Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) vs. Nurse Practitioner (NP)

In the world of advanced practice nursing, a nurse practitioner (NP) role allows you to specialize in an area like pediatrics, women’s health, or adult geriatrics. But if family medicine piques your interest, you have the option to become a family nurse practitioner (FNP)—which is just one of the many types of NP. So, what’s the difference between FNP and NP? 

Although FNPs and NPs are similar in the level of care they provide, their roles are very different when it comes to the populations they care for. An FNP is a type of NP that focuses specifically on caring for patients of all ages and their families. Usually the primary health care provider, an FNP often provides care through the lifespan of each patient. NPs are a type of advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) that typically work with a specific age group and/or population with a type of health condition, such as cancer.  

If you enjoy working with people from different backgrounds and seek increased autonomy in the workplace, then a job as a family nurse practitioner could be an option for you.

Sponsored Online FNP Programs

Sponsored

Simmons’ Online MSN — FNP Program

Designed for currently licensed RNs, Nursing@Simmons enables aspiring Family Nurse Practitioners to earn an MSN online from Simmons University.


Prepare to Become an FNP With Georgetown University

Become a Family Nurse Practitioner in 27 months by earning your Master of Science degree in Nursing from Georgetown University. RN and BSN required.


Earn an M.S. in Nursing online from the Wegmans School of Nursing

The Primary Care Family Nurse Practitioner (PCFNP) program from the Wegmans School of Nursing at St. John Fisher College can be completed in as few as 24 months. Bachelor’s in nursing, RN license, and clinical experience required.


Nursing@USC prepares RNs to become FNPs

In as few as 21 months, you can earn your MSN online through Nursing@USC. This FNP program prepares you to deliver advanced care while addressing social and environmental factors. RN and BSN required.

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Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP)

A family nurse practitioner (FNP) is an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) with educational and clinical training focused on family practice. Because of their high level of expertise, FNPs often perform duties similar to that of the  role of a family physician, but generally work under the supervision of a physician with a medical degree.

If you like the idea of caring for patients across a wide range of ages and health conditions, a job as a family nurse practitioner could be an option for you. These versatile health experts work with both children and adults, most often in a family practice or clinical setting, though some are committed to working in underserved communities. FNPs monitor health and wellness, as well as diagnose and treat illnesses for their patients over the long term.

Does this sound like the career for you? Learn about some of the common steps you can take to become an FNP.

Career as an FNP

The first step on the path to becoming an FNP is earning a degree from an accredited FNP program, or considering an online family nurse practitioner program. APRN programs accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) or the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN) are designed to provide you with the knowledge and skills needed to become licensed and certified by an accrediting body in your state. Courses in these programs include health promotion, health assessments across human systems, physiology/pathophysiology, pharmacology, and differential diagnosis and disease management—all of which will prepare you to treat patients across the lifespan with varying conditions.

Nurse Practitioner (NP)

A nurse practitioner (NP) is a nurse with a graduate degree in advanced practice nursing. These health care providers work in a variety of medical settings. Although they can be generalists, NPs typically choose a specialty, such as pediatrics, adult geriatrics, psychiatry, or women’s health. In all areas, they examine patients, diagnose illnesses, and provide treatment, much like physicians do. In fact, some states give NPs full-practice authority, meaning they don’t require supervision by a doctor and can prescribe certain medications.

If you’re passionate about a particular area of nursing, the NP designation gives you the expertise you need to do just that. Interested in working with varied patient populations? This role offers that, too. There are many opportunities for NPs who want to launch and maintain a career with real impact. Discover the common steps you need to take to become a NP today

Career as a NP

Ready to take the first step toward becoming an NP? Then, you’ll need to obtain a degree. Choosing an accredited nurse practitioner program will give you the foundation you need to become certified by an accrediting body and licensed by your state. Be sure to check with the exact requirements with your state board of nursing.

And there are plenty of online nurse practitioner programs available if you require more flexibility than on-campus learning provides. From online acute care nurse practitioner programs to online women’s health nurse practitioner programs, there are options that align with your interests.  

Once you’ve completed your degree program, you can start your job search with rock-solid qualifications or continue your education in a specialized area or toward a more advanced degree.

FNP vs NP – What’s the Difference?

If you’re wondering what the difference is between a family nurse practitioner and nurse practitioner, you’re not alone. The designations are often confused because the responsibilities that come with the roles are similar. Let’s explore some of the main differences when it comes to FNP vs NP.

Education and Curriculum

Before you can become an FNP or NP, you’ll need to become a registered nurse. While you can do that by completing an associate-level nursing degree program and passing the NCLEX, you’ll eventually need a master’s in nursing degree

Most graduate NP programs require applicants to hold a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN), in order to be considered for admission. Other admissions requirements include your transcripts, a current resume, a statement of purpose, and two or more letters of recommendation, among other materials.  

