Most of us consider nurses to be heroes, and rightly so! Now imagine nurses upping their skills and abilities to superhero-levels. That’s who Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRNs) are in a nutshell.

APRNs are the experts of the nursing world, with additional training and knowledge that goes above and beyond what most nurses know and are trained to do. These healthcare professionals can diagnose, treat, prescribe meds, and even lead teams. 

If you’re curious about a career in nursing but also dream of accomplishing more, becoming an APRN could be your gateway to the world of advanced healthcare.

An APRN — Advanced Practice Registered Nurse — is a highly skilled and specialized type of nurse in the United States healthcare system. APRNs have completed advanced education and training beyond the requirements of a registered nurse (RN). They possess the expertise to provide a wide range of healthcare services, often taking on roles that traditionally required a physician.

APRNs typically fall into four main roles:

  1. Nurse Practitioner (NP): NPs assess patients, diagnose conditions, and provide treatments, including prescribing medications. They often work independently or collaboratively with physicians.
  1. Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS): CNSs focus on a specific patient population or medical specialty, providing advanced clinical expertise and working to improve patient care systems.
  1. Certified Nurse-Midwife (CNM): CNMs provide care to women throughout their reproductive lives, including prenatal care, childbirth assistance, and gynecological services.
  1. Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA): CRNAs are specialized in administering anesthesia and pain management, often working in surgical and procedural settings.

To become an APRN, you need to fulfill specific education requirements. Here are some common degree programs, at both undergraduate and graduate levels, you need to complete in order to become an APRN:

Undergraduate Level:

Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN): This is the first step. You’ll need to complete a BSN program, which usually takes around four years. During this program, you’ll learn the basics of nursing and healthcare.

Graduate Level:

Master of Science in Nursing (MSN): After earning a BSN, you can pursue an MSN program with a specialization as a Nurse Practitioner, Clinical Nurse Specialist, Nurse-Midwife, or Nurse Anesthetist.

Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP): Another pathway is the DNP program, which offers an even higher level of specialization and expertise.

These graduate-level programs provide advanced education, clinical training, and specialization to prepare you for one of the APRN roles. The specific program you choose will depend on your career goals and the APRN role you wish to pursue.

Here’s a duration breakdown for various APRN degree programs:

Undergraduate Level:

Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN): This program typically takes about 4 years to complete. During this time, you’ll cover foundational nursing coursework.

Graduate Level:

Master of Science in Nursing (MSN): An MSN program usually takes around 2 to 3 years after completing a BSN. This includes specialized coursework and clinical training.

Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP): A DNP program can take about 3 to 4 years after a BSN. It offers advanced clinical training and prepares you for leadership roles.

Keep in mind that program durations can vary based on factors like part-time or full-time enrollment and any prerequisites required for admission.

Here are some features and benefits you can expect to come across when pursuing an APRN degree:

  1. Advanced Clinical Skills: APRN programs provide in-depth training, enhancing your clinical expertise and ability to provide specialized care to patients.
  1. Expanded Scope of Practice: APRNs can perform tasks traditionally reserved for physicians, allowing you to diagnose, prescribe medication, and manage patient care independently in some states.
  1. Specialization: APRN programs offer various specializations like Nurse Practitioner, Nurse-Midwife, Clinical Nurse Specialist, and Nurse Anesthetist, letting you focus on areas that interest you.
  1. Higher Earning Potential: APRNs generally command higher salaries compared to registered nurses due to their advanced training and expanded responsibilities.
  1. Job Opportunities: The demand for APRNs is on the rise, providing ample career opportunities in various healthcare settings, including hospitals, clinics, and private practices.
  1. Autonomy: APRNs often have more autonomy in their practice, which can be professionally fulfilling and allow you to make decisions that directly impact patient care.
  1. Flexible Career Paths: With specializations ranging from pediatrics to mental health, you can choose a career path that aligns with your passions and interests.
  1. Patient Impact: APRNs play a pivotal role in patient care, improving health outcomes and making a difference in patients’ lives.
  1. Leadership Roles: APRNs are well-positioned for leadership positions in healthcare organizations, where their expertise can guide policy decisions and shape patient care.
  1. Continued Learning: APRN programs encourage ongoing learning and professional development, keeping you up-to-date with the latest advancements in healthcare.

