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Nurse Practitioners

Nursing - An Occupation in Demand  

Being a nurse means you have a versatile career that offers many avenues for advancement. One such path is becoming a nurse practitioner. Because it's an Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN) position, working as a nurse practitioner means a higher salary, more responsibility, and additional education requirements.  Nurse Practitioner (NP) is an Advanced Practice Registered Nurse who has additional responsibilities for administering patient care than RNs.

What Does A Nurse Practitioner Do?

NPs can prescribe medication, examine patients, diagnose illnesses, and provide treatment, much like physicians do. In fact, nurse practitioners have what's referred to as "full practice authority" in 20 states, meaning that they do not have to work under the supervision of a doctor. In the remaining states, however, while NPs still have more authority than RNs, they must have a medical doctor sign on certain patient care decisions.

  TBy 2028, the Gulf Coast region will need more than 4,200 Nurse Practitioners!

35% Growth

Even at entry-level, Nurse Practitioners earn a salary of more than $50,000 per year above the median for all occupations in the Gulf Coast Region!

Entry $94,199 Median $119,190 Experienced $140,216

Start Early and Be Prepared

High School Endorsement: Public Service | STEM

Gaining admission into nursing programs is very competitive. More students are turned away each year than are accepted. Students should strive for the highest GPA possible to provide them with the edge needed for acceptance into a nursing program. Nursing requires a high school background with strengths in English comprehension, algebra, chemistry, biology and psychology.

What does it take to be a Nurse Practitioner? * These skills, interests, and knowledge areas are recommended for a career in nursing. The following data describes the relative importance of each knowledge/skill area from the opinion of those in the industry.                 

Top 10 Relevant Knowledge Areas Relevant Importance Levels
Medicine and Dentistry
Knowledge of the information and techniques needed to diagnose and treat human injuries, diseases, and deformities. This includes symptoms, treatment alternatives, drug properties and interactions, and preventive health-care measures.
Knowledge of human behavior and performance; individual differences in ability, personality, and interests; learning and motivation; psychological research methods; and the assessment and treatment of behavioral and affective disorders.
Therapy and Counseling
Knowledge of principles, methods, and procedures for diagnosis, treatment, and rehabilitation of physical and mental dysfunctions, and for career counseling and guidance.
English Language
Knowledge of the structure and content of the English language including the meaning and spelling of words, rules of composition, and grammar.
Customer and Personal Service
Knowledge of principles and processes for providing customer and personal services. This includes customer needs assessment, meeting quality standards for services, and evaluation of customer satisfaction.
Knowledge of plant and animal organisms, their tissues, cells, functions, interdependencies, and interactions with each other and the environment.

*Source: Texas Career Check

Most Nurse Practitioners work for hospitals, but many work for other healthcare providers, while some are employed by educational institutions.

Top 5 Industries for Nurse Practitioners

Pathway to Becoming A Nurse Practitioner


1.    BECOME A REGISTERED NURSE The first step to a career as a nurse practitioner is earning your credentials as a registered nurse (RN). There are a number of academic paths to reach this particular goal -- specifically, an associate or bachelor's degree from an accredited institution of higher education, or a diploma from an approved vocational training program. (Prospective nurses should note that these diploma programs have become less popular due to the fact that many employers in the healthcare sector now require clinician employees to have a college degree). Some educational trajectories combine the steps of becoming an RN and earning a bachelor's degree, and some programs offer accelerated tracks for those with previous non-nursing bachelor's degrees. Students may choose to first become a licensed practical nurse (LPN) on the road to becoming an RN. For both the LPN and the RN credentials, graduates of nursing programs must pass a standardized national examination and also obtain a state license.

2.    EARN A BACHELOR'S DEGREE Another key milestone for aspiring NPs is earning a bachelor's degree, the usual prerequisite for graduate studies. The undergraduate major is most often nursing, but a limited number of future NPs might begin by majoring in a related field. Bachelor's degree programs in nursing usually include a substantial clinical component, as well as courses designed to teach skills related to communication, supervision, management, research, community health and quantitative skills. Entering a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) program promptly after high school is the most direct route to an immediate post-secondary career in nursing. However, many nurses turn to bachelor's degree studies after first gaining work experience in the field following the achievement of an LPN diploma or associate degree in nursing. Nurses with an RN credential can opt for an RN-to-BSN "bridge" program, which could take more or less time depending on whether or not students continue working while advancing toward their degree. LPNs can also research various LPN-to-BSN programs.

3.    GAIN EXPERIENCE There are varying opinions regarding the many potential paths in nursing education, especially the path to advanced practice. Some feel that going straight through nursing school to the master's level is the most efficient option. Others believe that an extremely accelerated path leaves graduates less rigorously prepared on the clinical level than those who have worked on the front lines of health care as registered nurses prior to seeking certification as an NP or APRN. Individuals learn a variety of skills on the job, including how to take address a variety of patient problems, how to work effectively and efficiently in different medical and health environments, and how to work with a team of medical professionals and physicians in a clinical setting.

