APRN vs NP: What’s the difference?

APRNs and NPs hold advanced degrees and certifications in their areas of expertise. But there are differences.

mimi polner

Written and reported by:

Emily Polner

Contributing writer

nurse practitioner confers with advanced practice registered nurse on patient chart

All nurse practitioners (NPs) are advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs), but not all APRNs are NPs. You can find both NPs and APRNs working in hospitals, clinics, specialty offices among other places. 

APRNs and NPs hold advanced degrees and certifications in their areas of expertise. They often have nurse leadership positions within hospitals or private practices and they earn higher salaries than registered nurses in the same specialties. 

What are the differences between APRNs and NPs? 

A nurse practitioner (NP) is a type of APRN. The other three types of APRNs are nurse midwives (NMs), clinical nurse specialists (CNSs), and certified registered nurse anesthetists (CRNAs).

NPs specialize in chosen areas of medicine, such as gerontology, women’s health or mental health. The primary difference between the two is not only specialization but the job responsibilities and duties they perform.

APRN and NP roles and responsibilities

Compare side by side: APRN vs NP duties and responsibilities

Nurse Practitioner

Nurse practitioner responsibilities may include providing these types of primary care tasks to patients:

  • Diagnose both acute and chronic illnesses and infections
  • Order and review diagnostic tests, such as EKGs and ultrasounds
  • Review and analyze patient data 
  • Create treatment plans
  • Perform physical assessments and in-office treatments
  • In certain states, they can prescribe medication and run their own practices. 
  • Since NPs are APRNs, some APRNs share the same roles and responsibilities.

Advanced Practice Registered Nurse

The other types of ARPNs are responsible for the following: 

  • Certified registered nurse anesthetists: Administer anesthesia and other medications, and monitor patients who are under anesthesia or are recovering from being under anesthesia.
  • Clinical nurse specialists: Develop healthcare practice policies and procedures, provide expert support and consulting to registered nurses. 
  • Nurse midwives: Provide prenatal and postnatal care, educate new parents on caring for newborns, deliver newborns and diagnose and treat sexually transmitted infections (STIs). 

Workplaces

NPs and APRNs can find work in a variety of healthcare settings, including: 

  • Hospitals
  • Schools
  • Community health clinics
  • Private practices
  • Birthing centers
  • Long-term care facilities
  • Healthcare companies
  • Nursing homes
  • Correctional facilities
  • Specialty clinics
  • Urgent care clinics

Nurse practioner specialties

While APRNs also have the ability to specialize in administrative, clinical and practical areas, they can choose a specialty after they start practicing as an RN. Nurse practitioners are required to choose a specialty before they become licensed. NPs can specialize in: 

Family nursing: Provide care and counseling for all ages, from pediatric to elderly.

Psychiatry nursing: Give treatment to all ages for mental health disorders. 

Pediatric nursing: Provide care for children ages zero to 18 (most commonly).

Neonatal nursing: Provide advanced care to babies in the labor and delivery units and ICU. 

Adult gerontology nursing: Manage acute and primary care for adults, from young adults to seniors. 

Women’s health nursing: Give primary care with a focus on reproductive and gynecological health.

Similarly, clinical nurse specialists and certified registered nurse anesthetists can specialize in different areas. 

CNSs can choose to work with a specific set of the population, such as adults or children, or within a certain medical specialty, such as cardiology or oncology.

CRNAs can specialize in areas like pediatric, obstetric, cardiovascular or neurosurgical anesthesia, to name a few.

What degree does each job require?

All APRNs hold advanced degrees. 

To become a nurse practitioner, you’ll need to earn either a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) or Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree. To get into a higher education program, most schools will require you to have earned a Bachelor’s in Nursing (BSN), but there are some that will accept associate degrees. 

Nurse midwives and CNSs must hold, at minimum, an MSN. 

CRNAs need to earn both an MSN and either a DNP or Doctor of Nurse Anesthesia Practice (DNAP). 

Licenses and certifications

To become an APRN, you need to be a registered nurse, first and foremost. Then, depending on what type of APRN you want to become, you’ll need to apply for a specific license and/or certification. 

To become an APRN, you need to be a registered nurse, first and foremost.

NP Requirements

NPs need to complete their MSN or DNP degree and then pass the certification exam for their chosen specialty. NP certifications are offered by:

After you’ve taken and passed your certification exam, you can apply to be licensed in the state you intend to practice. Licenses must be maintained and recertified every few years. In some states, you need to apply for a separate licensure in order to prescribe medication. 

APRN Requirements

Each type of APRN has their own license and certification requirements

To become a licensed CRNA, you have to take and pass the national certification exam that’s administered by the National Board of Certification for Registered Nurse Anesthetists (NBCRNA). This three-hour exam is taken on the computer and consists of 100 to 170 questions. You must have a doctoral degree and a current RN license in order to sit for the exam. 

