How to Become a Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP)

There are several steps to becoming a family nurse practitioner (FNP). Education, certification and clinical practice are among the many requirements to be accepted to a nurse practitioner program.

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Here is a step-by-step path you can take to become a FNP:

Steps to Become a Family Nurse Practitioner

  1. Become a Registered Nurse
  2. Apply and Complete an Accredited FNP Program
  3. Complete Your FNP Program
  4. Scroll to Apply for the FNP Credential from ANCC or AANP
  5. Scroll to Apply to Become a State Certified FNP
  6. Scroll to Renew Your Certification
  1. Become a registered nurse (RN). To apply to an online FNP program, you must have completed a degree in registered nursing and be certified as a registered nurse in a U.S. state or territory. Passing the NCLEX-RN examination is required for certification as a registered nurse. Working one to two years before applying for a nurse practitioner program is highly recommended.
  2. Apply to accredited FNP programs. Look for programs accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) or the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN). These must be master’s, postgraduate or doctoral programs.
  3. Complete your FNP program. According to the 2016 Criteria for Evaluation of Nurse Practitioner Programs, a minimum of 500 clinical, supervised patient care hours are required for all accredited FNP programs and future FNPs. Applicants must have completed graduate courses in physiology, health assessment and pharmacology to sit for the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) certification exam.
  4. Apply for the FNP Credential from ANCC or AANP. There are two certifications offered by different organizations, the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) and the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP).
  5. Apply to become a state-certified FNP. Becoming a family nurse practitioner may have additional requirements depending on the state. Go to our state’s nursing requirements page to find out how to apply in your area. Many of these applications can be submitted online.
  6. Renew your certification. Once you have earned your family nurse practitioner certification, it must be renewed every five years, according to the ANCC family nurse practitioner certification renewal requirements. In addition to renewing certification through the board, renewal through the state is also required and may involve additional fulfillment of continuing education contact hours.

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Family Nurse Practitioner Roles and Responsibilities

Because of their high level of education, expertise and skill, family nurse practitioners (FNP) will often take on some of the roles of a physician. However, they will still generally work under the supervision of, or in close conjunction with, a physician. FNPs must be able to offer the care and support consistent with high-quality nursing to patients and families, diagnosing and treating patients across a wide variety of conditions. Here are some core responsibilities after becoming a family nurse practitioner:

Educate

FNPs are expected to educate their patients and the families of their patients. This can cover a wide variety of subjects, including childbirth and care for newborns with expectant mothers, methods for managing cholesterol or stress in aging patients, geriatric issues with the elderly, and many other topics. Education is the front line in the battle against preventable diseases.

Diagnose

A family nurse practitioner must be able to effectively diagnose patients across a wide variety of age ranges, which places them in the role of the diagnostician. FNPs often have access to the patient’s medical history and can order tests, and will combine all this information with physical symptoms to formulate an informed diagnosis.

Treatment

After diagnosing a patient, FNPs will provide treatment. These duties may vary on a state-to-state basis but mainly consist of ordering or performing diagnostic tests, prescribing medications, and treating any and all injuries or chronic illnesses that fall under primary care.

Learn more about nurse practitioner prescriptive authority.

Collaborate

Becoming an FNP requires a wide range of skills and training, but they do not work completely alone. It is paramount to the successful career of a family nurse practitioner to collaborate with fellow healthcare professionals to discuss best practices, tough decisions, and the results of treatments.


With so many distinct and equally important roles to fill, the responsibilities of a family nurse practitioner are many. Highly educated and experienced family nurse practitioners are incredibly valuable healthcare professionals, especially now that the U.S. healthcare system is evolving to serve more people in need at the same, or even lower, cost.

Family Nurse Practitioner Programs

Family nurse practitioner education programs are designed for RNs who are looking to advance their nursing careers in a family-oriented, primary care setting to become a family nurse practitioner.

The ANCC administers the certification exam to graduates of an accredited family nurse practitioner education program who have completed at least 500 hours of faculty-supervised clinical work experience as a family nurse practitioner.

In addition, graduate-level courses in physiology, health assessment and pharmacology must be completed to sit for the ANCC certification exam and, ultimately, become a family nurse practitioner.

