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APRN vs. NP: The Difference & Which is Best for You and Your Career

  • There is a ton of confusion surrounding the differences between APRNs and NPs.
  • Regardless of your preference, both are great opportunities for nurses to advance their careers!
  • Check out Nursing CE Central’s breakdown of what an APRN role is versus an NP!
Morgan Curry, RN/BSN

Morgan Curry, BSN / RN

Intensive Care, Outpatient Surgery, Aesthetics, Education, and Nursing Leadership

June 11, 2021
Simmons University

Nursing credentials can be overwhelming. 

When you are trying to determine which type of advanced degree to obtain, it would be helpful if you knew what some of those letters meant, right?  

If you want to advance your degree in nursing, it is essential that you choose a path that will allow you to achieve both your professional and personal goals; the only way to do so is by doing your research on nursing specialties.  

However, what you might find along the way is some confusion; for example, what is the difference between an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) and a nurse practitioner (NP)? They seem the same! 

As more nurses are choosing to pursue higher education within the industry, I think it’s important that we outline this common confusion, so we can help you make a more informed decision on what path to take for your nursing career! 

Are you in? Let’s jump into it! 

What is an APRN?

Reputable, online source for RNs,, defines an APRN as an RN who has received a graduate-level degree such as a Master’s of Science in Nursing (MSN) or a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) and has received training in one of the four APRN roles.  

At this point I’m sure you’re wondering, “what are the four APRN roles?”  

No worries, we’ve got you covered! 

The American Nurses Association (ANA) outlines the main four roles of APRN, and they include:



Nurse Practitioner (NP) Primary, acute, and specialty healthcare. 
Certified Nurse-Midwives Primary, gynecological, and reproductive health. 
Clinical Nurse Specialists Diagnosis, treatment, and ongoing management of patients; provide expertise and support to nurses caring for patients; help drive practice changes throughout the organization as well as ensure the use of best practices and evidence-based care to achieve the best possible patient outcomes. 
Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA) Administer anesthesia and pain management services.  

It is important to note that some APRNs (including NPs) can diagnose, treat acute and chronic illnesses, make referrals, and order lab tests.  

So now we have reached the common point of confusion where you might be thinking, “So is an NP the same as an APRN since it’s one of the four roles?”  

In sum, no, they are not the same but let’s evaluate on why that is! 

What is an NP?

The American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) defines an NP as an autonomous and collaborative clinician who utilizes their expertise in diagnosing and treating health conditions as well as disease prevention and health management. 

In a 2020 AANP National Sample Survey, it was found that almost 70% of NPs in the U.S. were certified in family-based primary care. 

NPs are APRNs who are independent, organized, and work closely with their patients. 

They specialize in specific patient populations, take health histories, assess, diagnose, and treat acute and chronic illnesses.

Oftentimes, NPs act as primary care providers.  

If you are an NP, you can practice in hospitals, long-term care facilities, community clinics, private practices, and ambulatory clinics.  

So, in a nutshell: the opportunities for an NP are endless! 

What’s the Difference Between APRNs and NPs? Does It Match Your Lifestyle?

Although there is a ton of confusion surrounding these two specialties in nursing, they are not very different.  

The simple version: an NP is a type of APRN.  

An APRN is a nurse who has obtained at least a master’s degree in nursing, furthering their specialization within one of the APRN categories mentioned above. 

Online resource and nursing program ranker, Nursing Practitioner Schools, highlights that the main difference between the two credentials is whether you want to specialize in a specific field of nursing or not.  

For example, an APRN may be versatile and work in various healthcare settings, whereas an NP may stay put in one specialty such as women’s health or neonates. 

Salary Outlooks

The need for NPs and other APRNs is expected to grow exponentially within the next few years.  

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a 52% increase in jobs for NPs and reports the average salary is around $111.840 per year, wow! 

Some APRN’s including CRNA’s, can make even more!

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