September 28, 2023
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Navigating Nursing Careers: Identifying the RN and NP Roles

Ever wondered about the people in scrubs who make healthcare tick? Let’s dive into two pivotal roles: Registered Nurses and Nurse Practitioners.

Registered Nurses (RNs) and Nurse Practitioners (NPs) are crucial in healthcare, with each profession playing a unique and significant role in patient care.

Whether you’re an aspiring NP, a current NP student, or an RN exploring advanced practice avenues, this blog aims to clarify the distinctions, educational pathways, and opportunities inherent in both roles.

RN vs. NP: The Fundamental Differences

RN duties and education
NP duties and education

RN vs. NP: Education and Certification

Registered Nurse (RN):

Becoming a Registered Nurse (RN) typically takes 2-4 years of education through an accredited nursing program.

Candidates must pursue an Associate’s Degree in Nursing (ADN) or a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN).

For individuals holding a Bachelor’s degree in a non-nursing field, there are accelerated nursing programs available, providing an alternative pathway to becoming an RN.

Regardless of the path chosen, all aspiring RNs must pass the NCLEX-RN examination to earn their licensure and start their practice in healthcare settings.

Nurse Practitioner (NP):

Embarking on a journey to become a Nurse Practitioner (NP) generally requires an investment of 4-7 years in education.

Initially, prospective NPs must fulfill all prerequisites to become a Registered Nurses, including completing an accredited nursing program and passing the NCLEX exam.

After completing these foundational steps, nurses can pursue specialized knowledge and skill sets through master’s and doctoral-level nurse practitioner programs.

During advanced programs, students complete clinical rotations to gain practical experience and refine clinical judgment, bridging the gap between theory and patient care.

Upon completion of their educational and clinical requirements, aspiring nurse practitioners can take the AANP or ANCC certification exam. Passing this exam is the final step to becoming an NP.

Career Opportunities and Specializations: RN vs NP

Registered Nurse

Registered Nurses (RNs) have a wealth of opportunities in both bedside and non-bedside careers across various settings such as Intensive Care Unit (ICU), Medical/Surgical (Med/Surg), labor and delivery, mental health, and more.

Notable roles include:

  • Travel Nursing: Enables RNs to work in diverse locations and healthcare environments.
  • Nursing Informatics: Focuses on using patient data to improve healthcare outcomes.
  • Administrative Roles: Involves managing nursing staff and healthcare delivery.
  • Teaching: Available at clinical and non-clinical levels, with higher education roles typically requiring an MSN or DNP.
  • Specialized Nursing: Includes areas like aesthetic and hydration nursing.

RNs can tailor their careers based on their interests, skills, and educational achievements.

Nurse Practitioner (NP):

Nurse Practitioners (NPs) can become primary or specialized care providers in areas such as family, geriatric, women’s, and mental health care.

Career paths include:

  • Diverse Settings: NPs work in hospitals, medical offices, and virtually via telehealth care.
  • Independent Practices: Many states allow NPs to run their own practices.
  • Travel NP Roles: Offers the opportunity to work in different communities.
  • Administrative and Leadership Roles: Enables NPs to shape healthcare policies and practices.
  • Entrepreneurship and Research: Provides avenues for starting ventures or conducting impactful research.
  • Teaching: NPs can teach both clinically and non-clinically, sharing their expertise. Discover the benefits of precepting and join us at NPHub to help NP students graduate faster.

NPs have a variety of options to make significant contributions in diverse healthcare areas, meeting various patient needs and preferences.

Salary Comparison: RN vs. NP

Registered Nurse (RN)

RN salary 2023

Nurse Practitioner (NP):

NP salary 2023

RNs vs. NPs: Comparing Day-to-Day Duties

Knowing the differences between RNs and NPs is crucial for nursing career seekers.

Both RNs and NPs are integral to patient care, but their responsibilities, level of autonomy, and daily routines can vary significantly.

Registered Nurse (RN)

Day-to-Day Activities:

  • Patient Assessment: Conducts initial assessments and updates patient charts.
  • Administer Medication: Gives medications as prescribed.
  • Wound Care: Manages wound cleaning and dressing.
  • Vital Signs: Regularly records vital signs.
  • Patient Education: Educates patients on conditions and treatments.
  • Collaboration: Works closely with healthcare teams.
  • Shift Work: Typically works in shifts, including nights and weekends.


  • Limited: Operates under the supervision of a physician or NP.

Nurse Practitioner (NP)

Day-to-Day Activities:

  • Advanced Assessment: Performs in-depth assessments and diagnostic tests.
  • Diagnosis and Treatment: Diagnoses conditions and formulates treatment plans.
  • Prescribe Medication: Authorized to prescribe medications.
  • Specialized Care: Often specializes in fields like family medicine or pediatrics.
  • Consultation: Generally has more autonomy but may consult with physicians.
  • Patient Counseling: Provides in-depth patient counseling.
  • Office Hours: More likely to have regular business hours.


  • High: Can run their own practices in many states.

Concluding, RNs and NPs both have critical yet distinct roles in healthcare, varying in duties, autonomy, and schedules. The choice between these roles will depend on individual aspirations, autonomy preference, and desired work schedule and environment.


Choosing the RN or NP path is a significant decision, influenced by individual goals, financial considerations, and personal responsibilities.

It’s crucial to note that while some programs allow direct progression from RN to NP, others may require prior RN experience.

The nursing profession offers endless opportunities for growth, whether you begin as an RN or aspire to become an NP.

And if you’re advancing towards becoming an NP and in search of a preceptor for clinical rotations, discover your ideal match at

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Can NPs work independently?

In many states, NPs have full practice authority, allowing them to work independently. However, some states require them to work alongside a physician.

How long does it typically take to transition from an RN to an NP?

The journey from RN to NP usually spans 4-7 years, encompassing RN education, gaining experience, and subsequently completing a Master’s and Doctoral program.

Are there direct entry programs available for becoming an NP?

Indeed, some schools offer direct entry RN-NP programs, enabling students to enroll directly into an NP program without first earning a BSN.

Looking to learn more about nursing? Be sure to explore our collection of guides and resources here.

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