In response to the growing demand for primary healthcare services during the 1960s, the nurse practitioner (NP) role was introduced to bridge the healthcare gap, offering comprehensive care encompassing medical diagnosis, treatment, and preventive services. Fast forward to the present day, amidst ongoing shortages of primary care providers, NPs remain indispensable healthcare professionals.
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Over time, the scope of practice for NPs has expanded significantly, allowing them to specialize in diverse healthcare fields and cater to a wide range of patient demographics. NPs now play a crucial role in addressing primary care requirements and delivering specialized healthcare services across various specialties including but not limited to:
- Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (PMHNP)
- Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP)
- Pediatric Nurse Practitioner (PNP)
- Neonatal Nurse Practitioner (NNP)
- Women's Health Nurse Practitioner (WHNP)
- Adult-Gerontology Nurse Practitioner (AGNP)
Irrespective of their chosen specialty, all NPs are recognized as advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) who have completed master's or doctorate-level nursing programs, successfully passed rigorous board certification exams, and obtained state licensure for practice.
Best PMHNP Programs
A Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (PMHNP) is an advanced practice nurse with specialized training in mental health and psychiatric care. They are qualified to assess, diagnose, and provide treatment for individuals with mental health disorders and psychiatric conditions.
PMHNPs can prescribe medications, offer psychotherapy, and develop holistic treatment plans to address the mental and emotional well-being of their patients. They often work in settings such as psychiatric hospitals, outpatient mental health clinics, private practices, and community health centers, collaborating with other healthcare professionals to deliver comprehensive mental health care.
1. Rush University - Chicago, IL
Rush University's PMHNP program is a DNP with a focus on developing knowledge and skills in behavioral and biological disciplines and then applying it to the treatment of individuals with psychiatric disorders. The program is offered online with part-time or full-time study options. It's between 2-3.5 years in duration, class sizes are 34 students, and tuition is $1,286 per credit hour.
2. The Ohio State University - Columbus, OH
The Ohio State University offers a PMHNP program that can be completed at a distance through a traditional MSN, Post-Master's studies, BSN to DNP, or BSN to Ph.D., or on campus through a Graduate Entry MSN program. The program's primary goal is to prepare graduates for professional opportunities as PMHNPs by helping students gain evidence-based knowledge, values, and skills necessary for their roles.
3. University of Miami - Miami, FL
The University of Miami offers a Post Graduate Certificate in PMHNP. The program uses a multi-theoretical model to examine issues relevant to mental health and illness throughout the lifespan, preparing students to provide comprehensive and integrative psychiatric mental health care to those in need or at risk. It is available to any board-certified NP holding an MSN degree.
4. Duke University School of Nursing - Durham, NC
Duke University's PMHNP program is an MSN that focuses on developing the expertise and skills necessary to provide comprehensive, integrated, and family-centered psychiatric advanced practice nursing for patients across the lifespan. Graduates are equipped for practice in community-based, rural, and urban healthcare settings. The school offers distance-based learning, a nationwide clinical network, the prioritization of students' success, and full-spectrum PMHNP practice settings.
5. University of Cincinnati - Cincinnati, OH
The University of Cincinnati offers an online PMHNP program that prepares nurses to provide various mental health services across the lifespan. Program highlights include faculty who are practicing nurses in the field, frequent curriculum review and updates to changing market needs, academic and clinical planning support throughout the program, and a network of more than 20 thousand UC College of Nursing alumni. Full-time tuition is $8,359 per semester for Ohio residents, and $8,509 per semester for non-residents.
Best FNP Programs
FNPs are specialized in providing primary healthcare services to individuals and families across the lifespan, from infants to the elderly. They can diagnose, treat, and manage a wide range of acute and chronic health conditions, order diagnostic tests, prescribe medications, and provide health promotion and disease prevention guidance.
FNPs often work in various healthcare settings, including clinics, private practices, hospitals, and community health centers, to deliver comprehensive and personalized care to their patients.
1. Duke University - Durham, NC
Duke University's FNP program is a part of its MSN degree and prepares students to provide primary healthcare services to families and individuals of all ages. The program emphasizes the integration of research and practice, with a focus on improving patient outcomes. The average fully enrolled tuition is $14,525.
