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Should You Become a Nurse Practitioner?

If you want to enter the medical profession, you may have thought seriously about becoming a nurse. According to employment predictions from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, registered nurses are the second-fastest growing occupation in the United States. High demand for qualified nurses is a great reason to pursue a specific area of employment, but becoming a nurse has a number of additional benefits.

Job security, fulfillment after a day of work and a variety of career workplaces are all reasons to consider becoming a nurse. To secure the top positions in this field, find out how to become a nurse practitioner, what this job entails, what salaries are typical and where nurse practitioners can find employment.

Quick Facts: Nursing Industry
Median Pay:   $105,256 per year | $51 per hour
Entry-Level Education:   Associate's degree
Work Experience:   None
Number of Jobs, 2014:   2,915,000

Nursing Occupations:

  • Registered nurses$66,640
  • Nurse anesthetists$153,780
  • Nurse practitioners$95,350

What Do Nurse Practitioners Do?

Before you dive into this career choice, aspiring nurses should get a realistic picture of what nurse practitioners do on a daily basis. In many ways, nurse practitioners, also called Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRN), are the middle ground between doctors and registered nurses. They perform duties like taking down patient histories and learning about symptoms, but they also go one step further and diagnose patients or help them implement strategies for coping with medication or treatment. Nurse practitioners often work alongside doctors, and they may ask for help or collaboration when necessary. Nurse practitioners are often able to spend more time than doctors with each patient, which allows for a better relationship and a less stressful appointment.

What Degrees Do Nurse Practitioners Require?

In order to become one of the many nurse practitioners in the United States, you will need to have a master's degree in an accredited APRN program. This program typically takes anywhere from one to two years to complete, and it will end with a formal exam in order to be a certified practitioner in the field. When applying for a position in this master's degree, there are several prerequisites required. All applicants should already have a four-year bachelor's degree in a related medical or science field as well as scores from the MCAT exam. In addition, some university programs ask that students already have some working experience as a nurse, although that will depend on the location where you choose to study. Some of the topics that you might study while pursuing this master's degree are health promotion, pharmacology, pathophysiology and behavior complexity.

What is the Average Salary For Nurse Practitioners?

Since nurses are in high demand throughout the nation, the salary for nurse practitioners is impressive. As of May 2012, the annual median salary for nurse practitioners in the United States was $89,960. The specific salary can range substantially depending on the specific geographic location and number of years of experience a nurse has, but the career has significant earning potential for those who have the necessary education. The industries where registered nurses were able to command the highest overall average salaries were in private physician's offices, in surgical hospitals and in outpatient care centers.

Where Do Nurse Practitioners Work?

If you can think of a medical facility of any kind, there is a good chance that nurse practitioners work there. The nursing industry is an incredibly large field that cares for hundreds of millions of people each year, so it should come as no surprise that nurse practitioners play such an integral role. Nurse practitioners work in places that you might expect, such as hospitals, private practices, clinics and urgent care centers, but they can also be employed in schools, colleges, sports stadiums, nursing homes and even amusement parks. While many nurse practitioners are able to secure employment with a more traditional schedule, it is also quite common to have longer or overnight shifts in some health care facilities.

What is the Predicted Job Growth For Nurse Practitioners?

Perhaps one reason that so many students are interested in this particular medical career is because of the job security that is forecast. According to the BLS, an additional 37,100 nurse practitioners will be hired in the next decade, and that is in addition to those who are hired to replace retiring nurses. This is a 34 percent increase in the demand for nurse practitioners, which is a great thing for those who want this career for their future. High growth in a field translates to more job opportunities after graduation, the flexibility to choose between several job offers and the potential to earn more money than in more competitive job markets. If career stability is a big factor in choosing your future employment, this job may be the right fit for you.

What Are Some Characteristics of the Top Nurse Practitioners?

In order to become one of the top nurse practitioners in your field, there are some things that are non-negotiable. However, even after earning a master's degree and spending years gaining experience in the field, there are some traits that simply make a person more cut out for the job. The best nurse practitioners are typically very independent, and they can operate well without instruction. This is key as many nurse practitioners only check in with their supervising doctors if there is an unusual problem or circumstance with a patient. Nurse practitioners should also be compassionate and patient. Although hearing routine symptoms from a patient might not seem extraordinary, it can be a big event for the person having the appointment. Finally, some of the best nurse practitioners are great communicators, detail-oriented and focused.

If become a nurse practitioner is something that truly interests you, then the first step will be earning a master's degree in the field. With that certification, you can pursue employment in a variety of medical facilities throughout the country. Find out more about earning your degree online to further your career.