Best Online Family Nurse Practitioner Programs

by Staff Writers

Family nurse practitioners are advanced practice nurses and serve as both primary and specialty experts for their patients, assisting clients of all ages.

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Earning an advanced practice registered nurse degree (APRN) creates opportunities for professionals who want to make an impact on their patient’s lives. Family nurse practitioners serve as both primary and specialty experts for their patients, assisting clients of all ages with diverse needs.

Due to the global demand for family nurse practitioners who can provide preventative care, professionals have opportunities in many geographical locations. In fact, data provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects the job outlook for nurse practitioners will increase 45% through 2029. While some students choose to complete coursework on campus, online opportunities offer the same quality education.

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Top Online Family Nurse Practitioner Programs of 2021

Rank School Location
1 Georgetown University Washington, DC
2 Herzing University Madison, WI
3 Duke University Durham, NC
4 Vanderbilt University Nashville, TN
5 Kent State University Kent, OH

Family Nurse Practitioner Online Programs: An Overview

This section contains program specific information including how to qualify, time commitment, potential coursework, and licensure information. However, the best online family nurse practitioner programs have their own curriculum standards and often create unique courses or electives. Therefore, some details may differ from information on this list.

Admission Requirements for an Online Family Nurse Practitioner Program

While admission requirements vary, online family nurse practitioner (FNP) programs expect candidates to have their registered nurse (RN) license. Typically, candidates also have a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) from an accredited university. However, FNP programs combined with a master’s degree in nursing accept RNs with an associate degree in nursing.

FNP programs value work experience. Students should highlight any leadership experience and collect letters of recommendation from licensed professionals. Most schools also look for applicants who have a minimum 3.0 GPA. Many online FNP programs do not require GRE scores for admission.

How Long Does It Take to Complete an Online Family Nurse Practitioner Program?

On average, full-time students can complete an online family nurse practitioner program in just two years. However, students enrolled in schools that follow traditional, 16-week semesters can complete coursework during summer sessions to graduate sooner. Similarly, students may take heavier course loads during the semester to shorten graduation timelines. Many online programs often follow a cohort-style format. Cohorts allow students to complete their courses with the same group of students each semester, which builds relationships between classmates.

Most programs allow students to attend part time, which can double program lengths. Students with difficult schedules can enroll in self-paced programs, which offer the most flexibility. However, this format can extend program lengths. Because each university designs their own curriculum, the number of required credits range from 45 to 55 credit hours.

Featured Online Programs

Example Courses for Online Family Nurse Practitioner Programs

Online nurse practitioner programs address foundational knowledge and theories. Programs may differ by university. For instance, some programs may offer many electives or require more courses than others. Below are sample courses that may be included in your program:

  • Nursing Care of the Childbearing and Childrearing Family: This course focuses on concepts and systematic processes used to care for childbearing and child rearing patients and their families. Topics include navigating neonatal, postpartum, and child rearing from birth to adolescence. Students learn to view situations from an ethical perspective. This course emphasizes problem solving and critical thinking.
  • Advanced Pharmacotherapeutics: This course examines underlying disease processes, therapeutic use of pharmacotherapeutic agents, and treatment methods. Courses examine case studies and look at the rationale for using selected pharmacotherapy interventions and explain the pharmacology of prescribed drugs. Students also explore how government regulation influences the development of selected drugs.
  • Advanced Assessment and Diagnostic: This course emphasizes comprehensive psychosocial, physical and cultural assessment data across the lifespan for nursing care, including specialty areas. Students practice using diagnostic reasoning processes to establish patient-centered care plans.
  • Advanced Pathophysiology: Advanced pathophysiology examines how diseases behind illnesses manifest throughout the lifespan, which includes injury disease risk factors and therapeutic interventions. Students learn the relationship between system alterations as a result of disease and normal physiology. This course emphasizes health and illness factors. This course utilizes current case studies to facilitate discussions.
  • Leadership and Health Policy: Students examine documentation released by the Department of Health Policy and Management. This course also covers leadership in relation to organizational structures and workplace behavior. Students will examine how legal statutes impact current outcomes of healthcare delivery.

Internship Component

Students enrolling in online family nurse practitioner programs should understand that FNP students must also meet graduation and licensure requirements outside of the classroom. In fact, depending on the state, students should have between 550 and 850 clinical hours.

While on-campus students are placed by their schools, online FNP students must arrange their own placements at local facilities. Schools may provide assistance to students in need of placement. Students working for relevant organizations may complete clinical hours at their job outside of their work schedules. FNP students can also earn clinical hours at local organizations through unpaid internships.

