Pros and Cons of a Nurse Practitioner Degree and How I Paid Off My $20K Loan in 2 Years

>>Listen to Pros and Cons of a Nurse Practitioner Degree and How I Paid Off My $20K Loan in 2 Years with Ellaine Maala


In this episode of the Nurse Converse podcast, host Ellaine Maala, also known as @nursewhoinvests, discusses whether it is a good investment to go back to school as a nurse practitioner. Ellain Maala is a certified financial educator and owner of Nursing Flowsheet LLC– a career & finance blog for nurses. She built a 6 figure investment portfolio and paid off $20k in student loans in 2 years with her nursing salary.

She shares her journey of becoming a nurse practitioner after working as a nurse for over six years and how she decided to pursue this career. She explores the pros and cons of pursuing this career and provides insights for nursing students, nurses, and those considering a career change. 

A Nurse Practitioner (NP) stands as an esteemed Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN) who has fulfilled the rigorous educational criteria of nurse practitioner training, culminating in either a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) or a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree. Endowed with specialized expertise, they are proficient in delivering comprehensive primary or specialized care services. 

Notably, according to data from the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF), NPs are estimated to deliver 80-90 percent of the primary care services traditionally provided by physicians.

Learn more about nurse practitioners in the career guide by clicking here. 

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One of the main advantages of becoming a nurse practitioner is the high demand for these professionals in the healthcare industry. With the aging population and increasing healthcare needs, nurse practitioners play a vital role in providing care, both in primary care and specialized care. The job outlook for nurse practitioners is excellent, with a projected 40% growth by 2031, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. This means that there will be plenty of job opportunities for nurse practitioners in the coming years, providing a sense of job security.

Another advantage highlighted in the podcast is the salary increase that comes with becoming a nurse practitioner. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics, nurse practitioners can earn an average salary of $121,610. While this may vary from state to state, there are certain states, such as California, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Oregon, and Nevada, where nurse practitioners earn higher salaries. This salary increase can be a motivating factor for those considering a career as a nurse practitioner.

Additionally, nurse practitioners have a greater level of autonomy in their practice compared to registered nurses. They can make decisions, prescribe medications, and order diagnostic tests for their patients. This sense of professional independence allows nurse practitioners to have a significant impact on their patients’ care. They also have the flexibility to work in different specialties, aligning their career with their interests and passions.

Ellaine highlights the advantages of becoming a nurse practitioner, including:

  • Job Security: According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), nurse practitioner positions are projected to surge by 38% from 2022 to 2032, outpacing the growth rate of the majority of other professions.

  • Increased Salary: While the average Registered Nurse (RN) earns around $81,220 per year, nurse practitioners in the US command a median annual salary of $121,610, as reported by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. This figure exceeds twice the average annual income across all other occupations.

  • Greater Autonomy: Nurse practitioners wield greater authority and shoulder comparable responsibilities to those of physicians. They are adept at serving as either primary or specialty care providers, often concentrating on specific demographics like families, children, or the elderly. As healthcare clinicians, their focus lies in promoting health and preventing disease among their patient populations.

  • Ability to Work in Different Specialties: While some nurse choose to become general nurse practitioners, other prefer to specialize and become certified in that specialty. Popular NP specialties include, 

  • Acute Care Nurse Practitioner
  • Adult Health Nurse Practitioner
  • Cardiac Nurse Practitioner
  • Emergency Nurse Practitioner
  • Family Nurse Practitioner
  • Gerontology Nurse Practitioner
  • Neonatal Nurse Practitioner
  • Oncology Nurse Practitioner
  • Pediatric Nurse Practitioner
  • Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner
  • Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner
  • Challenges to Becoming a Nurse Practitioner
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However, it is important to consider the challenges that come with pursuing a career as a nurse practitioner. One of the main challenges is the financial and educational investment required. Becoming a nurse practitioner requires a master’s or doctorate degree, which can take years to complete. This means taking on student loans and potentially giving up a full-time nursing salary while going back to school. It is crucial to have a support system in place to navigate the demands of school and work-life balance.

Another challenge highlighted in the podcast is the working conditions for some nurse practitioners. Depending on the specialty and setting, nurse practitioners may face high patient ratios and increased legal responsibilities. Burnout is also a concern in the profession, given the current policies and expectations in the workplace.

Ellaine emphasizes the importance of considering the challenges that come with pursuing a career as a nurse practitioner, including: 

  • Financial and Educational Investment: As indicated by U.S. News and World Report, the typical expense for an online MSN or DNP program falls within the range of $35,000 to $60,000. Private programs tend to incur the highest costs, while public universities generally offer more economical options.

  • Decreased Income Potential During School: Due to the demanding coursework, it is very difficult (and not recommended) to work full-time while attending an NP program. 

  • Potential Working Conditions: While NPs are in high-demand, some areas of the country may experience some level of saturation in the market. Additionally, you may not land your dream-job post graduation and the career may be different than what you expected. Therefore, it’s important to heavily research becoming and NP before investing in the education. 

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The full podcast episode goes in-depth on Ellaine’s personal journey and more specific details about the career, salary, and scope of practice. Ellaine emphasizes that becoming a nurse practitioner can be a good investment, but it is important to weigh the pros and cons and consider personal and professional goals. 

The advantages of job security, increased salary potential, autonomy, and the opportunity to work in different specialties make it an appealing career choice. However, the challenges of financial and educational investment, potential decrease in income during school, and the demands of the profession should also be taken into account. Ultimately, each individual must decide if pursuing a career as a nurse practitioner aligns with their passions, values, and long-term goals.

>>Listen to Pros and Cons of a Nurse Practitioner Degree and How I Paid Off My $20K Loan in 2 Years with Ellaine Maala

Youtube video

Connect With Ellaine on social media:

Instagram: @nursewhoinvests, @nursingflowsheet

TikTok: nursewhoinvests

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