APRN vs. NP: Similarities and Differences

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Written by Morganne Skinner, BSN, RN Content Writer, IntelyCare
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Do you want to further your nursing education and practice? Are you interested in having more responsibility and decision-making power? Do you want to take on the role of a provider? If you said yes, an advanced practice nursing degree may be for you.

As you research your options, you’ve likely come across the APRN medical abbreviation, which means advanced practice registered nurse (APRN). You may have also heard of nurse practitioners (NPs). Who knew nursing was so full of acronyms, right? But don’t stress it — in this article, we will compare the roles of an APRN vs. NP so you’ll know exactly what they are and what they do.

Key Differences Between APRN vs. NP

The APRN medical abbreviation stands for an advanced practice registered nurse. Consider this title like an umbrella term for registered nurses (RNs) with an advanced degree and specialization. A nurse practitioner falls under this umbrella term.

Another difference between an NP vs. APRN is their job responsibilities. Because an APRN is a more general term, not all APRNs perform the same duties as NPs. For example, a certified registered nurse anesthetist (CRNA) is a type of APRN who administers anesthesia. This is not a duty of a NP and would be out of their scope of practice.

NP Specialties

A NP specializes in the care and management of a specific patient population, just like a medical doctor. Common NP specialties include:

  • Family Practice: The majority of NPs (70.3%) pursue the family practice route. This specialty is a type of primary care. NPs see patients of all ages, from children to older adults, and care for a broad variety of health conditions. Much of their focus may be on health promotion, disease prevention, and treatment of chronic illnesses.
  • Pediatric: These NPs provide care and treatment to children, from newborns to young adults. They tend to work in clinics, schools, and pediatric offices.
  • Neonatal: These NPs provide care and treatment to premature and ill newborns. They may work in neonatal intensive care units (NICUs), emergency rooms, outpatient care centers, and delivery rooms.
  • Women’s Health: These NPs provide specialized care to women throughout their life, particularly during their reproductive life. Much of the care focuses on disease prevention, such as breast cancer screenings, and checkup services, such as family planning and gynecological exams.
  • Psychiatric Mental Health: These NPs provide care and treatment to patients with mental and behavioral health conditions. They focus their care on assessing a patient’s mental health, making diagnoses, and developing appropriate treatment plans.
  • Geriatric: These NPs attend to the medical needs, treatment, and care for older adults. They work primarily in hospital outpatient clinics, hospital inpatient units, and private practice.
  • Acute Care: These NPs, specializing in either adults or pediatrics, provide acute care and treatment to patients requiring immediate attention. They may work in critical care, intensive care units, emergency rooms, and urgent care.

APRN Specialties

An APRN will typically specialize in a type of nursing, like a CRNA, rather than a specific population. Common APRN specialities include:

Key Similarities Between APRN vs. NP

Both APRNs and NPs are advanced RNs trained through the nursing model. They both went to nursing school, became RNs, and attended graduate school to obtain an advanced degree.

They both have more responsibility and autonomy than a RN. Both have prescriptive authority, meaning they are able to prescribe medications and write orders. Each state has its own set of laws and regulations regarding prescriptive authority, so be sure to refer to your state’s guidelines.

How to Become a NP vs. APRN

The path to becoming an APRN vs. NP are very similar — both require a graduate degree. However, the program chosen will be different, which will affect the timing and classes taken.

Becoming an NP

After becoming a RN and getting a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN), you may apply to the program of your choice to become a nurse practitioner. You will need one to two years of nursing experience, preferably in your desired NP speciality.

These programs take about two years, which makes a total of four to six years when you add in the time to become a RN and obtain your BSN.

Becoming an APRN

Similar to NP programs, you’ll first need to become a RN and obtain your BSN. Before applying to the APRN program of your choice, you’ll also need some nursing experience.

  • CRNA programs: critical care experience required
  • CNS programs: most programs require two years of nursing experience
  • NP programs: most programs require one to two years of nursing experience
  • CNM programs: one to two years of nursing experience are encouraged

APRN programs will take anywhere from two to six years to complete, depending on specialization, program type, and degree. After you complete the additional education, you need to take a national exam to receive additional licensure.

APRN vs. NP: Salary Differences

The average NP salary is $124,680 per year. The average APRN salary is $99,787 per year. Within this umbrella, APRNs can make:

Job Outlook

The NP profession is projected to grow by 46% in the next 10 years, which is much faster than the average for all other occupations.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics does not report on job growth for APRNs, but does report demand for NPs, CNMs, and CRNAs. The demand for CNMs is projected to grow 7%, and 12% for CRNAs in the next 10 years.

What Are the License Renewal Requirements for an APRN vs. NP?

The renewal requirements will vary greatly for a NP vs. APRN, depending on the exact license held.

Nurse Practitioner: You have two options. You can either:

  • Meet 1,000 practice hours in the population of your specialty, obtain 100 contact hours of continued education, and hold a current RN or APRN license.
  • Take a recertification exam and hold a current RN license.

Advanced Practice RN: Your requirements depend on the license held.

  • NP: See above.
  • CNM: Option 1 – Complete education modules, obtain 20 contact hours of continued education, and pay fees. Option 2 – take a certification exam and pay fees.
  • CNS: Complete 75 continued education hours, hold a current RN license and ANCC board certification, complete 1 of 8 renewal categories, and pay fees.
  • CRNA: Complete 100 continued education hours, complete education modules, and take an exam every 8 years.

Which Will You Become?

Now that you’ve learned the difference between an APRN vs. NP, which appeals to you more? Whether you are leaning towards an APRN or NP, furthering your education will be a necessary next step. Need help finding a nursing job that allows you a flexible schedule, so you can work and attend school? IntelyCare can help. Learn about the benefits of being an IntelyPro and apply today.