How to Become a General Nurse Practitioner
Duties, Responsibilities, Requirements, Certifications, Job Outlook, and Salary
A career in nursing can be both personally and financially rewarding. Although financial compensation may not be the most important factor when choosing a nursing specialty, you should at least be familiar with a few of the highest-paid nursing categories before making your decision.
Whether you’re a seasoned nurse or a recent nursing school graduate, you should consider all the available options for advancing your healthcare career.
(Click here to see our full list of best paying nursing jobs).
This guide offers a deeper look into one of the highest-paid nursing jobs in the United States, the General Nurse Practitioner (NP).
In addition to higher wages, Nurse Practitioners reap other benefits as well. These include greater responsibility and autonomy, as well as increased job demand for their unique set of skills and expertise. As part of an advanced nursing profession, for example, Nurse Practitioners can often serve as primary care providers for many of their patients.
Continue reading our comprehensive career guide to learn more about the requirements, responsibilities, training, and average salaries of General Nurse Practitioners.
General Nurse Practitioner Definition
What Is a Nurse Practitioner?
The role of a General Nurse Practitioner can be defined as an Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN) who may perform duties like those of a family doctor.
General NPs have the education and skillset to examine patients independently. They might prescribe medications, diagnose illnesses, or recommend alternative treatment options. In addition, they can interpret diagnostic lab tests.
While some states allow Nurse Practitioners to work independently, others require them to work under direct supervision or in collaboration with a physician.
General Nurse Practitioner Requirements
How to Become a Nurse Practitioner
To become a General Nurse Practitioner, you must earn a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree and a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree.
Although it’s not required, some Nurse Practitioners also hold a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree.
Nurse Practitioners must also obtain national certification in a patient population focus as well as state APRN licensure.
Nurse Practitioner Job Requirements
A typical Nurse Practitioner position may include the following job requirements:
- Earn an undergraduate nursing degree. Students coming from fields other than nursing can meet this requirement through accelerated programs that include both undergraduate and graduate-level training.
- Become an RN by passing the NCLEX-RN.
- Complete a graduate nursing degree.
- Obtain an advanced practice nursing license.
- Obtain certification in a specific patient population focus.
Becoming a General Nurse Practitioner Might Be a Good Fit for You If…
- You like working with people and enjoy helping others
- You do not want to sit at a desk all day and prefer physical activity
- You are interested in healthcare, specifically patient care
- You possess strong interpersonal and communication skills
- You have a detail-oriented nature
- You are a critical thinker with compassion, resourcefulness, and leadership skills
General Nurse Practitioner Duties & Responsibilities
What Does a Nurse Practitioner Do?
Nurse Practitioner responsibilities vary by state and by specialization.
Each state regulates the scope of services that can be delivered by a Nurse Practitioner. Some states grant Nurse Practitioners a great deal of autonomy, while other states may insist that NPs work under licensed physicians or limit the types of medications they can prescribe.
Common tasks for most NPs include conducting check-ups, refilling prescriptions, requesting lab tests, and determining treatments for health issues like infections or hypertension. If necessary, NPs can also refer patients to a specialist.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), Advanced Practice Registered Nurses typically perform the following tasks:
- Recording patients’ medical histories and symptoms
- Performing physical exams
- Creating patient care plans or contributing to existing ones
- Performing (or ordering) diagnostic exams
- Operating medical equipment
- Diagnosing various health problems
- Analyzing test results
- Administering patient medications and treatments
- Monitoring patient’s condition during and after treatment
- Collaborating with doctors and other healthcare professionals, as needed
- Counseling patients and their families on staying healthy or managing their health conditions
Where Do Nurse Practitioners Work?
Any organization that provides healthcare services may hire a Nurse Practitioner. This means that NPs can work in a variety of healthcare facilities, including the following work environments:
- Nursing homes and assisted living facilities
- Offices of physicians
- Hospice services
Nurse Practitioner Hours
Like most nursing specialties, the hours of a General Nurse Practitioner will depend on their employer, location, and work setting. For example, NPs who work in schools or private offices may only be required to work a standard 9 to 5 schedule.