Family Nurse Practitioner Certification

The American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC), which certifies nurses in specialty practice areas, offers only one certification specifically for family nurse practitioners: the family nurse practitioner certification. The FNP certification is awarded through an examination assessing the clinical knowledge and skills of family nurse practitioners.

Eligibility requirements for the examination includes a current, active registered nurse (RN) license and a master’s, postgraduate, or doctoral degree from an accredited FNP program.

The FNP certification is valid for five years. Renewal requires 75 hours of continuing education, with at least 25 hours in pharmacotherapeutics, and current, active RN license.

How to apply for FNP certification?

There are two accredited certifying agencies for FNP certification:

American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) – Family Nurse Practitioner

Type of Certification: FNP-BC (Family Nurse Practitioner—Board Certified)

Eligibility Requirements: Active RN license, master’s degree or higher from a family nurse practitioner program accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) or the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN) with at least 500 clinical hours

Certification Process: Initial application, followed by a computer-based exam (offered year-round, but must be taken within 90 days of whenever the application is processed)

Fees:

  • $295 for American Nurses Association (ANA) members
  • $340 for American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) members
  • $290 for AANP student members
  • $395 for non-members

Renewal:

  • Certifications must be renewed every five years.
  • Renewal fees of
    • $275 for ANA members
    • $296 for AANP members
    • $375 for non-members

American Academy of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) – Family Nurse Practitioner

Types of Certification: Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP)

Eligibility Requirements: From the AANP candidate handbook, requirements for this certification include a master’s degree or higher from an approved nurse practitioner program and a current RN license.

Certification Process: Initial online application, followed by a computer-based exam at a testing center.

Fees: According to the AANP’s application for FNP certification, fees are $240 for AANP members or $315 for non-members.

Renewal: Nurse practitioners certified by the AANP certification program must recertify every five years, according to AANP renewal requirements, by sitting for the appropriate examination or by meeting the clinical practice and continuing education requirements established for recertification.

  • Renewal Fees for Recertification by Exam
    • AANP members – $240; non-members – $315
    • By Paper Application: AANP members – $290; non-members – $365
  • Renewal Fees for Recertification by Practice Hours and CE
    • AANP members – $120; non-members $195
    • By Paper Application: AANP members – $170; non-members – $245

Family Nurse Practitioner Salary

On average, family nurse practitioners are well-compensated, even in entry-level positions. The mean annual salary for a nurse practitioner was $118,040 in May 2021, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

In addition to a salary, many FNPs also receive annual bonuses. They may also receive additional compensation through initiatives such as profit-sharing. A wide variety of factors influence the salaries of family nurse practitioners, including education and training, areas of specialization, geographic location and type of employer.

FAQs

What Is an FNP?

An FNP, or family nurse practitioner, is an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) trained to provide medical care for children and adults, sometimes as a primary care provider.

What does a family nurse practitioner do?

Family nurse practitioners perform many tasks and responsibilities, most of which primary care physicians also perform. Examples may include providing infants and children with health and wellness care, caring for patients with chronic diseases or educating patients on managing cholesterol levels.

How long does it take to become an FNP?

To earn national certification and state licensure as a nurse practitioner, you must have completed an MSN degree. Your previous education affects how long it may take to pursue certification. For instance, if you have already earned a BSN degree, you may be eligible for MSN FNP programs. If you earned a bachelor’s degree in another subject, you may qualify for admission to direct-entry MSN programs that may help prepare you for post-graduate certification. Typically, an MSN program takes two to four years to complete.

Where does an FNP work?

Because a family nurse practitioner works with a variety of patients, they have the potential to work in diverse settings. You may see an FNP working in emergency rooms, school clinics, community health centers, physicians’ offices and other settings.

What’s the difference between a family nurse practitioner (FNP) and a physician assistant (PA)?

A family nurse practitioner and physician assistant may share responsibilities, but the path to becoming one of these healthcare professionals varies. While they both may perform similar duties of a primary care physician, they are often under the supervision of a medical doctor.

How Much Does an FNP Make?

How much an FNP makes will depend on a variety of factors, including where the FNP works and their level of experience. The median salary for an FNP was $118,040 in May 2021.