How to Become a Nurse Practitioner in USA?

Samarpita Goswami
Updated on Sep 21, 2022 11:12 AM IST

Nurse Practitioners make up a large portion of medical professionals in the USA. Check out how to become a nurse practitioner in USA aong with top colleges, job opportunities and salary offered.

How to Become a Nurse Practitioner in USA?
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Nurse practitioners (NPs) contribute majorly to the US healthcare ecosystem. American Association of Colleges of Nursing notes that nursing is the largest healthcare profession. The federal government projects that more than 200,000 new nursing positions will be open each year between 2021 and 2026.

NP certification is for advancement in the nursing career. A nurse practitioner can uniquely blend clinical experience with personalised care. They play an important role in every healthcare setting, be it a private-owned practice or a large multi-state healthcare system.

 The best NPs are those who are compassionate and understanding and have a knack for solving complex problems while helping patients. Nurse practitioners provide preventive and holistic care while treating acute and chronic problems. Through this article, we will acquaint you with the profession of a nurse practitioner, their activities, steps to become an NP, top universities and salaries in the US.

Study Nursing in USA!

Highlights of Nurse Practitioner in USA

The overview of nurse practitioner is given below:

Key Parameters



Master of Science Nursing, Doctor of Nursing Practice

Course Duration

MSN -18-24 months

DNP- 2 to 3 years

Top Universities

Duke University, Vanderbilt University, University of San Francisco-California

Average Salary (per year)

USD 120,680

What is Nurse Practitioner in USA?

A nurse practitioner is a registered nurse with advanced practice, who has completed a nurse practitioner schooling while earning a Master’s of Science in Nursing (MSN) or Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree. NPs can serve as primary or speciality care providers. They can operate individually or under the guidance of a physician.

They can exercise more authority than registered nurses and have similar responsibilities and duties as doctors. Their focus is typically on a specific part of the population namely families, children or the elderly. It is important for nurse practitioners to consider what speciality interests them and in what organisational setting they want to work.

Different medical specialities have different options for nurse practitioners. The most common types of NPs are family nurse practitioners, adult acute care nurse practitioners, neonatal nurse practitioners, psychiatric nurse practitioners, pediatric nurse practitioners and women’s health nurse practitioners.

Nurse Practitioner Vs Registered Nurse in the US

The differences between nurse practitioners and registered nurses are crucial and it is necessary to be well aware of them.


Nurse Practitioner

Registered Nurse


Master’s or Doctoral degree in nursing

Associate degree or Bachelor’s degree


More autonomy and responsibilities

Less autonomy and responsibilities


Diagnose and deliver treatment plan

Monitor patients, maintain records and assist physicians

Work Setting

Private practice or community clinic settings

Hospitals or surgical clinics

What do Nurse Practitioners in US Do?

The services of nurse practitioners depend on the area of their service and the rules and regulations of the place where they practice. NPs are generally entrusted with the following services:

  • Nurse practitioners can provide primary and emergency care to patients.

  • They can order and perform diagnostic tests and record physical histories.

  • They can provide treatment for acute and chronic conditions.

  • NPs have the authority to prescribe medicines and develop patient treatment plans.

  • They also evaluate patients’ responses to treatment plans and make adjustments as necessary.

  • They can provide mental health counselling and health education related to healthy life choices and prevention of pain and injury.

Steps to Becoming a Nurse Practitioner in USA

290,000 licenses were provided to nurse practitioners in 2020 and the popularity of the degree is quite comprehensible. Nurse practitioners need to complete a few steps before they can gain their license:

Earn a Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing

The first crucial step to being a nurse practitioner is to earn a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). The curriculum of BSN includes anatomy, mental health, pharmacology, pathophysiology, statistics and more. Apart from the clinical component, courses are designed to teach various skills related to communication, management, research, supervision and community health.

Entering a BSN degree right after high school is the best beginning to attain a post-secondary degree for a nurse practitioner. However, it is often seen that they first gain work experience and earn a Licensed Practioner Nurse diploma or associate degree in Nursing.

Become a Registered Nurse (RN)

After getting bachelor's degree in nursing, one has to become a registered nurse. A standardised national examination, National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN), needs to be cracked to get a license as a nurse from the nursing regulatory body. The test assesses a knowledge and critical thinking skills related to nursing.

 After that, an RN license has to be obtained to practice in the state One has to also meet the requirements of the US state in which they intend to practice. 

Gain Work Experience

Some registered nurses like to have a few years of work experience in their kitty before moving on to a graduate degree. Getting clinical experience makes them more prepared as front-line health workers as registered nurses before gaining more advanced degrees like NP or APRN.

Registered nurses acquire skills such as addressing patient problems, working effectively on cases and different medical and health environments and learning to work with physicians and a team of experts from medical fields. Being an RN also helps in 

Enrol in a Graduate Programme

After acquiring experience, it is necessary to enrol in a graduate program in nursing to be a nurse practitioner. Some US universities make it mandatory for students to have clinical experience before enrolling on the program. Nursing schools accept RNs with an associate or diploma degree for graduate programs whereas others have set bachelors of Nursing or BSN as pre-requisite.

A Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) is the minimum degree required to be a nurse practitioner. Then one can move to a Doctorate in Nursing Practice(DNP) for those who want to join hospital administration, nursing education or research. 

Graduate nursing training includes both classroom teaching and clinical practice. Coursework includes anatomy, physiology, pharmacology, paediatrics, family or primary care, gerontology and others.

Achieve State License and Certification

Every US state requires nurse practitioners to gain a license before working as an NP. To gain a license, one has to first pass National NP Certification Board Examination conducted by  You can take this exam through any of five national certification boards, including the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners (AANP), the National Certification Corporation (NCC), or the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC). The exam is specific to the population focus, one is targeting.

Each state sets its own criteria for license therefore before starting the training it is important to know the rules and regulations. Besides qualifying examinations and having a license, NPs have to fulfill a number of supervised clinical hours.

Get Appointed as a Nurse Practitioner

Finally after a rigorous nursing course and gaining a license, one can get a job as a nurse practitioner. One can first start working under a doctor or in a large clinical setting and can then eventually make up to work privately. Working under someone’s supervision helps to know the day-to-day work of a nurse practitioner and get hands-on training and effective practice.

Top Universities in US for Nurse Practitioners

Healthcare is a dynamic profession with constantly changing knowledge, practices and tools. The following US universities are top-rated for nurse practitioners.


US News and World Report Ranking 2022

Cost of Attendance (in USD)

Duke University


1,910 per credit

Vanderbilt University


1,793 per credit

University of California-San Francisco


12,570 per year

University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill


20,409 per year

Emory University


1,963 per credit

University of Michigan-Ann Arbor


1,383 per credit

University of Alabama-Birmingham


656 per credit

University of California-Davis


28,051 per year

University of Pennsylvania


47,408 per year

Boston College


1,574 per credit

Nurse Practitioner Job Opportunities in USA

There are several employment opportunities after getting the license of a nursing practitioner. They are in high demand in every state of US and some of the popular job roles are:

  • Family Nurse Practitioner (FNPs)- They provide medical care and facilities to families throughout their life span. They are often the primary care provider of patients and are a good opportunity for those who wish to develop a lifelong relationship. 

  • Pediatric Nurse Practitioner- They look after babies till the time they become adults. They treat patients on a one-to-one basis, look after their immunization, diagnose illnesses and treat chronic and acute conditions.

  • Acute Care Nurse Practitioner (ACNP)- These nurse practitioners provide care to patients who are in acute care and in hospital settings. They look after patients with complex diseases when they are sick, admitted to hospital or post-surgery or after trauma.

  • Emergency Nurse Practitioner- They are in charge of assessing, diagnosing and managing injuries and illnesses on an urgent basis. They can work with or without the supervision of doctors providing immediate care, making decisions about treatment and providing consultation and education.

  • Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner- They look after the comprehensive health of women throughout their lives with a focus on reproductive, obstetric and gynaecological health.

Nurse Practitioner Salaries in USA

According to U.S Bureau of Labour Statistics 2021, the median annual wage of nurse practitioners in USA is USD 120,680. The industries with the highest salaries for NPs are:


Annual Mean Wage (in USD)

Offices of Other Health Practitioners


Offices of Physicians


General Medical and Surgical Hospitals


Outpatient Care Centres


Home Health Care Services


Psychiatric and Substance Abuse Hospitals


Nurse practitioner is a motivating and rewarding job that draws several nurses towards the career. One can function on their own schedule and does not need to rely on others' directions. Also supporting patients is emotionally satisfying. One can also make career advancements in management and leadership roles as a nurse practitioner. Overall the job is respectful and makes difference in the lives of others.

If you have any queries related to nurse practitioners or any other medical degrees in the USA, you can write to us at

Applying to Top Universities in USA!


Do nurse practitioners get paid well?

Yes, nurse practitioners get paid well and are in high demand for the health care facilities that they provide. The annual salary varies from USD 95,000 to USD 151,830 depending on the state where they are practising. Besides, the demand for nurse practitioners is high and therefore medical employers always keep NPs to serve patients. 

Is nurse practitioner a doctor?

No, nurse practitioners are not doctors or physicians. They are trained specialist nurses who have done additional medical education in order to provide advanced nursing care and have the right to prescribe medicine. Their expertise lies in the management of common illnesses and providing long-term care to patients.

What educational degree is required to become a nurse practitioner in the USA?

To become a nurse practitioner in USA, you should have a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree. This will prepare your career for attaining higher degrees such as Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) or Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP). DNP is the highest level of certification that allows you to be a nurse practitioner.

How many years does it take to be a nurse practitioner in the USA?

It can take a minimum of six to eight years after high school to become a nurse practitioner. However, the time frame may be longer based on several individual choices of the practitioner. For most nurse practitioners, experience as a registered nurse is important for admission to advanced nursing degrees. Therefore the time period to become an NP increases.

Is it worth being a nurse practitioner in USA?

Yes, it is worth the effort to become a nurse practitioner in USA. Not only do you get a high salary but also you have autonomy and a fulfilling career. Also, there are a variety of job roles to pick from. NPs have a holistic approach to medical facilities and can even prescribe medicines.

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