Why You Should Go From RN to APRN

An Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN) is a nurse with post-graduate training that allows them to provide more advanced medical care to patients. There are generally four types of APRNs: nurse practitioners, clinical nurse specialists, nurse anesthetists, and nurse midwives.

To become an APRN, you normally need to already be a registered nurse (RN) and obtain at least a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree. However, many new APRNs are earning a doctorate, such as the Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP).

It takes a bit of time, effort, and money to go from RN to APRN. Then there’s the fact that RNs enjoy great pay and job security. So it’s easy to understand that if you’re already an RN, you might be questioning if it’s worth going back to school to become an APRN.

Let’s take a look at seven major reasons why it may be worth it to you to become an APRN.

There Is a Tremendous Need for APRNs

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimates that the need for nurse anesthetists, nurse midwives, and nurse practitioners will grow 38% from 2022 to 2032. One reason for this large demand is that there won’t be enough doctors to meet the medical needs of a population that’s getting older and seeking more healthcare services.

Changes in the healthcare system mean a greater number of patients can see APRNs. For example, instead of seeing an obstetrician, more pregnant individuals can see a nurse midwife. Or, instead of a physician, patients will see a nurse practitioner.

All of this is to say that by becoming an APRN, you can further increase your job security and marketability while obtaining greater opportunities for more responsibility in your profession.

The Pay Is Usually A Lot Better

With their greater responsibility and being in high demand, APRNs can expect higher pay compared to RNs. According to BLS, the national median annual salary for an RN is $81,220. This is impressive enough, but APRNs can easily expect pay jumps of 50% to 100%. The national median annual salaries for nurse midwives, nurse practitioners, and nurse anesthetists are $120,880, $121,610, and $203,090, respectively.

Independence and Collaboration

Because of their additional training and experience, APRNs often enjoy greater autonomy compared to RNs when working with their patients. RNs usually work under a doctor, but in some states, APRNs do not have this physician oversight. Nurse practitioners can do many of the tasks a doctor might do, such as conducting medical exams, ordering tests, completing simple medical procedures, creating treatment plans, and analyzing test results. From a patient’s perspective, the difference between a nurse practitioner and a doctor will usually be difficult to notice.

The bottom line is that while the scope of practice of APRNs differs for each state, you should expect more independence in your practice as an APRN versus an RN. Even if you decide to work in a state that requires APRNs to work under a medical doctor or with practice restrictions, you will take a more collaborative approach and have more freedom to make decisions for your patients.


One of the biggest reasons to become an APRN is to specialize in a particular area. Yes, RNs can specialize too, but the specializations and concentrations available to a nurse with a master’s or doctoral degree is far different in terms of the level of care that can be offered. Most of these specialization options will be open to those seeking to become a nurse practitioner. Some of these options include:

  • Family
  • Pediatric
  • Psychiatric-Mental Health
  • Adult-Gerontology
  • Women’s Health
  • Neonatal

Because specialization is such a critical part of becoming an APRN, there are many national certification credentials available. For nurse midwives, there’s the Certified Nurse-Midwife available from the American Midwifery Certification Board (AMCB) while nurse anesthetists can become certified through the National Board of Certification and Recertification for Nurse Anesthetists (NBCRNA).

As for nurse practitioners, there are several certifying bodies, some of which offer certifications for specific nurse practitioner specializations. Two popular nurse practitioner certification bodies include the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) and the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners Certification Board (AANPCB).

Increased Patient Care

Specialization and greater autonomy mean more opportunities to work with patients to improve their lives. This includes not just direct medical care but providing help, like educating patients on how to better take care of themselves. APRNs, especially nurse practitioners, can also expect more one-on-one contact with patients. This can help foster the relationship between healthcare provider and patient, which can build trust and help patients become more open. With more information about the patient, APRNs can provide more complete medical care that takes into account aspects of a patient’s life that aren’t written on a medical chart.

Professional Flexibility

Because of the dire need for more nurses, nursing school graduates have more opportunities to decide where they want to work. Whether it’s in a hospital setting in a major city, a small-town clinic, or working as a traveling nurse, there are plenty of options available for both advanced practice and registered nurses.

This flexibility further improves for APRNs. With a greater emphasis on specialization, APRNs have more opportunities to select the medical setting and type of patients they want to work with. These positions often provide additional flexibility in scheduling, too.

All else being equal, an APRN is more likely to be able to choose their own work schedule and have more say in when they work.

Career Growth

After working as an APRN and gaining valuable experience, there’s room to shift into different areas of the nursing profession. These include areas not part of a clinical setting, such as academia. Because you have at least a master’s degree, you can also consider becoming a nurse educator.

Depending on the education level you want to teach at, your master’s degree in nursing plus your experience could be sufficient to teach the next generation of RNs. If you have a DNP, you can also teach future RNs but will have more nursing schools and programs to choose from given your doctoral degree.