These benefits highlight the valuable contributions APRNs make to the healthcare field and the rewarding nature of pursuing an advanced nursing degree.

Career Options after an APRN degree

Here are ten career options you can pursue with an APRN degree:

  1. Nurse Practitioner (NP): Diagnose and treat patients, prescribe medications, and provide primary care in various specialties like family practice, pediatrics, geriatrics, and more. The average nurse practitioner salary is $121,873 as of July 25, 2023, but the range typically falls between $113,089 and $132,400
  1. Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS): Offer specialized expertise in a specific area like oncology, critical care, or psychiatric nursing, focusing on patient care improvement and education. Clinical nurse specialists earn an average salary of $2,393,552 and salaries range from a low of $2,102,435 to a high of $2,732,056
  1. Certified Nurse-Midwife (CNM): Provide comprehensive care to women during pregnancy, childbirth, and postpartum, as well as general gynecological services. As of July 2023, the mean salary of a certified nurse midwife is $120,351 as of July 25, 2023, but the range typically falls between $110,662 and $136,419.
  1. Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA): Administer anesthesia and oversee patient care during surgeries and procedures, often in collaboration with physicians. The salary range for a certified registered nurse anesthetist is from $59,844 to $81,192 per year.
  1. Nurse Educator: Teach and mentor nursing students in academic settings, sharing your expertise and contributing to the development of future nurses. In 2023, the average salary of a nursing education specialist salary is $121,663, but the range typically falls between $109,849 and $134,368.
  1. Nurse Researcher: Conduct research to improve patient care, treatment outcomes, and healthcare systems, contributing to advancements in nursing practice. In 2023, the average nurse researcher salary is $90,771.
  1. Acute Care Nurse Practitioner: Specialize in providing advanced care for patients with complex and acute medical conditions, often in hospital or critical care settings. The mean salary of a nurse practitioner – acute care is $120,575 as of July 25, 2023, but the range typically falls between $113,703 and $129,245.
  1. Pediatric Nurse Practitioner: Focus on healthcare for infants, children, and adolescents, providing well-child checkups, vaccinations, and managing pediatric health concerns.
  1. Geriatric Nurse Practitioner: Specialize in caring for elderly patients, addressing age-related health issues and promoting healthy aging. On average, a pediatric nurse practitioner (NP) earns about $116,600, but the range typically falls between $108,900 and $122,300.
  1. Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner: Diagnose and treat mental health conditions, offering therapy and medication management to patients of all ages struggling with mental health concerns. The average salary of a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner is $117,631.

These roles showcase the diverse career opportunities available to APRNs, allowing you to specialize and make a meaningful impact in various healthcare settings.

In the realm of healthcare, pursuing an Advanced Practice Registered Nurse degree comes with numerous benefits. With an expanded scope of practice, APRNs gain autonomy and can perform tasks traditionally reserved for physicians, contributing to patient care independently. 

This autonomy also opens up diverse job opportunities in hospitals, clinics, and beyond, where higher earning potential awaits. APRNs play a pivotal role in patient care, impacting health outcomes and potentially assuming leadership positions in healthcare organizations.

The flexible career paths and continuous learning inherent in APRN roles make them professionally enriching and personally fulfilling. Ultimately, pursuing an APRN degree leads to a fulfilling career at the forefront of healthcare innovation and patient well-being.

Are there financial aid options available for APRN programs?

Yes, there are financial aid options available for APRN programs. APRN students can explore federal financial aid through the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

Many universities and nursing organizations also offer scholarships, grants, and loan programs tailored to graduate nursing education. These financial resources aim to support aspiring APRNs in pursuing their advanced nursing degrees.

Can I pursue higher nursing degrees after obtaining an APRN degree?

Yes, absolutely! Pursuing higher nursing degrees after obtaining an APRN degree is indeed possible. Many APRNs choose to further advance their nursing education by pursuing doctoral degrees such as a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) or a Ph.D. in Nursing. These advanced degrees offer opportunities for specialization, leadership roles, and research-focused careers.

A DNP, for instance, can provide enhanced clinical skills, leadership expertise, and the ability to drive healthcare improvements. A Ph.D. in Nursing opens doors to research and academia, allowing APRNs to contribute to healthcare advancements and educate the next generation of nurses.