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Nurse Practitioners

At a Glance

  • Perform a range of medical duties
  • Can prescribe medication
  • Usually work in a medical practice with doctors
  • Constantly interact with patients and nurses
  • Must be certified
  • Training usually lasts one to two years after receiving a bachelor's degree

Career summary

Nurse practitioners serve as primary and specialty care providers. They treat and care for patients with a broad range of health issues.

Nurse practitioners are registered nurses who have additional training. They see patients for a variety of issues as well as general check-ups. They treat patients and prescribe certain medications.

Nurse practitioners may specialize in areas such as:

Nurse practitioners get information from patients about their medical history. They examine patients and discuss any problems. They also order x-rays and other tests and interpret their results. When needed, they prescribe some medicines or treatments.

Nurse practitioners talk to patients about healthy lifestyles and ways to manage chronic conditions. Sometimes they refer patients to doctors or specialists.

Nurse practitioners usually work with other nurses and medical office staff. They dictate notes about their visits with patients. They often are part of a larger medical practice.

Related careers

This career is part of the Health Science cluster of careers.

Related careers include:

Military careers

Job duties

Task list

The following list of tasks is specific to nurse practitioners.

Common work activities

Nurse practitioners perform the following tasks. These tasks are common to many careers.

Work requirements

Working conditions

In a typical work setting, nurse practitioners:

Interpersonal relationships

Physical work conditions

Work performance


Physical demands

Nurse practitioners frequently:

It is important for nurse practitioners to be able to:

It is not as important, but still necessary, for nurse practitioners to be able to:

Skills and abilities

Nurse practitioners need to:


Reason and problem solve

Use math and science

Manage oneself, people, time, and things

Work with people

Work with things

Perceive and visualize

Education and training

Educational programs

The programs of study listed below will help you prepare for the occupation or career cluster you are exploring.

Programs of study directly related to this occupation

Other programs of study to consider


To work as a nurse practitioner, you typically need to:

Education after high school

Most nurse practitioners begin by earning a bachelor's degree in nursing. Then they spend another few years earning a graduate degree. Some graduate programs for nurse practitioners take one to two years to complete. You learn diagnostic and general health assessment skills. You can also focus in a particular area.

There is a growing national movement to require all NPs to earn a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree. DNP programs require three to four years study beyond a bachelor's degree in nursing.

Work experience

Working as a registered nurse or a licensed practical nurse provides good experience for this occupation. Volunteering at a clinic or hospital is also helpful.

On-the-job training

A significant part of studying to become a nurse practitioner is spending time in clinical settings. During this period you work with patients directly.

Military training

Some branches of the military offer training in nursing specialties to people who are already licensed as a registered nurse. Training lasts 14 to 27 weeks, depending on your specialty. Additional training occurs on the job.

Helpful high school courses

In high school, take classes that prepare you for college. A college preparatory curriculum may be different from your state's graduation requirements.

You should also consider taking some advanced courses in high school. This includes Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) courses if they are available in your school. If you do well in these courses, you may receive college credit for them. Advanced courses can also strengthen your college application.

Helpful electives to take in high school that prepare you for this career include:

The courses listed above are meant to help you create your high school plan. If you have not already done so, talk to a school counselor or parent about the courses you are considering taking.

You should also check with a teacher or counselor to see if work-based learning opportunities are available in your school and community. These might include field trips, job shadowing, internships, and actual work experience. The goal of these activities is to help you connect your school experiences with real-life work.

Join some groups, try some hobbies, or volunteer with an organization that interests you. By participating in activities you can have fun, make new friends, and learn about yourself. Maybe one of them will help direct you to a future career. Here are examples of activities and groups that may be available in your high school or community.

Things to know

All states require that nurse practitioners complete a formal training program. Most employers look for experience or clinical rotations in their specialty area. Some NPs are hired by the doctors who supervised their clinical rotations. Hiring usually means that a practitioner joins an existing medical practice.

Employers look for practitioners who have leadership skills and emotional stability. NPs must be willing to study throughout their career. Studying keeps them up to date on medical advances.

Employers prefer to hire nurses who have a strong desire to help others and a genuine concern for patients' welfare. Because work with the sick and injured can be stressful, employers look for nurses who are emotionally stable.


Observe a nurse practitioner at work to see what his or her job is like. While in school, get as much practical or clinical experience as possible. Some ARNPs recommend getting a bachelor's degree rather than a two- or three-year degree when starting in the nursing field. It is helpful to work as a registered nurse before entering a nurse practitioner educational program. Volunteer and get training as an emergency medical technician (EMT). Look at case studies on the Internet. Read medical and nursing books.

Costs to workers

Many nurse practitioners join professional associations, which may have annual dues. Most practitioners pay for malpractice insurance. Additional expenses include continuing education classes to keep informed of changes in the nursing field.


Nurse practitioners must be licensed by the State Board of Nursing.

General licensing requirements include:

For license renewal, nurse practitioners must complete 30 hours of continuing education within their specialty every two years and be involved in active practice. If licensed nurse practitioners have not yet enrolled in and completed the survey for the Nursys national database, they must do so when they renew their license.

