Nurse Practitioner Salary and Job Growth

Nurse practitioner salaries can be incredibly lucrative, with consistent patterns of career growth all across the profession.

Median Annual Salary

Becoming a nurse practitioner can be a potentially savvy career move as the nursing shortage continues to plague the nation and nurses remain in high demand. Since the need for nurses is high, you’re more apt to find job security in this field. A variety of factors have contributed to the need for nurses including an aging U.S. population, limited nursing school faculty and nursing school enrollment experiencing a slower pace.

Because of their versatility and advanced degree requirements, nurse practitioners enjoy one of the top salaries in the nursing field. Gaining the proper education and training to become a nurse practitioner may seem daunting, but you could be rewarded with a top-notch salary in the future.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median expected annual salary for nurse practitioners is $95,350. Actual salaries may vary greatly based on specialization within the field, location, years of experience and a variety of other factors.

Nurse practitioners are likely to find the majority of better-paying jobs within their specialty, according to the BLS. The exception to this rule is psychiatric and substance abuse hospitals.

A nurse practitioner’s earning potential can vary based on their employer, education and area of specialty, but generally the salary range is excellent.

How do nurse practitioner salaries compare?

Nursing Career Median Annual Salary*
Registered Nurse $66,640
Licensed Practical or Vocational Nurse $42,490
Physician Assistant $95,820
Nurse Midwife $96,970

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, Registered Nurses, Licensed Practical Nurses, Physician Assistants, Nurse Midwives.

*The salary information listed is based on a national average, unless noted. Actual salaries may vary greatly based on specialization within the field, location, years of experience and a variety of other factors.

Is there demand for this career?

Nurse practitioners are in high demand, not only because of the nursing shortage, but also because of their approach to medicine.

The medical field has been evolving and focusing on promoting health and wellness which is exactly the direction nurse practitioners have taken. They devote their time to preventative care, counseling patients on self-management and generally taking a holistic approach. As more patients seek out personalized care, nurse practitioners have become even more necessary.

What is the job growth for the field?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, nurse practitioner employment is projected to grow 31 percent through 2024, although national long-term projections of employment growth may not reflect local and/or short-term economic or job conditions.

The American Academy of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) points out that nurse practitioners have a solid reputation in providing quality care so job prospects should be strong for the foreseeable future.

How much competition will I face for a job?

Although jobs are plentiful, aspiring nurse practitioners shouldn’t just assume they’re a shoe-in. Nursing schools and future employers will always be looking for the best and brightest candidates.

Earning the appropriate degrees and professional certifications is essential if you want to even be in the running for a job. These days, 88 percent of nurse practitioners hold advanced degrees and 92 percent are nationally certified, making education that much more important if you plan to enter the field.

What kinds of institutions hire nurse practitioners?

Nurse practitioners can take their pick from a range of workplaces. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics outlines the following industries employed the largest number of nurse practitioners:

  • Physician offices
  • Outpatient care centers
  • General medical and surgical hospitals
  • Home health care services

Interestingly, whether or not a nurse practitioner can work independently (without doctor oversight) varies by state. According to an Aug. 14, 2013 WSJ.com article, NPs in five states—California, New Jersey, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts—are currently looking for state approval to care for patients without the supervision of a physician. Currently, 21 states employ a collaboration agreement where doctors and NPs work together and 17 states and the District of Columbia allow NPs to work independently. If you become interested in starting your own practice, check your state’s regulations first.

How do I advance in my nurse practitioner career?

While nurse practitioners must earn a master’s-level degree to practice, there are still more learning opportunities which can result in raises or promotions throughout your career.

NPs are required to get re-certified every five years either by taking an exam or completing continuing education classes. By doing the latter, you walk away with new knowledge of the nursing field which can make you a more desirable employee or job candidate.

If you’re worried that your busy schedule won’t allow time to take courses, don’t fret. Many nursing continuing education classes are offered online and sometimes only take a couple hours to finish. Depending on the program, other courses can take weeks or months. One word of caution: Before enrolling in an online continuing education class, ensure it is approved by the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC), a subsidiary of the American Nurses Association (ANA).

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Nurse Practitioners

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