When nurses consider going the extra mile with their studies to become nurse practitioners, one major point to research is whether the additional costs of both time and money required to become one will be offset by job security and a fair salary.
Average Nurse Practitioner Salary
According to the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the average hourly wage for a nurse practitioner published in May of 2021 was $56.75, and the national average annual salary was $118,040.
What is a Nurse Practitioner?
A nurse practitioner (NP) is a registered nurse (RN) who has completed an advanced degree, either a master's or doctorate, and thorough and rigorous advanced clinical training. The scope of care for an NP is similar to that of a medical doctor. They can work in collaboration with other healthcare professionals and autonomously.
All 50 states and the District of Columbia have the authority to prescribe medications and treatments. However, the stipulations following that authority vary from state to state and can be relegated into three categories. There are full-practice authority states, reduced-practice authority states, and restricted-practice authority states.
Full Practice States are:
- New Hampshire
- New Mexico
- New York
- North Dakota
- Northern Mariana Islands
- Rhode Island
- South Dakota
- Washington, D.C.
Reduced Practice states are:
- American Samoa
- New Jersey
- Puerto Rico
- U.S. Virgin Islands
- West Virginia
Restricted Practice states are:
- North Carolina
- South Carolina
How to Become a Nurse Practitioner
The American Association of Nurse Practitioners states that to become an NP, one must hold a Bachelor's Degree in Nursing and become a licensed RN. The next step is to enroll and complete a graduate program: a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) or a Doctorate of Nursing Practice (DNP). It is important to note that there have been discussions and increasing support to move the requirement fully to DNP to become a practicing NP.
Once a graduate program has been selected, NP students are expected to choose a population for the focus of their program courses and clinical studies. NP students can choose from the following:
- Women's Health
Once the graduate program and clinicals are completed, NP students must become board certified to practice.
Nurse Practitioner Salary Statistics
We use BLS data published in May 2021 to analyze further NP salary statistics, indicating that the national median pay for NPs is $123,780, slightly higher than the average, as mentioned earlier. The median pay statistic identifies the salary point precisely in the middle of all NPs, meaning half earned higher than that amount while half earned less. When we ask how much a nurse practitioner makes, the data shows that it depends highly on geographic location.
The top-paying states for salaries of nurse practitioners are as follows:
- California $151, 830
- New Jersey $137,010
- New York $133,940
- Washington $130,840
- Massachusetts $129,540
The top-paying metropolitan areas for nurse practitioners are all in California, which makes sense when considering the cost of living in the Golden State. The San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara metro area is the highest, with an average annual salary of $197,870. The top-paying areas include Southeast Minnesota, Middle Georgia, and Connecticut.
Should I Become a Nurse Practitioner?
While we've addressed the nurse practitioner salary, we haven't yet mentioned the job security facet. Nursing has long been identified as an industry with a steady projected growth rate. Still, the outlook for NPs is even more encouraging when looked at through the lens of job security: Through the year 2031, the growth rate for NPs is 40% which is significantly faster than the national average and faster than that of the growth rate for RNs which is 6% (on par with the average growth rate).
Ultimately this is a question that requires a willingness for self-analysis. Do you have the drive to commit to the rigors of a graduate program that will hone your nursing skills into those of a compassionate leader? Do you have the desire to be more autonomous in your decision-making? Are you self-motivated and resourceful?
A career as a nurse practitioner can be gratifying. NPs fulfill primary care roles nationwide as Americans increasingly turn to NPs for their healthcare needs. NPs are not medical doctors, and while their responsibilities and scope of care may seem similar, their attention to preventative care and patient well-being and interest in guiding their patients to make healthier lifestyle choices set them apart.