Nurse practitioners (NP) provide primary care to patients of all ages. They may also specialize in areas like pediatrics, gerontology, and psychiatric mental health. RNs can increase their earning potential and move into a high-demand field by earning a nurse practitioner degree.
While RNs earn a median pay of $73,000 per year, advanced practice RNs like nurse practitioners make nearly $116,000 per year. Nurse practitioners also benefit from high demand. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) ranks nurse practitioners as one of the fastest-growing professions in the country.
An online nurse practitioner degree appeals to working nurses seeking a flexible schedule. Nurses can often complete clinical requirements at their current place of employment while in an online program.
Keep reading to learn more about the most affordable online NP programs, common courses, and scholarships for nurse practitioner students.
What is the difference between doctor and nurse practitioner?
Doctors and nurse practitioners both provide primary care to patients. However, doctors attend medical school, while nurse practitioners train in graduate nursing programs.
How many years does it take to be a nurse practitioner?
Earning a nurse practitioner degree generally takes 2-4 years, depending on the program. Learners complete coursework and clinical requirements. After earning a degree, NPs must pass a national certification exam.
What does a nursing practitioner do?
Nurse practitioners offer primary and specialty care. They assess patients, diagnose illnesses, and prescribe medication. Nurse practitioners also create treatment plans.
Is a nurse practitioner higher than an RN?
Yes, nurse practitioners are APRNs, or advanced practice RNs. They take on more responsibilities than RNs, including prescribing medication, and they earn a higher salary.
What Are the Goals of a Nurse Practitioner Degree?
A nurse practitioner degree builds advanced clinical skills. Students learn how to conduct advanced health assessments, diagnose conditions in a clinical setting, and educate patients on health promotion. In addition to classroom training, NP students strengthen hands-on skills through clinical practicum requirements. Students in an online nurse practitioner degree program can often complete clinical requirements in their local area.
Nurse practitioners provide primary and specialty healthcare. Within a nurse practitioner program, degree-seekers can specialize their skills by choosing a focus area. Many programs offer specializations in areas like family medicine, pediatric health, and adult and geriatric health.
Why Get a Nurse Practitioner Degree?
High earning potential and strong job demand are just a couple of the many benefits of working as a nurse practitioner. The following list outlines five benefits of becoming a nurse practitioner.
- Increased Responsibilities
- Nurse practitioners provide primary and specialty care. As advanced practice RNs, they take on leadership roles and greater responsibilities than registered nurses.
- Higher Earning Potential
- APRNs like nurse practitioners earn among the highest salaries in nursing. According to 2019 data, APRNs earn a median salary of nearly $116,000 per year.
- Nurse practitioners can specialize their training by working in roles like family nurse practitioner, neonatal nurse practitioner, or adult/gerontology nurse practitioner. These specializations prepare graduates for focused career paths.
- Strong Demand
- Nurse practitioners benefit from strong demand. Between 2019-2029, the BLS projects a 45% increase in jobs for APRNs, including nurse practitioners.
- Primary Care Training
- Nurses gain primary care skills through an NP degree program. During their program, students learn how to provide primary care to patients across the lifespan.
What Are the Requirements for a Nurse Practitioner Degree?
Most nurse practitioner programs require a bachelor’s degree in nursing and a current RN license. Some programs may offer an RN-to-MSN option for nurses without a BSN. Applicants may also need to submit recommendation letters and transcripts. Some programs recommend or require a minimum number of years working as an RN before entering an NP program.
During a nurse practitioner program, learners complete coursework and clinical requirements. Depending on the program, nurse practitioner students may complete 600 or more clinical hours as part of their training.
After earning a nurse practitioner degree, graduates must apply for a license and national certification. Several organizations certify nurse practitioners, including the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners Certification Board, the American Nurses Credentialing Center, and the Pediatric Nursing Certification Board.
Professional Organizations for Nurse Practitioner Students
Professional organizations help nurse practitioner students expand their network and prepare for the workforce. Organizations like the American Association of Nurse Practitioners provide targeted resources for nurses planning to work as nurse practitioners. Many professional associations also offer professional development support, career resources, and networking opportunities.
American Association of Nurse Practitioners
AANP represents more than 116,000 nurse practitioners. The association publishes professional resources, provides information on how to become a nurse practitioner, and lists research opportunities. Members gain access to educational tools, practice and career support, and up-to-date information. Members can also use the AANP Job Center to strengthen their career skills and identify opportunities.
American Nurses Association
Founded in 1896, ANA advocates for the 4 million registered nurses in the U.S., including nurse practitioners. The association provides practice resources, accreditation information, and educational events. ANA also hosts events with networking opportunities and posts job openings in its career center.
