Difference Between APRN and NP

Edited by Diffzy | Updated on: September 28, 2023


Difference Between APRN and NP

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Nursing is a profession that has a fascinating history, the parallels of humans. People of every generation need a professional to seek care and comfort from illness or any severe injury. The roots of nursing and medicine can be found in mythology, ancient culture, religion, and reasoned thinking. Nowadays, there is a wide scope in the field of nursing. There are many types of nurses with different positions like LPN, NP, RN, APRN, CNS, FNP, CRNA, CNA, etc. Two of the widely known positions are APRN and NP.

 The full form of APRN is Advanced Practice Nurse Practitioner. It is a broad category that includes clinical nurse specialists, certified nurse midwives, and nurse anesthetists. APRN are a vital part of the health system in the world. They are registered nurses with the degree of master's or post-master's level. APRNs play a specific role and work with a specific population of patients. The programs in the training include simulation-based education, like faculty-supervised clinical practice hours. APRNs earn the license of a registered nurse [RN] after acquiring the position.

 The full form of NP is Nurse Practitioner. They are the nurses with a graduate degree in advanced practice nursing. NPs provide a broad range of health care services like diagnosing diseases, prescribing medicines, providing education on the prevention of diseases, and more. NPs are also referred to as ARNP or APRN. They are advanced practice registered nurses who deal with patients from premature newborns to the elderly. NPs are trained, licensed, and independent healthcare clinicians.


APRN is a nurse with at least a degree in master level and board certification in a specific field of nursing. Some of its categories, like NP and CNS, select a population or condition as per their specialty. APRN allows the individual to assume more responsibility after gaining experience in the nursing field. These professionals are well-trained to diagnose diseases and provide services and utmost care for patients. APRNs can afford greater autonomy in the workplace or settings due to their level of education. They can work in many career paths in the nursing field. Although all NPs are APRNs, not all APRNs are NPs.

 On the contrary, NP is a nurse with at least a master's degree and board certification in a specific population. Most of the NPs are primary care providers in family health settings. They are one of the four types of APRNs. NPs diagnose acute and chronic diseases, perform treatments, and prescribe medicines in some regions. These professionals are specialized in areas like adult-gerontology primary care, adult-gerontology acute care, neonatal nursing, pediatrics, psychiatry, women's health, and family nursing. An NP with a degree of doctorate has the highest level of nursing degree.

 NP is a type of APRN and is often confused or misunderstood. These two terms are used interchangeably. Understanding the roles and requirements of both nursing degrees can help an individual to understand the difference between them to decide the steps for the future in the career of a nursing field.

Difference Between APRN and NP in Tabular Form

Parameters of ComparisonAPRNNP
DefinitionAPRN is a nurse with a graduate-level degree like a Master of Science in Nursing or a Doctor of Nursing Practice.NP is an advanced practice registered nurse with a master’s degree in nursing.
Title LegislationAPRN is legislated as Advanced Practice Registered Nurse.NP is legislated as a Nurse Practitioner.
Lab DutiesAPRNs review labs but are not responsible for interpreting those labs.NPs write the orders for the labs, interpret them, and also diagnose.
ServicesAPRNs administer anesthesia and other medications and also monitor patients.NPs diagnose acute and chronic illnesses and infections.
Actice SettingsNPs work in ambulatory clinics and community clinics and provide long-term care facilities.NPs work in ambulatory clinics, and community clinics and provide long-term care facilities.
SalaryAPRNs earn an average salary of $89,010 per year.NPs earn an average salary of $124,680 per year.
MedicationsOnly a few APRNs have the authority to prescribe medications based on their specialization and region.NPs can prescribe medications based on the state laws in practice.

What is an APRN?

APRN stands for Advanced Practice Registered Nurse. It includes Nurse Practitioners (NPs), Clinical Nurse Specialists (CNSs), Nurse anesthetists (CRNAs), Nurse Midwives (CNMs), and many more. APRNs play a crucial role in the field of health care. They are primary care providers and provide services to the patients. These professionals gain specialized skills and education and treat specific populations or patients. They are prepared with advanced clinical education, knowledge, skills, and scope of practice in the field of nursing. APRNs develop strong relationships with patients by providing in-depth care. Nurses practicing at this level may either work as a specialist or in a generalist capacity.