2. Vanderbilt University - Nashville, TN
Vanderbilt University's FNP program is a DNP designed to prepare advanced practice nurses to deliver primary healthcare to families throughout their lifespan. The program integrates a foundation of nursing theory, research, and evidence-based practice to develop skills in advanced health assessment, illness and disease management, health promotion, pathophysiology, and pharmacology.
3. Columbia University - New York City, NY
Columbia University's FNP program is part of its DNP degree. The program is designed to prepare nurses to deliver primary health care to families in a variety of settings with a strong emphasis on equipping students with evidence-based knowledge and skills essential for effectively managing health and illness. The degree spans a total of 85-88 credits.
4. University of California San Francisco (UCSF) - San Francisco - CA
The FNP program at UCSF is part of their DNP degree and prepares nurses to provide primary health care services to families and individuals of all ages. The program prioritizes the integration of evidence-based practice and inter-professional collaboration in managing health and illness within the primary care setting. Applicants must hold a BSN and RN licensure, along with a minimum GPA of 3.0.
5. University of Pennsylvania - Philadelphia, PA
The FNP program at the University of Pennsylvania prepares nurses to practice as primary care providers for families in various settings. The curriculum focuses on health promotion, disease prevention, and managing patients with acute and chronic health conditions, and is offered full-time or part-time as part of a BSN to MSN degree. There are several minors available to UPenn's FNP students including:
- Adult Oncology Specialty
- Health Informatics
- Integrated Nursing Care of Autism Spectrum Disorder
- Global Health
- Nursing Administration
- Palliative Care
- Quality Improvement & Safety Processes in Healthcare
- Transformative Nursing Education
Best PNP Programs
A Pediatric Nurse Practitioner (PNP) is a specialized advanced practice nurse with expertise in caring for infants, children, and adolescents. PNPs can conduct assessments, diagnose and treat various pediatric health conditions, prescribe medications, offer health education to parents and caregivers, and focus on preventive care to promote the well-being of young patients.
They typically work in a variety of healthcare settings, including pediatric clinics, pediatricians' offices, hospitals, and schools, where they play a crucial role in delivering quality healthcare tailored to the unique needs of children and adolescents.
1. Duke University - Durham, NC
Duke University's Pediatric Primary Care NP MSN is designed to prepare pediatric nurses to provide comprehensive primary health care to children of all ages. The program emphasizes one-on-one clinical practice experience in a variety of settings, including pediatric primary care clinics, pediatric community practices, school-based health clinics, health departments, and hospital ambulatory settings. Most students complete this program in 2.5 years with an average fully enrolled tuition per semester of $14,525.00.
2. University of Washington - Seattle, WA
The University of Washington offers a Pediatric NP DNP program that prepares students to provide comprehensive care to children and adolescents in various settings. The program prepares students to:
- Make independent and interdependent decisions
- Develop and implement health policy
- Provide leadership in nursing and the community
- Direct accountability for clinical decisions
- Work in a collaborative space
The program at the University of Washington is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education
3. University of Pennsylvania - Philadelphia, PA
The University of Pennsylvania's School of Nursing offers a Pediatric Primary Care NP Program, preparing graduates to provide comprehensive primary care services to children from infancy through adolescence. During the program, students will learn all of the PNP responsibilities, including well-child care, sick exams, health counseling, telephone management, behavioral issues, conducting research, and more. Study options include full- and part-time tracks, varying anywhere between 1-3 years in length.
4. Johns Hopkins University - Baltimore, MD
Johns Hopkins University offers a Pediatric Primary Care NP DNP program emphasizing health promotion, disease prevention, and management of common pediatric health problems. It's offered online with onsite immersions over the duration of 3 years, with an estimated tuition cost of $1,939 per credit.
5. University of Iowa - Iowa City, IA
The University of Iowa offers Pediatric NP - Primary Care (PNP-PC) and Acute Care programs. These programs prepare students to care for children from birth through young adulthood. Various degree tracks are available including:
- BSN to DNP (4-year plan of study): Total program tuition: $92,976 for Iowa residents; $174,438 for non-residents
- Dual Certification: Total program tuition: $102,632 for Iowa residents; $193,019 for non-residents (using PNP-AC and PNP-PC as an example)
- Post MSN/APRN to DNP (3-year plan of study): Total program tuition: $35,780 for Iowa residents; $54,752 for non-residents
- Post-Graduate Certification: Total tuition: $13,394 for Iowa resident and non-resident
- Second Certification + DNP (3-year plan of study): Total program tuition: $53,920 for Iowa residents; $91,864 for non-residents
Best NNP Programs
A Neonatal Nurse Practitioner (NNP) is a highly specialized advanced practice nurse with expertise in caring for newborn infants, particularly those who are premature, critically ill, or have complex medical conditions. NNPs are trained to provide advanced care in neonatal intensive care units (NICUs) and other neonatal healthcare settings.
