Best Online MSN in Family Nursing Programs

June 3, 2020 | Staff Writers

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Registered nurses (RNs) who enjoy building meaningful, long-term relationships with clients often excel as family nurse practitioners (FNPs). These professionals engage in leadership roles, prescribe medicine, manage other RNs, and strive to improve patients’ lives. Many FNPs also collaborate with physicians or operate their own practices. FNPs are subject matter experts in primary and specialty care for their patients.

With a growing demand for FNPs who understand the value of preventative care, many schools and employers offer financial assistance to students enrolling in RN-to-MSN family nurse practitioner programs, which can offset the cost of tuition and make earning an advanced degree in nursing an excellent return on investment. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects nurse practitioner jobs will increase 31% by 2026.

Top Online MSN in Family Nursing Programs 2020

Rank School Location
1 Duke University Durham, NC
2 George Washington University Washington, DC
3 University of Colorado - Denver - Anschutz Medical Campus Denver, CO
4 Ohio State University Columbus, OH
5 Saint Joseph's College Standish, ME
  1. Duke University

    Durham, NC

    Ranked among the top online MSN family nurse practitioner programs in the country, Duke’s 49-credit degree focuses on care delivery for patients in primary care settings. The program offers clinical simulation activities that prepare graduates for advanced nursing work in environments such as family practices, community health centers, and rural and underserved communities. Duke also offers several specialization options, including oncology, cardiology, endocrinology, orthopedics, or HIV. Students initially complete two introductory sections focused on a nursing core and the “Four P’s”: pathology, physiology, physical assessment, and pharmacology. The family nurse practitioner clinical section forms most of the curriculum, covering advanced nursing practices across the human lifespan, from prenatal care to older adult care. Along with academic courses, candidates also complete 728 hours of clinical practice.

  2. George Washington University

    Washington, DC

    A private college based in Washington, D.C., GWU hosts one of the country’s top RN-to-MSN family nurse practitioner online programs. The school’s master of science in nursing family nurse practitioner degree trains nurses in the dimensions of caregiving, emphasizing physical, emotional, social, and mental health. Offering both full- and part-time options, the program combines didactic and clinical training, with courses including topics in population health, nursing leadership, genetics for healthcare providers, and biostatistics for healthcare researchers. The standard program curriculum requires a minimum of 48 credits, and GWU also offers an RN-to-MSN pathway that requires 54 credits. Candidates must perform 700 hours of clinical practice, typically in a healthcare environment within their own communities. Most coursework occurs online, but GWU does require two campus sessions: a learning and skills intensive and a series of final clinical examinations.

  3. University of Colorado - Denver - Anschutz Medical Campus

    Denver, CO

    UC Denver’s online master of science family nurse practitioner requires 42 total credits and focuses on nursing theory and practice, with courses like policy and politics of health, advanced pharmacology and therapeutics, care of the pediatric patient, and diagnosis and management of physiologic and psychiatric health. The program follows a cohort model which requires students to complete most courses in the same sequence, encouraging peer connections and a sense of community. Along with academic courses, candidates complete 630 clinical hours in a professional healthcare setting. The college often arranges clinical placements for students who live in the Denver metro area, but students who reside elsewhere typically determine their own placements. While courses use a primarily online format, the program does require multiple on-campus sessions. With full-time study, most degree candidates complete the MSN family nurse practitioner online program in about 2.5 years.

  4. Ohio State University

    Columbus, OH

    Based in Columbus, Ohio, OSU offers one of the top online MSN family nurse practitioner programs in the state, emphasizing diverse approaches to healthcare. Students complete five core courses that explore foundational topics like nursing leadership, health promotion and disease prevention, health policy, and evidence-based nursing scholarship. Seven additional courses focus on specialized topics in family nursing, such as advanced health assessment and pathophysiology of altered health states. Nearly half of the family nursing curriculum is dedicated to clinical practicum, offering professional experience in a supervised healthcare setting. OSU works with preceptors around Ohio to offer an assortment of clinical experiences, and degree candidates should expect to perform at least one practicum section outside of the Columbus metro area. Practicum hours occur during the program’s final three semesters, with a culminating experience that aligns with students’ professional goals.

