Explore A Career As A Nurse Practitioner

Nurse practitioners play an important role in providing care to patients. Working as an NP requires rigorous education, experience and compassion for those in your care.

A career as a nurse practitioner (NP) can be very rewarding. NPs play an important role in providing care to patients, and their expertise can often be the difference between life and death. 

NPs are in high demand and the job can be quite financially lucrative. To become an NP, however, a person must have the focus and dedication needed to complete the rigorous educational requirements of pursuing an NP license. Meanwhile, they must also have the compassionate, caring attitude needed to provide patient care.

What Does a Nurse Practitioner Do?

Nurse practitioners function in many ways like a doctor, albeit with a more limited scope and less independence. NPs will order tests, diagnose diseases and order medications and treatments. They can also perform moderately complicated medical procedures, such as setting a bone or stitching a wound closed.

NPs may work in hospitals, doctor’s offices, clinics and substance rehab centers. NPs have to work under the supervision of a doctor, but oftentimes they are mostly autonomous. Many times, an NP will see a patient who comes for a doctor’s visit, and the physician will never see the patient; the NP’s assessment and diagnosis will determine the care the patient receives.

Nurse Practitioners vs. Doctors

While NPs have a wide scope that allows them to do many of the things a doctor can, they still often practice under the supervision of a doctor. A physician has to have a longer, more advanced education and has a better understanding of how to provide patient care. NPs are not permitted to do some of the more complex procedures that doctors can, such as performing surgery. NPs typically must also have their work reviewed by a physician.

Nurse Practitioners vs. Physician Assistants

Nurse practitioners and physician assistants are quite similar in the roles they play. These two positions are both often referred to as mid-level providers, and both allow the practitioner to diagnose and order tests, medications and other treatments. The differences between these roles are more nuanced and vary slightly from state to state, depending on each state’s regulations. NPs tend to have slightly more independence when practicing than PAs.

How to Become a Nurse Practitioner

Because nurse practitioners independently make life-and-death decisions based on the latest clinical research, they must have a high level of training and expertise. This makes the course of education and training required to achieve this position longer and more complex than many other positions in health care.

Educational and Degree Requirements

To become an NP, one must first become a registered nurse (RN). RN programs can be either a bachelor’s or associate’s degree, which varies from one state and program to another. Once someone has completed their RN education, however, they must also obtain a bachelor’s degree if they wish to become an NP. Following this, it will be necessary to obtain a master’s degree or doctorate in nursing. 

Training and Clinical Experience

Clinical experience is a necessary part of RN and NP training. During the course of obtaining the degrees needed for each, performing a certain number of clinical hours will be required. In addition to the clinical work needed to obtain the initial degrees, most NPs will work for at least a few years as an RN prior to starting their NP education. While this is not strictly required, it is typically a good idea because the experience received as an RN will make succeeding as an NP much easier.

Required Examinations, Licensure and Certifications

Becoming an RN will initially require passing the NCLEX-RN, which is a nationally standardized test for nurses. Someone who has completed the initial education needed to become an RN and passed the NCLEX-RN will also need to apply for an RN license in the state they will practice in.

Once you have completed your NP education, you will need to become certified by a national accrediting organization and licensed by the state you wish to practice in. Certification is normally needed first and is obtained by taking an exam from a certifying agency on the specific population focus you are trained in. 

These areas of certification include:

  • Adult-Gerontology Acute Care
  • Adult-Gerontology Primary Care
  • Family
  • Pediatric Primary Care
  • Psychiatric-Mental Health
  • Pediatric Acute Care
  • Neonatal
  • Women’s Health-Gender Related

Once you have obtained your certification, you may apply for licensure from the state you will be practicing in. 

Do you need to renew your APRN license?

Most states will require an NP to renew their license. This typically includes paying a fee and ensuring your information is up to date. It may also require you to provide evidence of continuing education prior to renewal. In addition to renewing your license, you will also need to recertify your certification. How frequently this is done and how you recertify will depend on the certifying agency.

A Nurse Practitioner’s Role in Substance Rehabilitation

An NP who has the Psychiatric-Mental Health certification will play a vital role as a member of the health care team in substance rehab facilities. NPs will assess patients’ psychological well-being and recognize the medical impact of withdrawal. NPs will also order medications, tests and treatments that will help those struggling with addiction to achieve a full recovery. NPs may also provide essential therapies that assist in recovery.

Available Positions at The Recovery Village

The Recovery Village has several facilities throughout the United States, and we are always looking to add new professionals to our team of industry-leading experts. In addition to positions at one of our facilities, jobs are also available nationally through our telehealth platform. Our evidence-based approach to addiction treatment has made us one of the first organizations to be designated as a Blue Distinction Center for Substance Use Treatment. We are accredited by The Joint Commission, and our staff collectively holds over 3,000 professional credentials.

Other Questions About NPs

How long does it take to become a nurse practitioner?

The length of time it takes to become an NP depends on the course of education taken. It also depends on whether a person spends any time practicing as an RN before going on to become an NP. The shortest time that it would take someone to become an NP is typically six years. Four years of this would include obtaining a bachelor’s in nursing, and another two would include pursuing a master’s in nursing.

What is an average salary for RNs?

Due to the increasing age of the general population and increasing awareness of addiction and resulting addiction treatment options, NPs have enjoyed a high demand for their services that is likely to continue for the foreseeable future.

What is the difference between an NP and an RN?

An RN is able to assess patients and perform the orders of a doctor, NP or PA. RNs are not allowed, however, to diagnose patients and order tests or treatments. NPs must also be RNs, but they are permitted to diagnose patients and order tests and medications.


American Association of Nurse Practitioners. “Issues at a Glance: Full Practice Authority.” December 2019. Accessed September 23, 2020.

NursingLicensure.org. “Nurse Practitioner License Requirements:[…]Change is in the Air.” 2020. Accessed September 23, 2020.

Learn How to Become. “How to Become A Nurse Practitioner: Nurs[…]ograms & Careers.” 2020. Accessed September 23, 2020.

MSNedu.com. “How to Become a Certified Nurse Practitioner (CNP).” 2020. Accessed September 23, 2020.

Cobb, Cynthia. “How to Become a Nurse Practitioner.” NP Schools, March 19, 2020. Accessed September 23, 2020.

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. “Occupational Outlook Handbook: Healthcare Occupations.” September 1, 2020. Accessed September 23, 2020.

Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.