A Nurse's Guide to Becoming a Family Nurse Practitioner

What Is a Family Nurse Practitioner?

The family nurse practitioner is one of the most in-demand roles in U.S. healthcare today, particularly in regions of the country where a shortage of family physicians exists. A family nurse practitioner, or FNP, is a registered nurse with advanced nursing education who specializes in family practice. These highly sought-after healthcare professionals earn an average annual salary of $107,480, according to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data, and usually work in outpatient settings where they provide clinical care to individuals, families and entire communities across the lifespan.

Family nurse practitioners typically work in their own practices, physicians’ offices, hospices, schools, homes, or clinics managed by other nurses. FNPs have received additional family practice-related clinical training, often in Master of Science in Nursing: Family Nurse Practitioner programs that BSN-prepared nurses can take online while keeping their jobs. Some qualities of successful FNPs include leadership attributes, good communications skills, optimism, advocacy, mental and physical endurance, problem-solving skills, autonomy, and attention to detail to perform accurate assessments independently.

What Degrees Do RNs Need to Achieve National FNP Certification?

In addition to being a licensed RN, a nurse must have a Master of Science in Nursing degree (MSN) and specialized training preparing them for outpatient family practice to apply for FNP certification. To be accepted into an MSN program, a nurse must either have completed a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) or enter a bridge MSN program for RNs who have not completed a 4-year degree. To become certified as an FNP, the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners or the American Nurses Credentialing Center conduct exams which qualify a nurse professional to become a certified FNP after passing them.

What Does a Family Nurse Practitioner Do?

An FNP delivers clinical care to patients throughout their lives and is often viewed by patients as their family doctor. In their day-to-day family nurse practitioner job, FNPs diagnose illnesses, perform assessments and regular check-ups, order laboratory tests, assist with some surgeries, and in some states order prescriptions. The role of a family nurse practitioner is to look after the health of a patient right from infancy into old age. FNPs provide management of disease, health promotion and education, preventative health services, and comprehensive, continuous care for families, communities and individuals.

FNPs are qualified to treat acute injuries that are minor, manage chronic conditions, provide health and wellness care for women including prenatal and preconception care, and provide care to all ages for any acute illnesses. Some FNPs further specialize by earning additional certifications in women’s health, neurology, cardiology, and other areas.

Where Do Family Nurse Practitioners Work?

Since FNPs provide primary healthcare to a wide variety of populations at many different stages of their lives, they can work in diverse settings including their own practices, community clinics, hospice facilities or physicians’ offices. Family nurse practitioners conduct assessments and exams, diagnose patient illnesses, in some cases prescribe medication and treat patients throughout the life cycle. Other settings where FNPs work include schools, nursing homes, urgent care centers and rehabilitation centers. If a family nurse practitioner has earned a subspecialty certification such as pediatrics, orthopedics, gerontology, rehabilitation or medical-surgical, they can practice in primary care using that specialty.

Family Nurse Practitioners Frequently Serve the Underserved In their work maintaining the health and wellness of both children and adults over the long term, family nurse practitioners acquire a thorough understanding and knowledge of the communities they serve, including the challenges faced by the community’s population. FNPs often serve the underserved in rural areas where there is a physician shortage or where patients require healthcare services that are difficult to access. Family Nurse Practitioners’ extensive knowledge of assessment, health diagnosis, physiology and pharmacology acquired in post-bachelor MSN-FNP programs prepare them to autonomously provide primary care.

Why Become a Family Nurse Practitioner?

