Nurse vs. Nurse Practitioner: A Side-by-Side Comparison

Head-to-head comparisons of salaries, education, job requirements, and more

Registered Nurses

Registered Nurses (RN) provide and coordinate patient care. Their exact responsibilities depend on where they work, their education, their specialty and their role.

What they do
  • Takes vital signs
  • Performs in-depth patient assessments
  • Administers medications 
  • Manages activities of daily living (ADLs), either by performing them or by delegating to an LPN or nursing assistant
  • Does specialized procedures
  • Writes charts
  • Researches and develops care plans.

The median salary for registered nurses $77,600 per year $37.31 per hour (Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics)

How to become
  1. Earn a high school diploma or equivalent
  2. Enroll in a nursing program, either an Associate’s Degree in Nursing (ADN) or a Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing (BSN)
  3. Pass the nurse licensing exam, the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN)
  4. Obtain a nursing license from the state where you wish to practice 
  5. Find a job as a registered nurse

After earning an ADN or BSN, registered nurses can also earn graduate degrees in nursing. Read more: How toBecome a Registered Nurse

Nurse Practitioners

Nurse Practitioners are advanced practice registered nurses (APRN), nurses with a graduate degree. They typically specialize in primary care. They manage patient health conditions by treating illnesses and encouraging injury and disease prevention.

What they do

NPs typically provide the following health care services (Source: American Association of Nurse Practitioners)

  • Diagnosis and management of acute, chronic and complex health problems
  • Health promotion and disease prevention
  • Health education
  • Counseling to individuals, families, groups and communities.

Nurse Practitioners earn a median salary of $123,780 per year or $59.51 per hour (Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics).

How to become
  1. Earn a high school diploma or equivalent
  2. Obtain a bachelor's degree in nursing (BSN)
  3. Pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN)
  4. Obtain RN license from state board of nursing
  5. Enroll in graduate program
  6. Pass the National NP Certification Board Exam
  7. Obtain NP Licensure
  8. Find Job

Source: AANP