 The roots of APRN can be traced back to the 1890s. Today, it demonstrates nursing expertise in clinical practice, education, research, and leadership. APRN is no longer perceived as "physician replacements" or assistants. The increased demand for APRNs provides new practice options and challenges for nurses in all healthcare settings. Wound, ostomy, and continence nurses, or WOC are moving into the roles of APRN. The scope of the practice of this term was extended to address longstanding workforce issues and increase efficiency associated with modern healthcare provisions. APRN began to appear more widely during the 1970s in the nursing literature. The role of it started developing and flourishing outside many countries like the United States and Canada.

 According to the International Council of Nurses [ICN], ‘APRN is a registered nurse who has acquired the expert knowledge base, complex decision-making skills and clinical competencies of which are shaped by the context and/or country in which he/she is credentialed to practice.’ Stilwell et al in 1987, Touche Ross in 1994, Coopers and Lybrand in 1996, and Dolan et al in 1997 conducted studies on the value of APRNs and found it effective in providing care and comfort to the patients. In simple words, APRN nurses with advanced educational and clinical practice requirements provide effective services in community-based settings.

 Within the category of APRNs, the specialized areas include:-

Paediatric Nurse Practitioner

A pediatric nurse practitioner is a nurse practitioner who specializes in care for newborns, infants, toddlers, pre-schoolers, and school-going children, adolescents, and young adults. The nurse professional provides them with care, including well-child care and prevention and management of common pediatric acute and chronic illnesses.


An orthopedic nurse specializing in musculoskeletal diseases and disorders like arthritis, bone fractures, joint replacements, genetic malformations, and osteoporosis. The nurse gains confidence in performing examinations of the patient and executes a treatment plan in outpatient, inpatient, and consultation settings.

Certified Registered Nurse Anaesthetist

CRNAs are masters or doctorate-prepared advanced practice nurses who enjoy a high degree of autonomy and professional respect. They administer anesthesia and other medications and also take care of the patients receiving or recovering from anesthesia.

Nurse Midwife

A nurse midwife is both a nurse and a midwife who practices as a nurse midwife and is credentialed in the specialty after completing nursery and midwifery education. The professional provides care and support to pregnant women throughout labor and after the baby's birth.

Registered Nurse

A registered nurse is a nurse who graduated from a nursing program and met the requirements outlined by the country, state, or city to obtain a nursing license. The nurse provides patient care, educates them and the public about various health conditions, and provides advice and emotional support to the patients.

Cardiac Nursing

Cardiac Nursing is a nursing specialty that works with patients who suffer from various conditions related to the cardiovascular system. The nurse performs care in a surgical unit, stress test evaluations, and monitors the cardiac system.

Psychiatric-mental Health Nurse Practitioners

PMH-APRNs are licensed as Nurse Practitioners or Clinical Nurse Specialists. These nurses are trained to provide care to patients struggling with mental health problems. They provide therapy and prescribe medications for the patients.

The scope of APRN evolves through experience, knowledge, evidence-based practice, and changes in the health care delivery system. It broadly defines the scope of practice. In the professional scope, APRN nurses are offered the broadest parameters of scope of practice. Clinical experience in multiple settings, continuing nursing education, formal course work, and developments in the health care settings impact individual scope of practice. The nurses cannot change their legally recognized titles or designations through experience. The changes are achieved by meeting specific legal requirements.

 The Advanced Practice Registered Nurse finds work in these common settings:-

  1. APRNs act as a primary care provider to diagnose and treat health conditions. They supervise RNs and work in several private settings.
  2. 2. APRNs administer medication, lead nursing departments, and diagnose and treat health conditions in the hospitals.
  3. 3. APRNs are valuable members of healthcare teams at outpatient care facilities and clinics. They provide primary care services to the patients.

What is NP?

