Advanced Registered Nurse Practitioner: Programs, Specialties, and Salaries

By Sarah Collins

04/25/2022



Also referred to as an ARNP (Advanced Registered Nurse Practitioner) or APRN (Advanced Practice Registered Nurse), nurse practitioners provide a wide variety of primary and acute care services. As a result, they enjoy high salaries, better job prospects, and the opportunity to make a real difference in the lives of their patients.

Keep reading to learn everything you need to know about nurse practitioners, including how to become one, average salaries by state, specialization types, and the pros/cons of choosing this career path. 

Key Takeaways

  • Nurse practitioners provide primary and specialty health care services to people of all ages. 
  • According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, nurse practitioners earn an average of $117,670 a year. 
  • Nurse practitioners can move into different areas of specialization, such as gerontology or nurse-midwifery/women’s health care. 

What Is a Nurse Practitioner, and What Are Their Responsibilities?

Much like physicians, nurse practitioners offer a variety of primary and specialty health care services, such as diagnosing conditions, prescribing medications, counseling, and managing a patient’s overall health plan. They can also cover acute care, adult health, pediatric health, and dozens of specialty areas.

Other nurse practitioner responsibilities include:

  • Operating and monitoring medical equipment
  • Consulting with physicians on treatment plans
  • Conducting physical exams
  • Performing research on the latest medical trends

Nurse practitioners also work in various health care settings, such as hospitals, community clinics, physician’s offices, and even patient homes.

To be a nurse practitioner, you must pass a master’s or doctoral degree program with hundreds of hours of additional clinical training beyond your registered nursing days.

What’s the Difference Between a Nurse and a Nurse Practitioner?

Nurses and nurse practitioners are worlds apart when comparing job scope, responsibilities, skill level, and salary potential.

Nurse practitioners perform many of the same functions as physicians, including diagnosing and building treatment plans for different illnesses. They can also prescribe medications, conduct detailed examinations, and collect samples from patients.

In contrast, nurses work more as caretakers, part of a larger team of hospital personnel that administer medications, administer medication drips, and develop less intensive nursing care plans under the supervision of a doctor.

Despite these differences, nurses and nurse practitioners also have lots of similarities. Both can hold positions within the same healthcare settings and work directly with patients.

How Much Do Nurse Practitioners Earn?

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, nurse practitioners earn

an average of $117,670, with the lowest 10 percent of nurse practitioners earning less than $84,120 versus over $190,900 for the highest-earning 10 percent.

Note: salaries between nurse practitioners vary depending on several factors. These determinants include the type of medical setting, years of experience, specialization, and location due to higher or lower living costs. For example, nurse practitioners in Nebraska earn an average annual salary of $107,330, whereas their counterparts in Indiana earn $109,940. 

Generally, expect hospital-based nurse practitioners to earn a little more than their peers working in outpatient care centers and physicians’ offices.

Below is our breakdown of average nurse practitioner salaries by state, courtesy of ZipRecruiter.

StateAnnual SalaryMonthly PayWeekly PayHourly Wage
Massachusetts$124,953$10,413$2,403$60.07
Alaska$117,966$9,830$2,269$56.71
Nevada$117,034$9,753$2,251$56.27
Washington$115,127$9,594$2,214$55.35
New York$111,971$9,331$2,153$53.83
Maryland$111,741$9,312$2,149$53.72
Nebraska$109,601$9,133$2,108$52.69
New Hampshire$108,201$9,017$2,081$52.02
Virginia$108,164$9,014$2,080$52.00
Colorado$105,823$8,819$2,035$50.88
South Carolina$105,722$8,810$2,033$50.83
Delaware$104,543$8,712$2,010$50.26
California$103,627$8,636$1,993$49.82
Hawaii$102,415$8,535$1,970$49.24
Kentucky$102,271$8,523$1,967$49.17
Vermont$101,896$8,491$1,960$48.99
Oklahoma$101,866$8,489$1,959$48.97
Wyoming$100,286$8,357$1,929$48.21
Arkansas$99,796$8,316$1,919$47.98
Connecticut$99,322$8,277$1,910$47.75
Illinois$99,258$8,272$1,909$47.72
Michigan$99,199$8,267$1,908$47.69
Rhode Island$98,106$8,176$1,887$47.17
West Virginia$97,320$8,110$1,872$46.79
Idaho$97,240$8,103$1,870$46.75
North Dakota$96,768$8,064$1,861$46.52
Missouri$96,593$8,049$1,858$46.44
Maine$96,337$8,028$1,853$46.32
New Jersey$95,877$7,990$1,844$46.09
Pennsylvania$95,673$7,973$1,840$46.00
Montana$95,276$7,940$1,832$45.81
Arizona$94,296$7,858$1,813$45.33
Texas$94,061$7,838$1,809$45.22
South Dakota$93,942$7,828$1,807$45.16
Minnesota$93,838$7,820$1,805$45.11
Indiana$93,692$7,808$1,802$45.04
Tennessee$93,676$7,806$1,801$45.04
Wisconsin$93,106$7,759$1,791$44.76
Ohio$92,998$7,750$1,788$44.71
Oregon$92,452$7,704$1,778$44.45
Utah$91,914$7,659$1,768$44.19
Kansas$91,012$7,584$1,750$43.76
Louisiana$91,005$7,584$1,750$43.75
Georgia$90,966$7,581$1,749$43.73
North Carolina$90,090$7,508$1,733$43.31
Iowa$89,758$7,480$1,726$43.15
Alabama$88,838$7,403$1,708$42.71
New Mexico$88,444$7,370$1,701$42.52
Florida$85,736$7,145$1,649$41.22
Mississippi$85,255$7,105$1,640$40.99

