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FNP - Family Nurse Practitioner: Educational Requirements

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become family nurse practitioner. Get a quick view of the requirements, as well as details about job duties, certification and licensure to find out if this is the career for you.

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A nurse practitioner typically needs a master's degree in nursing, a registered nursing license and nurse practitioner certification. A family nurse practitioner focuses on providing care to families and may work in doctor's offices, businesses or family clinics.

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Essential Information

A family nurse practitioner (FNP) is a healthcare professional who provides primary or specialty care to individuals and families. FNPs work in many settings such as schools, businesses and special clinics to make care as available as possible. FNP's responsibilities may be similar to that of a physician. Becoming an FNP generally requires becoming a registered nurse (RN) and earning a graduate degree. Nurse practitioner certification is required in most states for FNPs.

Required Education Master's degree
Additional Requirements RN licensure and nurse practitioner certification
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 35% for all nurse practitioners
Median Salary (2015)* $98,190 for all nurse practitioners

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

Educational Requirements for FNPs

FNPs have completed advanced nursing degree programs, which have provided them with special training and experiences to assess, treat, counsel and monitor families' healthcare. They are able to provide prescriptions, order tests, refer patients and treat non-life-threatening conditions.

Educational requirements for FNPs vary by state, but many states require at least a Master of Science in Nursing, while Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) programs are also an option. FNPs are also required to have previously completed registered nursing programs and earned licensure as RNs. They need to complete continuing education in order to retain licensing and certification.

Master of Science in Nursing

Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) programs take anywhere from 1-3 years to complete, depending on a student's previous level of nursing education. Students who enter with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing for example, may be able to complete a program in two years as opposed to three. MSN education includes classroom instruction as well as direct clinical experience in healthcare environments. Some programs are tailored specifically for those who wish to become FNPs. Common courses include:

  • Family health management
  • Pathophysiology
  • Pharmacology for nurse practitioners
  • Advanced family nursing practices
  • Critical issue management
  • Nursing research methodology
  • Nursing informatics
  • Health delivery systems

Family Nurse Practitioner Graduate Certificate

Completing a graduate certificate program in family nursing practice may be an option for nurses with backgrounds or previous education in areas other than family nursing practice. Graduate certificates are earned after completing master's degree programs in most cases. These programs are typically completed in two years and are for students seeking to specialize as primary care FNPs. Common courses include:

  • Advanced physiology
  • Advanced health assessment
  • Adolescent and elderly care
  • Women and child care
  • Advanced pharmacology

Licensing and Certification

FNPs need to be licensed in order to work professionally in the United States. They must have previously passed the National Council Licensing Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN). Passing this computer adaptive test allows candidates to work as registered nurses in the field, which is a prerequisite for becoming an FNP. Additional requirements vary based on state of employment and individual employer.

FNP certification is offered by the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC). The ANCC provides the FNP-BC credential for family nurse practitioners who successfully pass an exam. Although certification is voluntary in many cases, employers may request that FNPs be certified by this national organization to ensure that patients receive high quality care. These certifications typically require renewal every five years through additional continuing education, experience and applicable fees.

Employment Outlook and Salary Statistics

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that nurse practitioners in general should see a 35% employment increase from 2014 to 2024, which is much faster than average. In 2015, BLS data indicated that the median yearly salary for nurse practitioners, including FNPs, was $98,190. Most nurse practitioners at that time were employed in physicians' offices, which paid an annual average salary of $99,760, according to the BLS.

Nurse practitioners are advanced practice nurses that are able to prescribe medications, assess patients, initiate treatment plans, provide referrals and order tests. Family nurse practitioners specialize in providing care to families. Specific state licensing requirements may vary, but typically family nurse practitioners have a master's degree, a registered nursing license and nurse practitioner certification.

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