So you’ve decided to become a nurse and want to know how to rise through the ranks. If you’re wanting to work in nursing and start earning the big money, you’ll be looking at a job as a nurse practitioner. I know, right? Nurse practitioners are a relatively uncommon breed, and as a result, many people don’t actually know much about them. They perform a wide range of tasks, from diagnosing patients to working as part of a healthcare team to deliver patient care. The term “nurse practitioner” is not strictly defined by occupation, as the term implies. In fact, there are many types of nurse practitioner jobs. The two main categories are clinical nurse practitioners and advanced practice registered nurses. Clinical Nurse Practitioners Clinical nurse practitioners provide direct patient care to patients with illnesses or injuries under the supervision of an attending physician. Some people confuse clinical nurse practitioner jobs with those of a registered nurse. The two are different, although they do share some duties. For example, both clinical nurse practitioners and registered nurses may provide physical exams and patient treatments; but nurse practitioners work to develop comprehensive care plans for their patients, while registered nurses will work with physicians to achieve this goal. Clinical nurse practitioner jobs may also include patient education, but unlike a registered nurse, the nurse practitioner has the authority to prescribe medication. Clinical Nurse Practitioner Education Nurse practitioner jobs require an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in nursing (ADN or BSN) plus certification; clinical nurse practitioners must earn a master’s degree before becoming licensed, and they must also pass the national certification examination for nurse practitioners. Find out more about the degree you need here. Advanced Practice Registered Nurses Advanced practice registered nurses have a higher level of training and degree requirements than both clinical nurse practitioners and registered nurses. They have at least one year of experience as a healthcare provider, as well as one year of specialization as an advanced practice registered nurse, which meets the educational requirements for nursing licensure. Once certified, they must take the national certification examination every five years to maintain their certification. Incentives For Nurses Practitioners Nurse practitioners are paid relatively well, but not as well as many other healthcare professions that are less important to the public’s health. Nevertheless, a career as a nurse practitioner is highly rewarding, and because these career paths are relatively new, the field is growing quickly. Salaries for nurse practitioners start from around $85,000 but can rise if you work with great people and develop great relationships with your patients. Your salary and benefits packages will typically depend on your state of certification and how long you’ve been working as a nurse practitioner. Deciding Where To Work Nurse practitioners are located in every state, but if you’re looking to work in your home state, it can be difficult to find a full-time job. It’s also incredibly important for you to meet the qualifications of the company that’s hiring. You want to make sure that you are working with people who provide excellent care and take pride in their work. Therefore, stick with large healthcare systems such as hospitals. The more people they serve, the more patients will come through their doors; this means there will be plenty of opportunities for nurse practitioner jobs. Working Within Bigger Healthcare Settings If you’re working in a large healthcare environment, you’ll be able to work alongside physicians, surgeons, and other healthcare professionals. Healthcare providers work together with nurses and other medical professionals to provide high-quality patient care. Depending on the size of the hospital and the number of patient visits per year, you can normally expect a healthy salary and great benefits. How Is The Nurse Practitioner’s Role Changing? With the rising number of nurse practitioner jobs, especially in larger facilities with lots of patients, more and more physicians are using nurses as part of their team to help coordinate care. This is not always a bad prospect for nurse practitioners: it means you’ll have plenty of opportunities to work on your nursing skills. Steps To Becoming A Nurse Practitioner The path to becoming a nurse practitioner is relatively straightforward, but it will take some time. As previously mentioned, you first have to earn a bachelor’s degree in nursing, or an ADN or BSN—depending on where you work. Then you must earn certification in your state. Once that’s done you’ll take the national certification examination, which consists of multiple tests in different areas of nursing. This can be pretty difficult. It takes a lot of time and discipline, but once you pass the test it’s well worth it! Working With Physicians And Other Healthcare Professionals If you want to work with physicians or other healthcare professionals, gaining relevant experience will help. This could be in a nursing home, a hospital, or any professional clinic setting. When you gain your advanced practice nurse license in your state, you can enter a position as a staff nurse. This is a lot like starting over as a registered nurse, but you’ll have the very rewarding opportunity to work with physicians and other healthcare professionals. Availability Of Nurse Practitioner Jobs The good news for nurse practitioners is that the field is increasing at a rapid rate, thanks to an increase in the number of clinical nurse practitioners. There are currently over 3.8 million registered nurses working in the U.S. Taking Your Role Further Once you’ve completed your coursework, you’ll want to work on becoming an advanced practitioner. To do so, you must earn board certification in nursing and take the advanced practice exam. Once you’ve passed the exam, you’ll be able to work as a clinical nurse practitioner and help physicians and other healthcare professionals provide high-quality care. Certification And Licensure The nursing profession offers many different certification and licensure opportunities, and the licensure process for each area of nursing is different. To become a certified nurse practitioner, you will need to take and pass a national exam to gain your license. Having said that, it’s best to take up an NCLEX remediation course before taking the national exam. In order to receive certification from the American Association of Nurse Practitioners, you must have a master’s or doctoral degree from an accredited school of nursing with a baccalaureate in nursing.