JAANUU » What Does APRN Mean? Here’s What You Need to Know

What Does APRN Mean? Here’s What You Need to Know

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The sky’s the limit for healthcare professionals who want to take their careers to the next level. One of the most important parts of these superhumans is nurses. Not only does the field of the nursing house more than 100 specialties, but it’s also full of opportunities for career advancement. 

APRN, or advanced practice registered nurse, is an umbrella term that consists of nurse practitioners (NPs), clinical nurse specialists (CNSs), certified nurse anesthetists (CNAs), and certified nurse midwives (CNMs). These nursing professionals act as primary care providers, thanks to their vast experience and extensive studies.  

So is an APRN considered a doctor? No. However, as they act as primary care providers, they perform tasks that physicians normally would, like prescribing medication, making diagnoses, and performing basic procedures. This makes the APRN role a perfect option for nursing professionals who want more responsibility but not a complete career change. Instead of attending medical school to become a doctor, nurses can earn their master’s degrees and impact patients’ lives as APRNs. 

If you’re ready to take the next step, read on to find out what your responsibilities would be in different APRN roles and how much you’d earn in these advanced careers. Hint: Your studies and hard work will pay off, literally! 

Types of advanced practice nurses

Remember, the APRN field encompasses four professions. Despite being a part of the same category of careers in nursing, each of these roles is quite different. While you’d have the opportunity to provide psychiatric care in one, you’d likely be delivering babies in the other. Below are the four professions:

  • Nurse practitioner (NP): NPs take on tasks physicians usually perform, like diagnosing patients and prescribing medications. They work across six focus areas: Family health, adult gerontology, women’s health, neonatal care, pediatrics, and mental health. 
  • Clinical nurse specialists (CNS): CNSs are expert clinicians who work with specific patient populations or in a specialty area. They may work with older adults, children, or women or provide medical assistance in critical care or emergency settings. Some CNSs focus on areas of medicine like oncology or psychiatric care. They provide pointed patient care and drive organizational change in healthcare settings. 
  • Certified nurse midwife (CNM): CNMs provide gynecological and pregnancy care. As primary care professionals, they perform annual exams, prescribe medicine, and advise patients and the general public on women’s health. Midwives also deliver babies. 
  • Certified nurse anesthetist (CNA): CNAs and anesthesiologists provide the same services––administering anesthesia for patients going into surgery or labor or who need pain management help. 

What are some common subspecialties?

NPs alone focus on six medical specializations, which further comprise subcategories that enable these professionals to explore an even more specific area of patient care they love. If we look at how other types of APRNs, like CNSs, can specialize, we end up with a very long list of niche jobs. Here are several you can get excited about: 

  • Family nurse practitioner 
  • Women’s health nurse practitioner
  • Acute care pediatric nurse practitioner 
  • Neonatal nurse practitioner
  • Psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner
  • Emergency nurse practitioner 
  • Pediatric nurse practitioner 
  • Adult-gerontology acute care nurse practitioner 
  • Women’s health nurse practitioner 
  • Cardiology nurse practitioner 
  • Aesthetic nurse practitioner 
  • Oncology nurse practitioner 
  • Orthopedic nurse practitioner 
  • Advanced oncology certified clinical nurse specialist
  • Critical care nurse specialist
  • Pediatric acute clinical nurse specialist
  • Adult health clinical nurse specialist
  • Adult psychiatric and mental health clinical nurse specialist
  • Gerontological clinical nurse specialist
  • Home health clinical nurse specialist

How long does it take to become an advanced practice registered nurse?

Remember when we said APRNs aren’t doctors? Let’s clarify. Some may, in fact, hold a doctoral degree, not just in medicine but nursing. This means there’s no one answer to how long it takes to become an APRN. If an APRN opts for a master’s degree, their schooling takes about six years. However, if the goal is to earn a doctorate, the figure may be roughly eight. Here’s what you can expect from the educational journey:

  1. Undergraduate degree from an accredited nursing program: While you can practice as a registered nurse (RN) with an associate’s degree, a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) of four years would be an ideal choice. This can help you attain the title of an APRN. You’ll need this credential to apply for a master’s degree. 
  2. Graduate nursing degree: Pursue a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN), which takes around two years to complete, or a Doctorate of Nursing Practice (DNP), which will take 18 months to four years.
  3. Clinical hours: While you may be able to complete your APRN education in six years, you’ll still need to complete your clinical hours, which range from around 500 to 2,000, depending on the kind of specialty you pursue. This can take 2-5 years. 


Now that we know what an APRN is and what their roles and responsibilities are, let’s take a look at how they differ from registered nurses (RNs). These two roles are set apart by the level of schooling each requires and their scope of practice. While APRNs act as primary care providers, RNs work within a team of healthcare professionals to implement care plans. RNs often work under the supervision of physicians and doctors, taking action according to their instructions. APRNs, on the other hand, have the authority to make decisions and administer medications themselves.  

How much do APRNs earn?

These healthcare professionals earn an average of $125,000 per year, but more accurate APRN salary figures depend on their specialization. CNAs, for example, make a lot more than CNMs. Here are the salaries of the four types of APRNs by geographical area and healthcare setting:

  • NPs earn roughly $120,000 annually. 
  • CNSs take home around $95,000 yearly. 
  • CNMs make approximately $115,000 annually. 
  • CNAs are the highest-paid professionals in the field of nursing, with annual salaries of more than $200,000 in many U.S. states. 

We love to hear you’re thinking about advancing your career, sharpening your skills, and opting for a nursing specialty. We’re here to support you every step of the way and not just with compression underscrubs. Count on us for a range of content––from tips and tricks to ace certification exams to self-care routines. We’re here for you!  

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