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Nurse Practitioner (NP) vs. Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA)


Registered nurses (RNs) have numerous opportunities for career advancement. By seizing these opportunities, RNs can broaden their skill sets, assume new levels of leadership responsibility, and continue to promote the health and well-being of their patients. Two possible advanced positions RNs might consider pursuing are nurse practitioner and certified registered nurse anesthetist (CRNA).


The job outlook for both roles is promising. In fact, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) places nurse practitioners and nurse anesthetists in the category of advanced practice registered nurses and projects jobs in the category will grow by 45% between 2019 and 2029.


For RNs seeking the next step in their clinical careers, exploring the differences between the two positions may be helpful. In this piece, we’ll consider nurse practitioner vs. CRNA roles, highlighting similarities as well as distinctions. To take the next step down either career path, nurses may consider earning an online Master of Science in Nursing from Maryville University.

Definitions: Nurse Practitioner vs. CRNA

Both nurse practitioners and certified registered nurse anesthetists belong in the category of advanced practice registered nurses. However, each role has specific clinical responsibilities.

Nurse Practitioners

A nurse practitioner is a nurse who has developed specialized knowledge to care for patients as a primary care provider. A nurse practitioner may work in pediatrics, geriatrics, acute care, family care, and beyond. The practice settings for nurse practitioners are numerous, including private or group practices, health clinics, and hospitals. Some also work in rural healthcare or telehealth.


A certified registered nurse anesthetist is a nurse who treats patients of all ages during surgery, safely administering the anesthetic care they need for their procedure. Generally, CRNAs work in either hospitals or inpatient surgery centers. Some private practices that have a heavy surgical volume, such as plastic surgery centers, may also have CRNAs on staff.

Similarities Between Nurse Practitioners and CRNAs

When it comes to nurse practitioners vs. CRNAs, many similarities can be found between the two roles.

Advanced Degrees

One important similarity is that both of these career paths represent advancement options for RNs. That is, both nurse practitioners and CRNAs begin by earning their RN license, then pursue an advanced degree, such as a master’s or even a doctorate. Then, before they may practice in their advanced role, they are required to be certified and licensed by the state. Specific criteria vary from one state to the next.

Common Skills

Additionally, successful nurse practitioners and CRNAs share some essential skills, including the following:


  • Compassion and empathy. Both roles are required to provide clinical care to patients who are nervous or in pain. The ability to empathize is essential.
  • Communication skills. Both nurse practitioners and CRNAs need to clearly explain treatments or diagnoses to patients and may also relay important information to physicians or other practitioners.
  • Calm demeanor. Nurse practitioners and CRNAs may both find themselves treating patients in stressful situations. The ability to remain level-headed is a must.

Practice Autonomy

Nurse practitioners and CRNAs enjoy a similar level of autonomy. Specifically, nurse practitioners can work autonomously as primary care providers or work under the supervision of a doctor or physician; regulations that govern autonomy vary by state. Similarly, CRNAs can work under the supervision of anesthesiologists or can also work autonomously.

Differences Between Nurse Practitioners and CRNAs

As for distinctions between the nurse practitioner and CRNA roles, here are a few of the key differences.


Although both positions require nurses to pass a certifying exam, the boards that administer these exams are different. Nurse practitioners are certified through organizations including the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) or American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC), while CRNAs are certified through the National Board of Certification and Recertification for Nurse Anesthetists (NBCRNA).


The level of experience required to pursue each of these advanced nursing positions is also different. To enroll in a CRNA program, one year of acute care experience is required. Some programs require nurse practitioners to gain RN experience prior to applying, while some NPs may gain clinical hours as part of their degree program.

Salary Range

Finally, note that nurse practitioners and CRNAs have significantly different salaries. According to data from the BLS, the median annual salary for nurse practitioners is $109,820; for CRNAs, the median annual salary is $174,790. The salary range for both positions may vary depending on several factors:


  • Experience level. More years of clinical experience will typically translate into a higher salary range.
  • Education. Advanced degrees may lead to higher salary ranges.
  • Geographic location. Larger, more urban or metropolitan areas will often have more competitive salaries.

Explore an Advanced Nursing Career

Both the nurse practitioner and CRNA paths provide real opportunities for RNs to sharpen their skills, advance their careers, and make a big difference in the lives of their patients. Maryville University’s online Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) program is a student-centered program for experienced nurses ready to take on new challenges and become leaders in the ever-changing field of healthcare. The curriculum includes concentrations focused on family health, pediatrics, adult-gerontology, and mental health.


Consider Maryville University’s online MSN, where you can hone the skills needed to succeed in advanced practice nursing.


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