What Are NPs (Nurse Practitioners)?

What Are NPs (Nurse Practitioners)

Have you seen or heard of nurse practitioners before? 

Are you interested in becoming one? 

Are you wondering what exactly they do and how they differ from other healthcare providers? 

That’s exactly what we are going to talk about in this article. 

We want to give you a holistic view of this particular nursing profession.

We’ll answer a lot of questions, such as:

  • What Are NPs (Nurse Practitioners)?

  • What Do NPs Do?

  • What Are the NP Specialities?

  • Where Do NPs Work?

  • What Qualities Should NPs Have?

  • What is the Difference Between a Nurse Practitioner and a Nurse Specialist? 

  • Do NPs Have Good and Viable Careers?

  • How Do I Become an NP?

  • Which organizations certify NPs?

  • How Long Does It Take to Become an NP? 

  • How Much Do NPs Earn?

Are you ready to explore? 

Let’s go! 

What Are NPs (Nurse Practitioners)?

Nurse practitioners (NPs) are advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) that provide both primary and specialty care for patients throughout their lifespan.

They typically focus their care on a specialty area or population, such as acute care, family care, women’s health, geriatrics, or pediatrics. 

Nurse practitioners can prescribe medications.

They can also practice independently in many states, while in some states, they work under the supervision of a physician. 

Nurse practitioners don’t just focus on treating diseases, but on preventing them and promoting health and well-being in the population. 

What Do NPs Do?

We’ve already seen a general picture of the job description of NPs, but let’s dig in a bit deeper. 

What are NPs expected to do on a day-to-day basis?

The exact job will depend on where they are working and what their specialty is. 

It will also depend on the scope of practice or authority granted to the NP based on the state’s laws. 

But some tasks that are common to most, if not all. 

Their tasks include:

  • Taking the patient’s history and performing physical exams

  • Ordering and interpreting diagnostic tests such as X-rays and EKGs, as well as laboratory tests

  • Diagnosing, treating, and managing diseases

  • Prescribing medicines and writing prescriptions

  • Providing immunizations

  • Coordinating referrals

  • Providing education on disease prevention and healthy lifestyles

  • Performing certain procedures, such as a bone marrow biopsy or lumbar puncture

  • Providing general health guidance to the patients

What Are the NP Specialities?

As mentioned, NPs typically specialize in a certain type of care or population. 

What are the different NP specialties they can choose from?

Here is a list of possible NP specialties: 

  • Acute care adult NP

  • Acute care pediatric NP

  • Adult NP

  • Family NP

  • Gerontological NP

  • Neonatal NP

  • Pediatric NP

  • Psychiatric/mental health NP

  • Women’s Health NP

  • Critical Care NP

  • Emergency NP

  • Cardiology NP

  • Oncology NP

  • Nephrology NP

  • Pediatric Critical Care NP

  • Perinatal NP

  • School NP

Where Do NPs Work?

NPs work in a lot of different healthcare settings. 

They can work in clinics, doctor’s offices, hospitals, community health centers, private practices, college campuses, home healthcare, healthcare technology companies (such as pharmaceuticals), research centers, government agencies, etc. 

However, the industries with the highest levels of employment in NPs are offices of physicians, hospitals, outpatient care centers, offices of other health practitioners, and home healthcare services. 

You can find this table on the BLS website

Industries with the highest level employment in Nurse Practitioners:



Percent of industry employment

Hourly mean wage

Annual mean wage

Offices of Physicians





General Medical and Surgical Hospitals





Outpatient Care Centers





Offices of Other Health Practitioners





Home Health Care Services





What Qualities Should NPs Have?

NPs carry a lot of responsibility in caring for their patients. 

They should have what it takes to be effective and to help others. 

Some of the most important qualities and skills they should possess include: 

  • Compassion and empathy - They should be able to empathize with their patients and show compassion. 

  • Good listening and communication skills - They should be able to understand the needs of their patients and should be able to communicate well with them and their families. 

  • Detail-orientedness - Since NPs manage and coordinate the care of patients, they should be mindful of everything the patient needs, including laboratory tests, medicines, monitoring, etc. Tiny details can change a diagnosis or health outcome. 

  • Confidence - NPs should be confident in what they are doing and should be able to make patients feel confident in the care they are receiving from them. 

  • Flexibility - NPs have to deal with different kinds of patients and different kinds of diseases. They may also have to deal with emergencies. They should, therefore, be flexible and be able to adjust quickly in any given situation.

  • Good analytical skills - NPs analyze the patient’s records and laboratory results and come up with diagnoses and treatments. They should, therefore, be clear-minded and should be able to analyze the data accurately. 

  • Leadership skills - NPs are often leaders in their workplace. They may need to supervise RNs and other healthcare providers under them. They need to coordinate the care of patients. This requires leadership skills.

  • Independence - NPs should be able to work independently, especially in the states where they are allowed to have private practices. 

  • Teamwork - NPs should also know how to work with a team since they need to coordinate with other healthcare providers and work with physicians. 

What is the Difference Between a Nurse Practitioner and a Nurse Specialist? 

Both Nurse Practitioners and Nurse Specialists are Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRNs). 

