Difference Between APRN & NP

Nov 15, 2019

Nursing titles can be confusing to understand, since there are many different acronyms used to describe the levels and specializations within the field of nursing. This article explains the differences and similarities between APRNs (advanced practice registered nurses) and NPs (nurse practitioners).

Comparing Advanced Practice Registered Nurses to Nurse Practitioners

The title APRN (advanced practice registered nurse) is far more general than NP (nurse practitioner). An APRN refers to any registered nurse with a master's degree in advanced practice nursing science (MSN). Meanwhile, a nurse practitioner is just one of four common types of (APRNs).

Job Title Education Requirements Average Salary (2019)* Job Outlook (2018-2028)**
Advanced Practice Registered Nurse Master of Nursing Science $93,495 26% (for nurse anesthetists, nurse midwives, and nurse practitioners)
Nurse Practitioner Master of Nursing Science (MSN)
Some NPs go on to gain a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP)
$94,133 28%

Sources: *PayScale.com; **Bureau of Labor Statistics

Responsibilities of APRNs vs. NPs

There are four types of advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs). The first is a nurse practitioner (NP). Nurse practitioners act almost like physicians in that they can provide primary care for patients, diagnose diseases and prescribe medication. The title APRN is not limited to just nurse practitioners. It can also refer to Certified Nurse Midwives (CNM) who assist in childbirth, Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists (CRNA) who help surgeons safely administer anesthesia, and Clinical Nurse Specialists (CNS) who are experts in a specific area of nursing wherein they provide treatment plans and expert advice.

Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN)

Advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) are qualified to hold more responsibility than a registered nurse (RN) with an associates or bachelor's degree. They do not need much supervision from doctors. Their advanced training leads to jobs with higher salaries than other nursing positions. According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics in 2018, APRNs make on average $42,200 more a year than registered nurses. The growth rate for APRNs is 14% higher than RNs. Depending on their specific training and role, APRNs can work in hospitals, community centers, clinics and other healthcare facilities.

Job responsibilities typically include:

  • Meeting with, diagnosing and treating patients in a variety of settings
  • Acting as leaders amongst their peers
  • Applying evidence-based practice to ensure their healthcare facilities provide the best care to patients based on the latest nursing research
  • Supporting and providing expert advice to other nurses and healthcare providers

Nurse Practitioner

A nurse practitioner is a specific type of APRN who specializes in providing primary care for patients of all ages. Sometimes it is difficult to tell the difference between an NP and a primary care doctor, because nurse practitioners have the qualifications to provide similar services. There are a range of specializations that a nurse practitioner can choose between, including advanced gerontology NP, family practice NP, neonatal NP, pediatric NP, and psychiatric NP. A nurse practitioner's work location, daily tasks and responsibilities depend on the specialization they choose. Some NPs decide to further their career by pursuing a DNP (Doctor of Nursing Practice) in one specific area of nurse practitioner advanced practice.

Job responsibilities typically include:

  • Conducting regular check-ups with patients of all ages and providing primary care
  • Diagnosing diseases
  • Creating treatment plans
  • Prescribing medication

Related Careers

If you are interested in becoming an APRN, you should consider a career as a registered nurse, the most common first step to obtaining an advanced nursing position. If you are interested in a career as a nurse practitioner, consider the pathway to becoming a Family Nurse Practitioner (one of the most common types of NPs).

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