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Nurse Practitioner

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Overall Score
(8.1 out of 10)

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Unemployment Rate

0.9 percent

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Best Health Care Jobs #2
The 100 Best Jobs #4

If you’re currently training to be a nurse practitioner, you’ve hit the jackpot. Health care reform has ratcheted up the demand for medical professionals across the country. Baby boomers are beginning to see an onslaught of ailments brought on by age, and they are seeking medical treatment at increased rates. Job opportunities remain excellent and unemployment in this field is astonishingly low. The highest-paid in the profession are pulling in six figures. But for many, the decision to enter this profession wasn’t spurned by the money or the changing political tide, but the chance to help people. That’s the real job description for a nurse practitioner.

Nurse practitioners, or advanced practice registered nurses, are qualified to take patient histories, perform physical exams, order labs, analyze lab results, prescribe medicines, authorize treatments and counsel patients and families on continued care. Similar to other health care professionals who are patient-focused – like physicians and registered nurses – nurse practitioners might also have a “population” they specialize in, such as families, adults, pediatrics or geriatrics. They also might concentrate on providing care in a specific area, such as cardiology, dermatology, oncology, orthopedics and more. Similar to physicians and other registered nurses, APRNs often conduct research and teach within their specialty.

Nurse practitioners’ array of qualifications, and the fact they can work independently of doctors to treat patients, makes this No. 4 job on our Best Jobs of 2014 list an attractive career choice. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts 37,100 new positions for this field between 2012 and 2022, growing at a rate of 33.7 percent.


The pay is good. In 2012, nurse practitioners made a median salary of $89,960. The highest-paid 10 percent earned $120,500 and the lowest-paid 10 percent earned $64,100. Alaska is the top-paying state for this occupation, and Anchorage is one of the top-five best-paying cities for this profession overall. For the best salary potential, go west – to San Jose, Calif., specifically, where the average salary for nurse practitioners was $125,450 in 2012.

Salary Range

75th Percentile $106,510
Median $89,960
25th Percentile $78,410


Prepare for a long haul in school. “You have to have a bachelor’s degree in nursing, and then you also have to go back for a graduate degree,” says Angela Golden, a 16-year veteran in the field, co-president of the American Association of Nurse Practitioners and owner of her own private practice, NP From Home in Arizona. Some APRNs continue on, earning a Ph.D. or a Doctorate of Nursing Practice (Golden herself is a DNP). The good news is that you’ll get practical experience while you’re working on your degree since clinical hours are part of the degree program, Golden says.

All nurse practitioners are also registered nurses, so they must have passed the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses. Then there’s additional certification to use the APRN title and board certification for your specialty (women’s health, pediatrics or neonatal, to name a few). “One of the advantages of this profession is that we’ve all been registered nurses first, so we’ve had the opportunity to find a population that we want to work with, whether it’s adults or children or others,” Golden says. She advises that student nurse practitioners visit the AANP website to become fully versed in all that’s required to enter the workforce.

Reviews & Advice

Qualified nurse practitioners shouldn’t have any problems finding work. As Golden says, “In Arizona where I live, we don’t have enough people to fill the jobs. And I would say that’s true across the board for many health care positions. There are more positions than there are people to fill them.” The true stand-out applicants are APRNs who are personable, not just with patients, but with other health care personnel. “We want someone who is a team worker. Someone who works well with medical assistants and others, and who can work well within a structure,” Golden says.

Job Satisfaction

Upward Mobility fair Average
Stress Level poor Above Average
Flexibility poor Below Average
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Last updated by Jada A. Graves.

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