How to Become a Rural Nurse Practitioner

Learn about the many important career opportunities available once you become a rural nurse.

medical professional in rural office at desk with medicine bottles
medical professional in rural office at desk with medicine bottles

Rural Nurse At a Glance

What you’ll do: Once you become a rural nurse practitioner, you’ll provide health care services to adults and children who live in rural areas. Among their primary duties, rural nurses diagnose and treat patients for common acute illnesses as well as chronic conditions. In addition, rural nurse practitioners educate rural communities regarding health and wellness issues, serve as teachers and mentors to aspiring rural nurses, and research rural nursing issues as a means of improving the health of at-risk rural populations.

Degree you’ll need to practice: Master of Science in Nursing (MSN)

Certification: The American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) offers certification to nurse practitioners (NPs) who meet specific eligibility requirements.

Median annual salary: $111,840*

Career Overview

According to the Rural Nurse Organization (RNO), approximately 25% of the population lives in rural areas. Unfortunately, what these places offer in peace and landscapes, they lack in appeal to health care practitioners who may have to take on considerable patient loads for a fraction of the income that cities pay.

Through organizations such as the RNO, rural nurse practitioners also bring to the forefront their observations of the most critical health care issues that rural populations face. According to the Rural Assistance Center, these include women’s health (which also contributes to critical health care issues concerning children) mental health, elderly care and dental health.

Rural Nurse Practitioner Education

In order to become a rural nurse practitioner, you’ll need to first become a registered nurse (RN) and then earn a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) and a post-master’s certificate with a focus in their specialty. Most master’s programs take two years to complete and build on undergraduate nursing study. In general, MSN programs involve classroom work and a significant number of hours of practical experience, which may include clinical, teaching and research time. To become a certified nurse practitioner, you must pass a national certification exam.

Career Outlook

Rural communities within the U.S. have a special need for advanced practice nurses who often serve as primary health care providers to medically under-served areas. Neither the job nor the hours are easy, but making a difference to the health and well-being of entire communities brings its own personal and professional rewards.

Sources: Rural Nurse Organization;; U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook; Nurse Anesthetists, Nurse Midwives, and Nurse Practitioners.

*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. National long-term projections of employment growth may not reflect local and/or short-term economic or job conditions, and do not guarantee actual job growth.