Nurse Practitioner FAQ
or "How to Become a Nurse Practitioner"

What kinds of Nurse Practitioners are there?

The following are generally recognized (or certified) nurse practitioner specialties: Family NPs, Pediatric NPs, Adult NPs, Geriatric NPs, Women's Health Care NPs, Neonatal NPs, Acute Care NPs, Occupational Health NPs, Certified Nurse Midwives, and Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists.

How much schooling is required to become an NP?

Becoming an NP generally requires a Master's Degree in Nursing. Normally, someone who wants to be an NP will first attend an undergraduate school of nursing, where they will be awarded a Baccalaureate degree in nursing, and also obtain licensure as a registered nurse. They then generally work for a period of two or more years prior to their entry into an NP program. The NP program itself will vary in length from 1-2 academic years, depending on the nature of the program and the school which is chosen.

Do I have to go to Nursing School first?

There are some programs available for individuals who have completed a Baccalaureate degree, but who are not registered nurses. These programs are longer in length than the standard Master's program, result in eligibility for licensure as a registered nurse, and also for eligibility in sitting for the certification boards as an NP. Generally these programs are very selective in which candidates they will take for entry into their programs.

What are job conditions like for NPs?

The conditions on the job vary based on the type of specialty that the NP practices in. With the exception of Acute Care NP and Neonatal NP, which are usually hospital-based practices, and which may require rotating shifts to provide coverage in the hospital during days, evenings and nights, or which may require being on-call to go into the hospital, the majority of NP positions are ambulatory care positions, where the NP works in an outpatient setting seeing their patients. The settings however, can be quite varied, and may include doing house calls in rural areas to a standard pediatric or family practice office, such as most of us are familiar with.

What are the possible pros and cons of this job?

To quote Margaret Fitzgerald, "Welcome to the best job on earth!" Being an NP is a wonderful opportunity to help individuals achieve their optimal potential health. The job is diverse, ever-challenging, and ever-changing. The cons: the job is diverse, ever-challenging, and ever-changing. The level of stress, especially for novice clinicians, can be very high, as a decision which you make may significantly impact a person's health and well-being. This can result in continuing high levels of anxiety. It is a position which requires a great deal of autonomy, decision-making ability, logical reasoning, and the ability to reach a conclusion on what to do under what may be difficult circumstances.

What kind of earnings potential do NPs have?

The earnings potential of NPs vary be geographic location, by practice site and specialty. A sample of salaries can be found on this web site in our Salary Summary.

What types of hours do NPs work?

The answer to this question is as varied as the number of NPs. In general, being an NP is not considered a 9 to 5 job. Time may be spent being on call in order to take care of patients who require care and consultation after normal business hours. There is time spent attending conferences, and reading research in journals so as to keep up with the changes in the field.

For more information on becoming a Nurse Practitioner, please visit the following links: