General Nurse Practitioner with a patient

How to Become a General Nurse Practitioner

Duties, Responsibilities, Schooling, Requirements, Certifications, Job Outlook, and Salary

General Nurse Practitioner with a patient

Nursing is not only one of the fastest growing fields in the county, but it’s also one of the most personally rewarding careers. Nurses play one of the most vital roles in healthcare, as they are always on the front lines of battle against patient illnesses and injuries.

Many nurses choose to advance their medical careers by earning a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN), a graduate degree that opens doors to many specialized fields within the nursing profession. Typically, a master’s degree is also required for some of the highest paid jobs in nursing.

(Click here to see our list of the highest paying nursing careers).

This career guide we will explore one of these important nursing specializations in detail, the role of the General Nurse Practitioner.

(Click here to see our list of the top nursing jobs you can get with an MSN degree).

Below you’ll find everything you need to know about how to become a general nurse practitioner, as well as their duties, requirements, compensation, and benefits.

General Nurse Practitioner Definition

What is a Nurse Practitioner?

General nurse practitioners (along with nurse midwives and nurse anesthetists) are known as advance practice registered nurses (APRNs) and provide specialized healthcare for their patients. A nurse practitioner is a medical professional who shares many responsibilities with MDs—they prescribe medicine and treatment, diagnose illnesses, and in 20 states, general nurse practitioners operate with “full practice authority” (meaning they aren’t required to work under the supervision of a doctor).

General Nurse Practitioner: Job Description

What Does a Nurse Practitioner Do?

General Nurse Practitioner with a clipboard

General nurse practitioners work directly with patients, often delivering medical services normally performed by doctors. Their primary responsibility is managing their patients’ health conditions and preventing disease. In many states, a general nurse practitioner works under the supervision of a doctor, but an increasing number of states allow general nurse practitioners to operate with full autonomy.

Nurse Practitioners: Day-to-Day Responsibilities

Some of the day-to-day responsibilities of general nurse practitioners include:

  • Recording patients’ medical histories and symptoms
  • Performing physical exams
  • Creating patient care plans
  • Performing and/or ordering diagnostic tests
  • Operating and monitoring medical equipment
  • Diagnosing various health problems
  • Analyzing test results
  • Giving patients medicines and treatments and evaluating their response
  • Consulting with doctors and other healthcare professionals
  • Counseling and teaching patients and their families
  • Conducting research

General Nurse Practitioner Jobs

Where Do Nurse Practitioners Work?

General nurse practitioners work in a variety of settings. Most nurse practitioners work in clinics, hospitals, or other medical office settings. However, they can also find work in hospice facilities, long-term care centers, and in-home care centers.

General Nurse Practitioner Schooling & Certification

General Nurse Practitioner with a newborn

How Long Does It Take to Become a Nurse Practitioner?

What Degree Do You Need to be a Nurse Practitioner?

Becoming a general nurse practitioner requires a significant level of education and training beyond simply passing the NCLEX-RN certification exam.

To become a general nurse practitioner, you must earn a Master of Science degree in Nursing (MSN), then pass the required certification exam. The exam can be taken through either the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) or the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC).

Here are the steps required to become a General Nurse Practitioner:

Step 1. Earn your Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) Degree

Option 1: The first step to becoming a nurse practitioner is earning your Bachelor of Science in Nursing Degree. If you have no prior nursing education or experience, a BSN program will take you about three to four years to complete.

Option 2: If you already have a diploma or associates degree in nursing (ADN), you can enroll in an RN-to-MSN program. Programs such as these could take an average of three years of full-time study.

Option 3: If you have a bachelor’s degree in a non-nursing field, you can skip the BSN and earn an MSN degree by completing what’s known as a Masters Entry Program in Nursing (or MEPN). These programs provide an accelerated nursing curriculum to non-nursing college graduates.

Step 2. Earn your Master of Science in Nursing Degree (MSN)

After earning your BSN, a graduate degree in nursing (MSN) is required in order to become a general nurse practitioner. Most MSN programs take about 18 to 24 months to complete. Some of the most common MSN courses include management techniques, advanced biology, organizational leadership, and nursing science.

Regardless of your future nursing specialty, earning your MSN can set you up for a higher earning potential and greater job outlook.

Step 3. Pass the NCLEX-RN Certification Exam

Upon graduating from your BSN or MEPN program, the next step to becoming a general nurse practitioner is earning your nursing license. The National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN) is a nationally mandated license that all nurses must receive before they can become registered nurses (RNs).

Step 4. Get Certified as a General Nurse Practitioner

Certification as a general nurse practitioner is required in all states. You can become certified as either an Adult Nurse Practitioner (adult patients only) or a Family Nurse Practitioner (adult and children patients). Exams are offered through both the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) or through the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC).

Each exam consists of 150 to 175 multiple choice questions, including 15 pretest questions or 25 pilot questions. Applicants are encouraged to apply for their certification exam up to six months before graduation.

General Nurse Practitioner Salary

How Much Do Nurse Practitioners Make?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, general nurse practitioners earn an average annual salary* of $110,030.

The highest-paid 10 percent of general nurse practitioners can make over $182,750 (BLS).

The salary* of a nurse practitioner can vary depending on many factors, including location, industry, level of certification, and experience.

Industry Average Hourly Wage Average Salary
Personal Care Services $67.20 $139,770
Community Emergency & Other Relief Services $63.43 $131,930
Religious Organizations $60.89 $126,650
Disability, Mental Health, and Substance Abuse $56.46 $117,440
Outpatient Care Centers $56.04 $116,550
Specialty Hospitals $55.23 $114,880
General Hospitals & Surgical Centers $54.76 $113,900

Location can also play a large role in overall compensation.

Highest Paying States for General Nurse Practitioners

State Average Hourly Wage Average Salary
California $64.32 $133,780
Alaska $59.08 $122,880
Massachusetts $59.01 $122,740
New Jersey $58.70 $122,100
New York $58.16 $120,970

Highest Paying Cities for General Nurse Practitioners

City Average Hourly Wage Average Salary
New Bedford, MA $75.47 $156,980
San Francisco, CA $72.50 $150,790
Spokane, WA $71.37 $148,440
Sumter, SC $70.14 $145,890
Fairfield, CA $69.90 $145,400
Gardner, MA $69.72 $145,020
Yuma, AZ $68.58 $142,650
Rochester, MN $68.58 $142,640
Melbourne, FL $68.18 $141,800
Stamford, CT $68.01 $141,460

What Is the Job Outlook for Nurse Practitioners?

Healthcare worker with IV bags

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that employment for nurse practitioners (as well as nurse anesthetists and nurse midwives) is expected to grow 26% by 2028. This is much faster than all other occupations.

The positive job outlook for nurse practitioners can be attributed to the increased healthcare demands of an aging baby-boomer population, as well as an increased focus on preventative care services and treatment for a wide host of complex medical issues.

General Nurse Practitioner Career

Are You Ready to Start Your Career as a General Nurse Practitioner?

A Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree can lead to many wonderful career opportunities that are beyond the reach of the RN certification alone. Becoming a general nurse practitioner is just one example.

If you enjoy the autonomy of treating and diagnosing patients, but without the hassle of spending years in medical schools and residency, becoming a nurse practitioner might be the perfect role for you.

If you’re ready to take the next step towards becoming an general nurse practitioner, you can start by earning your MSN degree at Eagle Gate College.

Click here to learn more about our MSN program, as well as our MEPN program.