NP stands for Nurse Practitioner. NP is a nurse with a gradual level degree of education. They are trained with additional skills and experience in APNs which give them authority to do and contribute more than registered nurses. NPs offer a wide range of acute, primary, and specialty care services either alone or alongside a doctor. The services provided by them vary according to the state. But, in many regions, NPs are licensed as fully independent to prescribe medications without the supervision of a medical professional or a doctor. The training covers disease prevention, care coordination, and health promotion despite providing the depth of expertise for the recognition of more complex issues.

 The primary role of NP is to monitor patient health, provide medical health care, and serve as a primary health care provider. They perform some combinations of the duties daily:-

  1. NPs refer to their patients to acquire the treatment needed by them.
  2. NPs record patients' medical histories, which include current symptoms and medications, and ensure the accuracy of the records to provide proper diagnosis.
  3. NPs order lab tests and diagnostic procedures like X-rays and others.
  4. NPs observe their patients and analyze their test results.
  5. NPs collect information and samples from patients.
  6. NPs collaborate with other healthcare professionals like occupational therapists or physical therapists to create further treatment plans and improve patient diagnosis.
  7. NPs perform routine and detailed examinations and assessments.

In some states, NPs can prescribe medications. These include California, Florida, Georgia, Michigan, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia. However, in other states, NPs require the help of doctors in prescribing medications.

The various kinds of nurse practitioners are-


Psychiatry is the medical specialty devoted to the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of deleterious mental conditions. The nurse manages psychiatric illness through medication management and providing counseling to the patients.

Certified Nurse Midwife

A CNM focuses on women's health care, providing family planning and gynecologic services. The nurse prepares RNs to manage a woman's reproductive care during her childbearing years.

Adult-Gerontology Nurse Practitioner

An AGNP is a nurse practitioner who specializes in continuing and comprehensive healthcare for adults. The nurse works with both the adolescent and the adult population.


Neonatology is a subspecialty of pediatrics that consists of the medical care of new-borns, and infants, especially the ill or premature ones. The nurse works in neonatal intensive care units and nurseries.


Oncology is a branch of medicine that deals with the study, treatment, and diagnosis of cancer. The oncologists practice it. The nurses provide cancer screenings and diagnosis to the patients.

To become an NP, an individual has to first become a RN. From there the nurse partitioning varies. If the individual possesses a degree in BSN, he/she can enroll in a graduate program like MSN or DNP. But in case the individual does not possess a degree in BSN, he/she can enroll in an accelerated RN to BSN program. After earning an MSN or DNP, he/she needs to get an advanced practice license.

Main Differences Between APRN and NP (In Points)

  • APRNs are registered nurses with the degree of master's or post-master's level in the field of nursing. While NPs are nurses with a graduate degree in advanced practice nursing.
  • APRN was created in the mid-1960s due to a national shortage of physicians. On the other hand, NP was created in the 1960s by Dr. Loretta Ford and Dr. Henry Silver in Colorado.
  • The certifications of APRN include NBCRNA, AMCB, ANCC, and AANPCB. Whereas, the certification options of NP include ANCC and AANPCB.
  • APRNs assess, diagnose, and treat medical conditions and prescribe medications. While NPs perform primary care duties and offer referrals to specialists providing further treatment.
  • APRN is a registered nurse possessing advanced education. On the other hand, NP falls in the category of an APRN.
  • The scope of practice of APRNs depends on the state regulations where they work. Whereas, the scope of practice of NP is state-dependent and ranges from full to reduced practice authority.
  • APRN requires a national certification test to attempt and clear. While a national test is not required for NPs.
  • Clara Barton, Mary Seacole, and Mary Breckinridge are some of the most famous APRNs of all time. On the other hand, Anna Caroline Maxwell, Walt Whitman, and Florence Guinness Blake are some of the known NPs of all time.


In short, pursuing a career in APRN and NP opens up a wide range of opportunities for the future to the students. Both the nursing fields have a broad range of differences based on the types, workplace settings, salary, and others. While APRNs are the nurses with the highest degree of education, NPs is one of the types of APRN with different educational background.


  • nursejournal.org
  • academialabs.com
  • wikipedia.org


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"Difference Between APRN and NP." Diffzy.com, 2024. Fri. 23 Feb. 2024. <https://www.diffzy.com/article/difference-between-aprn-and-np>.

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