There are many benefits to becoming a family nurse practitioner, including:

  • Working autonomously and exercising independence
  • Earning a high salary
  • Helping people throughout their lives as a healthcare provider
  • Having access to many different opportunities in different settings
  • Playing an integral role in community
  • Working regular hours
  • Being instrumental in preventive care as well as primary care
  • Serving the underserved
  • Having a direct effect on the lives and health of individuals, families and communities

Patient outcomes and cost efficiencies both increase under a nurse practitioner’s care:

  • The American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) indicates that shorter hospital stays and fewer ER visits occur with patients who regularly seek the primary care services of nurse practitioners
  • AANP also reports that overall costs of healthcare are lowered with the help of nurse practitioners
  • Nurse practitioners have demonstrated that they provide high-quality care equivalent to the care provided by physicians

Just as BSN graduates are eligible to apply for more registered nurse jobs than associate degree or diploma nurses are, MSN graduates have a much broader range of career options than BSN-prepared nurses do. More focus enables master’s level graduates to pursue specializations such as the family nurse practitioner role.

According to nursejournal.com, it is recommended that BSN-prepared nurses work towards their Master of Science in Nursing degrees within 10 years of becoming licensed. An MSN allows for more control over your career, higher pay and more career paths. Employers also seek nurses with advanced degrees such as an MSN because of the need to develop care in complex situations.

How Much Does a Family Nurse Practitioner Make?

According to payscale.com, the salary of a family nurse practitioner ranges from $75,894 to $112,752 annually. The median annual salary of an FNP is $91,300, with an average additional $5,003 in bonus, $5,028 in profit sharing and $8,400 in commission.

As a group, nurse practitioners, nurse anesthetists and nurse midwives earned a median salary of $110,930 annually in 2017, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (USBLS). The USBLS indicates there were 203,800 jobs available in those fields in 2017, with an influx of 64,200 additional jobs expected to be created between 2016-2026. The job outlook for these specialties is projected to grow by 31% during the same time frame.

What Is the Salary Difference Between a Nurse Practitioner and a BSN-Prepared Nurse in 2019?

According to ziprecruiter.com, the average salary of a nurse with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree was $83,121 annually as of January 2019. Salaries of BSN-prepared nurses can range between $64,000 (25th percentile) to $98,500 (75th percentile) across the U.S. Ziprecruiter.com also states that as of January 2019, the average annual salary of a Nurse Practitioner in the United States was $107,638. Based on these 2019 figures, the average salary difference between a nurse practitioner and a BSN-prepared nurse is $24,517 annually.

How Much More Does a Nurse Practitioner Earn Than a Registered Nurse?

Nurses with advanced degrees enjoy significant financial rewards, and a nurse practitioner salary exceeds a registered nurse salary by over $40,000. The Bureau of Labor Statistics states that in 2017, the median yearly salary for nurse practitioners, nurse anesthetists and nurse midwives was $110,930. In comparison, in 2017 the median annual pay for RNs was $70,000.

How Much Do Nurse Practitioners Earn in Different States?

The salaries earned by nurse practitioners vary by state, and the number of employment opportunities within each state vary as well. According to the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP), of the 248,000+ nurse practitioners licensed in the U.S., 60.6% percent are family nurse practitioners.

via BLS

Below is a breakdown of the number of nurse practitioner jobs and their median salaries by state as indicated by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2017:

Alabama Nurse Practitioners
Employment opportunities: 3,230
Annual Mean Salary: $94,880

Alaska Nurse Practitioners
Employment opportunities: 440
Annual Mean Salary: $125,140

Arizona Nurse Practitioners
Employment opportunities: 3,120
Annual Mean Salary: $104,970

Arkansas Nurse Practitioners
Employment opportunities: 1,830
Annual Mean Salary: $95,230

California Nurse Practitioners
Employment opportunities: 3,100
Annual Mean Salary: $126,770

Colorado Nurse Practitioners
Employment opportunities: 2,810
Annual Mean Salary: $110,440

Connecticut Nurse Practitioners
Employment opportunities: 2,220
Annual Mean Salary: $118,500

Delaware Nurse Practitioners
Employment opportunities: 650
Annual Mean Salary: $105,380

Florida Nurse Practitioners
Employment opportunities: 10,380
Annual Mean Salary: $99,930