4.    EARN A GRADUATE DEGREE To become a nurse practitioner, candidates must earn a graduate degree. Many graduate schools require students to gain a few years of nursing experience before being accepted into their nurse practitioner programs. Others allow students to gain RN work experience while pursuing their graduate degrees. In either case, real-world RN experience is an essential element to a future as a nurse practitioner and provides an important opportunity to explore potential specialties.

Some nursing graduate schools accept RNs with an associate degree or diploma. Alternatively, a graduate program may be open to individuals who hold a bachelor's degree in a field related to health or science, whereas some may require a Bachelor of Science in Nursing as a prerequisite.

A Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) is the minimum degree requirement for becoming a nurse practitioner. It is also currently the most common degree program in the field, although some experts note a growing movement toward requiring all nurse practitioners to earn a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree.

Another possibility is to earn a master's degree in nursing and then a PhD in a related field, particularly for those with career goals related to healthcare administration, nursing education or research. Graduate programs provide in-depth study of medical ethics, diagnosis, and anatomy among other subjects.

Regardless of graduate degree level, the curriculum for a nurse practitioner follows the general course of study for an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN), with specialized NP education and training. Students focus on a specialty such as family and primary care, women's health, geriatrics or psychiatry.

Graduate nursing studies include both classroom education and clinical training. Coursework covers a broad range of subjects including anatomy, physiology and pharmacology, as well as field-specific classes that explore pediatrics, family or primary care, gerontology, health systems management and more. Students pursuing a master's (MSN) degree can plan for approximately 18 to 24 months of full-time study, while DNP programs typically require a two- to three-year full-time education commitment.

5.    OBTAIN STATE LICENSE AND CERTIFICATION All states mandate that nurse practitioners be licensed. Each state has its own specific licensing requirements, and it is essential that individuals understand those requirements before beginning their education and training. States typically publish a list of approved graduate-level programs that qualify toward nurse practitioner licensing in that particular jurisdiction. Nurse practitioner licensure candidates must hold a master's degree in nursing and a valid state RN license, and also pass a national certification examination.

National certification for nurse practitioners is available from various professional associations, depending on a candidate's chosen area of specialization. National organizations that certify NPs include the Pediatric Nursing Certification Board, the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners, and the American Nurses Credentialing Center, which is a subsidiary of the American Nurses Association. Eligibility for certification typically requires at least an RN license, a degree from an accredited institution, and a certain number of supervised clinical hours.

6.    PURSUE FURTHER SPECIALIZATION Some professional organizations recommend that Advanced Practice Registered Nurses obtain additional credentials relating to a specific area of specialization or a certain patient population. Opportunities for advancement increase with education, certification and work experience in one or more specialties. Even without this additional specialization, nursing professionals are lifelong learners, since maintaining certification requires a certain amount of continuing education credits throughout one's career.

Examples of specialization as an APRN include Acute Care Pediatric Nurse Practitioner (ACNP), Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner (AG ACNP), Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) and Pediatric Nurse Practitioner (PNP).


To become a nurse practitioner, students must first get their basic nursing education by obtaining an associate in science degree to become a registered nurse (RN) or by completing a four-year bachelor's degree in nursing (BSN). Once they have completed their undergraduate education, students can enroll in a graduate program to obtain a master's degree in nursing (MSN), which is required to become a licensed nurse practitioner.

Admission into a master's degree program typically requires clinical experience, letters of reference, and a declaration of a specialty. Coursework in specialty areas can vary but typically include lab work and a comprehensive exam. Upon completion of a master's degree, students must pass the national certification exam and obtain a license to practice.

Undergraduate Nursing Degrees Those interested in becoming a nurse practitioner have a few different options at the undergraduate level. Student can choose to earn an associate degree first, eventually moving on to a bachelor's or start with a four-year program. A bachelor's degree in nursing prepares students for a job as a registered nurse (RN) and also provides the educational foundation for a master's degree in the field. This program typically combines classroom-based learning with a clinical component.

Students take a variety of introductory courses on topics such as emergency care, health assessments, nutrition, public and global health, and current trends in nursing. Students with an associate degree and who have already earned RN certification may be able to complete an RN to BSN program in two years. Others would obtain their bachelor's degree in four years. Students may also opt to take an accelerated BSN to MSN bridge program at an accredited school.

After completing a BSN program, students have the skills and experience to develop complete nursing treatment plans, treat patients for various illnesses and medical conditions, perform routine lab work, administer medications and injections, and educate patients about how to improve their health habits. They are trained to work in a variety of medical and clinical settings, including physician's offices, public medical and surgical hospitals, and at nursing care facilities.

Helpful Tech to Get Ahead

  • Database User Interface Entry Software: IDX Systems or Microsoft Access
  • Medical Software: Epic Systems, Medical procedure coding software, MEDITECH software, or Siemens SIENET Sky
  • Human Resources Software: HRMS
  • Project Management Software: Microsoft SharePoint

Gulf Coast Region Nurse Practitioner Programs Community Colleges


Health-Related Institutions

Major Employers in the Gulf Coast Region

  If you have questions about our Industry/Occupation Profiles or are an organization in the Gulf Coast Region, please contact

*Includes the following counties: Austin, Brazoria, Chambers, Colorado, Fort Bend, Galveston, Harris, Liberty, Matagorda, Montgomery, Walker, Waller, and Wharton.