Why Get Certified in Nursing?

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Nurse practitioners working on laptop and tablet

The patient care landscape is in a constant state of change. Baby boomers are entering health care facilities and using elder care services in growing numbers, creating new demands on our health care system. New treatment technologies and drugs are introduced regularly. It can be challenging for nurse practitioners (NPs) to keep up with this kinetic landscape of evolving patient needs and medical advancements. That is why getting certified in nursing to assume a practitioner role is important. It can be a critical step toward a career where you can confidently provide patient care, and even build a thriving practice.

Becoming Certified Validates Nursing Knowledge

The path to becoming an NP demonstrates a dedication to ongoing education and a desire to provide the highest-quality care for patients. NPs are required to complete recertification after a specific number of years in their specialty. Certification demonstrates to employers that an NP is specialized in their field and can handle complex patient care situations. Along with an exam, some certifications require continued education as part of the recertification process. For a practicing NP, maintaining certification is an excellent way to keep up to date with new equipment, technologies, and treatment methodologies.

The licensing of nurse practitioners is controlled at the state level. The requirements for attaining certifications and licenses may vary slightly from state to state. Some states may limit a nurse practitioner’s autonomy, requiring a supervising physician to oversee the delivery of patient care and delegate responsibilities. This is known as ‘restricted practice.’ In other states, an NP is able to operate independently, known as operating under ‘full practice.’ As the health care industry continues to change, and patient needs continue to increase, more states are likely to allow NPs to move into full practice.

Enjoy Greater Career Options
Even though demand for nurse practitioners is strong, employers are showing a preference for hiring certified NPs over non-certified nurses. This is a convincing reason why getting certified in nursing is so important. Certification offers well-rounded preparation for working in the following areas:

  • General medicine
  • Anesthetics
  • Gerontology
  • Psychiatric medicine
  • Family medicine

An NP can continue to work toward sub-specializations in these areas, such as pediatric oncology or psychiatric-mental health. A certified NP can work in nearly all health care facilities and can enjoy more flexible working hours, depending on the field of specialization. NPs can work in hospitals, family physician offices, and assisted living facilities. An NP can also choose to operate an independent practice if they are in a state that allows NPs to work at full practice. Opening an independent practice can be an excellent opportunity for NPs who are looking to make use of their clinical nursing skills along with their business acumen.

Advantageous Earning Potential

It requires years of dedication,  study, and practical work experience to become certified.  Many employers recognize this achievement through the salaries they offer. On average, NPs can earn $9,400 more than nurses who are not certified in a specialized field. These are accredited roles that are in high demand. For example, certified nurse anesthetists can earn over $160,000 per year, compared to general NPs who may earn just over $100,000.

Actual earning potential will vary based on geographic location. While APRNs are in high demand in medically underserved areas such as rural communities and inner cities, their salaries may not be as high as in large city hospitals.

There are other potential benefits beyond increased salary to becoming a certified NP. Working regular daytime hours in a clinic or office may deliver a better work-life balance. Practicing in a small city or community may provide more personal reward, enabling NPs to build close relationships with their patients and help a community as a whole.

Improve Patient Outcomes

Getting certified in nursing can boost the professional confidence and competence of a nurse practitioner, which may ultimately improve patient outcomes. Initial research is finding that a nurse who is certified and continues to maintain certification can better support positive patient results. For example, hospitals that staff certified NPs decrease the likelihood that a patient may fall or sustain an injury while in the facility. Nurses who are certified also tend to collaborate well with other health practitioners, which can positively affect the plan of care, medical evaluation, and course of treatment.

The answer to the question, “why get certified in nursing?” will be different for each nurse. Regardless of the certification path that is chosen, each certification agency provides free resources, example tests, and even monetary incentives to help ensure success. Certification can help pave the way for nurses who seek to reach a high level of excellence in their practice while being part of a national nursing network that continues to move the profession forward.

Learn More
Regis College offers online Post-Master’s Nursing Certificate programs that can qualify students to sit for a certification exams based on your chosen specialty

Recommended Reading
What Is a Family Nurse Practitioner?
How Nurse Practitioners Can Close the Gap in Healthcare
The Difference Between a Nurse Practitioner and a Physician


Reuters – US Health Care Spending to Climb 5.3 Percent in 2018

Pediatric Nursing Certification Board

Bureau of Labor Statistics – Nurse Anesthetists, Nurse Midwives, and Nurse Practitioners

Science Direct – Nursing Specialty Certification and Patient Outcomes

Clinical Journal of Oncology Nursing – The Value of Oncology Nursing Certification

Henry J Kaiser Family Foundation – Tapping Nurse Practitioners to Meet Rising Demand for Primary Care

American Journal of Nursing – Reap the Benefits of Certification

American Nurses Association – Credentialing Center

American Association of Nurse Anesthetists