10 Pros and Cons of Being a Nurse Practitioner

Written By: Jennifer Schlette MSN, RN

Deciding to leave the bedside and to pursue an advanced practice degree is a big decision. One type of advanced practice degree you may find appealing is the nurse practitioner degree. So, are you sitting there, racking your brain as to what are the pros and cons of being a nurse practitioner? Well, rest assured, I took the leg work out of that for you. Below you will find the top 10 pros and cons of being a nurse practitioner. This will surely help you streamline your decision.

Top 10 Cons of Being a Nurse Practitioner

The following are the top 10 cons of being a nurse practitioner.

1. Lengthy education path

The qualifications for becoming a nurse practitioner take place over many years. In order to start the path of becoming an NP, you will first have to earn a bachelor's degree in nursing. You will then need to further your education and gain a master's or doctoral degree in nursing. Pursuing either a master's or a doctoral degree in nursing will require an additional two to three years of education after you have completed your BSN coursework and successfully passed your NCLEX-RN exam.


2. Continuing to work while being in NP school

Depending on the rigor of the NP educational program you choose to pursue, you may not be able to continue to work full time. Yes, some programs will allow for the accommodation to continue to work full and part-time, where others are more intense and require you to dedicate yourself to a full-time school schedule. This type of scenario may not be feasible for everyone.

3. You must pass a certification exam to practice

In order to practice as a nurse practitioner, you must pass a national certification exam. In short, this exam can make or break you. If you do not successfully pass this exam, you must complete 15 contact hours as an advanced practice nurse in your area of weakness. You are also only able to take the exam 2 times per calendar year.

4. Variability of working hours

Depending on the setting where you choose to work, you may find yourself not working a traditional Monday thru Friday, 9-5 schedule. Although it is possible to have that type of schedule, other schedules do exist. The typical work week will be about 40 hours. You may find yourself working 10-12-hour days, weekends, holidays, and nights. For some, these long various hours may affect their personal and social life.

5. Working conditions

Another con of being an NP for some is that you may find your working conditions challenging. If you choose to work in a health care facility setting, you may be exposed to toxins and pathogens. This may place your own health at risk.

6. Workplace stress

Any job you may choose to work in may cause you some stress. As a nurse practitioner, you may find yourself in many stressful situations. This stress can come from the environment you work in, such as a critical care unit, or it may come from the reality that you are responsible for a patient’s treatment plan.

7. Emotional stress

The unfortunate reality that human life is a temporary state is a concept that you may have to find yourself dealing with more than the average person. As a nurse practitioner, you will understand how fragile some patients' situations can be and that not everyone can be saved. One of the major cons of being a nurse practitioner is that death and dying will become part of your regular work life. This may lead to extreme emotional stress in some people. You may find that this emotional stress may be way too much on you and may negatively affect your life.

8. Legal responsibilities

As a nurse practitioner, you have the capability to diagnose and treat your patients. The responsibility can leave you open to a malpractice lawsuit. Remember, you are dealing with patients' lives, and sometimes you cannot fix a mistake.

9. Inconsistency in your scope of practice

Depending on the state you choose to work in, you may find that your scope of practice is minimal. Some states are full practice states meaning that as an NP, you can practice independently from a physician. In limited practice states, you will need to have the supervision of a physician in order to practice. As a nurse practitioner, you may find that your scope of practice is not broad enough for you and that it does not give you the autonomy you are striving for.

10. Repaying student loans

Higher education is not free and can be costly. If you work for an institution that does not provide you with tuition assistance, you may find yourself with a hefty bill. To become an NP, you may have to apply for student loans that will require you to pay back over time. You may find that taking on debt to be paid back over time is just not that appealing.

Top 10 Pros of Being a Nurse Practitioner

The following are the top 10 pros of being a nurse practitioner.

1. Prosperous job outlook

One of the top pros of being a nurse practitioner is that you will have job security. Your job security is impacted by the fact that there is a shortage of physicians, people are now living longer, and that NPs have the capability to provide high-quality care. This essentially means you will be in high demand. By 2028 the job outlook for nurse practitioners is projected to grow 28%.

2. Flexibility in your work hours

Although some people may find the various schedules of a nurse practitioner a disadvantage, others may find the rotation beneficial to their personal life. In certain cases, working 12-hour days with rotating shifts may lead to more time off.

3. Competitive pay

A competitive pay scale is another pro of being an NP. As a nurse practitioner, you can make an excellent living that will afford you many comforts that you have been desiring. Your salary will vary depending on the setting you are working in.

4. Having the opportunity to specialize

As a nurse practitioner, you have the potential to specialize in a discipline that you are passionate about. So, not only will you become extremely knowledgeable in your field, you may even find the opportunity to contribute to research and other projects in an area that you are enthusiastic about.

5. Having a challenging career

As a nurse practitioner, you will find that every day will be different for you. You will always be learning and applying what you learned in the everyday situations you are encountering. Through these encounters, you will be gaining valuable experiences that you can apply in other scenarios. To put it bluntly, you will never be bored.

6. Growth of Telehealth

Telehealt has truly become the forefront of medicine and even more so in response to this global pandemic. As a nurse practitioner, you may find yourself being utilized to conduct telehealth visits with patients. This may be appealing to you if you have constraints such as small children or if you are caring for a family member which can limit your ability to work out of the home.

7. Traveling opportunity

Your education and experience can be utilized anywhere. As an NP, you could take a position as a travel nurse practitioner. By taking on this type of contract work, you can ultimately travel the entire country while making great money.

8. The longevity of the career

There will always be a need for a nurse practitioner because there will always be sick or injured people. Many career choices are now becoming a thing of the past because they are being replaced with technology. As an NP, on the other hand, you will play a key part in health care and you are irreplaceable.

9. Employer tuition assistance program

Since there is such a high demand for nurse practitioners, you may find that if you already work as a BSN prepared nurse, your employer may pay for your advancement in your education. In return for your employer paying for your education, you may need to repay your employer by agreeing to work for them as an NP for a set amount of time. This is great because not only do you get your education paid for, but you also now have a guaranteed job as an NP upon graduation.

10. Respected and trusted profession

Year after year, the field of nursing has been identified as one of the most trusted professions. This should come as no surprise since this demanding job requires a great deal of compassion and knowledge. As a nurse practitioner, you will be impacting so many people's lives and you will become an advocate for your patients.

Summing It Up

As you can see, there are many pros and cons of being a nurse practitioner to consider when contemplating if this career path is for you. You may feel that some of the pros may outweigh the cons, and you are just going to go for it, or you may feel that the cons pose too many challenges to make becoming an NP worth it. Ultimately, deciding on a career path is always a big decision, so knowing these top 10 nurse practitioner pros and cons will give you the tools to help in the process.

Jennifer Schlette MSN, RN
Jennifer Schlette is a registered nurse in pediatric critical care in New York City. She is the former Director of Undergraduate Nursing at a college located in New York. After obtaining her BSN from the College of Mount Saint Vincent, she went on to complete her MSN.