What is an APRN? Explore Salary, Jobs, and More

Picture of an advanced practice nurse
Written by
Jeremy Booher
Reviewed by
Miranda Kay, RN
April 7, 2023

Table of Contents

What does APRN mean in medical terms? APRN is an abbreviation that stands for Advanced Practice Registered Nurse. This article will discuss the difference between an RN and an APRN in the medical field. We will also cover what an APRN-CNP is, its education requirements, and the difference in job designations.

What Is An APRN Degree?

An APRN degree is a graduate-level program that prepares registered nurses (RNs) and puts them in more prominent roles in nursing. APRN degrees give specialized education and training in clinical practice, research, and leadership roles like healthcare management. 

Through their APRN degree programs, nurses gain advanced knowledge and skills in patient assessment, diagnosis, and management, allowing them to provide more specialized and independent patient care than RNs without advanced degrees. 

How Long Does It Go From an RN to an APRN?

This typically requires two to three years of full-time study beyond the typical bachelor's degree in nursing. There are several specific types of APRN degrees; what a nurse pursues will depend on the intended specialty and career goals. Some options may include a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN), Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP), and post-master certificates.

Requirements To Work As An APRN:

The requirements to work as an APRN vary depending on the state in which you intend on working, along with your specialty, but generally include the following:

  1. RN Licensure: To become an APRN, you must hold an active RN license.
  2. Graduate-level education: APRNs must complete a graduate-level nursing program, including a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN), Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP), or post-master certificate program.
  3. National certification: APRNs must pass a national certification exam in their specialty area administered by organizations such as the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) or the National Certification Corporation (NCC).
  4. State licensure: APRNs must be licensed by the state in which they practice, which typically requires submitting an application, proof of education and certification, and passing a state examination in which they intend on working. Check your specific state's requirements for the exact details.
  5. Continuing education: APRNs must maintain their certification and licensure by completing continuing education requirements determined by state policy for their specialty.

Differences In Roles Between An RN And An APRN:

  1. Scope of Practice: RNs provide general patient care under the supervision of physicians and other healthcare providers, while APRNs have a more advanced scope of practice that includes diagnosing and treating patients, prescribing medication, and managing care plans.
  2. Education and Training: RNs typically hold an associate's or bachelor's degree in nursing and are licensed by passing the NCLEX-RN exam. At the same time, APRNs have additional graduate-level education and clinical training in a specific specialty area.
  3. Specialization: APRNs have specialized training and certification in a specific practice area, such as family practice, pediatrics, women's health, or mental health, while RNs provide general nursing care across various settings.
  4. Autonomy: APRNs have greater independence in their practice than RNs, with the ability to practice independently in some states, depending on their specialty and level of education.
  5. Leadership: APRNs are usually involved with leadership and management roles and tend to be clinical coordinators, nurse educators, or advanced practice medical providers, while RNs typically focus more on direct patient care.

Overall, while both RNs and APRNs are essential in healthcare, APRNs have further education with advanced specialized training that typically puts them in a position that will provide a more complex and technical approach to a patient's care.

What Is A APRN-CNP?

APRN-CNP stands for Advanced Practice Registered Nurse-Certified Nurse Practitioner. This refers to a type of APRN who has completed a graduate-level nursing program and passed the national certification exam to practice as a nurse practitioner. As a CNP, the APRN can diagnose and treat patients, prescribe medications, and manage care plans independently.

Conclusion:

Putting in the effort and money as well as your time, becoming an APRN from an RN can provide a wide range of advantages, from increased salary and job security to expanding your career opportunities with more significant professional independence.  

APRNs have a more advanced education and specialized training, allowing them to provide more complex and technical patient care than RNs. This is key in what gives them a much higher salary and puts them in a position with greater job security. Additionally, APRNs have more freedom in their practice, giving them increased job satisfaction and professional fulfillment. APRNs are in high demand across a variety of healthcare facilities. 

Advancing into an APRN role opens up new career opportunities, giving you leadership roles, advanced education, and research roles that may not be available to RNs. Overall, pursuing an APRN degree can be a rewarding and fulfilling position, like most medical professions. If you are an RN interested in advancing to an APRN, the extra time and efforts are worth it.

Jeremy Booher
Blog published on:
April 7, 2023

Meet Jeremy, a contributing copywriter, editor, and publisher at Nursa who specializes in topics around licensing, clinician salaries, and per diem job locations.

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