Certifications and Licenses This Program Prepares For

  • Family Nurse Practitioner-Board Certification (FNP-BC): The American Nurses Credentialing Center offers an FNP-BC certification that meets the advanced practice registered nurse consensus model. Initial applications include a computerized exam and applicants have a 90-day window to apply. FNPs must renew their certification every five years. Applicants must have a current license when applying.
  • FNP-C: The American Academy of Nurse Practitioners offers a national competency-based certification. The exam measures pertinent FNP knowledge and skills. The exam contains 150 multiple-choice questions.

Accreditation for Online Family Nurse Practitioner Programs

Students considering online family nurse practitioner schools must attend accredited programs. At the school level, students should look for national or regional accreditation, which ensures the institution meets nationwide standards of academic excellence. Students should also consider programmatic accrediting agencies, which exist through input from subject matter experts who outline what should be in a field-specific program. Students may 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

Where Do Family Nurse Practitioners Work?

Many FNPs provide outpatient services at primary care clinics where they manage chronic conditions and treat minor injuries. FNPs may also collaborate with other specialists to ensure quality care for their clients. FNPs working in hospitals have similar responsibilities as FNPs working in primary care clinics. However, depending on the department, they might work with clients who have more acute cases. Some FNPs choose to work for school systems where they promote health education and address the needs of adolescents. Currently, the demand for FNPs specializing in geriatrics has increased due to the growing elderly population.

How Much Do Family Nurse Practitioner Graduates Make?

Students should consider geographical location and possible professions to gauge earning potential. For instance, the BLS indicates FNPs who work in outpatient care centers earn $123,850 on average. The top paying states include California, New Jersey, Washington, New York, and Massachusetts. The following table includes data from Payscale regarding related professions by career level.

Advanced Practice Registered Nurse
Overall Median Salary $92,480
Median Salary for Entry-Level Employees (0-5 years) $88,000
Median Salary for Mid-Career Employees (5-10 years) $99,000
Median Salary for Late-Career Employees (20+ years) $100,000

Source: Payscale

Advanced Registered Nurse Practitioner
Overall Median Salary $92,5512
Median Salary for Entry-Level Employees (0-5 years) $89,000
Median Salary for Mid-Career Employees (5-10 years) $98,000
Median Salary for Late-Career Employees (20+ years) $104,000

Source: Payscale

Nurse Practitioner
Overall Median Salary $92,392
Median Salary for Entry-Level Employees (0-5 years) $90,000
Median Salary for Mid-Career Employees (5-10 years) $97,000
Median Salary for Late-Career Employees (20+ years) $105,000

Source: Payscale

Primary Care Registered Nurse
Overall Median Salary $62,919
Median Salary for Entry-Level Employees (0-5 years) $53,000
Median Salary for Mid-Career Employees (5-10 years) $61,000
Median Salary for Late-Career Employees (20+ years) $70,000

Source: Payscale

Professional Organizations

The nursing field continues to expand, leading to new advancements and challenges. FNPs benefit from collaborative opportunities with other professionals in their field, which can lead to mentorship opportunities, annual conferences, professional development, and job opportunities. Professional organizations provide exposure to current information and technology through continuing education (CE) programs, webinars, and online journals, benefiting both professionals and students. The list below outlines organizations FNPs can join.

  • American Association of Nurse Practitioners

    Since 1995, this organization has advocated for nurse practitioners in all areas of practice. Members can access online resources including journals and forums. AANP also offers valuable continuing education coursework to help professionals keep their credentials current.
  • American Nurses Association Enterprise

    The American Nurses Association sets standards for nursing practice. Members have access to networking opportunities including webinars and annual conferences. Additionally, members can access multiple online resources.
  • Nurse Practitioners in Women’s Health

    NPWH advocates for research and improved practices related to women’s health. Members have access to online journals, the NPWH e-learning portal, and CE courses. Members can also attend the annual conference for networking exposure.

Financing Your Online Family Nurse Practitioner Program

Earning an advanced degree in nursing can lead to a lucrative career. However, many students need financial assistance to pay for their degrees. Make sure to fill out a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). While FAFSA includes grants and government loans, students may also qualify for work-study programs. Many organizations also set aside scholarship dollars for FNPs. The list below contains eight possible scholarships:

Scholarships for Family Nurse Practitioner Students

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 receive funds for tuition and fees as well as a monthly stipend for personal expenses.

Amount: Varies

Geraldine “Polly” Bednash Scholarship

Who Can Apply: The American Association of Colleges of Nursing 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

Hurst Review/AACN Scholarship

Who Can Apply: Hurst Review Services and the AACN offer nursing students scholarships each year. Students should check to see if their program holds AACN membership prior to applying.

Amount: $2,500

Caroline E. Holt Nursing Scholarship

Who Can Apply: For nearly 130 years, the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) have supported the educational advancement of Americans. Each year, three students who can prove financial need receive these scholarships. Applicants must provide a transcript or an acceptance letter from their university.