However, NPs who work in hospitals or specialty clinics may have to work weekends and night shifts, while others may need to be on call 24/7.
Nurse Practitioner’s Uniform
General NPs often wear scrubs to safely accomplish their job duties. Depending on the workplace setting, they may also wear white lab coats.
Healthcare employers will usually outline these requirements for each Nurse Practitioner.
General Nurse Practitioner Education
What Training Is Required to Become a Nurse Practitioner?
To become a Nurse Practitioner, you must earn a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree and receive a Nurse Practitioner’s license.
Although certification requirements may differ by state, an MSN degree is considered the minimum degree requirement for all Nurse Practitioners.
For aspiring NPs who have a non-nursing bachelor’s degree but would like to earn the MSN, some schools offer a Master’s Entry Program in Nursing (MEPN), allowing them direct entry into a Master’s program.
Steps to Becoming a General Nurse Practitioner
Step 1: Earn an associate or BSN degree in nursing.
Step 2: Pass the NCLEX-RN certification exam to become a licensed Registered Nurse (RN).
Step 3: Earn your graduate degree in nursing.
Step 4: Obtain the advanced practice nursing license.
Step 5: Acquire certification in a specific patient population focus.
General Nurse Practitioner Programs
To understand the core curriculum of a Nurse Practitioner program, you should look at nursing courses that fall under the Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree, as this is the requisite education you must receive to become a General NP.
An MSN degree builds on theories and skills learned in undergraduate classes, so applicants are typically required to fulfill some prerequisite requirements.
To be accepted into an MSN program, candidates are typically required to submit several standard application materials, such as academic transcripts, GRE scores, personal essays, and letters of recommendation.
Common course topics may include applied statistics, human anatomy, and general chemistry.
Many MSN programs may also include the following course topics:
- Anatomy and Physiology
- Advanced Pharmacology
- Clinical Assessment
- Advanced Practice Geriatric, Pediatric, Adult, and Newborn Nursing
- Nursing Ethics
- Nursing Informatics
- Evidence-Based Practice
- Public Health
General Nurse Practitioner School Cost
As previously mentioned, you must earn a master’s degree to become a Nurse Practitioner.
Tuition costs for MSN-degree programs are usually listed on a per-credit-hour basis, ranging anywhere from $500 to $1,000 (or more) per credit.
The below factors should be considered before you enroll in an MSN program:
- If tuition costs include expenses like books, program fees, or other mandatory fees
- If the schools offer some form of financial aid
- If your Nurse Practitioner salary will be enough for you to pay down your student debt while also providing enough for you to live comfortably. The average General Nurse Practitioner earns an average salary of about $121,000 per year (BLS).
General Nurse Practitioner Licensure
According to the BLS, state requirements for APRNs can vary. However, APRNs must usually have an RN license, complete an accredited graduate-level program, pass a national certification exam, and have an APRN license. For more details, be sure to visit your state’s board of nursing.
General Nurse Practitioner Certification
To become licensed and use an APRN title, most states require national certification.
The BLS provides the following information:
- There are several different certifications for Nurse Practitioners, including those available from the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners Certification Board (AANPCB), the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC), and the Pediatric Nursing Certification Board (PNCB). Each of these certifications requires periodic renewal.
- In addition, APRN positions may require cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), basic life support (BLS), or advanced cardiac life support (ACLS) certification.
When it comes to national NP certification, you should consider options that reflect your specialization. A few examples include emergency care, mental health, pediatrics, and gerontology.
Some of these certifications may come from organizations like the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (AACN), American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP), and National Certification Corporation (NCC).
Certifications may require fieldwork, an application fee, and a standardized examination, but specific requirements often vary.
How Long Does It Take to Become a Nurse Practitioner?
The estimated time commitment to become a General Nurse Practitioner could take anywhere from four to seven years, depending on your level of nursing education and prior experience.
