NP vs APRN – What’s the Difference?

Kathy Quan RN BSN PHN

Kathy Quan RN BSN PHN

The beauty of nursing is that there is a niche for everyone. This is especially true for nurses who wish to continue their education and enter the realm of advanced practice nursing. So, let’s take a deeper look at what’s in a name NP vs APRN?

There is an alphabet soup of anacronyms that are used to describe and signify degrees, certifications, licensure, and fellowships for all nurses. They should always be used in the order in which they were earned. 


The Nurse Practitioner is an advanced practice RN (APRN) that has earned a graduate-level nursing degree either a Master of Science degree or a PhD (Doctor of Nursing practice) degree with a focus on Nurse Practitioner. The NP role is a much more specialized role of APRNs. The NP was in the past a master’s level position, but in recent years with advances in scope of practice, the PhD is required. NPs with an MSN have been grandfathered in, but as with all advances in nursing, are encouraged to continue their education to achieve the PhD focus. 

Nurse Practitioners can be known by different names in various states. These names include: Advanced Registered Nurse Practitioner, Nurse Practitioner Certified, Licensed Nurse Practitioner, or Certified Nurse Practitioner. They all mean the same thing. 


There are currently four advanced practice nursing specialties. They require either an MSN or a PhD level degree with a focus on one of four categories: Nurse Midwife (CNM), Nurse Practitioner (NP), Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS), or Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA). The C stands for Certified and the R for Registered. Within these categories, each of these providers specialize in specific patient areas such as mental health, pediatrics, gerontology, nephrology, women’s health, neonatology, oncology, emergency medicine, or family medicine. 

APRNs need to hold a current RN license in the state where they practice and then are required to pass a national certification examination in the APRN specialty. APRNs are subject to Continuing Education rules for the state in which they practice. now offers a wide variety of continuing education courses designed with APRNs in mind to meet those ceu requirements. 

Scope of Practice

The advanced practice nurse has the broadest scope of practice. It includes assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of medical conditions. APRNs can order diagnostic tests such as Cat scans, MRIs, X-rays and blood work. They can also prescribe medications, order durable medical equipment and recently under the waivers passed by Congress, they can order home health care. 

Projected Job Growth and Salary

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, APRNs can expect a job growth of 45% through 2029. As the population continues to age and demand highly skilled quality care, APRNs will continue to be in strong demand. The median salary for 2019 was $115,800. Median meaning half earned more, and half earned less. The highest salary level was $184,80 for the top 10% of APRNs. Nurse Anesthetists had the highest salary with a median of $174,790 whereas the median salary for NPs was $109,820 and for Nurse Midwives was $105,030. As the push for the “BSN in 10” comes to fruition, more nurses are choosing to advance their education beyond the BSN and attaining APRN status. 

Resources for APRNs:

American College of Nurse-Midwives

American Association of Nurse Practitioners

American Association of Nurse Anesthetists

National Association of Clinical Nurse Specialists

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