What Specialties Are Available to Nurse Practitioners?

There are dozens of specialties nurse practitioners can enter into to serve a specific group of people.

Here are some notable nurse practitioner titles that come to mind. All salary figures come from salary.com or indeed.com.

 

Title: Neonatal Nurse Practitioner

Description: Assessment, diagnose, and treat newborns who could suffer from various ailments, from premature births to congenital diseases.

Average Annual Salary: $129,309, with the highest earners living in San Francisco, New York, Boston, Washington DC, and Chicago

 

Title: Forensic nurse

Description: Forensic nurses diagnose and treat patients suffering from health effects caused by violence, such as a recent domestic dispute. They are also helpful in assisting legal personnel in representing victims, presenting all of the correct physical evidence needed to put the perpetrator away.

Average Annual Salary: $79,174

 

Title: Nurse-Midwifery/Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner

Description: Midwives and women’s health nurse practitioners provide primary care to women and newborns. They are experts in reproductive health care and childbirth. You can become a midwife or obtain double certification as a nurse-midwife and women’s health nurse practitioner (NM/WHNP)

Average Annual Salary: $115,000 

 

Title: Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP)

Description: Family nurse practitioners specialize in family-based primary care. They work with patients from infants to the elderly, performing most primary care services as actual physicians. Some of their responsibilities include performing diagnoses, prescribing medications, and working on each patient’s overall health care plan.

Average Annual Salary: $115,010

Title: Cardiac Nurse Practitioner

Description: individuals in this specialty are cardiovascular health and disease management experts. They also aid with conducting educational programs on heart health for patients. 

Average Annual Salary: $111,000 

 

Title: Orthopedic Nurse Practitioner

Description: Working on all issues related to defective/broken bones and other musculoskeletal problems, including joint replacements and arthritis. So, expect to conduct rehabilitation sessions, prescribe medications, and keep patients informed about their bone health.

Average Annual Salary: $115,687

Title: Oncology Nurse Practitioner

Description: Treat patients with cancer and cancer-related ailments. This role includes assessment, diagnosis, and treatment with ongoing education for patients and their families.

Average Annual Salary: $108,000.

 

Title: Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner (AG-ACNP)

Description: Work with older adults suffering from acute and chronic issues

Average Annual Salary: $100,893.

 

Title: Pediatric Nurse Practitioner

Description: Unlike neonatal nurse practitioners, pediatric nurse practitioners provide medical care to babies and teenagers.

Average Annual Salary: $111,680

 

Title: Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (PMHNP)

Description: Work with patients who suffer from mental health and psychiatric issues, such as drug and alcohol addiction. Some mental ailments they may treat include depression, anxiety, and Alzheimer’s disease.

Average Annual Salary: $137,000

 

How Can I Become a Nurse Practitioner Without a Bachelor of Nursing Degree?

You can become a nurse practitioner without a Bachelor of Nursing degree, as students can enroll in direct-entry MSN programs permitting study without any related work experience.

A direct-entry MSN program exposes students to nursing environments where they can practice the trade with a small caseload, also under the direct supervision of a qualified nurse practitioner.

After obtaining your MSN degree, the next step is to apply for a nurse practitioner certification and licensure in the state you wish to practice.

How Long Does a Traditional Pathway Program Take to Become a Nurse practitioner?

Traditional MSN pathway programs that start with earning an ASN or BSN take 30 and 36 months as a full-time study. RN to Doctors programs take a bit longer (3 to 4 years)

Direct entry pathway programs (leading non-nursing Bachelor’s students straight to a graduate nursing degree) usually take three and five years. It requires that you succeed at the NCLEX-RN exam and a Master’s or Doctor’s program during this period, then register and pass certification exams.

