The nursing field contains several different specialties. Nurses have a chance to develop skills in other areas by switching positions. Many nurses begin as Registered Nurses (RNs) and then become Nurse Practitioners (NPs) as a natural part of professional development.
Though there are some overlaps, these two positions are different.
In this blog, we will explore the following:
- What are the job duties of a nurse practitioner?
- What are the job duties of a registered nurse?
- Similarities between both roles
- Differences between both roles
- Nurse practitioner vs. Registered Nurse: How to choose the right path for you
What are the job duties of a nurse practitioner?
Nurse practitioners are advance practice registered nurses (APRN). They work independently to manage patient’s health and to prevent disease. NPs must earn an advanced degree: either a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) or Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP).
The advanced degree lets them have greater authority (and responsibility) than a registered nurse.
Nurse practitioners perform many of the same duties that a physician would do. They visit patients, diagnose and create treatment plans. Nurse practitioners also work with patients who have chronic conditions to help manage the situation and make necessary changes.
Additional duties involve:
- Managing other nurses and staff within the clinic
- Ordering diagnostic tests for patients
- Prescribing medicine to patients
- Administer routine and detailed examinations
- Explaining complicated medical and treatment plans to patients and family
- Analyzing tests results to discover causes for symptoms
- Collect information and samples from patients
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What are the job duties of a registered nurse?
Registered nurses act as primary caregivers to patients. They perform the following duties:
- Administer IV medications
- Complete admission assessments
- Develop nursing care plans
- Take verbal orders from a doctor or nurse practitioner
- Provide blood products
- Pronounce time of death in long-term care or hospice facilities (only some states allow RNs to do this)
- Access or flush PICC lines, subcutaneous ports, or central lines
- Administer insulin drips, cardiac medication drips, or total parenteral nutrition
- Give chemotherapy medications or administer dialysis
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RN vs NP: Similarities between both roles
RNs and NPs both share an ability to specialize and work in diverse environments.
RNs and NPs assist patients in medical settings such as hospitals, urgent care clinics, or long-term care facilities. And in both roles, the nurses work directly with the patient and their families. However, RNs typically work in more types of settings than NPs.
Most nurse practitioners find themselves in a clinical setting while there are some registered nurses who work on cruise ships.
RN vs NP: Differences between both roles
Salary differences between RNs and NPs
There’s a significant difference in salary between Registered Nurses and Nurse Practitioners.
Registered nurses earned an average annual salary of $82,750 in 2021, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
Nurse practitioners earned an average annual salary of $118,040 in 2021, according to the BLS.
Why is such a significant difference? The reason why NPs more money than RNs nurses is because they have an advanced degree.
Also, a nurse practitioner’s role is more expansive than that of a registered nurse. The nurse practitioner has much more responsibility and autonomy than the registered nurse. In some states, NPs work autonomously and have their own practices.
Below is a map of the average nurse practitioner and registered nurse salaries for every state. You’ll also find the hourly median wage and number of RNs and NPs licensed in each state.
Average Nurse Practitioner Salary by State
Average Registered Nurse Salary by State
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Educational requirements for RNs and NPs
One big difference between an RN and an NP is their level of education.
- Registered nurses need either an associate’s (ADN) or bachelor’s degree (BSN).
- Nurse Practitioners, meanwhile, need a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) or a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP).
Both roles require clinical training.
- RNs generally need at least 400 hours of clinical experience.
- NPs typically need about 500 or more hours.
Continuing Education Requirements for RNs and NPs
RNs and nurse practitioners both take continuing education courses to retain licensing.
Most registered nurses have to complete continuing education units (CEUs) in order to maintain their licenses. Continuing education requirements vary by state and specialty.
For instance, California requires RNs to take certified courses adding up to a total of at least 30 contact hours
All nurse practitioners have to complete CEUs. They must renew their license every five years with the American Association of Nurse Practitioners. To renew, nurse practitioners need to accrue 1,000 clinical hours since their last renewal along with 75 contact hours of CEU.
Licensure and Certification for RNs and NPs
Registered nurses must be licensed in the state they live in in order to work there. Certification standards differ depending on the state. But most have a few basic requirements for certification:
- Earn an associate or bachelor’s degree at an accredited institution
- Pass a background check
- Pass the NCLEX exam
Once RNs receive their licensure, they can obtain certification in the specialty of their choice.
For NPs, licensure requirements are mostly the same as RNs. The difference? Nurse practitioners need to receive their certification through either the American Nurses Credentialing Center or the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners.
NP vs. RN: How to choose the right path for you
Pursuing a career as a nurse practitioner or registered nurse has its own unique set of benefits and drawbacks.
While nurse practitioners make more money, the role also comes with more responsibility, and in some situations, complete autonomy.
That responsibility can also lead to more significant burnout.
Accordingly, the registered nurse role might seem less stressful in scope. On the other hand, some people excel in leadership roles with greater responsibility. It also doesn’t require additional schooling beyond an ADN or BSN.
What do you choose? Well, it depends on what works best for you and what fits into your career goals.
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Top advance practice jobs on Incredible Health
San Francisco, CA | $115,000 to $190,000 /year
Quincy, WA |
Houston, TX | $70,000 to $120,000 /year
Kennewick, WA |
Wynnewood, PA | $65,000 to $95,000 /year
Frequently Asked Questions
A nurse practitioner is an advanced practice registered nurse. The scope and authority granted to a nurse practitioner is greater than that of a registered nurse. This is why nurse practitioners get paid more than registered nurses.
The main difference between an RN and NP is the scope of practice. Nurse practitioners are given much more autonomy. In some states, nurse practitioners are able to work independently and have their own offices. Conversely, registered nurses work under a clinician such as a doctor or nurse practitioner.
Nurse practitioners make more than registered nurses because of their autonomy. In 2021, NPs averaged $118,040; RNs averaged $82,750. They work in a leadership/supervisory role. Additionally, the difference in their pay is due to the education differences. Nurse practitioners have to complete at least a master’s degree whereas registered nurses only need to complete a minimum of an associate’s degree in nursing.
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