If you are a registered nurse looking for career advancement opportunities, one option may be to pursue a career as a nurse practitioner. Nurse practitioners have a more direct role in patient care, diagnosing and treating illnesses or injuries while providing referrals when needed. In many states, these nurses take on the same role as a physician, yet they do not need to have as many years of schooling to do so. There is strong income potential and extremely high demand for trained professionals in this field. If you are curious about how to become a nurse practitioner, this step-by-step guide can help.

Start Your Education to Become an MSN-FNP

The first step in becoming a nurse practitioner is completing an undergraduate degree in nursing. According to the American Association of Nurse Practitioners, this is a Bachelor of Science in Nursing for most programs. After earning your BSN, you will need to pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX), which qualifies you to work as a registered nurse. After passing the NCLEX, apply for an RN license in your state.

Now you are ready to enroll in graduate school. A Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) is the foundation of a nurse practitioner career. University of the Cumberlands offers a Master of Science in Nursing – Family Nurse Practitioner (MSN-FNP) degree that provides a general foundation for all nurse practitioners. This is a good starting point, even if you intend to specialize later in your career.

Our MSN-FNP teaches practicing nurses how to integrate nursing theory into their advanced practice nursing role. It also provides training in leadership and prepares nurses to make decisions on behalf of their patients while delivering high-quality nursing care.

This degree program also addresses the practical things a nurse practitioner needs to know, such as how to diagnose and treat most minor illnesses and injuries. Nurses will learn how to use available tools to dig deeper when patients present with unusual symptoms. It covers medical technology and pharmacology as well.
After completing the MSN-FNP training program, nurse practitioners must obtain a credential from the American Nurses Credentialing Center. After passing the required examinations, the final step before practicing is to obtain a nurse practitioner state license.

Job Opportunities Are Substantial for Nurse Practitioners

Nurse practitioners are in high demand, which is one of the many reasons to consider pursuing a career in this field. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the expected job growth for nurse practitioners is 40% between 2021 and 2031. That is one of the highest projected job growth ranges across all industries. The BLS anticipates over 118,000 new jobs to be added during that period.

Job opportunities for nurse practitioners are also across a variety of specialties. You can find work in pediatrics, obstetrics, family practice, oncology, geriatrics, endocrinology, and more. Some nurse practitioners also end up working in natural practice medicine. Any field that hires medical doctors will also hire nurse practitioners.

Getting into Healthcare Sooner Rather Than Later

As an RN, you already have some medical training and experience. Becoming a nurse practitioner allows you to start practicing medicine on your own more quickly than if you were to become a doctor. You can take on a role similar to that of a doctor, yet you can do it without going to school for ten years. In some states, you can even practice independently with a nurse practitioner credential, giving you a fast track to start helping people and launching your healthcare career.

Find Your Field as a Nurse Practitioner and Love Your Career

Becoming a nurse practitioner is a flexible career path in medicine, which means you can easily tailor your career to what you want. As you pursue your education, consider what areas really jump out at you as areas you might be interested in, and then choose electives that fit them. Here are some common areas where you might focus your career.

Pediatric Nurse Practitioner

A pediatric nurse practitioner, or PNP, is trained to care for the health needs of children and infants. Pediatrics typically extends from birth through age 18. These nurse practitioners work in outpatient practice alongside pediatricians or may be employed in inpatient units that care for children. An acute care pediatric nurse practitioner is a step up from this. These professionals provide lifesaving care for hospitalized children and infants or work in emergency rooms to treat babies and children in emergency medical situations. To work as a pediatric nurse practitioner, you must take the PNP primary care national certification exam. To work with children in acute care, you must take the CPNP-AC certification exam.

Family Nurse Practitioner

Family nurse practitioner, or FNP, is one of the most versatile specialties for advanced practice nurses. These professionals are trained to provide primary care to people throughout their lifetime and often see multiple members of the same family. These nurses care for people of all ages, from children to the elderly. They tend to diagnose and treat minor illnesses and injuries, provide wellness visits, and deliver healthcare education. They can prescribe medications and refer their patients to specialists if they suspect an additional condition is present. Many nurses will start as family nurse practitioners, then add additional training after discovering an area they are particularly passionate about. This field requires an MSN-FNP, such as the one from University of the Cumberlands.

Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner

A psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner, or PMHNP, works with patients who need additional mental health care. These nurses may work in outpatient clinics and addiction centers, or they may find employment in psychiatric hospitals. They may also be able to work from their own home, providing mental healthcare and therapy, allowing for quite a bit of flexibility in the work environment.

Cardiology Nurse Practitioner

Heart health is a hot topic in modern medicine, and the demand for cardiology specialists continues to increase. Cardiology nurse practitioners are typically general practice nurse practitioners who receive additional training in heart health. Many will choose to complete a fellowship program in the field, or they may gain on-the-job experience in cardiology. They can work in inpatient facilities with patients suffering from heart disease or in outpatient care settings.

Oncology Nurse Practitioner

Cancer affects people of all ages and walks of life, and oncology nurse practitioners help provide excellent care to cancer patients. These nurses must take the Advanced Oncology Certified Nurse Practitioner Certification to work in cancer care. These nurses provide life-saving treatment to patients with this potentially deadly disease and typically work in cancer treatment centers or hospitals.

Start Your Training as a Nurse Practitioner Today

Working as a nurse practitioner can fast-track your career in medicine. You can start working with just a master’s degree rather than a 10-year doctoral degree, and you can pursue any one of several specialties. This is a high-demand career with many different paths and could start with a Master of Science in Nursing-Family Nurse Practitioner.

If you are a registered nurse and are ready to take the next step to increase your earning potential and take advantage of this unprecedented job growth, then the MSN-FNP could be the right program for you. This entirely online program gives you flexibility as you advance your career. Reach out to University of the Cumberlands today to learn more about our MSN-FNP program and start your career as a nurse practitioner.