Are There Nurse Practitioner Scholarships Available?

Hundreds of scholarships are available to nurse practitioner students trying to earn their Master’s or Doctor of Nursing degrees.

Here are ten popular options, courtesy of scholarships.com

 

 

Pros and Cons of Being a Nurse Practitioner 

There are many pros and cons to becoming a nurse practitioner:

Pros

Excellent Salaries: Nurse practitioners are some of the highest-paid medical professionals in the industry. Its practicing members with over ten years of clinical experience earn upwards of $200,000. 

Favorable Jobs Outlook: According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, advanced practice registered nurse employment will grow by roughly 45 percent through 2029, making it one of the most in-demand fields today.

Areas of Specialization: As a nurse practitioner, you can move into different areas of specialization. These specialties range from neonatal (premature babies) to acute care (older adults). If there ever was a passion career, this is the one.

Here are some additional specializations nurse practitioners can enter:

  • Adult
  • Gerontological
  • Neonatal
  • Oncology
  • Psychiatric/Mental Health
  • Women’s Health

Practicing Independently: Most states allow NPs to work independently without the direct supervision of a physician. This arrangement gives NPS a lot of freedom and potentially less stress being responsible for one more person.

Work Flexibility: Many nurse practitioners can work from home thanks to the growing field of telehealth. What’s more? They get to enjoy the same salary as working in an on-site health setting. Additionally, nurse practitioners can apply for different shifts. These could be day shifts only or three 12-hour shifts a week, leaving plenty of rest time with two weekdays and a weekend off per week.

Cons

Many, Many Years of Education: Any prospective nurse practitioner pursuing a master’s or doctoral degree in nursing; expect to add up to three more years of education and a Bachelor’s requirement.

Rigorous Certification Exam: All national certification exams administered by each nurse practitioners association are challenging. Plus, individuals who fail can only expect to retake the test twice a year instead of eight times a year as allowed for registered nurses. So, there is less room for error when pursuing a nurse practitioner career.

Increased Liability: Nurse practitioners operate similarly to full-time physicians and carry many of the same burdens, particularly in malpractice. A single malpractice case could cost you hundreds of thousands of dollars and provides less coverage than registered nurses.

An additional three years of education and passing a difficult certification exam is well worth the higher average annual salaries nurse practitioners enjoy, with some topping $200,000 depending on years of experience, certification, and location.

What Similarities Do Doctors and Nurse Practitioners Share?

Doctors and nurse practitioners have many of the same responsibilities. These duties include diagnosing and treating acute conditions, ordering diagnostic tests, and serving as a patient’s primary care provider.

Both also write prescriptions, although some states require that nurse practitioners work under the care of a supervising physician.

What Is the Difference Between a Doctor and a Nurse Practitioner?

The most significant difference between a doctor and a nurse practitioner lies in education and licensing requirements. Doctors undergo much more rigorous training, with all medical doctors licensed through a medical board.

Depending on whom you speak to, some will also argue that nurse practitioners place a heavier emphasis on the ongoing prevention of ailments through dialogue and counseling. In contrast, doctors offer a more uniform approach, focusing more on the cure than actual disease prevention. However, much of these stems from personal experiences and perceptions, so you shouldn’t view them as facts.

How Do I Become a Nurse Practitioner?

Here are the steps to becoming a nurse practitioner

  1. Earn a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN)

It’s best to earn your Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) at an accredited nursing school. Verify that the National League for Nursing Accreditation Commission (NLNAC) or the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education recognizes your program before signing up.

  1. Obtain Your Registered Nursing License

Obtain your registered nursing license by completing an accredited nursing program and the NCLEX-RN examination. It covers all materials learned during nursing school, including medical, pediatric, psychiatric, obstetric, and surgical coursework.

It takes up to six weeks to receive NCLEX test results. However, expedited services can share your score in as little as two business days.

  1. Move On to a Graduate Degree

All nurse practitioners must have a minimum Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) or Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) in family nurse practitioner. This program takes up to 3 years to complete, whereas full-time Doctor of Nursing Practice programs takes anywhere between 3 and 4 years.

During this step, students can also apply to different specialties such as pediatric nurse practitioner (PNP), psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner (PMHNP), and adult-gerontology primary care nurse practitioner (AGPCNP)

  1. Earn Nurse Practitioner Certification

Become a Certified Nurse Practitioner by taking the national certification exam. Look for national certification exams administered by the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners (AANP), the National Certification Corporation (NCC), or the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC).

Each one has different formats, which one nursing student may prefer over another.

  1. Apply for State Licensure

After you have obtained certification, it is time to apply for state licensure. Be sure to follow your state governing board’s requirements, as each state may differ.

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