Nurse practitioners who wish to prescribe medications (excluding narcotics) must have an Advanced Registered Nurse Practitioner (ARNP) Registration with prescriptive authority granted by the Nursing Commission.

General licensing requirements are:

For more information, contact:

Washington State Department of Health
Health Systems Quality Assurance
Customer Service Center (external link)

PO Box 47864
Olympia, WA 98504




Nurse practitioners (SOC 29-1171)

Pay Period
Washington Hourly $37.06 $46.79 $55.94 $64.01 $75.14
Monthly $6,422 $8,109 $9,694 $11,093 $13,022
Yearly $77,080 $97,320 $116,350 $133,130 $156,300
    Bellingham Hourly $40.35 $43.73 $49.11 $57.96 $64.50
Monthly $6,993 $7,578 $8,511 $10,044 $11,178
Yearly $83,926 $90,965 $102,142 $120,568 $134,170
    Bremerton-Silverdale Hourly $38.71 $48.49 $55.61 $61.02 $65.28
Monthly $6,708 $8,403 $9,637 $10,575 $11,313
Yearly $80,531 $100,863 $115,672 $126,934 $135,781
    Clarkston-Lewiston Hourly $19.77 $42.03 $54.48 $61.68 $69.12
Monthly $3,426 $7,284 $9,441 $10,689 $11,978
Yearly $41,123 $87,427 $113,320 $128,281 $143,771
    Kennewick-Richland Hourly $37.01 $43.29 $49.67 $62.13 $74.81
Monthly $6,414 $7,502 $8,608 $10,767 $12,965
Yearly $76,992 $90,052 $103,322 $129,240 $155,602
    Longview Hourly $45.57 $51.99 $63.21 $76.64 $88.02
Monthly $7,897 $9,010 $10,954 $13,282 $15,254
Yearly $94,790 $108,141 $131,473 $159,424 $183,065
    Mount Vernon-Anacortes Hourly $30.75 $42.51 $53.09 $65.06 $95.08
Monthly $5,329 $7,367 $9,200 $11,275 $16,477
Yearly $63,953 $88,413 $110,418 $135,325 $197,751
    Olympia-Tumwater Hourly $45.31 $51.53 $59.01 $68.14 $77.35
Monthly $7,852 $8,930 $10,226 $11,809 $13,405
Yearly $94,237 $107,191 $122,733 $141,714 $160,904
    Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue Hourly $37.74 $48.97 $57.42 $64.92 $74.62
Monthly $6,540 $8,487 $9,951 $11,251 $12,932
Yearly $78,493 $101,849 $119,434 $135,029 $155,204
    Spokane-Spokane Valley Hourly $22.17 $46.34 $60.20 $79.36 (1)
Monthly $3,842 $8,031 $10,433 $13,753 (1)
Yearly $46,108 $96,394 $125,217 $165,064 (1)
    Vancouver Hourly $41.35 $46.06 $54.29 $61.71 $72.33
Monthly $7,166 $7,982 $9,408 $10,694 $12,535
Yearly $85,997 $95,793 $112,929 $128,356 $150,434
    Walla Walla Hourly $31.66 $37.17 $48.28 $56.78 $61.67
Monthly $5,487 $6,442 $8,367 $9,840 $10,687
Yearly $65,866 $77,305 $100,407 $118,106 $128,272
    Wenatchee Hourly $44.26 $50.76 $60.16 $70.87 $77.21
Monthly $7,670 $8,797 $10,426 $12,282 $13,380
Yearly $92,047 $105,576 $125,131 $147,424 $160,591
    Yakima Hourly $32.70 $44.68 $54.66 $60.47 $63.97
Monthly $5,667 $7,743 $9,473 $10,479 $11,086
Yearly $68,012 $92,935 $113,678 $125,789 $133,077
United States Hourly $37.64 $43.64 $51.46 $60.31 $72.27
Monthly $6,523 $7,563 $8,918 $10,452 $12,524
Yearly $78,300 $90,760 $107,030 $125,440 $150,320

(1) Wage estimate is not available.

Pay varies by employer, area of the country, and the worker's level of experience.

Nurse practitioners who work full time may receive benefits. Typical benefits include health insurance, sick leave, and paid vacation.

Employment and outlook

#According to licensing information from the State of Washington Department of Health at the time this career was updated, there are about 7,296 nurse practitioners actively licensed in Washington.

#Updated licensing number 5/5/09, cj. Sent email to medical commission & hsqa customer svc ctr for licensing #'s 5/16/11, cj. Rec'd new licensing #from Kari Johnston (Kari.Johnston@doh.wa.gov) 5/18/11, cj. Judy Haenke at DOH sent slightly different figures 5/19. I sent them to Kari to ask why and she sent this,"Yes there is an explanation for the variance in licensed nurses: each day the number of licensees change. Some do not renew, so they are expired and therefore not counted in the number of current licensed nurses. Some are expired and have been renewed the day before, so the number would increase by checking the following day. We issue new licenses daily, so this also affects the count." Requested licensing info 5/16/13 & again 8/7/13 cj. Rec'd new data from Thomas Bolender (Thomas.Bolender@DOH.WA.GOV) 8/7/13 cj. Rec from Corrado 3/11/14 lh & from Teresa Corrado (Teresa.Corrado@DOH.WA.GOV) 3/11/15 cj. Sent email to nursing@doh.wa.gov for new data 3/6/17 cj; sent again 4/5/17 & rec'd data same day.

