Certified Nurse Practitioner Career Info and Education Requirements

Nurse practitioners are primary healthcare providers who can work without the aid of a physician. A nurse practitioner commonly focuses on a specialty area, such as pediatrics, geriatrics or acute care. A master's degree in nursing and a state license is required. Certification is handled by the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC).

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Career Information

The nurse practitioner position was developed because of the inadequate numbers of physicians in the mid 1960s. Unlike registered nurses, who work under the direction of an attending physician, a nurse practitioner provides primary healthcare services to individuals and families. Job duties vary according to the area of specialization, but a nurse practitioner typically performs physical examinations, reads X-rays and laboratory results, diagnoses illnesses and provides counseling services, as well as provides references to other physicians or specialists when needed.

Some nurse practitioners prescribe medication, but this may vary according to the states in which they work. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics does not have specific job outlook data for nurse practitioners; however, a 22% increase in the employment of nurses is expected for the 2008-2018 period ( states that the median annual salary of a nurse practitioner, as of February 2010, is $87,465.

Education Requirements

A master's degree in nursing is required to become a nurse practitioner. In order to enter into a master's degree program, an applicant must first complete a bachelor's degree in nursing. Registered nurses who have an associate's or diploma in nursing must first complete a bachelor's degree before applying to a Master of Science degree program in nursing.

A nurse practitioner master's degree program often allows students to choose a focus area. Some common concentration areas include acute care, pediatrics, neonatal and family nurse practitioner.

Many Master of Science in Nursing programs can be completed in two years and the curriculum varies according to the area of concentration chosen by a student. Common courses include advanced pharmacology, physical diagnosis, counseling and interviewing, biostatistics and primary care nursing. The final semester may include a clinical that tests a student's skills and knowledge of the nurse practitioner role.

Certification Requirements

Certification can be obtained via the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC). An offshoot of the American Nurses Association (ANA), the ANCC offers certification for nurse practitioners in a variety of specialty areas. For example, certification is available for nine different nurse practitioner areas. Some of these include family nurse practitioner, pediatric nurse practitioner, gerontological nurse practitioner and adult nurse practitioner.

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Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics