Pursuing a Nurse Practitioner Degree

The Career of a Nurse Practitioner

A nurse practitioner is a nurse who possesses a graduate degree and a current Advanced Practiced Registered Nurse (APRN) License. They assist doctors by diagnosing, treating, and consulting with patients. In many medical facilities, nurse practitioners can perform most of the same tasks as a doctor.

Advantages

Pursuing a nurse practitioner degree will lead to significantly higher earnings. Nurse practitioners earn almost 30,000 dollars more than a registered nurse. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the job growth rate for nurse practitioners (31 percent) is almost two times higher than the job growth rate for registered nurses (16 percent). Nurse practitioners have more autonomy at work due to possessing a master’s degree. They do not have to always ask a doctor’s permission before making decisions, and they have their decisions scrutinized significantly less. Registered nurses have to work shifts that can be early mornings, nights, weekends, and holidays. Nurse practitioners are given more flexible scheduling and more regular business hours, allowing more time for family and leisure.

Disadvantages

A master’s degree takes years to complete, which is why more people choose to become registered nurses than nurse practitioners. The program can be rigorous because nurse practitioners have less supervision from doctors; therefore, they need to have more in-depth knowledge about diseases and medications. Nurse practitioners have many more legal risks because they are diagnosing and treating illness. If they misdiagnose or prescribe the wrong medication, they can easily get caught in a malpractice suit. The job of a nurse practitioner can be stressful because nurse practitioners are always encountering illness, distress, and grief. Though the work hours are more flexible and regular at some facilities (e.g. doctor’s offices), they can be rigid and irregular at other facilities (e.g. 24 hour urgent cares).

The Cost

More time in school means more higher education costs. First, there is the cost an undergraduate degree, which can range from 30,000 dollars to 200,000 dollars, depending on school, location, and successful competition of credits. After undergraduate school, there is graduate school, which can cost 225 to 665 dollars per credit. The average cost of one credit is 400 dollars. Most master’s of science in nursing programs require 30 to 54 credits. Forty-five credits is the average. Therefore, the average cost of a graduate degree is 18,000 dollars, without the cost of books, room and board, and fees, in addition with the cost of an undergraduate degree.

Time it Takes to Complete

An undergraduate degree takes four years for people who attend school full-time, take summer and winter breaks, and successfully complete their courses. A graduate degree takes two years for people who attend school full-time, take summer and winter breaks, and successfully complete their courses. However, accelerated programs are arising, and many people are going to graduate school part-time while working. The nurse practitioner graduate program can be one to four years. The total time it takes to complete a nurse practitioner degree can be five to eight years.

Earning the Degree Online

Today’s technology is allowing people to pursue higher education online. Earning a degree online allows people to get their education from anywhere at any time. People more commonly pursue a graduate degree than an undergraduate online due to being older with a family or needing to start working upon completion of their undergraduate degree.

Though a medical degree requires clinical experience, a nurse practitioner graduate degree can be completed online. The theory portion of the program can be completed online, and the clinical part must be completed on an on-site location. Many programs offer a practice track and an education track. People can choose to use their degree to be a practicing nurse practitioner or teacher of future registered nurses. People who are working as registered nurses or at a medical facility can complete their clinical experience at their current job.

Earning Potential Upon Completion

The median salary of a nurse practitioner is 98,000 dollars. The lowest salary is 70,000 dollars, and the highest salary is 135,000 dollars. Though nurse practitioners will have more student debt, their significant higher earnings will balance the scale, and they will make more money in the long-term once their student loans are paid off.

Becoming a Nurse Practitioner

The career of a nurse practitioner is rewarding. It offers higher earnings and more autonomy, flexibility, prestige, and interesting work. Though the time to complete the degree and the cost of earning the degree is higher, the benefits are worth it in the long-term, and there are many rewarding incentives. The career of a nurse practitioner is for people who are compassionate, patient, and have a passion for medicine!

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