Registered Nurse to Nurse Practitioner: Is It Worth It?

Updated April 20, 2022 · 5 Min Read

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NPs are the fastest growing profession compared to other professions. Sounds like something you want to be a part of? Read on and find out what it takes to become an NP, the benefits of becoming one, and if it's the right career for you.

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Registered Nurse to Nurse Practitioner: Is It Worth It?
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You are a registered nurse (RN) thinking about becoming a nurse practitioner (NP). Is it worth it? If you have a passion for patient care and for being in control of decisions, becoming a nurse practitioner is a great career path.

NPs are among the most trusted professions. NP duties include:

  • Assessing
  • Diagnosing
  • Treating
  • Educating patients on preventative care

It is a great time to go from being an RN to NP. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), NPs are among the fastest growing professions. There is a primary care physician shortage, between 21,400 and 55,200 physicians, placing NPs in the best position to fill the demand.

Older nurses are retiring, baby boomers are aging, and people are living longer with more chronic diseases. You can belong to a group of more than 350,000 NPs who are rolling up their sleeves, placing stethoscopes around their necks, and taking on this tremendous feat.

Sounds like something you want to be a part of? Read on and find out what it takes to become an NP, the benefits of becoming one, and if it's the right career for you.

But first, let's take a look at a side-by-side comparison of registered nurses and nurse practitioners.

NP versus RN – Side-by-Side Comparison

NP versus RN
NP/RN NURSE PRACTITIONER REGISTERED NURSE

Minimum education

Master of science in nursing (MSN)

Associate degree in nursing (ADN)

Educational setting

University graduate programs

Community colleges, four-year universities, approved nursing programs

Typical duties

Prescribing medications and monitoring side effects and drug interactions

Ordering and evaluating diagnostic tests

Taking, analyzing, and interpreting patient health histories to provide correct diagnoses

Creating individualized treatment plans

Diagnosing and treating acute illnesses

Monitoring and managing chronic illnesses

Working with patients to create and maintain a healthy lifestyle

Monitoring patients

Recording and maintaining patient records

Ensuring diagnostic tests are completed

Consulting and supervising other members of a patient’s healthcare team

Communicating with patients and families about care plans, health education, and disease prevention

Working with physicians on patient examinations and treatments

Can prescribe medications?

Yes

No

Common practice settings

Private-practice managed care facilities

Community clinics

College campuses

Hospitals

University faculty

Medical, surgical, and research hospitals

Nursing care facilities

Home healthcare

Schools

Licensing and certification

Both the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) and the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) offer NP certification exams. Nurses must also register with the board of nursing in the state where they choose to work.

Please note that NPs also must pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN), typically prior to beginning graduate school.

Registered nurses must register with the board of nursing in the state where they work. This registration includes sitting for the NCLEX-RN, completing an application, and paying a fee.

RNs who move to another state must register with the nursing board in that state, although a reexamination is not generally required.

Continuing education requirements

Certification with the AANP must be renewed every five years. To renew, NPs must have completed at least 1,000 hours of clinical practice since the date of their last certification, in addition to 75 hours of continuing education.

These hours must be focused on the same population in which the NP specializes (e.g., pediatrics or gerontology). ANCC recertification is also required every five years. The ANCC requires at least 150 continuing education hours, including 51% that is directly related to the NP's focus and 25 hours in pharmacotherapeutics.

Continuing education requirements for RNs vary from state to state. Some states do not require continuing education units for RNs.

More information is available from each state’s board of nursing and the National Council of State Boards of Nursing.

Specializations

Acute care (being phased out) and adult acute care (being phased out)

Adult-gerontology acute care

Adult-gerontology primary care

Family

Neonatal

Psychiatric mental health

Pediatric acute care

Pediatric primary care

Women's health

There are a huge number of specialties available to RNs, with professional certifications available in most of them. The following are some of the most in demand:

Cardiac medicine

Intensive care

Neonatal

Orthopedic

Pediatric endocrinology

Surgical/operating room

Successful personalities

In many states NPs are free to work without the direct supervision of a physician, meaning the most successful NPs are independent and organized.

Patient communication is also an integral part of an NP's job, so empathy and the ability to interact with a very diverse population are also important.

Like any nursing profession, RNs should possess a marked ability to empathize and keep a cool head in stressful situations.

Because they often work under the supervision of other nurses, physicians, and administrators, RNs should also have good communication skills and the ability to interact professionally with other healthcare providers and patients.

Average salary

According to the BLS, the median annual salary for a nurse practitioner is $111,680.

According to the BLS, the median annual salary for a registered nurse is $75,330.

Occupational demand

Openings for NPs are expected to grow by 45% between 2020 and 2030, which is much faster than the 8% average for all U.S. occupations.