They can perform assessments, diagnose and treat a wide range of neonatal health issues, order and interpret diagnostic tests, prescribe medications, and collaborate with other healthcare professionals to provide specialized care to newborns and their families. NNPs are essential members of the healthcare team, ensuring the well-being and optimal outcomes of newborns in critical or high-risk situations.
1. Duke University School of Nursing - Durham, NC
Duke University School of Nursing offers both MSN and Post-Graduate Certificate programs. The MSN program prepares students for NNP certification within 2.5 years with an estimated average fully enrolled tuition per semester of $14,525.00. It's curriculum prepares students to provide care for low and high-risk neonates, infants, and toddlers up to two years of age, and their families in diverse healthcare settings.
2. The Ohio State University - Columbus, OH
The Ohio State University offers some of the nation's best online neonatal nurse practitioner programs. They offer a traditional MSN, BSN-to-DNP, Post-Master's Certificate, Graduate Entry MSN, and DNP to Ph.D. Graduates are prepared with the skills and competencies to apply theory and research to practice with high-risk infants and their families, utilize research skills, expand knowledge by identifying research problems, contribute to the advancement of the profession, and more.
3. Vanderbilt University - Nashville, TN
Vanderbilt University in Nashville, TN, provides MSN and Post-Master's Certificate programs for aspiring NNPs. The MSN program, designed for efficiency, can be completed in just 3 semesters of full-time study. It encompasses 41 credits, covering core MSN courses and specialized NNP training.
4. University of South Alabama - Mobile, AL
In Mobile, AL, the University of South Alabama offers a comprehensive array of NNP programs. These include Post-Graduate Certificate, MSN, and DNP options. Additionally, they provide an MSN pathway specially tailored for RNs holding non-nursing bachelor's degrees.
5. University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing - Philadelphia, PA
The University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing offers an MSN and a post-graduate program for aspiring NNPs. Their MSN program accommodates both full-time and part-time students, offering a comprehensive curriculum encompassing core studies, theoretical coursework, clinical training, and elective opportunities.
Graduates typically work in settings such as:
- Neonatal Intensive Care Nurseries
- Well Baby Nurseries
- High Risk Follow Up
- Teaching in undergraduate and graduate programs
Best WHNP Programs
Women's Health Nurse Practitioners (WHNP) are advanced practice nurses with specialized training in women's health and reproductive care and are qualified to provide a wide range of healthcare services specific to women across the lifespan. They can conduct gynecological examinations, provide prenatal and postpartum care, offer family planning and contraceptive counseling, diagnose and treat common women's health issues, and perform women's health screenings.
WHNPs also focus on health promotion, disease prevention, and addressing the unique healthcare needs of women. They typically work in settings like women's health clinics, obstetrics and gynecology practices, and family planning centers, and may collaborate with other healthcare professionals to ensure comprehensive women's healthcare services.
1. University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing – Philadelphia, PA
The WHNP Program at the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing prepares students to deliver primary and preventive care to women across the lifespan, emphasizing reproductive health, family planning, health promotion, and disease prevention. The program is offered in full-time and part-time options.
2. Emory University Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing - Atlanta, GA
Emory University offers a WHNP MSN program that focuses on comprehensive care for women. It's based on in-depth knowledge of theory, pathophysiology, research utilization, pharmacotherapeutics, and clinical decision-making skills. The curriculum meets the guidelines for education established by both the Association of Women's Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses and the National Organization of Nurse Practitioners in Women's Health.
