Lots of people who are considering a career in nursing have wondered what the difference is between various specialties. The truth is that it can get pretty confusing, because there are so many different things that a nurse can do, it can seem like the options are limitless and in reality—they almost are! With that said, people who are just getting started with their research often consider the two choices of becoming a CNA or an RN but don’t really understand the difference between the two. Let’s take a look at those differences.

A CNA is a Certified Nursing Assistant, and typically has a limited role compared to an RN, or Registered Nurse. CNAs also typically earn less money, and don’t have the same training as RNs. Their career choices are also more limited. When you read that, you’re probably thinking—why would anyone want to be a CNA then? Well, the nice part about becoming a nurse aide is that you don’t have to be in school for that long. CNA training lasts a matter of months, where you’ll need to be in school at least 2 years to become an RN, and that adds up to a lot of time and money compared to becoming a CNA. The typical responsibilities of a CNA include taking care of patients and assisting other medical staff with simple things like transporting patients and taking basic medical measurements.

Registered nurses are able to take on a lot broader range of responsibilities and typically assist doctors. Although some RNs can actually earn a “nurse practitioner” certificate and see patients in a limited capacity in the same way that a doctor would see patients. As stated earlier, the options for RNs are nearly unlimited, where the options for CNAs are typically restricted to direct patient care under the supervision of an RN or doctor, and there isn’t much room for expansion into other areas without pursuing more education. CNAs can work at a number of facilities, including hospitals, nursing homes, private homes, and other similar places. RNs can work at a much wider range of places, including specialty clinics.

Hopefully this gives you an idea of what to expect from each career and an idea of what your daily responsibilities will be like. The most important thing to take away here is that as a CNA your training will be shorter, and your tuition will cost less but you won’t make as much money and your job options will be more limited. As an RN, your schooling will be longer and more expensive but your job options will be broader, and you will earn more money.