Is Becoming a Nurse Practitioner Worth It?
RNs may wonder if an online master's in nursing is worth the investment of time and effort. Only you can determine the value of continuing your education based on your personal goals and circumstances, but becoming an NP may enable you to engage in more specialized work that you find rewarding. It's also likely to result in higher pay, and it may prepare you for managerial positions with greater responsibility and more opportunities to improve healthcare in your community. Of course, practicing NPs face the same physical and mental challenges as RNs, working long shifts on their feet and making potentially stressful decisions that affect patients' health.
You'll also want to consider the pros and cons of enrolling in an online NP program. Online MSN programs are specifically designed for working professionals. While some offer the ease and flexibility of accessing course materials and completing assignments on your own timetable, many online NP classes are synchronous, meaning that virtual lectures must be attended on a prescribed schedule. Also, most online NP programs require students to visit the campus two or three times over the course of a program, which may add to the cost of the degree.
Is a Nursing Degree a Good Fit for Me?
If you're a compassionate, resourceful person who enjoys assisting and caring for others and has an aptitude for problem-solving, nursing may be a good fit for you. The U.S. Department of Labor notes that nurses require strong skills in interpersonal communication, reading comprehension, and locating and documenting information. NPs who provide clinical care also need extensive knowledge in biology and medicine, and those with managerial responsibilities must be able to coordinate work schedules, monitor resources, and mentor others.
If you're a compassionate, resourceful person who enjoys assisting and caring for others and has an aptitude for problem-solving, nursing may be a good fit for you.
How To Become a Nurse Practitioner
Becoming an NP — one type of Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN) — begins with earning a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN). RNs who have already earned a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) may apply to any NP program. RNs with associate degrees in nursing can also apply, but they may need to complete several prerequisite or "bridge" courses in addition to the full MSN curriculum.
Once students have earned their MSN to become an NP and completed their state requirement for practicum hours, they can apply for state licensure and national certification, both of which require comprehensive exams. Each state's nursing board has its own criteria for licensure, so students should check their state's website for full details. Certification varies depending on a student's area of specialization. For example, Family Nurse Practitioners (FNPs) can pursue certification through either the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners or the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC), while NPs who specialize in working with older adults can earn certification through the Gerontology Nursing Certification Commission or the ANCC. Both state licensure and certification need to be renewed periodically.
Nurse Practitioner Specialties
Students enrolled in NP programs must choose an area of specialization. Some NPs focus on patients within a particular age group — the most popular of which is the FNP — but there are other possibilities as well. The most common specializations are as follows:
Family (individual adults and families)
Gerontology (adults, especially older adults)
Women (women and patients who identify as female)
Neonatal (newborn babies)
Psychiatric and mental health patients
Especially for those students focused on older adults and children, coursework may further specialize in providing acute or primary care. Primary care training involves assisting patients with routine medical care, including treatment for chronic conditions, while acute care training focuses on assisting patients who need immediate medical attention for acute illnesses.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, NPs have a bright job outlook. As of 2020, the median annual wage for NPs was $111,680, and the demand for all APRNs is projected to expand by 45% through 2030, which is significantly higher than the 8% average for all occupations. The BLS notes that the aging population in the U.S. is causing a growing demand for healthcare services, and the pandemic has contributed to the need for more nurses. Because NPs can provide many of the same services as doctors, they are becoming an increasingly important component of the team-based approach adopted by many healthcare providers.
The aging population in the U.S. is causing a growing demand for healthcare services, and the pandemic has contributed to the need for more nurses.
APRNs who would like to leave clinical practice and focus exclusively on administrative work in the healthcare industry may want to consider becoming a medical and health services manager. A master's degree may be an advantage in obtaining this job, which has a median annual salary of $104,280 and projected growth of 32% through the end of the decade.