3. Columbia University School of Nursing – New York, NY
The WHNP DNP program at Columbia University School of Nursing prepares students to provide holistic care to women across the lifespan. The program emphasizes reproductive health, gynecological care, family planning, and health maintenance. The sample curriculum includes:
- N6150 - Maternal-Fetal-Newborn Physiology 2 credit(s)
- N8361 - Clinical Seminar in Women's Health 1 credit(s)
- N8430 - Disparities in Women's Health 2 credit(s)
- N8445 - Well-Woman Gynecology: Didactic 3 credit(s)
- N8461 - Practicum in Women's Health 1-2 credit(s)
Individual plans of study may vary and are reviewed and approved by the program director.
4. University of Washington School of Nursing – Seattle, WA
The WHNP DNP program at the University of Washington School of Nursing focuses on providing care to families during the childbearing continuum: preconception through prenatal and birth processes and into the postpartum and early infancy periods. The program is offered as full-time study only, and graduates typically take positions as:
- Maternity clinical nurse specialist
- Nurse manager
- Outreach educator
- Staff developer
5. Yale School of Nursing – New Haven, CT
The WHNP MSN program at Yale School of Nursing offers clinical practice experiences across various outpatient systems, from community health centers to public and private offices. It's accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education, and after graduation, students can sit for board certification as a WHNP, with the program boasting a 100% pass rate.
Best AGNP Programs
Adult-Gerontology Nurse Practitioners (AGNP) are advanced practice nurses trained to provide comprehensive healthcare services to adults and geriatric patients, including those with complex and chronic medical conditions. They can assess, diagnose, and manage various health issues, prescribe medications, order diagnostic tests, and develop treatment plans tailored to the unique needs of their patients.
AGNPs play a crucial role in promoting healthy aging, preventing age-related illnesses, and managing the healthcare concerns commonly encountered by adults and older adults. They often work in settings such as primary care clinics, long-term care facilities, hospitals, and specialty practices that focus on the care of older populations.
1. University of Pennsylvania - Philadelphia, PA
The University of Pennsylvania College of Nursing offers an AGNP Primary Care program focused on preparing advanced practice nurses to provide primary care services to adult and geriatric populations across various settings. The program is predominately in person and requires a minimum of 1 year of work experience caring for acutely ill or medically complex patients prior to applying.
2. Duke University - Durham, NC
Duke University's AGNP Primary Care MSN program prepares nurses to deliver comprehensive, evidence-based primary care to adult and older adult patients. It emphasizes critical thinking, cultural competence, and interdisciplinary collaboration, delivered by a faculty of experienced professors. The average fully enrolled tuition per semester is $14,525.
3. Johns Hopkins University - Baltimore, MD
Johns Hopkins University offers an AGNP Primary Care DNP program that prepares nurses to provide comprehensive primary care to adult and older adult patients. The program spans 3 years in duration and is offered online with onsite immersions. The estimated tuition cost per credit is $1,939.
4. University of Washington - Seattle, WA
The University of Washington's AGNP Acute Care DNP program trains nurses to provide advanced care to acutely and critically ill adults and older adults. Graduates from the program work in a variety of settings including:
- Primary care
- Internal medicine
- Skilled/long-term care
- Urgent care
- Veteran health
Graduates of the AGPCNP program are eligible to sit for the AGNP Primary Care examination through the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) or the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners Certification Program (AANPCP).
5. Columbia University - New York, NY
Columbia University offers an AGNP Primary Care DNP program designed to prepare nurses to care for patients who are acutely or critically ill across the continuum of acute care services. Students complete approximately 2 years of coursework including lecture, clinical, simulation, and a final intensive practicum. The program is a total of 78-79 credits.
NP Salary Expectations
Becoming an NP can bring both personal fulfillment and financial stability. Most recent data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that NPs earn an annual salary of:
- Median: $121,610 or $58.47 per hour
- Lowest 10%: $87,340 or $41.99 per hour
- Highest 10%: $165,240 or $79.44 per hour
The BLS doesn't specify between NP specialties, however, according to ZipRecruiter, the average salaries for NP specialties are:
- PMHNP: $124,024.00
- FNP: $128,141.00
- PNP: $125,190.00
- NNP: $139,590.00
- WHNP: $130,333.00
- AGNP: $223,503.00
Naturally, NP salaries will depend on various factors such as geographical location, years of experience, healthcare setting, employer, and specialty.
Schools and programs are picked and ranked in accordance with our methodology of surveying readers to understand what they value most while selecting schools and by analyzing graduation rates, student-faculty ratio, price, mode, duration, admission rates, and more for hundreds of the most prominent nursing schools in the United States.