Georgia Nurse Practitioners
Employment opportunities: 5,200
Annual Mean Salary: $103,890

Hawaii Nurse Practitioners
Employment opportunities: 410
Annual Mean Salary: $122,580

Idaho Nurse Practitioners
Employment opportunities: 590
Annual Mean Salary: $102,760

Illinois Nurse Practitioners
Employment opportunities: 4,610
Annual Mean Salary: $101,960

Indiana Nurse Practitioners
Employment opportunities: 4,120
Annual Mean Salary: $101,780

Iowa Nurse Practitioners
Employment opportunities: 1,660
Annual Mean Salary: $104,130

Kansas Nurse Practitioners
Employment opportunities: 2,010
Annual Mean Salary: $97,870

Kentucky Nurse Practitioners
Employment opportunities: 3,110
Annual Mean Salary: $95,450

Louisiana Nurse Practitioners
Employment opportunities: 2,420
Annual Mean Salary: $98,780

Maine Nurse Practitioners
Employment opportunities: 1,150
Annual Mean Salary: $100,100

Maryland Nurse Practitioners
Employment opportunities: 3,620
Annual Mean Salary: $109,840

Massachusetts Nurse Practitioners
Employment opportunities: 6,280
Annual Mean Salary: $120,140

Michigan Nurse Practitioners
Employment opportunities: 3,970
Annual Mean Salary: $102,250

Minnesota Nurse Practitioners
Employment opportunities: 3,900
Annual Mean Salary: $116,150

Mississippi Nurse Practitioners
Employment opportunities: 2,480
Annual Mean Salary: $107,280

Missouri Nurse Practitioners
Employment opportunities: 4,150
Annual Mean Salary: $96,490

Montana Nurse Practitioners
Employment opportunities: 530
Annual Mean Salary: $97,470

Nebraska Nurse Practitioners
Employment opportunities: 1,020
Annual Mean Salary: $99,930

Nevada Nurse Practitioners
Employment opportunities: 680
Annual Mean Salary: $105,520

New Hampshire Nurse Practitioners
Employment opportunities: 1,150
Annual Mean Salary: $112,440

New Jersey Nurse Practitioners
Employment opportunities: 4,840
Annual Mean Salary: $117,630

New Mexico Nurse Practitioners
Employment opportunities: 960
Annual Mean Salary: $109,330

New York Nurse Practitioners
Employment opportunities: 13,450
Annual Mean Salary: $117,210

North Carolina Nurse Practitioners
Employment opportunities: 4,130
Annual Mean Salary: $106,320

North Dakota Nurse Practitioners
Employment opportunities: 420
Annual Mean Salary: $103,470

Ohio Nurse Practitioners
Employment opportunities: 7,460
Annual Mean Salary: $101,710

Oklahoma Nurse Practitioners
Employment opportunities: 1,600
Annual Mean Salary: $95,590

Oregon Nurse Practitioners
Employment opportunities: 13,570
Annual Mean Salary: $112,870

Pennsylvania Nurse Practitioners
Employment opportunities: 5,730
Annual Mean Salary: $98,260

Puerto Rico Nurse Practitioners
Employment opportunities: 1,190
Annual Mean Salary: $20,900

Rhode Island Nurse Practitioners
Employment opportunities: 640
Annual Mean Salary: $108,630

South Carolina Nurse Practitioners
Employment opportunities: 2,000
Annual Mean Salary: $97,140

South Dakota Nurse Practitioners
Employment opportunities: 470
Annual Mean Salary: $100,030

Tennessee Nurse Practitioners
Employment opportunities: 6,550
Annual Mean Salary: $93,970

Texas Nurse Practitioners
Employment opportunities: 10,730
Annual Mean Salary: $111,330

Utah Nurse Practitioners
Employment opportunities: 1,520
Annual Mean Salary: $99,960

Vermont Nurse Practitioners
Employment opportunities: 440
Annual Mean Salary: $103,920

