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How to Become a Nurse Practitioner in Massachusetts

Nursing is a work of heart. If you’re a registered nurse (RN), you know it’s true. Nursing uniquely marries compassionate care, clinical skills, and patient advocacy. It’s both rewarding and challenging, and you wouldn’t have it any other way!

But what if you could continue to help patients in your community with more autonomy and higher pay, and you could follow patients through the continuum of care? If this sounds appealing, becoming a nurse practitioner (NP) might be the next step in your career.

If you’re an active RN considering earning an advanced degree in nursing, this blog will guide you on how to become a nurse practitioner in Massachusetts. 

The Role of Nurse Practitioners

More than 355,000 nurse practitioners are licensed in the country, and seven out of ten deliver primary care as family nurse practitioners (FNPs). 

Nurse practitioners have some of the same nursing responsibilities, but the scope of practice goes beyond those of RNs. NPs deliver advanced nursing care to their patients, including diagnosing, ordering tests, treating, and prescribing medication.

In Massachusetts, NPs have full practice authority, which means they can work independently without the supervision of a physician to provide a full range of care including, but not limited to:

  • Taking and recording medical histories and symptoms
  • Performing physical exams
  • Ordering diagnostic tests
  • Analyzing test results
  • Diagnosing and treating illnesses, diseases, and other health conditions
  • Creating patient care plans
  • Prescribing medication
  • Writing referrals for specialists
  • Counseling and healthy living education

Family nurse practitioners are advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) who have a minimum of a master’s degree in nursing and specialize in family medicine. They care for patients of all ages, from infants to adolescents and adults across the lifespan. FNPs because of the breadth of this scope, FNPs can develop long-term relationships with their patients and get to know them over time, which is why many people see their FNPs as primary care providers.

Becoming an FNP makes you highly marketable because it qualifies you across the spectrum of family care and opens doors to a wider variety of practice settings.

Demand for Nurse Practitioners

Nurse practitioners are in demand now and are projected to be for the foreseeable future. A 2021 report on recruiting trends issued by Merritt Hawkins indicated that over a one-year period, they conducted more searches for NPs than any other type of health care provider. Not surprisingly, physicians held the top spot for the prior twenty-seven years. 

Many factors are driving this change and increasing the demand for skilled NPs, but a few rise to the top.

An Aging Population

Some call it the “graying” of America. By 2030, all baby boomers will be older than sixty-five, and one in five Americans will be of retirement age. Generally speaking, older people with chronic and acute age-related conditions need more care. 

Massachusetts currently has more people over sixty than under twenty. Their statewide Age-Friendly Massachusetts initiative is geared toward making communities more welcoming and livable for older residents and people of all ages. They aim to make Massachusetts a “place where people can grow up and grow old together.” 

A Shortage of Physicians

A recent Association of American Medical Colleges report projects a shortage of 17,800 to 48,000 primary care physicians by 2034. 

One in four physicians in Massachusetts plan to leave the profession in the next two years, according to a recent survey from the Massachusetts Medical Society. 

Growing Access to Health Care 

The Affordable Care Act opened the door for tens of millions of Americans to access affordable, preventive health care services. Chronic conditions, such as diabetes and heart disease, can be prevented with regular screenings.

Full Practice Authority 

Nurse practitioners have more opportunity and freedom to practice to the fullest extent of their education and training in Massachusetts because it is a full practice authority state.

The American Association of Nurse Practitioners states, “Full Practice Authority is the authorization of nurse practitioners to evaluate patients, diagnose, order, and interpret diagnostic tests, and initiate and manage treatments — including prescribing medications — under the exclusive licensure authority of the state board of nursing.”

demand for nurse practitioners

Career Outlook for Nurse Practitioners

Deciding whether or not to advance your education is a big decision, so it’s essential to understand the market, including job security, growth potential, and salary. 

There is tremendous opportunity for nurse practitioners today. In fact, the U.S. News & World Report ranks nurse practitioners #2 in their 2023 100 Best Jobs report. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects a staggering forty-five percent increase in job openings through 2032 due to high demand. That’s more than 118,600 new jobs. 