Survey: What's Most Valuable to Students?
- We asked students and former students, "What are the five most important factors to you when choosing (or when you chose) your program?"
- We compiled all of the responses.
- Based on the number of responses and options for each specific survey, we calculated the average number of responses across all factors.
- Each factor response total was taken from the survey and divided by the average calculated in step 3. This gets us the initial "weight" or importance of a factor.
- The weight in step 4 was normalized to get a maximum score of 100.
This example is to further elaborate on our methodology and is not representative of exact survey responses.
If 50 survey respondents each choose their top 5 factors across 10 different selections, they will provide 250 responses in total.
- The average response for each top 5 factor would be 25 (250/10).
- If "cost" was a top 5 decision-making factor for 50 respondents, or double the average, that would give it a weight of 2x an average factor.
- If each school was given a 1-5 score on each importance factor, there would be a maximum score of 125 (25x5). To convert to the maximum possible score of 100, we divide each school's score by 125.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Q: What's the best NP specialty?
When deciding on the best Nurse Practitioner (NP) specialty, it's important to recognize that there isn't a one-size-fits-all answer. The ideal NP specialty varies from person to person based on individual interests, career goals, and the type of patients one is passionate about caring for.
The key factor to consider when making this decision is defining the kind of Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN) you aspire to become and determining the patient population you are most drawn to working with. Each NP specialty offers a unique and rewarding path, catering to distinct healthcare needs:
- Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP): FNPs provide primary care across the lifespan, from infants to the elderly. They have a broad scope of practice and often work in primary care settings, treating a wide range of medical conditions.
- Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (PMHNP): PMHNPs specialize in mental health and psychiatric care, working with patients who have mental health disorders and emotional challenges. They provide therapy, medication management, and support for individuals in need.
- Pediatric Nurse Practitioner (PNP): PNPs focus on the healthcare of children, from newborns to adolescents. They play a vital role in ensuring the well-being of young patients and may work in pediatric clinics, hospitals, or schools.
- Neonatal Nurse Practitioner (NNP): NNPs specialize in caring for newborn infants, particularly those who are premature or critically ill. They work in neonatal intensive care units (NICUs) and provide advanced care to newborns and their families.
- Women's Health Nurse Practitioner (WHNP): WHNPs concentrate on women's health and reproductive care, offering services such as prenatal care, gynecological exams, family planning, and menopause management.
- Adult-Gerontology Nurse Practitioner (AGNP): AGNPs focus on the healthcare of adult and older adult populations, addressing age-related health concerns and managing chronic conditions in these patient groups.
Ultimately, the best NP specialty is the one that aligns with your personal interests, values, and career aspirations.
Q: Is getting an MSN or a DNP better when becoming an NP?
The decision between pursuing a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) or a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) when becoming an NP is an important one and should be based on careful consideration of your individual career aspirations and circumstances.
Master of Science in Nursing (MSN):
- The MSN is a traditional and well-established pathway to becoming an NP.
- It typically takes about two to three years to complete an MSN program, depending on your prior education and whether you attend full-time or part-time.
- MSN programs focus on providing you with the essential knowledge and skills to become a competent NP.
- Many MSN programs offer specialization tracks for various NP specialties (e.g., FNP, PMHNP, PNP) to align your education with your chosen field.
Consider MSN if:
- You are looking for a shorter and more cost-effective path to becoming an NP.
- You have clear career goals that can be achieved with an MSN, and you don't anticipate needing a DNP for your desired roles.
Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP):
- The DNP is a terminal degree in nursing practice and represents the highest level of clinical practice education for NPs.
- DNP programs typically take around three to four years to complete, as they include advanced coursework and a significant focus on evidence-based practice, leadership, and healthcare policy.
- DNP-prepared NPs are often positioned for leadership roles in healthcare, including healthcare system management, policy development, and advanced clinical practice.
Consider DNP if:
- You aspire to hold leadership roles in nursing or healthcare administration.
- Your long-term career goals involve influencing healthcare policy, practice, or research.
- Your chosen NP specialty or certification requires a DNP degree.
Neither an MSN nor a DNP is inherently better than the other. The choice should revolve around your career goals, interests, and the specific requirements of your chosen NP specialty.
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