  5. Saint Joseph's College

    Standish, ME

    A Catholic liberal arts college in Standish, Maine, Saint Joseph’s offers a master of science in nursing. This interdisciplinary program combines advanced nursing practice with related knowledge in ethics, biophysical sciences, and psychosocial sciences. The 48-credit program splits its curriculum between core nursing courses and family nurse practitioner courses. The program core covers fundamental topics such as health assessment, healthcare policy, and research methods, while the family nursing section includes courses focused on different age groups. The curriculum includes a substantial clinical practicum component along with a capstone that requires candidates to develop a solution to a substantive nursing problem. Saint Joseph’s offers all courses entirely online, with no required campus visits. With full-time enrollment, many candidates complete the program in just two years.

MSN in Family Nursing Programs Online: An Overview

Colleges and universities develop their own admission and curriculum standards. Students should examine individual details of each program they find appealing. The following section discusses common admission requirements, coursework, fieldwork, and licensure information for online MSN family nurse practitioner programs.

Admission Requirements for an Online MSN in Family Nursing Program

While many master’s degree programs require students to hold a bachelor’s degree to apply, RN-to-MSN family nurse practitioner online programs often accept students with an associate degree in nursing (ADN). Programs that accept ADN students offer accelerated coursework leading to a BSN and an MSN. In fact, programs consider an RN license the primary requirement to qualify for an online MSN family nurse practitioner program.

On average, online MSN family nurse practitioner programs look for candidates with a minimum 3.0 GPA and often do not require the GRE for admission. However, as an advanced degree, students earning a MSN in FNP must provide proof of work experience.

How Long Does It Take to Complete an Online MSN in Family Nursing Program?

Online MSN family nurse practitioner programs vary in length. Students enrolling with a BSN can graduate in 20-25 months on average; however, in some accelerated programs students graduate in 12-15 months. Students enrolling in MSN programs with an ADN will complete 51 credits, which may take 30-36 months to complete. MSN graduation timelines depend on a student’s enrollment status.

The time frames indicated above relate to full-time enrollment. Students attending part-time should double program lengths. Similarly, students may shorten their overall time commitment by taking additional coursework each semester and by enrolling in summer semesters if their school follows traditional semesters. Many distance learning programs use a cohort-style format. Cohorts allow students to remain with the same group of students each semester, which builds meaningful relationships between classmates throughout the program. Some schools also offer self-paced programs, which allow students to complete coursework when it suits them.

Example Courses for Online MSN in Family Nursing Students

Accredited RN-to-MSN family nurse practitioner online programs include foundational knowledge and theories. However, programs differ because schools create their curriculum independently. Furthermore, some programs cater to ADN student needs, while others focus on BSN student needs. The list below includes sample courses students may encounter:

  • Population Health, Epidemiology, and Statistical Principles: In this course, students learn about advanced principles and practice competencies, which focus on epidemiological and statistical components to determine a foundation for assessment. Students examine assessment results to identify areas for development and learn to recognize evidence-based interventions. Students also use epidemiology to uncover risk factors for target populations.
  • Advanced Pathophysiology: In advanced pathophysiology, students explore how underlying diseases manifest throughout the lifespan and learn therapeutic interventions for injury disease risk factors. Students identify the relationship between system alterations as a result of disease and normal physiology. The course teaches students to identify health and illness factors and examines current case studies to facilitate discussions.
  • Advanced Pharmacotherapeutics: Advanced pharmacotherapeutics examines hidden disease processes, therapeutics in pharmacotherapeutic agents, and potential treatments. Students also explore the special drug therapy needs of different populations. Course objectives include exploring the government’s influence on drug development and regulation. Students also review current case studies to explore pharmacotherapy interventions and the pharmacology of prescribed drugs.
  • Leadership and Health Policy: In this course, students review information released by the Department of Health Policy and Management. Additionally, students examine leadership qualities against organizational structures and workplace behavior to determines influential leadership styles that lead to policy development. Students also consider the impact of current legal statutes and outcomes of healthcare delivery.
  • Advanced Assessment and Diagnostic: In this course, students explore comprehensive assessment data across the lifespan for nursing care, including specialty areas. Students use advanced cognitive and psychomotor skills for the diagnostic reasoning process to establish patient-centered plans of care. This course emphasizes understanding health history. Students also apply diagnostic reasoning skills to determine care plans.
  • Internship Component

    Students considering RN-to-MSN family nurse practitioner online programs should note graduation requirements extend beyond coursework. All programs require practicum experiences and clinical internships. While state requirements vary, students usually need around 550-850 clinical hours. Since FNPs work with clients of all ages, they typically need experience in various settings.