Amount: $2,500

Mildred Nutting Nursing Scholarship

Who Can Apply: Students currently enrolled in an accredited nursing program who can prove financial hardship may qualify to receive this scholarship. Candidates in Lowell, Massachusetts receive preference. Applicants should submit a 1,000-word career objective statement along with a minimum of 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 at least two letters of recommendation and submit a 1,000-word statement outlining their career goals.

Amount: $2,500 Scholarship

Who Can Apply: This organization provides scholarships to nursing students with disabilities. Applicants must submit a valid medical verification of disability form. Students must be enrolled in an accredited nursing program. Applicants must also submit three letters of recommendation and an essay.

Amount: $250-$500

Explore the Best Online Family Nurse Practitioner Programs and School Info

Georgetown University View School Profile Washington, DC

Georgetown University — a private, Catholic-affiliated school located in Washington, D.C. — offers one of the best online family nurse practitioner programs. Students can enroll either full time or part time. Full-time students complete the program in about one and a half years, or five semesters. Part-time learners complete the program in seven semesters. All students must participate in 650 clinical hours. The school also requires completion of two on-campus intensive courses.

The curriculum at Georgetown focuses on treating patients at any stage of life. Students learn how to assess common and acute illnesses in a primary care setting. They also learn how to dictate treatment plans and prescribe medication. Once students complete their coursework, they must take a family nurse practitioner certification exam from either the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) or the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners Certification Program (AANP).

Herzing University View School Profile Madison, WI

Located in Madison, Wisconsin, Herzing University administers an online family nurse practitioner program, with no GRE required. To apply, candidates need only an active nursing license and a bachelor’s degree in nursing with a minimum 3.0 GPA. Once admitted to Herzing’s program, incoming students can choose one of six start dates. They must complete 48 credits of coursework and 675 clinical hours. Learners generally finish the program in 20 months.

Students must enroll in both core and emphasis courses. The core curriculum covers nonspecific nursing topics, like nursing informatics for advanced practice, health policy and management, and theoretical foundations for nursing. Nurse practitioner concentration classes make up 23 credits of the family nurse curriculum. Learners take courses like healthcare for women across the lifespan, healthcare for infants and children, and healthcare for geriatric patients. Students also explore their own career options in classes covering roles for nurse practitioners.

Duke University View School Profile Durham, NC

The online family nurse practitioner postgraduate program at the Duke University School of Nursing provides students with both an MSN and a postgraduate certificate option. Students must earn 49 course credits and 728 clinical hours. Duke offers specializations within the family nurse practitioner program: cardiology, endocrinology, oncology, orthopedics, pediatric behavioral and mental health, or HIV/AIDS care.

Duke’s curriculum involves four core courses and three courses covering pathology, physiology, physical assessment, and pharmacology. These courses prepare nurses to take on responsibilities like diagnoses and treatment independent of doctor approval. Learners must also enroll in clinical courses.

Duke asks applicants to submit GRE scores. The school waives this requirement if students earned a GPA above 3.4 while pursuing their bachelor’s degrees. Candidates must also submit three recommendation letters and a personal statement.

Vanderbilt University View School Profile Nashville, TN

At Vanderbilt University, students can complete the online family nurse practitioner program almost entirely through distance learning. However, Vanderbilt requires students to visit campus throughout the year, regardless of where they reside. Full-time students must visit Vanderbilt 10 times, while part-time students attend one on-campus orientation. Following these on-campus visits, students complete online classwork and participate in virtual discussions with their classmates. Vanderbilt calls this scheduling format “block scheduling.”

The curriculum offers two dual focus specialties: the emergency family nurse practitioner concentration or the nurse midwifery/family nurse practitioner concentration. Students take advanced nursing practice courses in subjects like pharmacotherapeutics and primary care for women. Vanderbilt’s curriculum plan also requires students to complete 630 clinical hours and a practicum in primary healthcare for families.

Applicants should possess a bachelor’s degree. However, they do not need clinical nursing experience, nor do they need to submit GRE scores.

Kent State University View School Profile Kent, OH

Kent State University runs an online family nurse practitioner program that consists of 47 course credits and 675 practicum hours. Full-time students complete the program in two years, while part-time students need three years. Kent State also administers a family nurse practitioner post-master’s certificate for nurses with graduate degrees.

All students must take core courses like advanced nursing informatics and health policy for nursing. Nurses pursuing their family nurse practitioner degrees also take classes covering advanced health assessment, gerontology, and clinical diagnostics. Family nurse practitioner students must also complete five practicums in areas like pediatrics and chronic illness.

To apply, candidates must possess a bachelor’s in nursing from an accredited college. They should also have at least a 3.0 undergraduate GPA. In addition, prospective students should hold an active nursing license. Applicants do not need to take the GRE, unless they apply to Kent State’s joint MSN/MBA program.

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