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Nurse practitioners provide healthcare services to patients in different settings, such as outpatient clinics, hospitals, and mental healthcare facilities. This type of work offers a challenging career that can also be financially and personally rewarding. You can pursue a degree to become an NP online or in person. Knowing more about the degree requirements for this type of career can help you determine if it’s the right path for you.

What Is a Nurse Practitioner?

A nurse practitioner is responsible for coordinating and providing healthcare services for patients. Some NPs work in primary healthcare facilities, while others provide specialty services, such as geriatric care or pediatric care. Some of the duties that NPs handle include recording medical histories, conducting physical exams, ordering diagnostic tests, prescribing medicine or treatment, and operating medical equipment. Some nurse practitioners might also conduct research in the healthcare field or provide patients with education on wellness. In some cases, NPs consult with physicians and other healthcare providers, as needed.

Why Become a Nurse Practitioner?

Being a nurse practitioner gives you a chance to learn and use more advanced skills compared to working as a registered nurse. In addition to learning the basic skills needed for nursing, you’ll be developing a wider set of skills to use on the job. As a nurse practitioner, you’ll offer a wide range of healthcare services. You may diagnose illnesses, provide health-related counseling, as needed, and treat patients for any number of illnesses and injuries.

Becoming an NP also comes with a thriving job outlook, projected to offer career opportunities today, tomorrow and for the foreseeable future. You can also expect to earn a good salary when you have this type of career. NPs candidates also have the opportunity to choose to specialize in caring for certain populations, such as primary care or elder care, providing you with numerous career paths to explore. You might go from working as a general NP to becoming one who specializes in treating children, women, elderly individuals, or some other population demographic in need.

On a more personal note, working as an NP can help you feel more fulfilled. As a nurse practitioner, you’ll be providing quality care to patients who are sick or injured. You can also help patients improve their health and well-being with counseling and education. Whether you work with the general population or specialize in treating cancer patients, keep in mind that you’re doing what you can to improve their quality of life.

Degree Needed to Become a Nurse Practitioner

What degree do you need to be a nurse practitioner? If you want to become an NP, you’ll need to have at least a master’s degree.

Do you need a doctorate to be an NP? Not always. Although you might choose to earn a doctorate, this advanced degree isn’t required to work as a nurse practitioner. When you choose to go through a master’s degree program to become an NP, you’ll find a number of online programs available. These online nurse practitioner programs will likely be more convenient if you’re already working as a nurse or if you have other responsibilities to attend.

As part of your educational path to becoming an NP, you might choose to specialize in a certain area of healthcare. For example, you might look for programs that provide you with training and certification to become an oncology NP, an orthopedic NP, a psychiatric NP, an emergency NP, or a women’s health NP. If you have a particular interest in providing care for a certain population group, you might look into these options. You can also become a general nurse practitioner if you don’t want to choose a specialty. As a general NP, you might provide healthcare services for patients in a regular physician’s office, for example.

How Long Does It Take to Get a Nurse Practitioner Degree?

In order to work as an NP, you’ll first need to earn your bachelor’s degree, which typically takes about 4 years. Once you have completed this degree program, you can go through a master’s degree program. The lengths of these programs vary by institution, but many take about 2 or 3 years to complete. Overall, nurse practitioners can expect to take 6 to 7 years to complete their education, earn their degrees and gain the proper certifications. However, keep in mind that it can take longer if you decide to earn a doctorate degree. Obtaining a doctoral degree can add another 3 or more years to your schooling to become an NP.

Should I Get an MSN or DNP?

Knowing whether you should pursue a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) or a Doctor of Nursing Practice degree (DNP) is one of the educational choices you’ll need to make. Having an MSN degree is required either way, but you have the option to continue your studies and earn a DNP. Having an MSN degree provides you with the knowledge and skills you’ll need for work as an NP. Earning your DNP provides you with even more in-depth knowledge and skills in this kind of work. Since this degree is more advanced, you might be able to find higher-paying jobs, as well.

If you’re having trouble deciding if you should get an MSN or DNP, you should at least plan on earning your MSN. Once you have your MSN, you can start working as an NP, or you can choose to continue your education by earning a DNP. You might also begin working as an NP after earning your MSN and decide at a later time that you want to go back to school for your DNP. You can then look for this type of degree program.

Keep in mind that the licensure for NPs varies from state to state. Graduates from MSN or DNP programs should check their state’s board of nursing for detailed information on licensing requirements. Overall, working as an NP involves having a registered nursing license, passing a certification exam at the national level, having an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) license, and completing an accredited MSN degree program. You’ll also find different kinds of certifications available for NPs, such as certifications from the Pediatric Nursing Certification Board and the American Nurses Credentialing Center. In many cases, you’ll need to renew your certification from time to time.

Ready to Pursue a Nurse Practitioner Education?

If you would like more information on NP school requirements, online MSN degrees, and DNP online programs, please contact American Sentinel College of Nursing and Health Sciences at Post University today. 


Thank you for reading! The views and information provided in this post do not reflect Post University programs and/or outcomes directly. If you are interested in learning more about our programs, you can find a list of our accredited nursing programs on our website or reach out directly! 

Please note jobs, career outcomes, and/or salaries highlighted in this blog do not reflect jobs, career outcomes, and/or salaries expected from any Post program. To learn more about Post’s program and their outcomes, please fill out a form to speak with an admissions representative.