A nurse practitioner (NP) is a certified and licensed advanced practice nurse who provides primary and specialty care to patients and families. NPs expand on traditional nursing skills by providing many of the services that, in the past, have been the exclusive job of physicians. They examine and diagnose patients, prescribe medication, recommend treatment, make referrals and give independent individualized care while promoting good health and disease prevention. NPs also provide patients with treatment plans that include a range of nursing and medical interventions. Today's nurse practitioners can choose from among many work environments, from hospitals to clinics to community settings.

Day in the Life of a Nurse Practitioner

Most primary care nurse practitioners are certified in fields associated with specific patient populations, such as:

  • Family Medicine
  • Pediatrics
  • Adult Medicine and Geriatrics
  • Women's Health
  • Neonatal Care
  • Acute (ER) Care
  • Occupational Health
  • Certified Midwifery
  • Certified RN Anesthetists

While nurse practitioners have typically been associated with primary care, more NPs are now working in acute care and rehabilitation in specialties such as dermatology or neurology, among others. With the exception of hospital-based acute and neonatal care, most NP positions are ambulatory, meaning they work in an outpatient setting. These outpatient settings can be quite varied, even including working in a jail or making house calls in rural areas.

Most nurse practitioners who care for the same patients regularly find these long-term relationships gratifying. When treating seriously ill or injured individuals, NPs find it rewarding to help their patients recover or at least feel comfortable. When a patient's health doesn't improve, or the patient dies, it is naturally difficult for the nurse practitioner treating them. In the process of treating long-term patients, an NP may come to know their families as well, which is especially helpful if ongoing care is required.

Important Characteristics for Nurse Practitioners

Like many health care professionals, a great nurse practitioner is able to combine in-depth knowledge and clinical skills with a genuine concern for the well-being of the patient and family being cared for. Successful NPs are also good team players. These licensed practitioners work collaboratively with other health professionals, often coordinating patient care. They typically perform well under pressure.

Typical Steps for Becoming a Nurse Practitioner

To pursue this career, you'll need to understand nurse practitioner education and certification requirements. Though the steps may depend on your area of specialization, this is the general path that most candidates follow.

  1. Take math and science classes in high school. This can prepare you for the challenging coursework in nursing school.
  2. Earn a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). This is the standard requirement to become licensed to practice as a registered nurse. RNs with an associate degree in nursing (ADN) or diploma in nursing can complete an RN to BSN program, but graduates of four-year collegiate nursing schools are also eligible to apply to graduate schools of nursing.
  3. Gain experience working as a nurse. It is advisable to do this before pursuing graduate school. On-the-job experience isn't required for acceptance into a graduate program, but having worked in the field can help you prepare you for the coursework that follows.
  4. Earn your master's degree in nursing. If you're a registered nurse, earning your master's degree is typically the next step to moving into more advanced practice. You may choose to focus on a specialized area of health care, or do a general education program to become a general nurse practitioner.
  5. Pass the nurse practitioner certification exam. Once you graduate with a master's degree in nursing, you'll be eligible to take a nationally recognized examination in your specialty. If you pass this exam, you'll become certified. The two largest certifying boards are the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners and the American Nurses Credentialing Center.
  6. Get an NP license in your state. After passing the exam, nurse practitioners must apply for an NP license (in addition to their RN license) from the state in which they intend to practice. Nurse practitioner licensing requirements vary from state to state.


  • Nurse Anesthetists, Nurse Midwives, and Nurse Practitioners, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/nurse-anesthetists-nurse-midwives-and-nurse-practitioners.htm
  • Summary Report for Nurse Practitioners, O*NET OnLine, https://www.onetonline.org/link/summary/29-1171.00

Metro Areas Sorted by Total Employment for
Nurse Practitioner

Listed below are the 10 largest metro areas based on the total number of people employed in Nurse Practitioner jobs , as of 2016

Metro Area Total Employment Annual Mean Salary
Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim 4,300 $125,460
Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington 2,760 $105,610
Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach 2,190 $93,050
Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Roswell 2,120 $103,810
Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land 2,050 $127,390
Baltimore-Columbia-Towson 1,960 $108,590
San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward 1,940 $141,850
Cleveland-Elyria 1,830 $99,230
Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater 1,680 $93,100
Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale 1,670 $107,250

Compare Total Employment & Salaries for Nurse Practitioners

Use our handy tool to see what employment and salary numbers look like for two different metro areas