Washington outlook

#Between 2014 and 2024, it is estimated that there will be 71 openings annually due to new positions and 69 openings annually from workers leaving this career.

#Updated outlook 06.16 sd

Changes in the delivery of health care services have increased the demand for nurse practitioners. Nurse practitioners can provide many of the same services as primary care physicians without a physician's supervision. Demand for nurse practitioners in primary care may increase as physicians focus more on providing complex medical care.

Increasingly, patients with minor or chronic health problems are being treated at hospitals as outpatients or at community clinics, ambulatory care centers, or nursing homes. This is partly due to cost-reduction measures being undertaken by many hospitals, including reductions in staff. These changes should increase the need for nurse practitioners in other facilities where primary care is provided.

The demand for nurse practitioners is also expected to rise due to technological changes that allow more medical problems to be treated, a growing and aging population, nurse practitioners' ability to provide cost-effective primary and preventive care in rural areas, and for people in programs for the uninsured. A decrease in the age group which usually provides the most nursing students will influence demand.

The table below provides information about the number of workers in this career in various regions. It also provides information about the expected growth rate and future job openings.

Nurse practitioners (SOC 29-1171)

Location Current employment Growth over 10 years Annual openings
Washington 3,455 33.9% 16.1% 428
    Adams, Chelan, Douglas, Grant, and Okanogan Counties 89 21.3% 13.4% 8
    Asotin, Columbia, Ferry, Garfield, Lincoln, Pend Oreille, Stevens, Walla Walla, and Whitman Counties 52 30.8% 8.6% 6
    Benton and Franklin Counties 83 45.8% 15.0% 12
    Clallam, Jefferson, and Kitsap Counties 122 41.0% 11.9% 17
    Clark, Cowlitz, and Wahkiakum Counties 191 44.0% 15.2% 28
    Grays Harbor, Lewis, Mason, Pacific, and Thurston Counties 159 35.2% 14.1% 20
    Island, San Juan, Skagit, and Whatcom Counties 124 36.3% 14.6% 16
    King County 1,687 32.5% 19.6% 204
    Kittitas, Klickitat, Skamania, and Yakima Counties 148 30.4% 13.8% 17
    Pierce County 253 40.7% 15.2% 35
    Snohomish County 153 40.5% 12.4% 21
    Spokane County 382 28.8% 13.9% 43
United States 189,100 28.2% 5.2% 16,900

National employment

Major employers:

National outlook

Demand for this occupation is very strong. Growth is expected as the aging population gets larger and the need for medical procedures increases. New federal health insurance laws also create more need for health care services. States are giving nurse practitioners more authority to perform procedures that only physicians used to perform.

Job prospects are best in rural and other underserved areas.

Other resources

American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology (AAAAI) (external link)
555 East Wells Street, Suite 1100
Milwaukee, WI 53202
American Association of Nurse Practitioners (external link)
PO Box 12846
Austin, TX 78711
American College of Nurse-Midwives (external link)
8403 Colesville Road, Suite 1550
Silver Spring, MD 20910
American Nurses Association (external link)
8515 Georgia Avenue, Suite 400
Silver Spring, MD 20910
ARNPs United of Washington State (external link)
10024 SE 240th Street, Suite 102
Kent, WA 98031
Clinical Nurse Leader Association (external link)
Explore Health Careers: Nurse Practitioner (external link)
Gerontological Advanced Practice Nurses Association (external link)
Hospice and Palliative Nurses Association (external link)
National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners (external link)
5 Hanover Square, Suite 1401
New York, NY 10004
National League for Nursing (external link)
The Watergate, 2600 Virginia Avenue NW
Eighth Floor
Washington, DC 20037
Northwest Organization of Nurse Executives (external link)
4000 Kruse Way Place, Suite 2-100
Lake Oswego, OR 97035
Nurse Practitioner Central (external link)
10024 SE 240th Street, Suite 102
Kent, WA 98031
Nursing (external link)
From Johnson & Johnson
Puget Sound Nurse Practitioner Association (external link)
Society of Trauma Nurses (external link)
446 East High Street, Suite 10 446 East High Street, Suite 10
Lexington, KY 40507
Washington Center for Nursing (external link)
1101 Andover Park West, Suite 105
Tukwila, WA 98188
What is a Midwife? (external link)
Who are Pediatric Nurse Practitioners? (external link)
Your Nursing Career: A look at the facts (external link)


Career cluster

Career path

O*Net (external link) occupation

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DOT occupation

Strong Interest Inventory

Holland occupational cluster