Online degree programs for aspiring family nurse practitioners vary in their award level, program length and in-person requirements. Potential students can explore these considerations here, as well as see some of the available schools.
How to Choose an Online Family Nurse Practitioner Program
FNPs require specialized training in a master's or doctoral degree. Online programs for nurse practitioners generally don't require students to attend classes on campus, but an in-person clinical practicum could be required. Before choosing an online school, students should consider program length and scheduling.
Award Level & Program Length
Either a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) or Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree can prepare a licensed registered nurse to become a family nurse practitioner. Students usually need to have completed a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN), though some doctoral programs could require a master's degree. Master's degree programs take about 2 years to complete, while doctoral programs require 3-5 years of full-time study depending on a student's previous level of nursing education.
A student's educational background determines whether or not he or she will be required to complete any in-person requirements. Those who have only a bachelor's degree in nursing will have to complete an on-site clinical practicum, regardless of whether they are pursuing a master's or doctoral degree. Doctoral students who have already earned a master's degree in nursing will be able to complete all of their program requirements online, though a brief, on-campus orientation may be required.
Online Program for Family Nurse Practitioners
Master of Science in Nursing - FNP Concentration
The Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) is a general graduate-level nursing degree program that prepares students for advanced positions in the nursing profession. The degree program focuses on the diagnosis, treatment and management of common acute conditions and stable chronic conditions in a primary-care setting. Students develop the critical thinking and decision-making skills necessary to evaluate the patient's health risks and recognize functional and dysfunctional health patterns of individuals and family members throughout their life spans.
The degree emphasis is on wellness and disease prevention, allowing graduates to pursue numerous career options in nursing, education and family practice administration. Unlike research-based master's degree programs, this program does not require a thesis but a clinical practicum, which can take 1-2 semesters to complete. Typical course topics include:
- Health care policy
- Advanced pathophysiology
- Health care for middle-aged and elderly adults
- Child and women's health
- Advanced pharmacology
- Advanced health assessment
Doctor of Nursing Practice - FNP Concentration
Students can enroll in full-time or part-time online DNP programs with a bachelor's or master's degree in nursing. While the BSN-to-DNP program requires students to complete in-person clinical experiences, the MSN-to-DNP program can be completed entirely online. DNP programs teach students patient management, leadership and research skills. A final project may be required. Doctoral students study topics such as:
- Advanced pathophysiology
- Advanced pharmacology
- Advanced physical assessment
Schools With Online Family Nurse Practitioner Programs
Chamberlain College of Nursing offers an online MSN-FNP specialty track that can be completed in eight semesters. Coursework is fully online, but students do complete practicums for hands-on experiences. However, students can identify their own practicum site and preceptor, or practicum supervisor. There are five practicum courses that each require 125 hours of experience spread out over seven weeks.
Herzing University also offers an online MSN-FNP program that can be completed in 20 months. The program requires 48 credits and 675 clinical hours. Regional clinical coordinators are available to help students find appropriate clinical locations. Students can also communicate with academic coaches.
The University of North Dakota's online MSN-FNP program requires 57 to 59 credits and can be completed in about two years. Students can enroll full- or part-time, but must participate in on-campus visits for one week each semester. Students are also required to complete a clinical preceptorship. This program prepares students for the National Certification exam from the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) or the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC).
Aspiring family nurse practitioners need to consider what award level they wish to pursue, as master's and doctorate programs in the field are available, and consider how long it will take them to complete the program. In-person requirements are also important factors for selecting a program, as most programs require clinicals, practicums and/or on-campus visits.