Adult Nurse Practitioner Career Overview


Updated January 10, 2023

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Adult nurse practitioners can provide adult healthcare as primary care providers. Learn more about adult nursing careers and salaries for this high-paying career.
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Adult nurse practitioners (NPs) have graduate degrees and are licensed to act as primary care providers. If you want more professional nursing autonomy and a potential six-figure salary, adult nursing may be the right career for you.

Learn more about adult nurse practitioner careers, how to earn your license and board certification, and typical salary ranges.

What Does an Adult Nurse Practitioner Do?

MSN or DNP required

Adult nurse practitioners care for patients from adulthood through old age. As adult care providers, they:

Typical Duties

  • Examine adult patients
  • Order medical tests
  • Make diagnoses
  • Prescribe medication (sometimes with a physician's supervision)
  • Provide patient education
  • May act as primary care providers
  • May supervise RNs and licensed practical nurses

Career Traits

  • Attention to detail
  • Communication
  • Medical knowledge
  • Good judgment
  • Professional integrity

Credit: Courtney Hale / iStock / Getty Images Plus / Getty Images

Certification Option: Registered nurse (RN) license and board certification

Where Do Adult Nurse Practitioners Work?

According to the American Association of Nurse Practitioners 2019 Compensation Report, 14.4% of nurse practitioners (not just adult nurses) work in outpatient hospitals. Almost as many, 13.3%, work in inpatient hospitals, and 11.6% work in private group practice. NPs also work in clinics, residential care settings such as nursing homes and inpatient behavioral health facilities, government facilities like military bases and jails/prisons, and as travel nurses.

In these environments, the roles and responsibilities of adult nurse practitioners may vary.

  1. 1

    Outpatient Hospitals

    Adult NPs diagnose and treat conditions, act as part of outpatient surgical teams, educate patients and their families on their diagnoses and treatment, and update health records with diagnoses and outcomes.

  2. 2

    Inpatient Hospitals

    Adult NPs provide emergency department triage, monitor patients' conditions, develop care plans in collaboration with other clinicians, and screen patients to be discharged.

  3. 3

    Private Group Practice

    Adult-gerontology NPs (AGNPs) act as the primary care provider, conduct medical examinations and order tests, diagnose conditions, prescribe medications, and educate patients on how to improve their health.

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Why Become an Adult Nurse Practitioner?

Adult nurse practitioners enjoy many career benefits, but there are some downsides.

Advantages to Becoming an Adult Nurse Practitioner

  • Adult nursing can be emotionally satisfying.
  • Adult nurse practitioners have more professional autonomy than RNs.
  • Depending on your experience and location, you can earn a six-figure salary.
  • You can provide general adult healthcare or specialize.
  • Demand for adult nursing is growing as healthcare providers hire more advanced practice nurses and as the population ages.
  • Primary care provider adult nurses often work predictable schedules and day shifts.

Disadvantages to Becoming an Adult Nurse Practitioner

  • Adult NPs must have a bachelor's in nursing (or bridge program equivalent) and a master's or doctoral degree.
  • Depending on the state's NP practice authority, adult NPs may need to work in collaboration with a physician.
  • Working as an AGNP can be a very high-stress job, especially during emergencies.
  • Adult nurse practitioners have more responsibility and face higher liability risk than RNs.

How to Become an Adult Nurse Practitioner

Earn a bachelor of science degree.
All master of science in nursing (MSN) degree programs accept students with a bachelor’s. Some accept associate-degree holders from bridge RN-to-MSN programs. A bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) takes four years.
Pass the NCLEX exam to receive an RN license.
The National Council Licensure Examination for RNs (NCLEX-RN) is a nationally standardized multi-hour examination, graded on a pass/fail basis.
Gain RN experience.
Most MSN programs require or strongly prefer at least 1-2 years of experience as an RN. Some require or prefer three years. You must maintain an unrestricted license.
Pass a certification exam.
The American Academy of Nurse Practitioners Certification Board is the certifying body for adult nurse practitioners and administers the board certification examination.
Get an advanced practice RN state license.
Once you pass your board examination, you must apply to your state board of nursing for your advanced practice RN (APRN) state license and pass a background check.

