What to Look for in an Online Nurse Practitioner Degree Program

Online nursing programs are a relatively new development, but these programs can allow time-starved professionals an opportunity to get advanced degrees and climb the economic ladder. That’s one reason for the growing popularity of online degree programs for nurse practitioner.

Nurse practitioners (NP) are nurses who have earned a graduate degree in advanced practice nursing. Laws that cover licensing for NPs vary by the state in which they are working. Licensing, certification, specialization, and years of experience provide a higher nurse practitioner salary. Average salaries also vary depending on the region or state where the nurse is working.

National certification can be obtained through nursing organizations including the Pediatric Nursing Certification Board and the American Nurses’ Association. The National Institutes of Health describes some areas where nurse practitioners may receive certification. Pediatrics, Geriatrics, Acute Care and School nursing are some of the specialized fields

Education Requirements

When you pursue a nurse practitioner degree through an online program you’ll have to meet stringent educational requirements. Typically nurse practitioners are required to have:

  • Nursing degree from an RN program
  • Clinical experience as an RN, but experience in the chosen area of specialty is helpful, too
  • Specialty certification in the chosen area
  • State licensing from the state where you wish to practice

Career Opportunities for Nurse Practitioners

The Bureau of Labor Statistics expects continued growth in the demand for nurse practitioners. Over a ten-year period, salaries are predicted to rise by 7 percent. Nurse practitioners normally receive the second highest earnings in the medical field, with doctors being the highest paid.

Veteran nurse practitioners often choose specialties that make the most of their advanced training. If you’re already attracted by the higher pay and greater responsibilities enjoyed by nurse practitioners, you’ll want to think about choosing a specialty within this growing field.

America’s aging population will need more nurse practitioners in the years to come. Of course, nurse practitioners have to invest considerable time and money on the advanced education — typically at least a master’s degree — and training required to enter the profession. Developing a specialty often leads to better pay and more attractive assignments.

5 Nurse Practitioner Specialties

  • Family NP or Pediatric NP — Nurse practitioner specialties that center on the family are always in demand and if you enjoy working with children as well as adults, you’ll fit right in.
  • Midwife NP –  The trend towards more basic, natural health care has increased the demand for Midwife NPs.
  • Geriatric NP — If you have a heart for the elderly, maybe a job as a Geriatric NP is for you.
  • Health and Wellness NP — This is a good choice if you’re concerned about the nation’s obesity problem and want to help patients who struggle with weight.

Going in the right direction

Once you’ve decided on an area of specialty and obtained your online nurse practitioner degree and  the required licensing, all that’s left is to find a job. There was a time when most nurse practitioner specialists were placed with employers through services associated with their programs. Even those who had the credentials and the recommendation from the program, however, found that placement wasn’t always guaranteed or quick to happen.

Currently, though, the acceptance of NPs by physicians and patients as a vital part of health care service has increased the demand for nurse practitioner specialists, accelerating the placement of recently graduated NP specialists and providing openings for those with experience.