of employment of nurse practitioners are led by New York, Boston, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C. and Atlanta.5

What to Expect on a Day-to-Day Basis

Post nurse practitioners work in a wide variety of healthcare settings, including physicians’ offices, hospitals and outpatient care centers.6 Nurse practitioners working in administrative or clinical areas tend to have a routine Monday through Friday work schedule. Those working in hospitals have varying day, evening and weekend scheduling, and may work in shifts to provide patients with round-the-clock care.2

A nurse practitioner’s or other ARPN’s primary job duties may include taking patient history, performing physical exams, ordering diagnostic tests, diagnosing health problems, and giving patients medicine. They may also be responsible for evaluating a patient’s response to treatments, consulting with doctors and healthcare professionals, counseling patients and families on managing illnesses or injuries, and conducting research.1

The daily activities of nurse practitioners can vary depending on their specialty job description. However, what remains constant is a nurse practitioner’s ability to specialize in providing individualized, all-encompassing care.2

Accredited BSN Degree Program

The Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree program at Colorado Technical University is accredited by the Commission of Collegiate Nursing Education. ( The program is designed to make the most of prior nursing education, certification and experience. Learn more about CTU’s nursing degree programs.

1. "What Nurse Anesthetists, Nurse Midwives, and Nurse Practitioners Do." Retrieved from: (Visited 6/13/17).
2. "Nurse Practitioner." Retrieved from: (Visited 6/12/17).
3. "What’s an NP?” Retrieved from: (Visited 6/12/17).
4. “How to Become a Nurse Anesthetist, Nurse Midwife, or Nurse Practitioner.” Retrieved from: (Visited 6/14/17).
5. "Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2016: 29-1171 Nurse Practitioners." Retrieved from (Visited 6/13/17). This data represents national figures and is not based on school-specific information. Conditions in your area may vary.
6. "Nurse Anesthetists, Nurse Midwives, and Nurse Practitioners." Retrieved from: (Visited 6/12/17). This data represents national figures and is not based on school-specific information. Conditions in your area may vary.
7. “Job Outlook.” Retrieved from: (Visited 6/14/17). This data represents national figures and is not based on school-specific information. Conditions in your area may vary.

For important information about the educational debt, earnings, and completion rates of students who attended this program, go to CTU cannot guarantee employment or salary. Not all programs are available to residents of all states. Financial aid is available for those who qualify.
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