Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) Career Overview

March 4, 2022 , Updated on May 13, 2022 · 6 Min Read

Reviewed by Elizabeth Clarke, FNP, MSN, RN, MSSW

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Professionals interested in working with patients of all ages may want to pursue a career as a family nurse practitioner (FNP). FNPs perform exams, prescribe medications, and create treatment plans for patients of all ages.

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Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) Career Overview
Credit: Monkey Business Images / Shutterstock

What Does a Family Nurse Practitioner Do?

MSN required
certification optional

FNPs provide primary care for patients at all life stages, often in collaboration with healthcare teams. While FNPs prioritize preventative care, they can also treat serious illnesses. Other responsibilities may include ordering and interpreting lab tests, diagnosing patients, and managing treatment plans. FNP coursework focuses on these topics:

Primary Skills and Responsibilities

  • Ethical decision-making
  • Critical thinking
  • Effective communication
  • Diagnosing patients
  • Creating care plans
  • Collaborating with healthcare teams

While FNP training is broad, nurse practitioners may obtain certifications in specialized areas.

Jose Luis Pelaez Inc / DigitalVision / Getty Images

Where Do FNPs Work?

FNPs can work in nearly any healthcare facility, including hospitals, urgent care establishments, or emergency rooms. However, nearly 14.5% of FNPs work in hospital outpatient departments, while 13.3% work in inpatient areas in hospitals.

  • Hospitals

    FNPs conduct check-ups, order tests, and treat illnesses; they also perform procedures or assist in procedures, such as surgical or bedside.

  • Private Practice

    FNPs record patient health history, observe and assess symptoms, and prescribe medication.

  • Internal Medicine Clinic

    FNPs perform exams, treat illnesses and injuries, and prescribe medication.

Why Become a FNP?

Prospective FNPs should explore what this speciality offers before enrolling in a program. The lists below look at the career path's common advantages and disadvantages.

Advantages to Becoming a FNP

  • FNPs can focus on preventative care, teaching healthy patients to maintain their condition.
  • Practitioners build genuine relationships with their clients and clients' families.
  • Graduates enter a growing field. Government data projects a 45% job growth increase through 2029.

Disadvantages to Becoming a FNP

  • FNP schedules do not offer much flexibility outside of inpatient care, where practitioners can work three 12-hour shifts a week.
  • FNPs cover a broader scope of the field, requiring practitioners to stay current on more information than specialties that focus on a target population.
  • FNPs face increased liabilities which come with being able to diagnose, treat, and prescribe to patients.

How To Become a Family Nurse Practitioner

Earn an associate degree in nursing (ADN) or a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN).
Aspiring FNPs can begin their career by earning an ADN or a BSN. ADN holders must go on to earn a BSN or enroll in a bridge program.
Pass the NCLEX-RN to receive RN licensure.
ADN and BSN graduates from accredited programs qualify to take the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN) in their state. Licensure lets graduates acquire professional experience as an RN.
Earn an MSN.
RNs with 1-2 years of experience can enroll in an MSN program. FNPs need an advanced nursing degree to practice.
Pass the national FNP certification board exam.
Graduates can access these exams through the American Nurses Credentialing Center or the American Association of Nurse Practitioners.
Obtain state licensure as a nurse practitioner.
Applicants who pass the national FNP exam can apply for state licensure. Students should review their state’s guidelines to identify any additional requirements.

Featured Online MSN Programs

Certification Options for FNPs

FNPs do not need additional certifications to practice. However, certifications allow FNPs to establish a competitive advantage in the field and specialize in certain diseases.

Diabetes Management

The Board Certified-Advanced Diabetes Management certificate trains practitioners to manage complex care for patients with diabetes, which may include medication adjustments, consultations on lifestyle modifications, and addressing psychosocial problems.


  • Hold an RN, registered dietitian, registered pharmacist/doctor of pharmacy, physician assistant, or medical doctor/doctor of osteopathic medicine license
  • Earn an advanced nursing degree within two years of applying
  • Complete at least 500 clinical hours in advanced diabetes management

Renewal Cycle: 5 years

Pain Management

This certification identifies FNPs who apply pain pathophysiology and physiology to core nursing processes, producing healthy and effective results for patients.


  • Hold an unencumbered RN license
  • Complete two years of experience as an RN
  • Acquire at least 2,000 practice hours within three years of taking the certification exam
  • Earn 30 hours of continuing education credits within three years of taking the certification exam, including 15 hours in pain management

Renewal Cycle: 5 years

Obesity Management

The Certificate of Advanced Education in Obesity Medicine provides FNPs with evidence-based treatment options to help patients struggling with obesity.

Requirements: Earn at least 60 continuing education credits within three years of applying for certification

Renewal Cycle: N/A

Acute/Critical Care

The American Association of Critical-Care Nurses offers certifications in adult, pediatric, neonatal, and gerontology specialties. FNPs may want to complete multiple certifications to provide care for patients of all ages.


  • An unencumbered advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) license
  • The two-year certification requires 1,750 hours of direct care with critically ill patients.
  • The five-year certification requires 2,000 hours of direct care with critically ill patients.

Renewal Cycle: 2-5 years


The Orthopaedic Nurses Certification Board offers the only credential for orthopaedic nursing. This certification ensures FNPs understand pertinent areas of this specialty.


