Family nurse practitioners (FNPs) are the most common primary care providers in nursing, and becoming one requires broad knowledge of common medical issues and complex health care topics. Earning a graduate or postgraduate degree will fulfill the academic requirement to become an FNP, but further certifications will be necessary as well. The health care needs of the patient population have increased, and therefore the level of expertise of active nurses must expand as well. The country needs more nurses who have earned a Master of Science in Nursing to confront this nursing shortage head-on. Why Is Nurse Practitioner Demand Increasing?Health care facilities around the U.S. are currently faced with delivering health care services to unprecedented volumes of patients, but this is only one of many of the causes of the nursing shortage. Nurses aging out of the profession and into retirement also contribute to this trend. Additionally, many of the nurses who are reaching retirement age are educated and experienced leaders who make significant contributions to their organizations. When these key figures leave the field, efficiencies drop and patient health is put at risk. To address the rising demand for nurse practitioners, thought leaders in the health care discipline have been advocating for young people to enter the field and for active nurses to earn higher-level degrees in order to expand their skill sets. With more Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) and Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) graduates collaborating in the field, health care organizations will be able to increase the efficiency of patient care without exhausting their limited resources. But not all MSN graduates are equally qualified. MSN graduates who choose to earn their nurse practitioner certification after graduation are highly desirable job candidates because completing the NP certification process prepares them to communicate, collaborate and coordinate the delivery of complex nursing care. Pursuing Higher Education Is a Lucrative Career ChoicePeople aren’t solely entering the nursing profession for altruistic reasons — many choose this career path because it offers plenty of lucrative benefits to those who work hard at it. In fact, according to Becker’s Hospital Review, nurse practitioner ranked at number five on their list of the top ten jobs in health care. This is likely due to the rewarding nature of their work, as not only are they able to contribute meaningfully to society, but they are also paid well over the median salary of $56,516 that the U.S. Census reported in 2015. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), registered nurses, who often hold a bachelor’s degree or lower, earned a median annual salary of $70,000 in 2017. Nurse practitioners, who must hold graduate or postgraduate degrees, earned a much higher median salary of $110,930. Nurses who continue their education can achieve significant career and salary growth over time, especially in this current period of high demand for educated nursing professionals. Why Family Nurse Practitioners?Nursing isn’t the only health care profession that is struggling to keep jobs filled — the U.S. is also facing a severe shortage of physicians. In the past, physicians were the only health care providers qualified to deliver basic medical treatments in a primary care setting. But due to the inadequate number of physicians actively practicing today, nurses have been encouraged to step in and take on some of this workload. In many states, the legal scope of practice for family nurse practitioners has expanded, enabling them to become primary care providers. This helps areas of the country that have limited access to medical facilities, like rural communities because NPs are more numerous than physicians. Are You Suited to Become a Family Nurse Practitioner?Before nurses decide to become FNPs, it’s important for them to determine whether the position is in line with their ultimate career goals. According to health care staffing company Staffcare, nurse practitioners are increasingly "playing a critical role in care delivery and coordination." Therefore, nurses who are interested in taking on leadership roles in health care settings may discover expanded opportunities in this role. The same company also reported that the scope of practice for NPs is increasing, meaning nurses searching for more challenging work may be able to find it working as FNPs. How Long Will This High Demand for Nurse Practitioners Last?There isn’t a precise estimate of how long nurses will be in high demand, but the BLS does have employment projections that predict a massive growth in the number of jobs available in the profession. Registered nurse jobs are expected to grow by approximately 438,000 new jobs between 2016 and 2026 (15 percent). Nurse practitioner jobs will be seeing a much higher percentage of growth, at 36 percent between 2016 and 2026, with the number of existing positions increasing from 155,500 to 211,600. Of course, competition for family nurse practitioner positions will be limited only to those nurses who have earned their Master of Science in Nursing and fulfilled their FNP certification requirements. Family Nurse Practitioners Are Cost Effective — for Patients and HospitalsBecker’s Hospital Review reports that half of the millennials they surveyed said they prefer to avoid seeing primary care doctors in order to save money. As an alternative, millennials who cannot afford a visit to the doctor often opt to receive primary care from an FNP or other nurse practitioner at a local private practice or urgent care clinic. People who have already started working in nursing should consider capitalizing on the nursing shortage now by studying to become qualified family nurse practitioners. Holding an FNP license that demonstrates their expertise in the field will allow educated nurses to stand out when applying for more competitive nursing jobs and to be ahead of the curve as the nursing job market continues to expand.