    Online FNP students generally secure their own placement at local facilities; however, students who need assistance can contact their university. Students employed at relevant organizations, including hospitals or clinics, may qualify to complete their clinical hours outside of their regular work schedule.

    Certifications and Licenses This Program Prepares For

  • Family Nurse Practitioner-Board Certification: The American Nurses Credentialing Center offers an FNP-BC that meets the advanced practice registered nurse consensus model. Initial applications include an exam; applicants have 90 days to apply. Applicants must have a current license when applying and must renew their certification every five years.
  • FNP-C: The American Academy of Nurse Practitioners offers a national competency-based certification. The exam measures pertinent entry-level FNP knowledge and skills and contains 150 multiple-choice questions.
  • Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner-Board Certified (WHNP-BC): FNPs with many female clients may want to consider a WHNP-BC issued by the National Certification Corporation. To qualify, candidates must show proof of degree completion from an accredited nurse practitioner program. The exam contains 175 questions.
  • Accreditation for Online MSN in Family Nursing Programs

    Students enrolling in online MSN family nurse practitioner programs should only consider accredited programs. National accrediting agencies typically focus on vocational and trade schools, which makes their requirements less standardized than regional accreditations. Students should also consider that credits from nationally accredited schools typically only transfer to other nationally accredited programs. In contrast, over 85% of schools in the U.S. hold regional accreditation from one of six regional accrediting agencies, which allows students to easily transfer credits. Regional accreditation often qualifies students for corporate tuition reimbursement.

    Students should also consider programmatic or field-specific accrediting agencies led by subject matter experts. Students can view lists of accredited schools on the Department of Education or the Council for Higher Education Accreditation website. In particular, FNPs should consider programs approved by the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing or the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.

    Job and Salary Outlook


    Job Opportunities for MSN in Family Nursing Graduates

    Online MSN family nurse practitioner programs prepare graduates for many careers. Job outlook projections indicate that the demand for FNPs should increase much faster than the national average over the next 10 years. The table below includes possible occupations FNP graduates qualify for.

    Family Nurse Practitioner

    FNPs fulfill many of the same duties as physicians. FNPs observe, test, diagnose, and treat clients. These professionals work with patients of all ages.

    Median Annual Salary: $92,392

    Pediatrics Nurse Practitioner

    FNPs who have an affinity for children can work with patients in pediatric departments of hospitals. Professionals complete physicals, administer therapy, and prescribe medication.

    Median Annual Salary: $86,634

    Nurse Practitioner Midwifery

    FNPs interested in providing care to women can become midwives. This role includes gynecological exams, family planning, and prenatal care. Professionals also deliver babies and manage high-risk births.

    Median Annual Salary: $110,930

    Gerontological Nurse Practitioner

    Geriatric FNPs specialize in elderly care, which includes knowledge of dementia, arthritis, and other chronic illnesses. Other duties include conducting physicals and collaborating with other specialists to create specialized care plans.

    Median Annual Salary: $94,000

    Public Health Nurse Practitioner

    FNPs interested in educating families of patients or whole communities about health risk factors can become public health NPs. Responsibilities include developing training materials, awareness programs, or collaborating with local school administrators.

    Median Annual Salary: $56,787

    Source: PayScale, Nov. 2018

    How Much Do MSN in Family Nursing Graduates Make?

    While education and experience influence FNP earning potential, salary can vary by location. Top paying states include California, Alaska, Hawai’i, Massachusetts, and Connecticut. FNP graduates should also consider employer type. For instance, FNPs working in physicians’ offices earn $105,730 on average. The following data highlights related professions by career level.

