FNP vs. AGNP: What’s the Difference?

Updated July 8, 2022 · 5 Min Read

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Considering a career as a family nurse practitioner or adult-gerontology nurse practitioner, but not sure which? Learn about FNP vs. AGNP careers to help you decide.

FNP vs. AGNP: What’s the Difference?
Credit: Courtney Hale | E+ | Getty Images

Both family nurse practitioners (FNPs) and adult-geriatric nurse practitioners (AGNPs) are advanced practice nurses who provide care for adolescents and adults. Both can act as primary care providers and have similar licensing requirements.

The most significant difference between a family nurse practitioner and an adult-gerontology nurse practitioner is that FNPs care for patients of all ages, including children, while AGNPs care only for adolescents through adults. Another difference is that AGNPs can specialize in primary or acute care, while FNPs only offer primary care.

Both are excellent career choices with similar salaries and responsibilities, so it can be a difficult choice. This guide outlines the similarities and differences and gives you information to help you choose either an FNP vs. AGNP career. Keep reading to learn more and make the best choice for your goals.

FNP and AGNP Key Similarities and Differences

What Is a Family Nurse Practitioner?

An FNP provides primary care for both children and adults. This is the broadest practice population and the most popular NP specialty; 69.7% of NPs are FNPs, according to the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP).

What Is an Adult-Gerontology Nurse Practitioner?

AGNPs can provide either acute or primary care. (Acute care provides care during a specific injury or illness, while primary care provides long-term wellness care.) According to the AANP, 7.0% of NPs specialize in AGNP primary care and 2.9% specialize in acute care.


Both care for adults and adolescents, but FNPs also provide care for infants and children. Despite the name, adult-gerontology NPs treat adults of all ages, from adolescence onwards, as well as geriatric patients. Only AGNPs choose between primary and acute care specialization.

FNP vs. AGNP
Points to Consider Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) Adult-Gerontology Nurse Practitioner (AGNP)
Degree Required Master of science in nursing (MSN) or doctor of nursing practice (DNP) MSN or DNP
Certification Options American Academy of Nurse Practitioners Certification Board and the American Nurses Credentialing Center American Academy of Nurse Practitioners Certification Board and the American Nurses Credentialing Center
Population Foci All ages Adolescents and older
Median Annual Salary $107,000, according to the AANP $107,000, according to the AANP

Duties and Responsibilities

Both FNPs and AGNPs are responsible for assessing patients, ordering tests, diagnosing conditions, and prescribing treatment. They also maintain medical records, provide patient education, and may supervise other nursing staff.

Depending on the state regulations, FNPs and AGNPs may practice entirely independently (full-practice authority) or may need to be in a collaborative relationship with a supervising physician.

What Does a Family Nurse Practitioner Do?

Family nurse practitioners act as primary care providers in hospitals and health systems, independent practices, clinics, or other healthcare settings.nThey care for patients of all ages, though they may refer patients with complex needs to more specialized clinicians, either other advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) or physicians. A large difference between an FNP and AGNP is that an FNP can treat from birth on.

FNPs perform many of the same tasks that physicians do, including:

  • Seeing patients of all ages, including pediatric patients
  • Ordering medical tests
  • Diagnosing conditions
  • Prescribing treatments
  • Prescribing medications
  • Updating medical records
  • Educating patients and family members

What Does an Adult-Gerontology Nurse Practitioner Do?

AGNPs treat adult patients (which, in medicine, includes adolescents) of all ages. They may specialize in primary care, which emphasizes a patient's ongoing health needs and wellness, or in acute care, treating episodic conditions or injuries.

Acute care specialists are more likely to work in clinics or urgent care centers, while primary care specialists are more likely to work in independent offices. In either setting, their responsibilities are very similar to FNP responsibilities, including:

  • Seeing adolescent and adult patients
  • Ordering medical tests
  • Diagnosing conditions
  • Prescribing treatments
  • Prescribing medications
  • Updating medical records
  • Educating patients and family members

Education and Certification

Both FNPs and AGNPs are APRNs. This requires earning at least an MSN degree, passing the applicable board certification examination, and completing a criminal background check with fingerprinting.

