Approximately 189,100 nurse practitioners are employed in the United States. They work in hospitals, clinics, physicians' offices, community health centers, rural health clinics, nursing homes, mental health centers, educational institutions, student health centers, nursing schools, home health agencies, hospices, prisons, industrial organizations, the U.S. military, and other health care settings. In the states that allow nurse practitioners to practice independently, self-employment is an option.
The particular specialty a nurse practitioner pursues obviously is a major factor in determining their employment setting. Another important factor is the degree of autonomy they desire. Nurse practitioners in remote rural areas have the most autonomy, but they must be willing to spend a lot of time on the road visiting patients who are unable to get to the clinic, to be on call at all hours, and to make do with less than optimal facilities and equipment.
The career services office of your nursing school is a good place to begin the employment search. Contacts you have made in clinical settings during your nurse practitioner program are also useful sources of information on job opportunities. Nursing registries, nurse employment services, and your state employment office have information about available jobs. Nursing journals and newspapers list openings. If you are interested in working for the federal government, contact the Office of Personnel Management for your region. Applying directly to hospitals, nursing homes, and other health care agencies is also an option for nurse practitioners.
Nurse practitioners have many avenues for advancement. After gaining experience, they may move into positions that offer more responsibility and higher salaries. Some choose to move into administrative or supervisory positions in health care organizations or nursing schools. They may become faculty members at nursing schools or directors of nursing at hospitals, clinics, or other health agencies.
Some advance by doing additional academic and clinical study that gives them certification in specialized fields. Those with an interest in research, teaching, consulting, or policy making in the nursing field would do well to consider earning a Ph.D. in nursing.
Tips for Entry
Join your school's Future Nurses Club to learn more about the nursing and health care fields.
Gain basic medical training by taking courses sponsored by the American Red Cross.
Volunteer or acquire a part-time job at a hospital or health care facility.