Many of their roles overlap, such as getting the medical histories of patients, conducting physical examinations, analyzing patient data, creating medical care plans, administering medications and other treatments, monitoring patient progress, etc. 

However, they usually have a difference in the focus of their work. NPs tend to focus more on direct patient care, while nurse specialists tend to focus on administration, research, and program development. 

These differences are not always apparent and will ultimately depend on where they work and the tasks assigned to them. 

Do NPs Have Good and Viable Careers?

Definitely! NPs are the fastest-growing sector of primary healthcare in the country! 

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects a 46% growth in the level of employment of NPs from 2021-2031. That’s about 112,700 job openings! 

This employment growth is mostly because of the growing demand for healthcare services, including preventive healthcare and care for the elderly population. 

There is also a shortage of medical doctors or physicians, so more and more people are looking to NPs to provide primary healthcare. 

More and more states are also allowing NPs to practice independently. 

Aside from a lot of job opportunities, NPs can enjoy a rewarding salary. 

How Do I Become an NP?

NPs enjoy a lot of opportunities and responsibilities. But what does it take to become one? 

We admit that the process is long and it can seem overwhelming, but every goal worth pursuing involves sacrifices… and the rewards pay it off! 

So, here are the steps to becoming an NP.

Step 1: Become a Registered Nurse (RN) and Gain Experience

We’ve repeated several times that NPs are advanced practice registered nurses. 

This implies that they first have to become registered nurses (RNs)! 

This involves enrolling in a nursing education program (we strongly suggest you take a BSN), passing the NCLEX-RN, and applying for an RN license from your state. 

You can read more about how to become an RN in this article

You should also gain experience working as an RN before you pursue advanced studies. Gain experience in the field or type of population you want to specialize in. 

Step 2: Complete an MSN or DNP 

Once you’ve decided what specialty you want to go into, you should enroll in a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) or Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree. 

This will include classroom instruction as well as clinical training. 

Step 3: Take a National Certification Exam (CNE) 

After graduation, you will usually need to take a national certification exam based on your NP specialty. 

This step, however, is optional in some states, such as California. 

Step 4: Apply for Your NP License

If you’ve completed all the requirements, you can apply for your NP license from your state’s board of nursing.

Note that different states have different requirements, so you will need to check with your specific state. 

Step 5: Keep Your RN and NP Licenses Active 

You will also be expected to renew your license, usually every 2 years. 

You can read more about how to become an NP in this article

Which Organizations Certify NPs?

Depending on your specialization, different national organizations can certify NPs, such as:

  • American Nurses Credentialing Center

  • American Association of Critical Care Nurses Certification Corporation

  • Pediatric Nursing Certification Board 

  • American Academy of Nurse Practitioners Certification Program

  • National Certification Corporation 

But it’s always best to verify with your state’s board of nursing which certifications it recognizes. 

How Long Does It Take to Become an NP? 

There is no set time for becoming an NP because this depends on a lot of factors. 

It depends on whether you take an ADN or a BSN, how many years you work as an RN before pursuing advanced studies, whether you take an MSN or DNP, etc. 

But, in general, it can take about 7-10 years to become an NP. 

This can be broken down as:

  • become an RN - about 4 years

  • take the NCLEX-RN - soon after graduation

  • gain experience - 1-2 years

  • finish an MSN or DNP - 2-4 years 

  • take the national exam - soon after graduation

How Much Do NPs Earn?

According to the BLS, NPs earn a mean annual wage of $118,040. 

As a comparison, RNs earn a mean annual wage of $82,750. This means NPs can earn as much as 35,000 more than RNs annually! 

You can find this table on the BLS website.

Employment estimate and mean wage estimates for Nurse Practitioners:



Mean hourly wage

Mean annual wage

Wage RSE






Percentile wage estimates for Nurse Practitioners:




50% (Median)



Hourly Wage






Annual wage






Top-paying States

According to the BLS, the top-paying states for NPs are California, New Jersey, New York, Washington, and Massachusetts. 

Top paying states for Nurse Practitioners:



Employment per thousnad jobs

Location quotient

Hourly mean wage

Annual mean wage







New Jersey






New York












Top-paying Industries 

According to the BLS, the industries where NPs can earn the most are:

  • Accounting, tax preparation, bookkeeping, and payroll services

  • Business, professional, labor, political, and other similar organizations 

  • Home healthcare services

  • Psychiatric and substance abuse hospitals

  • Outpatient care centers

Top paying industries for Nurse Practitioners: 



Percent of industry employment

Hourly mean wage

Annual mean wage

Accounting, Tax Preparation, Bookkeeping and Payroll Services





Business, Professional, Labor, Political and Similar Organizations





Home Health Care Services





Psychiatric and Substance Abuse Hospitals





Outpatient Care Centers





In Summary

NPs are valuable members of the healthcare system. More and more people are looking to them for primary and specialty care. 

The demand for NPs is growing, opening up more job opportunities and rewarding careers for them. 

Although the journey to becoming an NP requires sacrifices, the rewards and impact they can make on society are great. 

We hope this article has given you a holistic view of what exactly NPs are and what they do.

If you have any more questions, feel free to leave us a message! 

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