Openings for RNs in the U.S. are expected to increase 9% between 2020 and 2030.

What Does It Take to Become a Nurse Practitioner?

To become an NP, or an advanced practice registered nurse, you have to first earn a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) and pass the National Council Licensure Examination for RNs before earning your master of science in nursing (MSN) degree. Earning your BSN and getting licensed can take four years.

If you already have a bachelor's degree in another field, you can choose to apply to accelerated nursing programs. This route can take up to three years, depending on the completion of prerequisite courses.

Then, it would be best if you consider getting experience. Think about a career as an RN in a specialty that interests you to help you transition from RN to NP.

If you have an associate degree in nursing (ADN), you can also become an NP. With an ADN, though, you will have to complete your BSN at some point.

Direct-entry MSN programs are fast-track nursing programs that prepare students with a degree in another field to get their nursing and nurse practitioner degree in 2-3 years.

Depending on the state you live in, a nursing degree can be expensive. The average cost of an NP program is $13,500-$27,000. Financial aid for nursing students, scholarships, and grants are available.

After earning a nursing degree, you can apply to student loan forgiveness for nurses programs. These programs offer full or partial student loan financial aid in exchange for working in a facility with critical shortage.

Featured Online MSN Programs

Benefits of Becoming a Nurse Practitioner

There are many benefits to becoming an NP. You can enjoy a healthy work-life balance by choosing where you want to work and a flexible schedule depending on the contract you sign. NPs are needed in most specialties, so there are plenty of jobs available.

NP Salary Benefits

NPs make six-figure salaries. The average salary of a full-time NP is $114,510, according to the BLS. Specialties like psychiatric NPs and adult-medicine NPs are the highest-paid positions making between $116,000-$138,450. NPs with five or more years of experience can expect an annual income increase of up to 35%.

Since NPs can work independently after a certain amount of hours, depending on the state, NPs can manage their own clinics. This is a unique benefit of becoming an NP. NPs can start businesses such as:

  • Pain clinics
  • Medi-spas
  • Consultant firms
  • Wellness clinics
  • Freelance writing businesses
  • Home healthcare agencies
  • Private-duty nursing

You can also create your own business path.

NP Job Responsibilities

NPs can work in hospitals, clinics, and nursing homes, or they can run their own practices. On average, NPs see a minimum of three patients per hour. Their main responsibilities are to assess, diagnose, and treat patients. NPs prescribe medications such as antibiotics and narcotics but only when medically necessary.

Other job responsibilities include:

  • Ordering blood work and imaging such as X-rays and CT scans
  • Patient education
  • Teaching preventative care
  • Documentation
  • Follow-up care
  • Collaborating with different specialties

Depending on state regulations, NP procedures include:

  • Stapling and suturing wounds
  • Inserting intravenous lines
  • Inserting central lines
  • Intubating

Working independently as an NP is state specific. NPs must work with a collaborating physician for a certain number of hours or their entire career. Twenty-three states and the District of Columbia have granted NPs full practice, which means they can practice independently without physician involvement.

Essential Skills Needed to Thrive as an NP

Diagnosing, interpreting lab values, reading electrocardiograms, and treating patients are essential skills NPs have once they start practicing. Other equally important skills include:

Some NPs naturally have these skills, but if they don't, these skills can be taught.

Different Specialization Options Available for NPs

Many NPs work in specialties that are familiar to them. They can work in any specialty, but it's a good idea to gain some training and experience first. There are many types of nursing specializations available for NPs. Specialties include:

Is a Nurse Practitioner Career Right for Me?

Only you can answer the question if an NP career is right for you. Many NPs love their career. They love autonomy and flexibility. They love working in different settings and providing primary care to patients.

Some nurses choose not to get their NP but concentrate on other master's degrees such as:

Some NPs complete their master's but don't practice as NPs for various reasons. They continue to work as bedside nurses or take other positions.

There may come a time when nurses must complete an NP program or doctor of nursing practice. The American Association of Colleges of Nursing supports requiring nurses to earn an MSN within 10 years after getting their nursing license.

Key Takeaway: Do What's Right for You

The most important thing is to do what is right for you. Getting an MSN is a commitment and carries a heavy price tag. There is a huge need for NPs, so if you decide to become one, you will be helping fill the gap. There are many loan forgiveness programs you can take advantage of too.

Make sure completing an NP program works for you and your family. Create a schedule that makes sense, and ask for help when you need it. Many hospitals and facilities support nurses going back to school.

If you are thinking about pursuing your NP, talk to your manager to start planning your future. If you are just getting started in the nursing profession, do some research and decide if moving from being an RN to NP is right for you.


Check Out Top RN-to-NP Programs


Page last reviewed December 6, 2021

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