  • Hold a current license
  • Three years of experience as an RN or APRN
  • Hold a master's degree in nursing with a nurse practitioner focus area
  • Acquire 2,000 hours of experience working with musculoskeletal conditions within the past three years

Renewal Cycle: 5 years

Emergency Care Nurse Practitioner

Becoming an emergency nurse practitioner-board certified allows FNPs to care for patients in emergency situations. This certification is often required to practice in this niche area.


  • Hold an unencumbered RN license
  • Earn an advanced nursing degree from an accredited program
  • Earn at least 2,000 emergency care hours within five years of applying for certification

Renewal Cycle: 5 years

Careers Related to FNP

msn Required
High Demand

Pain Management Nurse Practitioner

Pain management nurse practitioners work with patients experiencing chronic or acute pain and prescribe treatments.
Salary $97,660
Job Outlook 19% job growth by the year 2022
Learn More About Pain Management Nurse Practitioners
msn Required
High Demand

Neonatal Nurse Practitioner

Neonatal nurse practitioners provide nursing care for newborn infants, generally in hospitals. While they care for infants, they also work with the new parents.
Salary $105,930
Job Outlook 31% job growth by the year 2026
Learn More About Neonatal Nurse Practitioners
msn or dnp Required
High Demand

Adult Nurse Practitioner

Adult nurse practitioners provide primary care for adults in a range of healthcare settings, including hospitals, health systems, and independent practices.
Salary $99,960
Job Outlook positive job outlook in coming years
Learn More About Adult Nurse Practitioners
msn Required
High Demand

Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner

Psychiatric nurse practitioners, also known as mental health nurse practitioners, specialize in providing mental health treatment, in both inpatient and outpatient settings.
Salary $109,910
Job Outlook 45% increase from 2019-2029
Learn More About Psychiatric Nurse Practitioners
msn Required

Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner

Women's health nurse practitioners specialize in women's health, especially obstetric and gynecological (ob/gyn) health. They typically work in hospitals, health systems, and independent practices.
Salary $92,410
Job Outlook 7% increase from 2019-2029
Learn More About Women’s Health Nurse Practitioners

How Much Do Family Nurse Practitioners Make?

Licensed FNPs enter a growing field that offers lucrative opportunities. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics shows a projected 45% increase in employment through 2029. Geographic location also plays a part in earning potential. States with the highest job growth rates include Arizona, Colorado, and Georgia.

FNPs should also note that multiple factors influence compensation. For instance, the 2019 AANP Compensation Overview indicates that nearly 70% of nurse practitioners hold salaried jobs, while the remaining hold hourly positions. Specialty areas also influence earning potential, and FNPs can earn $114,000 on average.

Frequently Asked Questions About FNPs

How long does it take to become a FNP?

Earning a FNP license can require 2-5 years depending on a student's education level. For instance, ADN holders do not complete the liberal arts portion of a BSN and may want to consider bridge programs. RNs with a BSN can apply directly to MSN programs.

Can FNPs prescribe medicine?

While nurse practitioners can prescribe medication, they must follow state regulations. Certain states require FNPs to establish an agreement with collaborating physicians, while other states offer full prescriptive authority. States may also require a probationary period during which FNPs collaborate with a physician.

How much does a FNP make in a year?

Multiple factors influence FNP earning potential , including geographic location, salaried positions versus hourly positions, and the type of healthcare organization practitioners work in. For instance, FNPs managing their own practice may earn more than practitioners working in clinics. However, FNPs earn about $114,000 on average.

What is the difference between a physician and FNP?

FNPs face increasing responsibilities, allowing them to perform many of the same duties as physicians. However, physicians spend more time training, which gives them more authority. Physicians obtain licensure from a medical board, while FNPs acquire their license from a nursing board.

Resources for Family Nurse Practitioners

  • AANP exists to improve the quality of healthcare through education, practice, and research. FNPs gain access to a vast network with over 118,000 members. Other membership benefits include free continuing education credits and free access to the Journal of American Association of Nurse Practitioners. Members also qualify for scholarships and grants.
  • The NONPF promotes cutting-edge education and resources for nurse practitioners. Member benefits include discounted rates for conferences, webinars, and Fitzgerald publications. NONPF also provides a free career center listing each year. Online resources include archives, papers, newsletters, and a simulation portal.
  • Established in 1896, ANA supports RNs by advocating for medicare reform, workplace safety, and reimbursement for healthcare services. Members can access free webinars, continuing education credits, and a career center. The association also hosts online forums, conferences, and state-level meetings.
  • Founded in 2010, the NBNPA primarily works with practitioners in Houston and the surrounding areas to improve healthcare-related disparities in underserved communities. NBNPA membership includes networking opportunities, discounted AANP membership, continuing education courses, and access to monthly meetings. Members can also access a career center and scholarship opportunities.
  • State nurses associations offer a powerful platform that protects members and strives to advance the nursing field. Core values include social responsibility, integrity, and collaboration. FNPs can access continuing education credits, career guidance, grants and scholarships, and weekly updates on important trending topics on the website.

Related FNP Career Resources

Related FNP Program Resources

Reviewed by:

Portrait of Elizabeth Clarke, FNP, MSN, RN, MSSW

Elizabeth Clarke, FNP, MSN, RN, MSSW

Elizabeth Clarke (Poon) is a board-certified family nurse practitioner who provides primary and urgent care to pediatric populations. She earned a BSN and MSN from the University of Miami.

Clarke is a paid member of our Healthcare Review Partner Network. Learn more about our review partners. is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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