Nurse Credential Standard

Added to Collection

AACN has adopted a credential order standard which aligns with standards in the nursing profession. The standard uses the following order:

  • Highest nursing degree earned
    • If there is more than one degree, the nursing degree is listed first
  • Nursing licensure
  • State designations/requirements
    • Some states regulations that specify how advanced practice credentials are listed. For example:
      • Washington and Iowa – utilize ARNP instead of APRN
      • Pennsylvania – utilize CRNP for certified registered nurse practitioner
      • Wisconsin – all 4 APRN roles may be APP (advanced practice provider)
  • National certifications
    • A certification required for licensure is listed first, such as an advanced practice certification.
    • If there is more than one certification, the nursing one is listed first
  • Awards and honors
  • Other recognitions


Mary Bentley, PhD, RN, CNS-BC, CCRN-K



Suzanne Smith, BSN, RN, PCCN

Chris Johnson, BSN, BA, RN, CCRN, RRT

This standard will be applied to all AACN products and materials, including all public-facing articles and journals, education courses, co-branded literature (when possible), marketing materials, presentations, etc. A minor exception involves article bylines in AACN journals, which closely follow the American Medical Association Manual of Style. Section 14.1 recommends that US fellowship designations and honorary designations be dropped from article bylines, but any mention of names and affiliated degrees apart from the byline can include them. Degrees below the master’s level usually are dropped in bylines as well, though sometimes such degrees are listed when they are the highest degree the individual holds. AACN journal editors will continue to follow these specific recommendations from the AMA Manual.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why is AACN incorporating a credential order standard?

As a professional nursing organization, it is important for AACN to demonstrate a uniform practice that aligns with the nursing profession standard.1 The AACN standard will reinforce professional integrity for all entities that interface with us, including nurse members, volunteers, and committee and task force members, as well as healthcare providers, customers, third-party payers and government officials.

What is the rationale for AACN’s recommended credential order?

While a nursing license and/or certification can be taken away or expire, the education degree that a nurse earns is permanent. This is why the highest degree is listed first. It cannot be taken away except under extreme circumstances. The next two credentials (licensure and state designations/requirements) are required for a nurse to practice. National certification is sometimes voluntary, and awards, honors and other recognitions are always voluntary and, therefore, displayed last.

What if a nurse member does not want to use AACN’s recommended credential order?

AACN members will still be able to enter their credentials in netForum as they would like to see them. It is the nurse’s prerogative to display his or her credentials as they wish. Therefore, AACN will not require our customers to follow the standard. However, all materials that represent AACN in the public will follow the recommended credential order.

What can I do if I have a question about the order of a nurse’s credentials?

If you have any questions about how to display a nurse’s credentials, especially when the order does not meet the standard as described, please contact the Customer Care Department at (800) 899-2226.

1 American Academy of Nursing. Credential Use Guidelines. Washington, DC: Author 2009. Accessed February 22, 2009.