Advanced practice nursing is growing, and nurses are reading the writing on the wall. APRNs can practice autonomously in a growing number of states in the U.S., and the potential for increased earning and job security is attractive. Deciding whether advanced practice is for you is an individual decision that only you can answer.

APRNs in the Ascendancy

When it comes to advanced nursing practice, many options are on the table. Nurse practitioners can specialize in pediatrics, adult care, geriatrics, and a host of other areas of clinical concentration; family nurse practitioners can treat patients across the life span, and nurse anesthetists very likely enjoy the highest incomes of all.

Meanwhile, in many states around the country, APRNs have been unshackled from the requirement of working under a supervising physician, and in some states the first few thousand hours of practice are performed under another APRN rather than an M.D.

This is a time when APRNs are rising stars, taking the reins of primary practices when many physicians are eschewing primary care for specialization. With an aging population and more emphasis on prevention, APRNs are positioned well for job growth and security in the first half of the 21st century.

We must also consider the new Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) pathway, a terminal degree that brings a nurse’s education to its pinnacle, either in the clinical realms or other areas of specialized knowledge. Choices are growing, and nurses' individual and collective career mobility is widening.

To School or Not to School?

Returning to school is an individual consideration. Since a master's or doctorate can be an expensive undertaking rife with debt, many factors influence the decision to pursue further nursing education.

If you are considering the pursuit of an advanced degree, take all aspects of the decision under advisement:

  • How will the rigors of a master's or doctoral program affect your family and relationships?
  • Will you need to earn money during school?
  • What is your post-graduation earning potential when compared to your future debt burden?
  • What is the employment outlook for your chosen area of specialization?
  • Will you need to relocate to earn the living you expect, or does your current region offer competitive salaries?

These and other questions are worth pondering, and you may need colleagues, friends and family to chime in about this major career decision that will impact your life in powerful ways.

Choose Wisely

Earning an APRN or DNP degree is exciting and potentially remunerative and satisfying; choose your course of action wisely based on what you know about yourself, your lifestyle and family, and the direction you wish to take your career.

Only you know what you want and how an advanced degree could move your career in the right direction. Advanced practice isn't for everyone, but perhaps you will hear the call.