How Much Do Adult Nurse Practitioners Make?

Adult nurse practitioners are in demand. As the country ages and the need for healthcare workers, especially primary care providers, increases, the BLS projects that nurse practitioner jobs will grow 52% between 2020 and 2030.

According to the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP), the median annual adult nurse practitioner salary is $115,500. Most nurse practitioners can negotiate a signing bonus because of the high demand.

While earning an MSN can be an expensive investment, if you commit to work in a medically underserved area, you may be eligible for a scholarship or loan forgiveness for nurses.

Top-Paying States
States Average Salary Total Number of Nurse Practitioners
California $145,970 15,100
New Jersey $130,890 5,800
Washington $126,480 3,720
New York $126,440 14,850
Massachusetts $126,050 6,430

Source: BLS

Top-Paying Metropolitan Areas for Nurse Practitioners
Top-Paying Metropolitan Areas Average Salary Total Number of Nurse Practitioners
Vallejo — Fairfield, CA $188,070 160
San Francisco — Oakland — Hayward, CA $177,800 2,080
Salinas, CA $155,310 70
San Jose — Sunnyvale — Santa Clara, CA $153,240 970
Napa, CA $152,640 40

Source: BLS

Top-Paying Industries for Nurse Practitioners
Industry Average Salary
Community Food and Housing, and Emergency and Other Relief Services $143,480
Religious Organizations $131,710
Residential Intellectual and Developmental Disability, Mental Health, and Substance Abuse Facilities $130,830
Social Advocacy Organizations $127,970
Outpatient Care Centers $123,850

Source: BLS

FAQ: Adult Health Nursing

What is an adult care nurse practitioner?

Adult care nurse practitioners, also known as AGNPs or adult nurse practitioners, are advanced practice nurses with board certification in adult care.

They can act as primary care providers, diagnose conditions, and prescribe medications. Depending on the state, they can work independently or with physician supervision.

What's the difference between FNP and AGNP?

Family nurse practitioners (FNPS) are board certified and licensed to provide nursing care across the lifespan, while AGNPs are certified and licensed to care for adults.

Both can act as primary care providers.

What is the highest-paid nurse practitioner?

According to the BLS, the highest-paid nurse practitioners earn $156,160 or more. Salary depends on experience, local demand and cost of living, and workplace. The median salary for nurse practitioners is $111,680.

The highest-paid APRNs are nurse anesthetists, who earn a median salary of $183,580.

Is nurse practitioner higher than nurse?

Nurse practitioners have more advanced qualifications and earn more than RNs. Nurse practitioners must have an RN license and earn an MSN or doctorate, while RNs need an associate nursing degree or BSN degree.

Unlike RNs, nurse practitioners are licensed to act as primary care providers, order medical tests, diagnose conditions, and prescribe medication.

Resources for Adult Nurse Practitioners

The American Association of Nurse Practitioners is the largest nurse practitioner association, with more than 119,000 members. It provides advocacy, certification programs, professional development opportunities, publications, and networking for NPs. NP and NP student members are eligible to join. The American Nurses Association engages in advocacy and provides education, networking, and professional development opportunities like conferences, courses, and webinars. Professional liability insurance for nurses and a job board are also benefits. The American Nurses Credentialing Center offers NP and RN certification programs. The Nurse Practitioner Healthcare Foundation offers continuing education, performs and publishes research on nurse practitioners and their work, publishes a newsletter, and provides continuing professional education. It offers scholarships and awards for NP students and practicing NPs. Known as Sigma, this is an international honor society for nursing students in BSN and APRN programs. Sigma has more than 135,000 active members in more than 100 countries. It provides grants, scholarships, and awards, offers conferences and other learning opportunities, and publishes journals, books, and newsletters. You can check eligibility requirements online. Minority Nurse is a publication that offers a free magazine, scholarships guide, and listings of professional nursing associations, including organizations dedicated to supporting diversity in nursing. The publication is part of Springer Publishing, a for-profit publisher, and also lists resources from Springer.

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