Scholarships for Nurse Practitioner Students
Nurse practitioner students may qualify for many scholarship opportunities. Professional associations, private foundations, and government agencies all support nurses moving into advanced practice roles. The following list outlines several scholarship opportunities for nurse practitioner students. Nurses can also research scholarships based on their school, state, or specialty.
Who Can Apply: Nurse practitioner students with a minimum 3.2 GPA can apply for the scholarship. Applicants must attend an AACN member institution for their graduate degree. The scholarship application includes a short essay on career goals and future plans.
Who Can Apply: This scholarship, offered four times per year, supports nursing students. Degree-seekers in an accelerated graduate program or an RN-to-MSN program receive preference. Applicants must show current enrollment in an AACN member institution. Finalists for the scholarship must provide recommendation letters, academic awards, and their published articles to the committee.
Who Can Apply: The National Health Service Corps Scholarship Program offers full tuition waivers to nurse practitioner students. Recipients must attend an accredited nursing program that leads to national certification as a nurse practitioner in family medicine, adult medicine, geriatrics, primary care pediatrics, psychiatric mental health, or women’s health. Recipients also agree to a service obligation after completing their program.
Amount: Tuition plus a stipend
Most Affordable Online Nurse Practitioner Degrees 2021
Texas A&M University
College Station, TX
A public university located in College Station, Texas A&M offers an online master of science in nursing with a family nurse practitioner track that prepares Texas students to practice as primary care providers.
The 48-credit program requires all students to attend a one-day conference on campus and limited on-campus class activities. Course topics include advanced pathophysiology, prevention and population health, quality improvement and health informatics, and primary care of families. Students must also complete four credits of practicum experience to complete the program.
Applicants must hold a bachelor of science degree in nursing with an unencumbered registered nurse license. Students must also possess a minimum GPA of 3.0 to qualify for admission. The school prefers students to also possess 1-3 years of prior work experience in the field. Texas A&M is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. The school also boasts programmatic accreditation from the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.
Georgia College and State University
Located in Milledgeville, Georgia College offers an online master of science in nursing with concentrations in family nurse practitioner, psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner, and women's health nurse practitioner.
The school offers all of the coursework online but does require occasional on-campus visits during immersion programs and for special guest lectures. Students must complete the 40-credit program within seven years, which includes 225 hours of practicum experience. Course topics include applied pharmacology, primary care of adults, and nursing theory.
Applicants must hold a bachelor of science degree in nursing and possess a minimum GPA of 2.75 to qualify for admission. Georgia College is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. The school also boasts programmatic accreditation from the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.
University of Southern California
The oldest private research university located in Los Angeles, California, USC offers an online master of science in nursing. The program prepares family nurse practitioners to advance their nursing careers.
Designed for registered nurses with at least one year of clinical experience, the 49-credit program offers full-time (21 months) and part-time (33 months) tracks. The curriculum includes pathophysiology for advanced nursing practice, human behavior in the social environment, transformative research evidence into practice, and professional issues in advanced practice nursing. Students must also complete 784 hours of practicum experience to complete the program. Students must plan to attend two on-campus intensives during the program.
Applicants must hold a bachelor of science degree in nursing with a minimum GPA of 3.0 to qualify for admission. USC is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission. The school also boasts programmatic accreditation from the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.
The George Washington University
A private university based in Washington, D.C., GW offers a master of science in nursing in adult-gerontology acute care nurse practitioner. The program helps registered nurses expand their career opportunities in critical care settings.
The 48-credit program covers course topics such as nursing leadership, concepts in population health, advanced physiology and pathophysiology, and genetics for healthcare providers. Students must also finish 600 clinical hours to complete the program. Students must plan for some on-campus visits for various health assessment tests, seminars, and training.
Applicants must hold a master of science degree in nursing with a minimum GPA of 3.0 and boast at least one year of experience in a critical care setting to qualify. GW is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education. The school also boasts programmatic accreditation from the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.
A Christian university based in Birmingham, Alabama, Samford offers a master of science in nursing family nurse practitioner degree. The program helps registered nurses attain the skills necessary to advance their careers. Students graduating from the program qualify to sit for the family nurse practitioner national certification examination.
Course topics include advanced physical assessment, pharmacotherapeutics for advanced nursing practice, population health and policy, and ethical leadership and collaboration. Students must also complete 600 hours of practicum experience to complete the program. Students must visit the campus three times during the program for required in-person sessions.
Applicants must hold a bachelor of science degree in nursing and an unencumbered registered nurse license. Students must also possess a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.0 to qualify for admission. Samford is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. The school also boasts programmatic accreditation from the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.