By comparison, the national employment outlook for all occupations is only three percent. 

In Massachusetts, the job outlook is promising through 2030. In 2020, there were 7,240 nurse practitioners. A projected growth of fifty-six percent brings the total to 11,270 by 2030, or 890 annual job openings in the state.

Earning Potential

Nationwide, the BLS reports the average salary for nurse practitioners is $121,610

In Massachusetts, Indeed reports that $116,616 is the average base salary for family nurse practitioners. The job site notes that family nurse practitioners with primary care skills can earn 12.17% more than the average base salary, bumping the earnings to $130,770. 

You can earn more depending on where you live in the state, your years of experience, and whether or not you work overtime, which averages $20,652 per year. 

Family nurse practitioners in Massachusetts can earn top dollar in these five highest-paying cities. 

  1. Cambridge, MA $169,312
  2. Falmouth, MA $163,915
  3. Norwood, MA $150,977
  4. Brockton, MA $144,977
  5. Hyannis, MA $121,269

Work Environments

The American Association of Nurse Practitioners notes that NPs can work in a variety of health care settings, including:

  • Community clinics 
  • Emergency departments
  • Home health agencies
  • Hospice care
  • Hospitals
  • Long-term care facilities
  • Military hospitals
  • Outpatient centers
  • Private physician practices
  • Public health departments
  • Retail clinics
  • Schools and universities
  • Telehealth
  • Urgent care centers

Steps to Become an NP in Massachusetts

Step 1 – Complete Your Undergraduate Education

Before applying to a reputable graduate program, you’ll need to complete your bachelor’s degree in nursing (BSN) and hold an active Massachusetts nursing license.

Step 2 – Apply to Graduate Schools

It’s fundamental to do your due diligence when researching graduate schools to earn your Master of Science in Nursing (MSN). Make sure they’re accredited and affordable and they provide clinical placement services. Many schools offer online programs for working nurses.

Step 3 – Earn Your Master of Science in Nursing

Whether online or on campus, most MSN programs take two to three years to complete with didactic coursework and clinical hours. American International College (AIC) offers an online MSN program for aspiring family nurse practitioners that can be achieved in under three years and requires forty-six credit hours and 665 clinical hours with a preceptor. 

Step 4 – Earn Your National Certification

Graduates from Nurse Practitioner focused MSN programs have to become certified to achieve licensure as NPs. It’s important to note that those who hold an MSN or higher within these four categories are considered APRNs. 

  • Nurse Practitioner
  • Nurse Midwife 
  • Nurse Anesthetist 
  • Psychiatric Mental Health Clinical Nurse Specialist

In Massachusetts, FNPs must be nationally certified by the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners, the American Nurses Credentialing Center, or the National Certification Corporation. These certification agencies have their own requirements, so check with them for eligibility to sit for their national certification exam.

Step 5 – Get licensure to Practice in Massachusetts

The Massachusetts Board of Registration in Nursing licenses APRNs by category, not by specialization; an FNP would be a specialization within the NP category. To get approved in Massachusetts as an FNP, you must apply for licensure to practice as an APRN in Massachusetts. 

More to Consider

Your APRN license expires on your birthday in even-numbered years. To sustain licensure, you must maintain a valid Massachusetts RN license and national certification and meet all continuing education requirements.

You may want to consider joining the Massachusetts Coalition of Nurse Practitioners association for continuing education, networking, and professional support.

Get Started Now

Nurse practitioner jobs are plentiful. The salary is predominantly six figures. And the path to achieving your advanced degree and licensure is clear.

If you’re an RN practicing nursing in Massachusetts and are ready to invest in yourself to become a family nurse practitioner, AIC offers an online pathway to reach your goal. 

AIC’s Master of Science in Nursing – Family Nurse Practitioner program (MSN-FNP) is designed for working nurses to earn their master’s degree online in just eight semesters. The fully accredited program offers 100% online coursework, clinical hours with a preceptor near you, and time-saving clinical placement services.

If you already have your master’s degree in nursing and want to specialize in family medicine, AIC’s online FNP Post-Master’s Certificate is also available.

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