    • Pediatrics Nurse Practitioner

      Overall Median Salary $86,634
      Median Salary for Entry-Level $85,000
      Median Salary for Mid-Career $92,000
      Median Salary for Late-Career $101,000

      Source: Payscale

    • Advanced Registered Nurse Practitioner

      Overall Median Salary $92,551
      Median Salary for Entry-Level $89,000
      Median Salary for Mid-Career $98,000
      Median Salary for Late-Career $104,000

      Source: Payscale

    • Nurse Practitioner

      Overall Median Salary $92,392
      Median Salary for Entry-Level $90,000
      Median Salary for Mid-Career $97,000
      Median Salary for Late-Career $105,000

      Source: Payscale

    • Physician Assistant

      Overall Median Salary $92,757
      Median Salary for Entry-Level $89,000
      Median Salary for Mid-Career $100,000
      Median Salary for Late-Career $106,000

      Source: Payscale

    • Primary Care Registered Nurse

      Overall Median Salary $62,919
      Median Salary for Entry-Level $53,000
      Median Salary for Mid-Career $61,000
      Median Salary for Late-Career $70,000

      Source: Payscale

    Professional Organizations

    Each year the nursing field expands, leading to new research, technology, and challenges. FNPs should consider joining professional organizations where they can collaborate with other professionals in the field. These organizations provide access to discussion forums, webinars, continuing education (CE) programs, and annual conferences. Collaborative opportunities can also lead to mentorship or job opportunities for recent FNP graduates. The list below includes potential organizations FNPs can join.

  • American Association of Nurse Practitioners: The AANP advocates for nurse practitioners in all areas of practice. Members can access online resources including journals, discussion forums, and webinars. The AANP also offers valuable CE coursework to help professionals keep their credentials current.
  • American Nurses Association: With more than four million members, the ANA sets standards for nursing practice. By joining this organization, members gain access to networking opportunities including webinars and annual conferences. Additionally, members can access multiple online resources.
  • International Council of Nurses: ICN represents over 20 million nurses around the globe. Members have access to pertinent research, international discussion forums, and professional development. Members also gain access to certain outside networks.
  • Financing Your Online MSN in Family Nursing Program

    While RN-to-MSN family nurse practitioner online programs create opportunities for advancement and a higher earning potential, students often worry about how to finance their degrees. The first step for FNPs is filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Federal aid includes grants and government loans as well as work-study programs. Many organizations also set aside scholarship money for FNPs. The list below contains eight possible scholarships.

    Scholarships for MSN in Family Nursing Students

    TYLENOL Future Care Scholarship
    Who Can Apply: TYLENOL has provided financial assistance to professionals pursuing healthcare careers for over 23 years. To apply, students must provide proof of enrollment at an accredited university. Students may only apply for this award once. Funds pay for tuition, books, or fees.

    Amount: $5,000-$10,000

    Caroline E. Holt Nursing Scholarship
    Who Can Apply: The Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) have a long history of supporting the educational advancement of Americans. DAR provides scholarships to three students who prove financial need. Candidates must submit a 1,000-word career objective statement. Students living in Lowell, Massachusetts receive preference.

    Amount: $2,500

    Mildred Nutting Nursing Scholarship
    Who Can Apply: Viable candidates include students enrolled in an accredited nursing program who can prove financial hardship. Candidates located in Lowell, Massachusetts receive preference. Applicants should submit a 1,000-word career objective statement along with two letters of recommendation.

    Amount: $2,000

    Madeline Pickett (Halbert) Cogswell Nursing Scholarship
    Who Can Apply: The DAR offers this scholarship to two students each year who can provide proof of enrollment at accredited nursing programs. Applicants must have an affiliation with DAR through family or hold a current DAR membership. Additionally, applicants must submit two letters of recommendation and submit a 1,000-word statement outlining their career goals.

    Amount: $2,500

    Geraldine “Polly” Bednash Scholarship
    Who Can Apply: The American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) provides two scholarships each year to students enrolled in an accredited nursing program. The school must hold an AACN member status. Students may apply for this scholarship four times. Candidates must hold a minimum 3.2 GPA.

    Amount: $5,000

    Nurse Corps Scholarship Program
    Who Can Apply: The Health Resources and Services Administration offers scholarships to students enrolled in accredited programs who agree to work at eligible facilities upon graduation to address shortage needs. Students may only use funds for tuition and fees; however, students also receive a monthly stipend for personal expenses.

    Amount: Varies Scholarship
    Who Can Apply: This organization provides scholarships to nursing students with disabilities. Applicants must submit a valid medical verification of disability form. Other requirements include enrollment in an accredited nursing program and three letters of recommendation. Applicants must also submit a two-page essay.

    Amount: $250-$500

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