Family Nurse Practitioner (NP) – Education, Licensure & Salary
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There is a growing shortage of primary healthcare providers in the United States. In fact, the Association of American Medical Colleges estimates that by 2034, the US will be short between 17,800 and 48,000 physicians. This shortage is due to several factors, including an aging population, an increase in chronic conditions, and a decrease in the number of medical students choosing to pursue primary care careers.
Family nurse practitioners (FNPs) are an essential part of the solution to this problem. FNPs are advanced practice registered nurses who are educated and trained to provide primary care services to patients of all ages. They can diagnose and treat common illnesses, order and interpret diagnostic tests, and prescribe medication. They also play an important role in preventive care and health education.
As the population continues to grow and age, family nurse practitioners will be vital to ensuring that everyone has access to quality health care. It only takes four to six years of education post-high school to become an FNP, versus the 10 to 14 it takes to become a doctor of medicine. In many states, FNPs can practice independently of physician supervision, allowing them to work in underserved and rural areas with limited access to a primary care doctor.
There are several steps to becoming an FNP, but it starts with completing a general nursing education program, such as an associate of science in nursing (ASN) or a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) general education nursing program.
Next, aspiring FNPs need to complete a master’s of science in nursing, a doctor of nursing practice, or a post-master’s certificate family nurse practitioner education program. These advanced programs provide nurses with the education and skills to be primary care providers to patients of all ages.
Continue reading to learn more about the steps necessary to become an FNP and an in-depth look at licensing and education requirements.
How to Become a Family Nurse Practitioner (NP)
A career as an FNP starts with becoming a registered nurse. Aspiring FNPs must complete an associate’s of science in nursing or a bachelor’s of science in nursing general education nursing program. These degrees take two to four years to complete and provide the foundation for work as a registered nurse and additional studies.
Registered nurses must be licensed by their state’s nursing board to practice. To obtain a license, nurses must pass the National Council Licensure Examination Registered Nurse (NCLEX- RN) exam and meet any additional requirements such as clinical practice hours, proof of degree completed, background check, and drug screening.
While not required, it can be advantageous to work as a registered nurse for a few years before enrolling in an advanced degree program required to be an FNP. This entry-level work will give nurses a deeper understanding of how to care for patients and help them determine if a specialty would be a good fit.
The next step to becoming an FNP is to complete a family nurse practitioner master’s of science in nursing, doctor of nursing practice, or a post-master’s certificate. These advanced degrees take 18 months to four years to complete, depending on the level of degree completed and whether a student attends part or full-time. There are many online programs students can complete to earn their degree while working full-time and without relocating.
However, completing an FNP education program is not enough to care for patients. FNPs also earn national certification and be licensed to practice in their state.
The two certifications FNPs earn include the Family Nurse Practitioner Certification (FNP-BC) from the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) and the Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) certification from the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners (AANP). More details on licensing and certification can be found below.
What Does a Family Nurse Practitioner (NP) Do?
Family nurse practitioners can work in various settings, from hospitals and clinics to private practices and community health centers. Most often, FNPs are responsible for primary care services to patients of all ages. Typical day-to-day job duties can include:
- Providing preventive care services, including screenings and vaccinations
- Diagnosing and treating common illnesses and injuries
- Ordering and interpreting diagnostic tests
- Prescribing medications and other treatments
- Providing counseling and education on health issues
- Making referrals to specialists as needed
- Coordinating care with other health professionals
How Much Do Family Nurse Practitioners (NP) Make?
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS May 2021), nurse practitioners, including family nurse practitioners, earn $118,040 per year on average. The compensation aggregate website Salary.com (2022) provides more detailed salary information on salaries for FNPs specifically. The percentiles for wages are:
- 10th percentile: $100,508
- 25th percentile: $108,157
- 50th percentile (median): $116,558
- 75th percentile: $126,622
- 90th percentile: $135,784
Family Nurse Practitioner (NP) Licensure and Certification Requirements
All FNPs must be licensed by their state’s nursing board to practice. FNPs can be licensed as nurse practitioners (NPs) or as advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs), depending on the titles used in their state. The necessary qualifications will vary from state to state. Here are the most common requirements:
- A current, active, and unencumbered registered nurse license
- Complete an accredited or approved master’s, post-graduate certificate, or doctor of nursing practice family nurse practitioner program
- Earn a national certification
- Submit a completed application with application and licensing fees
- Pass a drug screening and background check
FNP Certifications and Eligibility
The two primary certifications for FNPs are the Family Nurse Practitioner Certification (FNP-BC) from the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) and the Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) certification from the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners (AANP).
The eligibility requirements for the FNP-BC ANCC certification are:
- An unencumbered, current, active RN license
- A master’s, post-graduate certificate, or doctor of nursing practice (DNP) from a family nurse practitioner program accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE), the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN), or the National League for Nursing (NLN) Commission for Nursing Education Accreditation (CNEA)
- The degree or post-master’s certificate must include a minimum of 500 FNP faculty-supervised clinical hours
- Complete graduate coursework in advanced physiology/pathophysiology, advanced health, and advanced pharmacology
To be eligible for the FNP certification from the AANP candidate must meet the following requirements:
- Hold a current and active RN license
- Complete a master’s, post-graduate certificate, or doctor of nursing practice (DNP) from a family nurse practitioner program accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE), the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN), or the National League for Nursing (NLN) Commission for Nursing Education Accreditation (CNEA)
- Have a minimum of 500 FNP faculty-supervised clinical hours during the educational program
FNP Certification Renewal
The FNP AANP certification must be renewed every five years. To renew, candidates must provide proof of 1,000 hours of clinical practice as a family nurse practitioner within five years, 100 hours of continuing education, of which 25 must be in pharmacology, and a current RN or APRN license. Candidates may recertify by retaking the FNP exam instead of meeting the clinical practice and continuing education requirements.
To renew the ANCC FNP-BC certification, candidates must have a current RN license and ANCC certification. They must also complete 75 hours of continuing education, of which 25 must be in pharmacology and complete one of the eight ANCC certification professional development categories. Renewals for this certification must be completed every five years
Thanks to her experience writing in healthcare, Kimmy Gustafson has delivered in-depth articles on timely topics for NursingColleges.com since 2022. Her aim is to assist both students and professionals in navigating the intricate process of selecting a nursing program and understanding the ever-evolving realm of nursing education.
Kimmy has been a freelance writer for more than a decade, writing hundreds of articles on a wide variety of topics such as startups, nonprofits, healthcare, kiteboarding, the outdoors, and higher education. She is passionate about seeing the world and has traveled to over 27 countries. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Oregon. When not working, she can be found outdoors, parenting, kiteboarding, or cooking.