Nurses can plot out their own career trajectories by pursuing higher education and taking on challenging job opportunities. Nurses who aim to excel in clinical practice may pursue a Master of Nursing Science (MSN), and those who aspire to further expand their expertise in a specialized subfield can reap additional benefits by earning a post-master’s nursing certificate. This credential can help nurses increase their earning potential and seek higher-level positions compared with registered nurses (RNs) who do not have post-master’s certificates.
What Is a Nursing Certificate?
A post-master’s nursing certificate qualifies highly educated nurses to administer advanced forms of care to their patients as nurse practitioners (NPs). It also allows them to demonstrate their expertise in a specialty field of medicine, potentially making them more competitive in the job market. Once they have completed the certification process, nurse practitioners can deliver a broader range of health care services and often work with a lower level of physician supervision.
What Subfields Can Nurse Practitioners Specialize In?
A post-master’s certificate program teaches student nurses to provide advanced care in a specific health care discipline, such as one of the following:
● Pediatrics. In pediatrics specialty coursework, students learn about child biology and discover how to effectively treat children, from infants to adolescents. They also learn how to counsel families to ensure that younger patients properly follow the prescribed treatment plans.
● Family Health. This program prepares student nurses for a more diverse range of patients of all ages and genders. Students learn how to provide primary care for entire families and have opportunities to study complementary subjects such as reproductive care and aging.
● Women’s Health. Women’s health nurse practitioners learn how to deliver comprehensive care for girls and women. They may also provide primary and specialty reproductive health care services. They have the skills to lead women through preventive care, health promotion, and health counseling.
● Psychiatric Mental Health. This specialty involves counseling and caring for people who have various types of mental health conditions. Students learn how to prescribe psychopharmaceuticals, diagnose mental health conditions, and recognize when to call a physician or other specialist to intervene.
● Adult-Gerontology. As people age, the risk of adverse health conditions increases. Courses in this specialty focus on teaching students how to care for adult and elderly patients. Nurse practitioners who work in this area educate patients about how to maintain a healthy lifestyle and manage chronic conditions.
How to Become a Nurse Practitioner
The requirements for becoming a certified nurse practitioner vary for each state, but there are a few key steps that aspiring nurses can expect to follow. The first step is becoming a registered nurse, which they can achieve by earning a bachelor’s degree and passing a state licensing exam. After becoming an RN, many graduates spend time gaining clinical experience in the field. Nurses can draw from this experience as they pursue higher education.
After enhancing their skills in the field, the next step is earning a Master of Science in Nursing. Upon graduation, nurses should have many of the tools they need to lead, educate, and inspire other nurses, but to take their expertise to the next level, they need a state nurse practitioner license and post-master’s certification. Many universities offer a range of specialized certification programs that qualify graduates to take nurse practitioner licensing exams. Student nurses should research their own state’s nursing board policies for specific details.
How Are Certified Nurse Practitioners Different from Registered Nurses?
Nurse practitioners receive extensive training on the theoretical and practical elements of delivering medical care, beyond the level of training that RNs undergo. Because of this, nurse practitioners have significantly more autonomy.
Unlike registered nurses, nurse practitioners are usually allowed to see their own patients, and many states allow nurse practitioners to diagnose illnesses, prescribe medications, manage patient care strategies, and administer a range of treatments that do not require intervention from a medical doctor or a specialist. Some states, however, do not permit NPs to write prescriptions, and some require them to have physician collaboration agreements.
Nurse practitioners’ ability to deliver a more comprehensive level of care can allow them to pursue more distinguished work opportunities that are likely to have higher compensation compared with RNs who do not have post-master’s nursing certificates.
The employment outlook for nurse practitioners is also favorable. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects a 36 percent increase in the number of nurse practitioner jobs from 2016 to 2026, meaning certified NPs could benefit from high employer demand. The BLS reports the median pay for NPs in 2017 was $103,880, compared with $70,000 for RNs, although salaries vary by region. While nurses of all types are critical to the future success of the nation’s health care system, those who earn a post-master’s nursing certificate are most likely to benefit from the growing demand for primary and specialty care providers.
The online Post-Master’s Certificate program at Regis College offers a cutting-edge curriculum that guides nurses toward advanced roles as nurse practitioners, allowing them to work more independently and practice in specialized subfields. Visit Regis’ website to learn more about this program and the opportunities that often accompany certification.