Select State
Select Metro Area 1
Select Metro Area 2

Total employment and salary for professions similar to nurse practitioners

Source : 2016 Occupational Employment Statistics, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, BLS.gov

Click the Visit School Site buttons to go directly to a school's website and learn more about the school and programs it has to offer. School website will open in a new tab.
Click the Request Info buttons to request more information from a representative at the school.
Results:  10
Matching School Ads
  • There's still time to apply to Grand Canyon University and pursue your education. Learn more today!
  • Study on your schedule - GCU offers many programs 100% online to fit your busy lifestyle.
  • GCU offers a variety of opportunities to reduce the cost of furthering your education. Campus students may qualify for scholarships, while online students can take part in limited special offers.
  • A regionally accredited university, GCU also holds specialized accreditations and approvals for some of our core program offerings.
  • Degrees in business, education, nursing, humanities and social sciences, theology and more. Find the degree that fits you.
  • Talk to us today to learn more about financial aid and start dates!
  • Current RNs can choose from RN to BSN or RN to MSN online programs
  • RN-to-BSN program offers courses in Illness and Disease Management, Principles of Assessment, and Holistic Professional Nursing
  • RN to MSN specializations include Family Nurse Practitioner, Adult-Gerontology and more
  • Courses help develop students’ assessment, patient care, and community outreach skills
  • South University brings over 115 years of achievement and tradition to a supportive, online classroom
  • Presents stimulating, thoughtful programs for students in every academic field
  • SACS accredited w/many accreditations per program & 14:1 teacher-student ratio
  • 7 colleges with dozens of majors & programs to choose from for undergrads & grads
  • Beautiful 248 acre campus with ¾ mile waterfront located in Jacksonville, FL
  • Named an “America’s Best College” in the south for 10+ years, US News & World Report
  • Loyola gives you an edge for an exciting career & an education for a fulfilling life
  • Accredited by the SACSCOC with a 10:1 student-faculty ratio & 5 distinct colleges
  • #10 Best Regional Universities of the South U.S. News and World Report
  • Top 20 Fulbright Producer in 2015-2016 w/ a 20% application acceptance rate in 2017
  • Programs in musical theatre, digital filmmaking, chemistry, business, & more!
  • SJU provides a rigorous, student-centered education rooted in the liberal arts
  • A Jesuit school with 8,415 students in all programs for 2016 grads &undergrads
  • Institutionally Accredited by the MSCHE and the AACSB (Haub School of Business)
  • 96% of 2016 graduates employed, pursuing graduate study or volunteering full time
  • Qualifying students can receive financial assistance with tuition costs

Founded in 1856, Seton Hall is one of the country’s leading Catholic universities. Rich in history, Seton Hall is also an institution on the rise. U.S. News ranks us among the top universities, and we have moved up 13 places in just five years.

  • A Los Angeles-based private college offering programs in medical sciences, legal studies, and graphic design since 1985.
  • Has weekend programs, including certified  veterinary technology, nurse assistant, and hemodialysis technician.
  • Showcases visual communication students’ artwork and design through campus magazine.
  • 3 campuses in Southern California.
  • Accredited by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC).
camnpus icon
Request Info

Why Choose Widener University?

At Widener University, we proudly cultivate challenging and culturally diverse learning environments where academics, leadership, and service come first. Our curricula are connected to societal issues and challenge students to take social responsibility for their role in today's global society.

  • Offers medical and cosmetic programs, including dental assisting, massage therapy, cosmetology, esthetics, and more.
  • Features a public salon and spa where students may get real-world experience.
  • Offers scholarship opportunities for students wo qualify.
  • Accredited by the Council on Occupational Education (COE).
  • 2 separate Vacaville campuses, one is for medical careers and the other is the beauty academy.
camnpus icon
Request Info
  • Offers career programs in accounting, cosmetology, massage therapy, physical fitness training, and more.
  • Provides hands-on training led by instructors who have relevant, on-the-job experience.
  • Each campus features a public salon and spa for student practice.
  • Campuses are accredited by the Accrediting Council for Continuing Education and Training (ACCET) and Council on Occupational Education (COE).
  • 11 campuses across California, Texas, Nevada and Idaho, as well as 8 additional Milan Institute of Cosmetology campuses.
camnpus icon
Request Info
Back to Top