Everything You Need to Know to Become an Advanced Practice Nurse Practitioner

| Updated on May 6, 2024

Nurses are lauded and respected. They are considered one of the most trustworthy job professions and have been instrumental heroes during the pandemic. You may be just starting out and looking for a great career to choose to pursue, or you may be thinking about starting a career in nursing later on in life. It doesn’t matter if you take a few years to discover your passion for helping others, if you already have a career and are looking to make a change, or if you have always wanted to work in healthcare: nursing is a great choice for you. 

Nursing can be a better option than working to become a doctor, too. While RNs make significantly less than physicians, the gap isn’t nearly as large the further up the career ladder you go. Advance Practice Nurse Practitioners regularly make six-figure salaries, with Nurse Anesthetists earning more than many doctors. Even better is that you can get into nursing far sooner and much more directly than if you are a doctor. 

Though burnout is high amongst nurses, medical students and medical residents experience the highest levels of burnout across the board. What this means is that by becoming a nurse, you can not only be paid well and specialize with either a certain demographic or area of medicine, you can actually enjoy a better quality of life as well – so long as you stand firm on what you need. 

Nursing is a highly customizable career and is the better choice for those with an interest in science and medicine but a passion for caring. 

In fact, that is the key difference between nursing and physicians. Doctors focus on the science side of care. They stay up to date with diseases, treatments, and more to continually provide the best source of information for their patients. Nurses, on the other hand, provide the care and compassion that sees patients through some of the most difficult periods in their lives. 

With great career opportunities within nursing, and so many ways to customize your career once you become an APRN, there are untold possibilities awaiting you, and with this guide, you can plan and prepare properly: 

Getting Into Nursing 

Getting into nursing with the goal of becoming an APRN is an excellent goal, but you owe it to yourself to also put effort into finding the right path into nursing. There are many, many ways to get started in healthcare, even if you will need a BSN at the end of the day. 

Get into Healthcare First 

It takes time to complete your BSN, and if taking time off from working to tackle said degree full-time isn’t in the cards, then you have a few options. If you recently lost your job for one reason or another, and that is what sparked your interest in finally perusing your nursing aspirations, but you need work to support yourself or your family, then getting into healthcare first can be a great way to do that. 

There are plenty of positions within healthcare that require only a few weeks’ worths of training. Not only that, but they can be fairly flexible. With that flexibility, you can better support yourself and tackle an online degree. 

Accelerate Your Degree 

If you already have a degree, then you can transfer credits over to accelerate your BSN and complete it faster. This can be a great option for those who are getting into nursing as a second career, as it allows you to put to use credentials you already have. If you’re already an RN, you can enroll in the RN to BSN program on UTA.edu.

The ADN-BSN Route 

Technically you can still find and enroll in an ADN – and Associate’s Degree in Nursing. These are being phased out, and if you want to become an APRN, you will need to finish a BSN as well. The reason why you may want to go for the ADN is that it will allow you to work as an RN sooner, and you will likely be able to find a BSN that you can fast-track through by applying your ADN credentials. 

Specializing: Choosing Your APRN Path 

Being an RN is where you will want to start exploring your options and discovering yourself and your interests. You may go into nursing assuming that you know what type of specialization you want to focus on but change your mind when you are actually in it. This is normal and natural, and it is why you owe it to yourself to explore the different types of work and departments as much as you can. 

Reading, asking questions, working in different units, and exploring your options by checking out forums and job boards can all help you learn more about your options and help you discover new specializations and career paths that you may not have ever heard about otherwise. 

The Four Main Types of APRN Nurses 

A good place to get started is to, of course, understand the different APRN types. Though there are numerous specializations, there are four different key types of APRNs to help you narrow your efforts. 


Midwives are one of the world’s oldest healthcare professions, and nurse midwives combine the holistic and ancient benefits of midwifery with modern science. Countries that routinely rely on nurse-midwives have lower mortality rates for both mothers and babies, and thanks to the internet and the spread of information, more expecting parents are turning to nurse-midwives to help them through their pregnancy and birth. 

Nurse Anesthetists

Nurse Anesthetists work directly with surgeons, doctors, dentists, and the like. They earn the highest out of all nurse positions and typically work in a variety of locations as required. You will often want to pursue a doctorate. At a minimum, you will need to have at least two or more years of experience working within the ICU as an RN and then complete an MSN from an accredited nurse. Anesthesia program. For best results, furthering your credentials with a doctorate from there is highly recommended. 

Nurse Practitioners 

Nurse Practitioners (NPs) make up the bulk of APRNs. They work directly with patients and specialize either with a certain demographic or with a certain type of medicine or health. It is here that you have one of the largest pools of options. Like with nurse-midwifery and nurse anesthetists, you can and should pursue a doctorate to open up the largest number of options in this career path and to also future-proof your career. 

You can earn this doctorate in a few ways. There are integrated degrees that allow you to earn both your MSN and your DNP at the same time. To spread out your education and time, it is better to align with your career goals; however, you will want an excellent MSN to DNP program that you can complete online (with the exception of clinical experience). 

Clinical Nurse Specialists 

Clinical Nurse Specialists focus more on the science side of care and work to improve procedures and standards across the board in their field. They often focus on an area of medicine or health rather than a demographic. 

How to Find Your Right Path 

Finding the right path can feel daunting. Not only does it take a lot of time to further your credentials, but it can also be costly (though far more affordable than other career options). Taking your time before jumping into your MSN or doctorate program can be just what you need to explore and understand your options. Similarly, knowing how you can change your career trajectory, or further your goals even more with extra education, is also a great way to find the right path for you. 

Earning an MSN and becoming an APRN is not the most you can do for your career. You can either retrain and branch out your specializations, or you can earn a doctorate. Retraining and changing tracks doesn’t take as long as earning a full MSN, either, as you can take post-master’s certifications that allow you to complete the credits that are unique to that credential. 

Exploring Your Career Options 

Explore job boards and job roles long before you even intend on applying. Knowing what is out there both in the healthcare sector and outside of it can do wonders towards helping you find the perfect job for you. 

The options available to you will become even larger if you are currently living and working as a nurse in a participating eNLC state. Use that multi-state license to find the perfect city or town for you. You can even work as a travel nurse to learn more about what you want out of your personal life and professional life and enjoy a healthy salary where you are in control until you figure it out. Working as a travel nurse is an exciting opportunity for professionals who want to gain experience across a range of healthcare settings.  All travel nurses must have valid licensure in their state and fulfill other travel nurse requirements, such as having certifications in Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS) and Pediatric Advanced Life Support (PALS). Through working as a travel nurse, professionals have the chance to provide care wherever it’s needed while at the same time taking advantage of expanding their own travel opportunities.

Giving yourself time and exploring your options not just by learning what’s out there but by trying things out can help you find your place in life. Take the time to learn more about yourself, and put the effort in to understand what you want and where to find it, and you will not only become an APRN – you’ll win at life. 

Priyam Ghosh

Tech and Internet Writer

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