APRN certifications 

Your 90-Second Guide to Four Popular APRN Certifications 

Whether you’re just starting out or looking for a new direction, Elite Learning is here to partner with you on your professional nursing journey. Here’s a brief summary of four popular career paths for Advanced Practice Registered Nurses from the recent Elite Career Compass guide, including an overview of APRN certifications.

Download the complete Nursing Career Compass here. 

APRN certifications: Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists 

Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists (CRNAs) administer anesthesia to patients undergoing surgery or other medical procedures. This includes assessing patients before anesthesia, administering anesthesia agents, monitoring patients during procedures, managing pain, and providing post-anesthesia care. 

What does it take to become a CRNA? 

To become an CRNA, individuals must hold a bachelor’s degree in nursing (BSN), a current RN license, a minimum of one year of acute care experience, and successfully complete a nurse anesthesia educational program accredited by the Council on Accreditation of Nurse Anesthesia Educational Programs (COA).  

CRNA programs may lead to a master’s or Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree. Certified registered nursing anesthetists need a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) to practice. However, in a change supported by the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists (AANA), all new CRNAs must hold a doctoral degree to enter the field in 2025. 

Average salary 

Mean U.S. hourly salary: $98.93 
Mean U.S. annual salary: $205,770 

Career opportunities for CRNAs 

CRNAs primarily work in hospitals, surgical centers, and other healthcare facilities where anesthesia services are required. They may also work independently in some states. 

APRN certifications: Certified Nurse Midwives 

Certified Nurse Midwives (CNMs) provide prenatal care, attend births, provide postpartum care to mothers and newborns, perform gynecological exams, provide family planning services, and educate patients about reproductive health. 

What does it take to become a CNM? 

To become a CNM, individuals must earn at least a master’s degree in nursing (MSN) with a focus on nurse-midwifery. 

Average Salary 

Mean U.S. hourly salary: $58.87 
Mean U.S. annual salary: $122,450 

Career opportunities for CNMs 

CNMs can work in hospitals, birthing centers, clinics, and private practices. They provide care to women throughout the lifespan, including prenatal, labor and delivery, postpartum, and gynecological care. 

A nursing degree opens so many doors. Listen to the inspiring stories of nursing pioneers in our recent CE podcast series: Distinguished Careers in Nursing. 

APRN certifications: Certified Nurse Specialists 

Clinical Nurse Specialists (CNS) are Advanced Practice Registered Nurses with clinical expertise in a specialized area of nursing practice, such as cardiology or pediatrics. CNSs engage in the diagnosis and treatment of acute or chronic illness with an emphasis on specialist care for at-risk patients and/or populations. CNS practice extends from wellness to illness and from acute to primary care. 

What does it take to become a CNS? 

To become a CNS, individuals must first become an APRN by earning an MSN from an accredited program. They must pass a certification examination in a general area, such as adult/gerontology, pediatrics, or neonatal. Following this, most employers will require additional certifications, based on what department you practice in. 

Average salary 

Mean U.S. hourly salary: Depends on specialty 
Mean U.S. annual salary: Depends on specialty 

Career opportunities for CNSs 

Clinical nursing specialties can range from cardiology, diabetes, pediatrics, mental health, wound care, emergency department care, among others. Depending on their specialties, they can work in a variety of settings, but most often CNSs work in hospitals. Like all APRNs, they have greater professional autonomy than RNs and can diagnose conditions and prescribe treatments. 

Healthcare is hard, and burnout can hit at any point in your nursing career. Explore strategies to build resilience with our recent CE podcast Boundaries and Burnout: Strategies for Nurses to Maintain Self. 

APRN certifications: Nurse Practitioner 

Nurse Practitioners (NPs) assess, diagnose, and treat patients with acute and chronic illnesses. They order and interpret diagnostic tests, prescribe medications, provide health counseling, perform procedures within their scope of practice, and collaborate with other healthcare professionals. 

What does it take to become a NP? 

To become an NP, individuals must have a master’s degree in nursing (MSN) or a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree and specialize in a specific area. 

Average salary 

Mean U.S. hourly salary: $59.94 
Mean U.S. annual salary: $124,680 

Career opportunities for NPs 

NPs can work in various healthcare settings, including primary care clinics, specialty clinics, hospitals, urgent care centers, and community health centers. They can specialize in family practice, pediatrics, adult gerontology, psychiatric-mental health, and other areas. 

Want to learn more about exciting career opportunities in nursing? Take a peek behind the curtain in our recent podcast series: Careers in Nursing: Academia, Leadership, and Practice.