Virginia Nurse Practitioners
Employment opportunities: 4,500
Annual Mean Salary: $102,240

Washington Nurse Practitioners
Employment opportunities: 3,100
Annual Mean Salary: $115,250

West Virginia Nurse Practitioners
Employment opportunities: 1,040
Annual Mean Salary: $95,000

Wisconsin Nurse Practitioners
Employment opportunities: 2,900
Annual Mean Salary: $101,930

Wyoming Nurse Practitioners
Employment opportunities: 230
Annual Mean Salary: $113,310

How To Become a Family Nurse Practitioner

At a minimum, a Master of Science in Nursing is required to qualify to become a family nurse practitioner. Many MSN programs are designed specifically for family nurse practitioners and include courses in health policy, pharmacology, assessment and epidemiology. The development of advanced critical thinking skills and outstanding communication skills are necessary to prepare nurses for the broad application of proficiencies involved an FNP career. Many FNPs earn their Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing degree first, and after passing the NCLEX-RN to become licensed as an RN, they pursue completion of their Master’s degree.

Following the completion of an MSN-FNP program or a post-Master’s FNP certificate, it is necessary to attain FNP certification in order to practice as an FNP. Family nurse practitioner certification is available through the American Nurses Credentialing Center or the American Association of Nurse Practitioners.

The Projected Shortage of Physicians Is Creating a Gap in Primary Care

With a shortage of between 800 and 43,100 primary care physicians projected to occur by 2030, according to a report by the Association of American Medical Colleges, there is a call to Family Nurse Practitioners to take their place on the front lines of primary care. This shortage is driven by a number of factors:

  • More than ⅓ of active physicians in 2017 will be age 65 or older by 2027
  • The demands of a growing and aging population are outpacing the number of new primary care physicians
  • The U.S. population is expected to grow by 12% by 2030
  • The number of U.S. residents age 65 and over is expected to increase by 55%
  • The number of U.S. residents age 75 and older will grow by 73% during same period

Nurse Practitioners with specialty clinical training in family practice are uniquely positioned to fill the gaps in the primary care shortage. The aging of the baby boomer population, currently aged 54-74, coupled with healthcare reforms are primary reasons for the increased demand for healthcare professionals.

The National Governors Association projects the demand for primary healthcare providers to increase to 25 million visits annually by 2019. If you are a nurse with the ambition to pursue career advancement, now is an ideal time to pursue an FNP degree.

What Is the Difference Between a Doctor and a Nurse Practitioner?

The training received by a medical doctor is fundamentally different from the training received by a nurse practitioner. The American Academy of Family Physicians reports that it takes an average of 11 years of post-secondary training and education to become an MD. A physician is trained to become a Doctor of Medicine and attends a four-year medical school program, followed by a residency in a specialty of medicine. Nurse Practitioners undergo six to eight post-secondary years of education, including completion a BSN and MSN-FNP or post-Master’s FNP certificate.

The mean annual wage of a family physician, or a Family and General Practitioner, in 2017 was $208,560 according to the USBLS. The mean annual salary for a full-time Nurse Practitioner was $107,480 in 2017, according to the same source.

While some Family Nurse Practitioners work under the supervision of a doctor, an increasing number of states have passed legislation that allows FNPs to independently provide direct clinical care to patients, while some Family Nurse Practitioners work under the supervision of a doctor.

Which States Grant Full Nurse Practitioner Practice Authority?

Depending on the state, nurse practitioners can be granted full practice authority, partial practice authority, or the authority to practice only under physician oversight.

States That Grant NPs Full Practice Authority

Nursepractionerschools.com lists the following states as having Full Nurse Practitioner Practice Authority, authorizing Nurse Practitioners to work autonomously without the supervision of a physician. For full details, conditions and resources, please contact each state’s Board of Nursing.

