Family Nurse Practitioner Schools and Universities in the U.S.

Aspiring family nurse practitioners must first earn a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) and must usually gain experience in the nursing profession before then pursuing a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN), a post-master's certificate or a doctoral degree. There are several considerations to bear in mind when selecting one of these graduate nursing programs.

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Individuals deciding on a family nurse practitioner school must evaluate several aspects in order to deem whether or not the program is appropriate for their ultimate career goals. Options typically include graduate degrees and certificates, which are offered by a variety of public and private schools.

Top 10 Family Nurse Practitioner Schools

There are several schools offering family nurse practitioner programs. Included below are several of the highest rated, according to U.S. News & World Report's 2016 rankings.

College/University Location Institution Type Degrees Offered Full-Time Tuition and Fees*
University of Pennsylvania Philadelphia, PA 4-year, Private for-profit Dual bachelor's/master's degree, Master's degree, Post-master's certificate $43,622 (2016-2017)
University of California - San Francisco San Francisco, CA 4-year, Public Master's degree, Post-master's certificate $12,445 (residents, 2015-2016) $27,547 (nonresidents, 2015-2016)
Johns Hopkins University Baltimore, MD 4-year, Private not-for-profit Doctorate $44,584 (2016-2017)
University of Michigan - Ann Arbor Ann Arbor, MI 4-year, Public Master's degree, Post-master's certificate, Doctoral degree $20,966 (residents, 2015-2016), $42,016 (nonresidents, 2015-2016)
University of Maryland - Baltimore Baltimore, MD 4-year, Public Master's degree, Doctoral degree $14,761 (residents, 2015-2016) $30,145 (nonresidents, 2015-2016)
University of Washington Seattle, WA 4-year, Public Doctoral degree $16,278 (residents, 2015-2016), $28,326 (nonresidents, 2015-2016)
Columbia University New York, NY 4-year, Private not-for-profit Master's degree $51,000 (2016-2017)
Duke University Durham, NC 4-year, Private not-for-profit Master's degree, Post-master's certificate $48,656 (2015-2016)
Vanderbilt University Nashville, TN 4-year, Private not-for-profit Master's degree, Post-master's certificate $44,050 (2015-2016)
University of Illinois - Chicago Chicago, IL 4-year, Public Doctorate $16,527 (residents, 2015-2016) $25,386 (nonresidents, 2015-2016)

*Sources: National Center for Education Statistics, Schools' websites

School and University Selection Criteria

When choosing a school for a family nurse practitioner program, prospective students should take the following into consideration.

  • Look for schools accredited by state and/or national agencies, such as the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) or the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners (AANP).
  • Take into account a program's ranking.
  • Try to find a school that will provide you with access to the clinical setting in which you one day hope to practice, such as an urban hospital or a rural medical practice.
  • Students should look at the first-time pass rates for students on FNP professional certification exams in order to ensure that the school provides adequate preparation for work in the field.

Master's Degree Programs for Family Nurse Practitioners

At some schools, students can choose a Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) track within a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) program. Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) programs provide the high-level education that experienced RNs need to become advanced-practice nurse practitioners (NPs). Unlike RNs, NPs can prescribe medications and even practice independently in some states, so programs provide comprehensive medical training; students learn to read patient histories, perform exams, read diagnostic tests, evaluate prescription needs, make referrals and perform therapeutic procedures. FNP programs are intended for aspiring nurse practitioners who want to work with families, so they include wide-ranging coursework in multiple areas of primary care, including pediatric, obstetric, gynecologic, adult and geriatric care.

Aside from specialized FNP courses, master's students also take standard MSN courses that cover pharmacology, physiology, policy, public health and organizational management. These programs can usually be completed within two years of full-time study.

Doctoral Programs for Family Nurse Practitioners

Students can get similar FNP training as part of Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) programs. However, DNP programs go beyond MSN programs with more advanced coursework in nursing, as well as clinical leadership. The length of the program depends on the student's previous academic experience and qualifications.

Post-Graduate Certificate Programs

Trained BSNs, MSNs and DNPs who want to become FNPs can choose a post-graduate certificate program based on their previous level of education. These programs only provide FNP training; they do not include the core MSN or DNP requirements included in full graduate degree programs.

Family nurse practitioners must fulfill specific educational requirements in order to legally practice. A school's accreditation, location and clinical options are among the things to consider when choosing which school to attend.

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