There are many types of FNP and NP programs to choose from to suit your personal circumstances. Through modified class schedules and distributed course delivery formats, including postgrad, online, dual and accelerated programs, you can learn when you want, how you want.

Though there are similarities in the responsibilities of FNPs and NPs, the coursework and curriculum will vary. For instance, FNP degree programs are likely to include additional coursework that is not required of general NP programs, such as family theory, crisis health care, and primary health care for the family. That said, both programs should adhere to core competencies established by the National Organization of Nurse Practitioner Faculties (NONPF):

  • Ethics
  • Health Delivery System
  • Independent Practice
  • Leadership
  • Policy
  • Practice Inquiry
  • Quality
  • Scientific Foundation
  • Technology and Information Literacy

In your search, remember to investigate whether the program offers training in your desired population focus or concentration.

Sponsored Online FNP Programs

Sponsored

Simmons’ Online MSN — FNP Program

Designed for currently licensed RNs, Nursing@Simmons enables aspiring Family Nurse Practitioners to earn an MSN online from Simmons University.


Prepare to Become an FNP With Georgetown University

Become a Family Nurse Practitioner in 27 months by earning your Master of Science degree in Nursing from Georgetown University. RN and BSN required.


Earn an M.S. in Nursing online from the Wegmans School of Nursing

The Primary Care Family Nurse Practitioner (PCFNP) program from the Wegmans School of Nursing at St. John Fisher College can be completed in as few as 24 months. Bachelor’s in nursing, RN license, and clinical experience required.


Nursing@USC prepares RNs to become FNPs

In as few as 21 months, you can earn your MSN online through Nursing@USC. This FNP program prepares you to deliver advanced care while addressing social and environmental factors. RN and BSN required.

Sponsored

Skills and Certification

From providing mental health care in educational settings to acute care in hospitals, there are several places to start and advance your career as an FNP or NP. Both roles require a range of skills—including advanced health assessment, pathophysiology, and pharmacology skills— to assist in preventing disease, promoting well-being, diagnosing health conditions, and treating patients for ailments, though their primary focus will vary depending on their chosen population. 

The American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC), which certifies nurses in specialty practice areas, offers only one certification specifically for FNPs: the Family Nurse Practitioner Certification (FNP-BC), which is awarded through an assessment of clinical knowledge and skills. The American Academy of Nurse Practitioners Certification Board (AANPCB) also offers an FNP certification.

National certification for NPs is available from various professional associations, depending on your chosen area of specialization. National organizations that certify NPs include the Pediatric Nursing Certification Board, the American Association of Nurse Practitioners, and the American Nurses Credentialing Center, a subsidiary of the American Nurses Association. Eligibility for certification typically requires at least an RN license, a degree from an accredited institution and a certain number of supervised clinical hours.

Be sure to check with your state boards of nursing to determine which certifications are accepted in your area, as the requirements for becoming licensed vary state by state.

Specialties

The specialty you choose as a nurse practitioner will often dictate the population you support and the specific duties you perform. This differs from a family nurse practitioner (FNP) who typically focuses on the general population and their families. There are a variety of specializations to choose from. Some of them are:

Scope and Work Setting

A family nurse practitioner (FNP) provides a wide range of family-focused health care services to patients of all ages, from infants and adolescents to adults and seniors. FNPs will often take on some of the roles of a physician, although in some states, they must work under physician supervision.

Highly educated and experienced FNPs are vital health care professionals in the U.S., especially now as baby boomers age and the elderly population is expected to grow rapidly.

FNPs practice in a variety of health care settings, including private practice, community health centers, educational institutions, and more. On any given day, you can find them diagnosing and treating health conditions, collaborating with fellow health care providers, and educating patients and their families.

Salary and Career Outlook

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), nurse practitioner is one of the 20 occupations with the highest projected growth percentages for the decade spanning 2019-2029. NP jobs are expected to grow 52% during that time period.   Many factors go into calculating the average salary for an NP or FNP, including specialty, workplace setting, and geographic location. The median NP salary in May 2019 was $109,820, according to the BLS.

Continuing Education Requirements

Once you’ve earned your FNP certification, you’re required to renew it every five years, according to the ANCC Family Nurse Practitioner Certification renewal requirements. In addition to the board’s requirement, you must renew through your state as well, which often involves additional fulfillment of continuing education contact hours.

The AANPCB has similar renewal requirements for their FNP certification. You must renew every five years through one of two options: either complete 1,000 clinical practice hours and 100 continuing education hours, or retake the certification exam. Regardless of which option you choose, you will need an active RN or APRN licensure to recertify. 

Eager to earn the highest-possible practice-based degree in the field of nursing? A Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) is a terminal degree that can lead to a bevy of advanced clinical nursing roles in clinical research trials, as well as executive-level positions in patient care. Once you’ve obtained your MSN degree, you can enroll in a DNP program on a full-time or part-time basis. Depending on which route you choose, you can earn this degree in two to five years.

Information on this page was last retrieved in August 2020.