Nurse midwives must take and pass a certification exam given by the American Midwifery Certification Board (AMCB). The exam is four hours long and consists of 175 multiple-choice questions. 

In order to become state certified, clinical nurse specialists must pass a certification exam from the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses in their desired speciality. Aspiring CNSs must have a certain number of direct care hours before they can sit for their certification exam. 

APRN and NP salaries

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics cites the median annual salary for nurse practitioners as $121,610, with a strong job growth outlook of 44.5% through 2032.

The top earning nurse practitioners make up to $165,240, and the bottom 10% earn $87,340. Salaries by state for NPs are as follows:

Nurse Practitioners

National data

Median Salary: $121,610

Projected job growth: 44.5%

10th Percentile: $87,340

25th Percentile: $103,250

75th Percentile: $135,470

90th Percentile: $165,240

Projected job growth: 44.5%

State data

State Median Salary Bottom 10% Top 10%
Alabama $101,150 $79,960 $131,300
Alaska $128,870 $52,980 $168,240
Arizona $120,480 $80,970 $157,800
Arkansas $102,880 $83,670 $128,190
California $157,160 $103,890 $220,460
Colorado $118,590 $85,080 $143,280
Connecticut $130,090 $100,650 $163,900
Delaware $122,530 $99,160 $156,040
District of Columbia $125,370 $105,780 $171,490
Florida $107,600 $63,880 $136,290
Georgia $112,090 $82,590 $148,710
Hawaii $135,760 $91,520 $162,960
Idaho $116,710 $64,780 $159,920
Illinois $124,840 $100,520 $142,580
Indiana $119,160 $100,610 $142,860
Iowa $123,460 $101,930 $158,730
Kansas $108,350 $84,370 $132,900
Kentucky $104,630 $74,270 $129,590
Louisiana $115,620 $81,550 $152,730
Maine $112,210 $99,160 $142,520
Maryland $117,540 $81,710 $159,740
Massachusetts $133,030 $105,410 $178,690
Michigan $109,250 $95,960 $132,800
Minnesota $128,020 $102,230 $151,580
Mississippi $108,920 $85,640 $153,020
Missouri $106,640 $81,320 $138,170
Montana $127,350 $94,210 $137,940
Nebraska $115,920 $97,000 $146,320
Nevada $130,050 $91,800 $173,970
New Hampshire $125,450 $100,090 $156,170
New Jersey $136,480 $111,560 $170,940
New Mexico $125,190 $94,010 $176,210
New York N/A N/A N/A
North Carolina $111,140 $94,990 $137,390
North Dakota $107,680 $91,990 $139,240
Ohio $113,040 $96,640 $135,890
Oklahoma $121,010 $93,600 $147,240
Oregon $132,230 $107,950 $167,690
Pennsylvania $116,980 $93,230 $158,130
Rhode Island $121,310 $105,780 $145,810
South Carolina $103,950 $84,010 $137,740
South Dakota $108,250 $93,050 $140,510
Tennessee $103,080 $47,950 $131,820
Texas $121,270 $95,140 $160,740
Utah $112,490 $66,700 $163,780
Vermont $115,940 $91,700 $147,850
Virginia $110,860 $89,340 $141,490
Washington $134,200 $105,690 $167,840
West Virginia $104,290 $83,850 $133,570
Wisconsin $120,700 $102,590 $140,800
Wyoming $112,770 $75,480 $145,140

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) 2022 median salary; projected job growth through 2032. Actual salaries vary depending on location, level of education, years of experience, work environment, and other factors. Salaries may differ even more for those who are self-employed or work part time.

And for certified nurse midwives:

Nurse Midwives

National data

Median Salary: $120,880

Projected job growth: 6.4%

10th Percentile: $77,510

25th Percentile: $102,510

75th Percentile: $137,010

90th Percentile: $171,230

Projected job growth: 6.4%

State data

State Median Salary Bottom 10% Top 10%
Alaska $116,950 $76,900 $162,860
Arizona $109,380 $37,210 $146,280
California $177,800 $88,710 $221,800
Colorado $107,380 $99,970 $138,220
Connecticut $118,730 $73,740 $143,780
Delaware $111,860 $47,700 $151,330
District of Columbia $84,480 $65,370 $140,080
Florida $105,930 $63,120 $129,180
Georgia $121,370 $100,460 $158,250
Hawaii $165,480 $124,990 $170,700
Idaho $52,160 $19,080 $84,800
Illinois $125,670 $105,770 $131,860
Indiana $111,540 $69,470 $141,280
Iowa $112,420 $71,700 $132,200
Kansas N/A N/A N/A
Louisiana $121,530 $109,110 $134,000
Maine $120,200 $104,070 $229,990
Maryland $123,060 $104,000 $137,980
Massachusetts $136,180 $108,640 $188,590
Michigan $121,100 $93,600 $137,010
Minnesota $115,210 $102,060 $137,810
Missouri $112,180 $74,270 $132,710
New Hampshire $110,450 $104,380 $133,700
New Jersey $126,740 $82,780 $158,330
New Mexico $116,250 $60,540 $144,320
New York $127,360 $103,780 $156,440
North Carolina $119,020 $81,700 $133,430
Ohio $130,270 $79,710 $159,550
Oregon $133,470 $111,410 $175,590
Pennsylvania $118,640 $81,100 $146,960
Rhode Island $127,390 $83,250 $138,600
South Carolina $96,730 $29,260 $108,090
Tennessee $93,600 $87,400 $111,300
Texas $105,360 $20,050 $135,280
Utah N/A N/A N/A
Vermont N/A N/A N/A
Virginia $97,390 $80,460 $138,080
Washington $134,770 $108,940 $168,220
West Virginia $179,860 $102,450 $179,860
Wisconsin $117,310 $77,510 $152,720

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) 2022 median salary; projected job growth through 2032. Actual salaries vary depending on location, level of education, years of experience, work environment, and other factors. Salaries may differ even more for those who are self-employed or work part time.

Finally, salaries for certified registered nurse anesthetists:

Nurse Anesthetists

National data

Median Salary: $203,090

Projected job growth: 9%

10th Percentile: $143,870

25th Percentile: $174,190

75th Percentile: $227,160

90th Percentile: N/A

Projected job growth: 9%

State data

State Median Salary Bottom 10% Top 10%
Alabama $177,400 $140,470 N/A
Arizona $197,360 $80,380 $220,020
Arkansas N/A N/A N/A
California $235,120 $94,130 N/A
Colorado $184,460 $135,280 $233,980
Connecticut $217,760 $62,210 N/A
Delaware $224,430 $112,220 N/A
Florida $165,770 $122,320 $218,460
Georgia $178,950 $161,080 $226,170
Idaho $178,040 $134,980 N/A
Illinois $230,410 $107,120 N/A
Indiana $202,550 $162,460 N/A
Iowa $208,140 $172,420 N/A
Kansas $166,590 $63,800 N/A
Kentucky N/A $188,850 N/A
Louisiana $183,780 $79,780 $221,870
Maine $207,620 $175,890 N/A
Maryland $202,310 $55,310 N/A
Massachusetts $214,240 $96,500 N/A
Michigan $195,840 $178,830 $230,120
Minnesota $222,400 $172,900 N/A
Mississippi $180,450 $122,420 $228,540
Missouri $181,140 $150,080 N/A
Montana $216,910 $82,360 N/A
Nebraska $216,150 $155,090 N/A
New Hampshire $212,710 $159,950 N/A
New Jersey $208,330 $182,800 N/A
New Mexico $207,310 $92,710 N/A
New York $226,340 $180,090 N/A
North Carolina $206,750 $164,570 N/A
North Dakota $227,010 $217,030 N/A
Ohio $178,500 $153,540 N/A
Oklahoma $179,900 $67,880 $203,380
Oregon $218,370 $140,710 N/A
Pennsylvania $190,510 $170,200 N/A
South Carolina $192,080 $83,440 N/A
South Dakota $197,970 $178,680 $231,750
Tennessee $177,340 $138,130 $223,010
Texas $222,580 $172,550 N/A
Vermont $205,150 $179,830 N/A
Virginia $181,690 $173,740 N/A
Washington $214,800 $177,930 N/A
West Virginia $214,360 $178,060 N/A
Wisconsin $226,580 $201,000 N/A
Wyoming $230,420 $104,090 N/A

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) 2022 median salary; projected job growth through 2032. Actual salaries vary depending on location, level of education, years of experience, work environment, and other factors. Salaries may differ even more for those who are self-employed or work part time.

Compare median annual salaries for NPs, APRNs and related careers:

Career Median Annual Salary
Nurse Practitioners $121,610
Nurse Anesthetists $203,090
Nurse Midwives $120,880
Registered Nurses $81,220
Physician Assistants $126,010

Which job is right for me?

Choosing to become a nurse practitioner over a different type of APRN is personal and depends on what specialty and responsibilities you’re most interested in. 

If you’re looking to provide primary care, becoming a nurse practitioner might be well suited for you. If you prefer a more administrative role in healthcare, a clinical nurse specialist may be a better fit. Those interested in monitoring anesthesia and other medications can go on to become certified registered nurse anesthetists. There is no one right, wrong or better choice—all of these roles can be very fulfilling emotionally, ethically and financially.