Nurse practitioners have plenty of responsibility but they are also well-compensated. If you're looking for a career in which you have autonomy and the ability to help other people maintain or regain their health, becoming a nurse practitioner could be just what the doctor ordered. NPs emphasize disease prevention and health management to help people make better lifestyle choices.
About Nurse Practitioners
Nurse practitioners are advanced practice nurses who perform most of the same functions as a physician. They are authorized to diagnose and treat illness and injury, order lab work and other diagnostic exams and prescribe medications. NPs, as they’re called, most often work in primary care, but they may also specialize in fields similar to those in medicine, such as orthopedics or cardiology. NPs are required to have a minimum of a master’s degree and must be licensed in all states. Some states also require NPs to be certified.
Nurse Practitioner Salaries
Although the average annual salary of an NP was $91,450 in 2012, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, location matters. NPs in West Virginia earned $78,950, while those in Alaska earned $112,090. The industry you choose also makes a difference. Although there aren’t many jobs -- only 150 NPs worked in the industry in 2012 -- NPs in management, scientific and technical consulting services earned an average annual salary of $106,620. Most NPs worked in settings such as physicians’ offices, general medical surgical hospitals, and outpatient care centers, where salaries ranged from $91,020 to $95,470. Home health was the lowest-paying work setting, with an average annual salary of $82,300.
If you choose to specialize, it can affect your income, according to the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners. In some areas, salaries are similar. Primary care, which includes pediatric, family, adult and geriatric medicine, had total annual salaries ranging from $92,250 to $98,160. Acute care NPs earned $105,200 and psych/mental health NPs earned $111,220. NPs who work in neonatal care did the best financially in 2011, according to the AANP, with an average total income of $124,540.
Although NPs earn salaries based on longevity, experience and performance, they may also earn extra for working off shifts such as evenings, nights and weekends, according to a December 2011 article on the "Becker’s Hospital Review" website. Most organizations also offer benefits such as health insurance, which has the effect of reducing out-of-pocket expenses that would otherwise decrease the NP’s take-home pay. In addition, some organizations offer bennies such as tuition reimbursement, or pay for the cost of license renewal and certification, professional dues, subscriptions or travel for professional conferences. Some organizations offer incentive plans for performance or productivity.
- American Academy of Nurse Practitioners: What’s an NP?
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2012 29-1171 Nurse Practitioners
- Compensation Plans for Advanced Practice Clinicians: Implementing a Healthcare Model for the 21st Century
- American Academy of Nurse Practitioners: 2011 AANP National NP Compensation Survey
Beth Greenwood is an RN and has been a writer since 2010. She specializes in medical and health topics, as well as career articles about health care professions. Greenwood holds an Associate of Science in nursing from Shasta College.