5 Career Options For Nurse Practitioners

A nurse practitioner is a registered nurse who has undertaken additional training at the postgraduate level, allowing them to work with patients with greater autonomy than they had previously.

It’s satisfying work because you have the opportunity to build up relationships with your patients over time and take ownership of their treatment, which means that you feel like you are really making a difference.

It’s also a profession that is set to grow by 45% over the next ten years and has plenty of options for progression and learning new skills.

Let’s take a look at some of the career options for nurse practitioners.

Psychiatric nurse practitioner

One of the differences between nurse practitioners and physicians is that nurse practitioners often approach care with a much more holistic view.

They are concerned with diagnosing conditions and prescribing treatments and medications, yes, but they began their career as nurses where the primary concern was keeping patients safe and comfortable and educating them about the choices that they can make to improve their own health.

This is an approach that is highly valuable in psychiatry, as often for a psychiatric patient to have a good outcome, they will need to make changes in their life and mindset beyond the treatment of their specific condition.

Psychiatric nurse practitioners most often work in inpatient facilities, generally working regular hours with some night shifts. Their role is to assess patients, provide emergency psychiatric care, prescribe medications for existing mental health conditions, and assess the effectiveness of existing treatment plans.

The average salary for psychiatric nurse practitioners is $109,910.

Family nurse practitioner

Family nurse practitioners are primary care providers, working in a similar way to physicians. They will work with families throughout their lives, which provides a great opportunity to create rewarding bonds and personal connections.

The role of a family nurse practitioner is to assess patients, order tests, and diagnose illnesses. They can then prescribe medications and treatments or refer their patients for specialist care elsewhere.  Family nurse practitioners work with a great deal of autonomy and generally have authority over the care of their patients.

In some states, family nurse practitioners must work under the supervision of a physician, but there is a move towards allowing family nurse practitioners to work independently within the scope of their education, as reducing pressure on physicians is a key way that the physician shortage will be addressed.

As well as providing primary care, family nurse practitioners do a lot of work around education. They will spend time educating their patients on disease prevention and healthy lifestyle choices so that they have the best chance to live a healthy life in the future. This focus on education is another way in which family nurse practitioners are key in addressing the physician shortage, as it should mean there are fewer people with chronic conditions such as obesity and type 2 diabetes.

To become a family nurse practitioner, registered nurses must get a BSN to FNP qualification at masters or doctorate level and then be licensed by their state.

Family nurse practitioners often work standard working hours in health clinics, and the average salary is $111,840 per year.

Nurse advocate

Advocacy is a part of every nurse’s role; however, there are specialist nurse advocates who make this part of the job their main focus.

Nurse advocates speak up for patients’ rights and ensure that decisions are being made that are in the patients’ best interest. Of course, all medical professionals should have the patients’ interest at heart. However, the nurse advocate will take a holistic approach, including factors such as quality of life and mental wellbeing when deciding what’s best, whereas other professionals might focus solely on medical treatment.

Nurse advocates can work in any healthcare facility, and their role is to act as a liaison between patients, family, insurance companies, and care providers to ensure that the care provided is the best possible for the specific person.

Salary expectations for nurse advocates are between $45,006 to $85,312 per year and will be affected by things like where you are working and what level of qualification you have. It’s also possible for nurse advocates to work as private consultants, in which case they would set their own rates and could charge $150 – $200 per hour.

Open your own practice

If you like the idea of running your own practice, this is something that is possible as a nurse practitioner.

In order to operate in private practice, you will need to check the legalities in the state in which you are operating, as there are some states where nurse practitioners are not allowed to operate independently, and in those states, you couldn’t open your own practice.

Private practice can be lucrative and satisfying because you can ensure that you are providing exactly the type of care that is right for your patients. However, it’s worth bearing in mind that once you are running a private practice, you are likely to spend less time with your patients and more time running your business.

You will need to oversee not only patient care but things like marketing, recruitment, accounting, and all of the other functions involved in running a small business.


A fascinating role for nurse practitioners who want to be at the forefront of medical advances is in research.

Pharmaceutical and medical research are the main reasons that healthcare keeps getting better and better, and educated and experienced professionals are absolutely essential to ensuring that research is well informed and that medical trials run smoothly.

The exact role of a research nurse will vary depending on who they are employed by and in what industry. In general, the role of a research nurse involves a lot of reading in their chosen field to become familiar with the research that has come before them, as well as working with patients who have the disease or are taking the medication that they are studying.

The average salary for research nurses is $82,708, ranging between $74,177 and $91,107 and depending on the employer and the area in which they work.