For example, your BSN degree could take about three to four years to complete. Current RNs, however, can enroll in an RN-to-BSN program, which can take as little as 12 months to complete.
The time it takes to earn your master’s degree from an accredited program also depends on your starting point. If you already have your bachelor’s degree—whether it has a nursing or a non-nursing concentration—you can earn your Master of Science in Nursing degree in about two years.
You must also earn your advanced practice nursing license before applying for certification in a specific patient population focus.
General Nurse Practitioner’s Salary
How Much Does a Nurse Practitioner Make?
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the average salary of a General Nurse Practitioner is $121,000 per year (or $58.02 per hour).
General NPs can earn anywhere from $79,000 to over $163,000 per year.
Nurse Practitioner Salary Range
|Salary Percentile||10%||Median Salary||90%|
Specialization can make a significant difference in your salary. To put this in perspective, Registered Nurses (RNs) earn an average yearly salary of $77,600 (BLS).
It’s important to remember that a Nurse Practitioner’s pay can be influenced by their employer and location, as well as their level of experience.
Highest Paying Industries for Nurse Practitioners
Here is a list of occupational settings where some Nurse Practitioners might work, ranked in order of average salary:
|Industry||Average Hourly Wage||Average Salary|
|Accounting, Tax Preparation, Bookkeeping, and Payroll Services||$71.62||$148,980|
|Business, Professional, Labor, Political, and Similar Organizations||$64.33||$133,800|
|Home Healthcare Services||$64.03||$133,170|
|Psychiatric and Substance Abuse Hospitals||$63.38||$131,830|
|Outpatient Care Centers||$62.11||$129,190|
Your city or state of residence can also affect your salary as a nurse practitioner.
Highest Paying States for Nurse Practitioners
Below are some of the highest-paying states for nurse practitioners, taken directly from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
|State||Average Hourly Wage||Average Salary|
Highest Paying Cities for General Nurse Practitioners
Here are the highest-paying cities for nurse practitioners:
|City||Average Hourly Wage||Average Salary|
|San Jose, CA||$95.13||$197,870|
|San Francisco, CA||$85.18||$177,160|
|Yuba City, CA||$76.57||$159,260|
|San Luis Obispo, CA||$73.70||$153,300|
|Santa Rosa, CA||$73.15||$152,150|
|Santa Cruz, CA||$72.25||$150,280|
General Nurse Practitioner Job Outlook
Nurse Practitioner Jobs in the Years Ahead
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), overall employment of Nurse Anesthetists, Nurse Midwives, and Nurse Practitioners is expected to increase 40 percent by 2031 (BLS).
The BLS has identified various factors for this projected increase. They mainly include an increased emphasis on preventive care, and a greater demand for healthcare services from the aging population. In addition, some states are changing their laws regarding APRN practice authority. This will allow certain APRNs to perform more services and act as a source for primary healthcare.
As stated by the BLS:
“About 30,200 openings for Nurse Anesthetists, Nurse Midwives, and Nurse Practitioners are projected each year, on average, over the decade… Overall, job opportunities for Advanced Practice Registered Nurses are likely to be excellent. APRNs will be in high demand, particularly in medically underserved areas such as inner cities and rural areas.”
Why Pursue a Career as a Nurse Practitioner
As with all the specializations in our list of top nursing careers, Nurse Practitioners fill a vital role in the healthcare field. They receive a generous salary, and in many places, they can perform some of the same duties and responsibilities as a physician.
Furthermore, Nurse Practitioners always have the option to use their APRN credentials to move into managerial or administrative roles later in their careers; others may choose to go into academia. Nurse Practitioners who earn a doctoral degree may even conduct independent research or work on an interprofessional research team.
Compared to Registered Nurses, General NPs typically have greater authority, higher salaries, and more job opportunities.
If you’re an aspiring nurse but don’t know where to begin, you can earn your BSN degree or enroll in one of several nursing programs at Unitek College, Eagle Gate College, or Provo College.