The most common career path is to earn a bachelor's and then an MSN, but many schools offer RN-to-MSN bridge programs for nurses with an associate degree in nursing.

How to Become a Family Nurse Practitioner

Family nurse practitioner programs typically take two years for a full-time student with a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN). The curriculum covers assessment, diagnosis, and treatment for patients of all ages, including infants. It also has clinical hours with different categories of patients.

Programs typically require a rotation in maternity or women's health. This may include a split course with half the semester dedicated to OB/GYN care and the other half dedicated to pediatrics.

  • Education and degree requirements include a current and unencumbered RN license, a BSN or associate degree in nursing (typically with at least a 3.0 GPA), and a clear criminal background check. Many schools require or strongly prefer 1-2 years of work as an RN.
  • Both the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners Certification Board and the American Nurses Credentialing Center offer FNP certification.
  • Both require an MSN or higher degree from an accredited program and a current RN license. Your state may have additional licensing requirements beyond board certification.

How to Become an Adult-Gerontology Nurse Practitioner

AGNP programs generally take two years, like FNP programs, and nurses with an ADN can enter a bridge program. The curriculum is narrower than the FNP curriculum, since it doesn't include infancy or childhood conditions, diagnosis, or treatments, and clinical hours don't include work with child patients.

  • Like FNP programs, you must have a current and unencumbered RN license, a BSN or associate nursing degree (usually at least a 3.0 GPA), and a clear criminal background check. Most schools prefer at least 1-2 years of experience as an RN with adult patients.
  • Both the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners Certification Board and the American Nurses Credentialing Center offer AGNP certification.
  • To take either exam, you must have at least an MSN from an accredited program and a current RN license. Check your state board of nursing for other licensing requirements.

Salary and Career Outlook

As you'd expect from such similar careers, the family nurse practitioner vs. adult-gerontology nurse practitioner differences aren't reflected in salaries for primary care. However, according to the AANP, AGNP acute care specialists earn a median $112,000, somewhat higher than the median $107,000 for FNPs and for AGNP primary care specialists.

$107,000
Median Annual Family Nurse Practitioner Salary
AANP

$107,000
Median Annual Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner Salary
AANP

$112,000
Median Annual Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner Salary
AANP

Family Nurse Practitioner Salary and Career Outlook

Because of the shortage of primary care physicians, family nurse practitioners are in high demand. The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects 52% growth for all nurse practitioners between 2020 and 2030. The AANP reports a median salary of $107,000 for all FNPs.

NPs of all specialties in Veterans Affairs (VA) facilities earn a median $124,000, and home health NPs earn a median $119,000, so work locations make a difference, as do geographic region and experience.

Adult-Gerontology Nurse Practitioner Salary and Career Outlook

As the United States population ages, demand for AGNPs is likely to increase, especially with the additional shortage of both primary care and specialty physicians. The BLS projects 52% growth for all NPs, but growth for AGNPs might be even faster.

Many of the highest-paying locations, such as VA settings (which pay a median $124,000), hospital inpatient ($115,050), home health ($119,000), and long-term care and hospital outpatient facilities ($110,000) hire AGNPs. (Salary data is from the AANP.)


FNP vs. AGNP: Which Career Is Right for Me?

The family nurse practitioner vs. adult-gerontology nurse practitioner career decision depends on your specific career goals and preferences. Salaries and job growth are strong for both, and both offer the same type of workplace settings. They also require the same level of education and certification.

If you think you might later want to specialize further, specialize in pediatric care, or simply want to work with children as part of your practice, an FNP certification will let you work with any age range.

However, what if you think you might want to specialize in gerontology, behavioral health, hospice or palliative care, or other conditions that mostly affect adults? In that case, an AGNP specialty will give you more experience in those areas. Only AGNPs can specialize in acute care, as well.

When making your FNP vs. AGNP decision, talking to mentors, networking at professional events, and discussing your options with school admission staff can be very helpful. Whichever you choose, you are launching on a personally and financially rewarding career with high levels of professional autonomy and the chance to make a difference.

Page last reviewed April 18, 2022


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