  • Alaska
  • Arizona
  • Colorado
  • Connecticut
  • District of Columbia
  • Hawaii
  • Idaho
  • Iowa
  • Maine
  • Maryland
  • Minnesota
  • Montana
  • Nebraska
  • Nevada
  • New Hampshire
  • New Mexico
  • North Dakota
  • Oregon
  • Rhode Island
  • Vermont
  • Washington
  • Wyoming
States With Reduced NP Practice Authority

States with reduced practice authorize Nurse Practitioners to engage in at least one element of NP practice. Please contact each state’s Board of Nursing for the exact conditions and details.

  • Alabama
  • Arkansas
  • Delaware
  • Illinois
  • Indiana
  • Kansas
  • Kentucky
  • Louisiana
  • Massachusetts
  • Michigan
  • Mississippi
  • New Jersey
  • New York
  • Ohio
  • Pennsylvania
  • South Dakota
  • Utah
  • Virginia
  • West Virginia
  • Wisconsin
States With Restricted NP Practice Authority

The following states have restricted practice and do not allow nurse practitioners to work without a doctor’s supervision. For full details please contact each state’s Board of Nursing.

  • California
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Missouri
  • North Carolina
  • Oklahoma
  • South Carolina
  • Tennessee
  • Texas

What Makes a Good Online Family Nurse Practitioner Program?

A good family nurse practitioner program is designed for your life. It provides you with support at every step from enrollment to graduation. It should offer high academic standards at a lower cost, positioning you to define your future as you take control of your career and continue to build it. The online MSN-FNP program at Walsh University prepares you to take a leading role in healthcare by:

  • Preparing for certification as an FNP
  • Developing the skills to practice medicine independently
  • Learning how to work in a range of settings
  • Working one-on-one with a preceptor in clinical experiences

How Long Does It Take to Become a Family Nurse Practitioner?

For BSN-prepared nurses, an online MSN-FNP program such as the one offered by Walsh University can be completed in as few as 2.5 years. At Walsh University, the online MSN Family Nurse Practitioner program is comprised of 61 credits. Divided between 8-week and 16-week courses, the program is 100% online excluding clinicals. The program may be completed in 6-7 semesters full time or 10 semesters part-time. Three intakes per year allow you to start your education at a time that is convenient to you.

Why an MSN Degree with an FNP Focus Is a Perfect Choice For BSN-Prepared Nurses

A Master of Science in Nursing degree with a Family Nurse Practitioner focus offers nurses who have completed their Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree the opportunity to grow and fulfill a growing need for primary care. BSN nurses who are interested in furthering their education and advancing their career while working full-time can do so in a high-quality online MSN-FNP program that offers flexibility, affordability and one-on-one support.

What Admission Requirements Do Online Nurse Practitioner (MSN-FNP) Programs Have?

  1. Submission of a completed Walsh University application.
  2. A current unencumbered Registered Nurse license(s). One year of experience as a Registered Nurse is preferred.
  3. Official transcripts documenting a baccalaureate degree in nursing from a program accredited by a national organization responsible for nursing accreditation (Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACNE), Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) or their equivalent. Transcripts should document a minimum 3.0 cumulative grade point average on a 4.0 scale on all undergraduate coursework. Transcripts must be in English and credentials evaluated when appropriate.
  4. Completion of an Undergraduate or Graduate Statistics course.
  5. Two professional letters of recommendation supporting the applicant’s potential for success in the Master’s program from graduate-prepared nurses or faculty members who can address the applicant’s potential or ability for functioning in the FNP or Nurse Educator role (clinical skills, critical thinking, independent decision making, collaborative skills with other health professionals, and nursing leadership). Applicants currently enrolled in a nursing program must submit at least one (1) recommendation from a faculty member in that program.
  6. A resume or CV with your application that includes work experience, educational, leadership and professional organization activities, and scholarly activities, including publications, presentations, research, honors and awards. A personal essay component is included in the application requirements.
For more information on Walsh University’s online MSN-FNP program, please contact us.