Family Nurse Practitioners: Employment and Salary Trends

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Family Nurse Practitioners (FNPs) are licensed independent practitioners who practice in a variety of settings as primary and/or specialty care providers who emphasize health promotion, disease prevention, and community education. Entry-level NPs and nurse educators need at least a master’s degree, but more employers and communities are seeking NPs with post master’s or doctoral degrees. NP’s often get several years of experience as registered nurses (RNs) before pursuing a higher degree. This advanced education requires you to invest time and money, but will reward you with better employment opportunities and a higher paycheck in the long run.

How to Determine Your Salary

The most reliable salary data for nurses is pertinent to RNs or NPs, rather than the specific category of FNPs. While an FNP has more experience and education than a registered nurse (RN), earnings are determined by many factors including location and specialty. The following links provide an idea of what you can expect to earn in various settings:

  • The American Academy of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) conducted a survey in May 2011, based upon 6,680 responses by NPs. On average, respondents had almost 11 years of experience practicing as an NP. The majority of respondents reported that they either were family (38%) or adult (30%) NPs. The average yearly total compensation for all respondents was $94,050 and the mean hourly wage reported was $46.12.
  • The American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) provides information about salaries to various salary and job sites, including PayScale.com. The salary range for the category that includes NPs and FNPs is $61,881to $97,723 per year.
  • The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) determined the average salaries of RNs working in various clinical and administrative settings. Considering that this article focuses on the RN status, which doesn’t include masters or doctorate level nursing education, these rates are likely a low estimate of FNP salary.
  • The Health Resources and Services Administration conducted a sample survey of RNs in 2008 which indicated that salaries for RNs have increased more than threefold since 1980, from $17,398 to 66,973. However, “real” salaries accounting for inflation and other market factors have remained flatter, according to the graph below. These salaries do not reflect insurance costs that you may need to carry as an independent practitioner or benefits provided if you work for a health facility.

Employment Settings and Prospects

According to The Bureau of Labor Statistics, NPs fall under the group heading of health care practitioners and technical occupations. Employment for this category is expected to grow in certain types of facilities, with health practitioner offices seeing a 38.5% job growth, physicians’ offices seeing 34.2% job growth, and medical and diagnostic laboratories seeing 31.8% job growth by 2018.

These facilities offer a rich opportunity for NPs with master’s degree and specialized skills. Additionally, the HRSA’s sample survey of RNs in 2008 provided the following breakdown of which facilities provided the most employment for RNs:
http://bhpr.hrsa.gov/healthworkforce/rnsurveys/rnsurveyinitial2008.pdf

These percentages provide a good estimate of NP employment settings as well, since specific, reliable data on FNP employment is unavailable.

The Aging Nurse Population and What It Means for Employment Prospects

The median age of nurses has increased rapidly in the past three decades, and as more nurses retire and the need for replacements grows, there will be more opportunities for nurses who can teach, conduct research as well as practice nursing. The median age for nurses achieving their first doctoral degree is 45, and 49% of nurses who achieve their doctorate go into the service industry, which further diminishes the field of qualified nurse educators to train new nurses. Young nurses who are willing to quickly earn their doctorate and go into education will find themselves in demand in the next decade as more nurses retire and need to be replaced.

How to Ensure Your Success as an FNP

To be a successful FNP, find a specialty that you’re passionate about, and be willing to commit to learning about it and practicing in it for years. What’s more, the time commitment for reaching a doctoral degree in nursing is lessening. There is a growing movement toward accelerated BSN to DNP or PhD programs that allow nurses to reach doctorate level degrees in five years.

If you’re just starting out, and know you want to achieve a doctorate, it will be worthwhile to find an accelerated program. This is one way that NPs are becoming leaders in primary and acute health care as they combine the roles of care-provider, mentor, educator, researcher and administrator. NP programs cultivate these skills, along with knowledge competencies essential to all NPs, regardless of sub-specialty or population focus.

According to the AANP, competencies are organized into seven realms including:

  • Management of patient health/illness status
  • NP-patient relationship
  • Teaching-coaching function
  • Professional role
  • Managing and negotiating health care delivery systems
  • Monitoring and ensuring the quality of health care practices
  • Culturally-sensitive care

Ensuring the highest level of care for your patients requires national certification, periodic peer review, clinical outcome evaluations, a code for ethical practice, evidence of continuing professional development and maintenance of clinical skills. You can accomplish many of these efforts by leading and participating in both professional and lay health care forums, by conducting research and by applying research findings to clinical practice.

The nursing expertise gained through doctoral level studies will not only earn you more money, it will also allow you to influence others in your field, and to mold the professional standards for the nursing community. FNPs accomplish this through involvement in professional organizations and participation in health policy activities at the local, state, national, and international levels.

Other Factors That Influence Salary

No matter how good your education, or how much experience you have, there are other factors that can influence your salary as an FNP:

  • Population focus: There is growing demand for NPs in rural areas and inner cities. Often, NPs charge less for primary care services than MDs, which makes them more affordable, but also diminishes earnings.
  • Location: According to the US Department of Labor’s Occupational Employment Statistics from 2010, the states with the highest pay for RNs are California, Massachusetts, Hawaii, Alaska, and Maryland.
  • Specialty: According to the HRSA’s sample survey, there are far fewer nurse anesthetists and nurse midwives than there are nurse practitioners. NPs with unique specialties can potentially demand greater compensation.

There are many resources, both financial and informational, in place to help you pursue a degree as an FNP. Nursing is a demanding path, but the impressive salaries, rapid job growth, and the emotional rewards of helping others make this career a worthwhile investment.

It was not always possible to earn a family nurse practitioner degree online, but shifts in education have allowed more accredited schools these programs entirely online. While online FNP programs are still relatively new, dozens of master and doctoral nurse programs are available. To see if a school offers the right program for you, use the links below to contact a school to learn more.

Georgetown University
MSN in FNP Specialization
Georgetown University — Georgetown University is one of the few schools offering an online program for student pursuing a career as a family nurse practitioner. Established in 1789, Georgetown is one of America's oldest institutions for higher education and now offers over 100 programs through its eight schools from business to medicine and healthcare.
Kaplan University
MSN to DNP in Family Nurse Practitioner
Kaplan University — In addition to its several online nursing programs, Kaplan University has a MSN to DNP in Family Nurse Practitioner. Originally the American Institute of Commerce founded in 1937, Kaplan is one of the largest online schools with 70 campuses across the country and offers almost 200 online programs at the associate, bachelor, master, and doctoral levels.
University of Cincinnati
MSN in Women's Health Nurse Practitioner
MSN in Nurse Midwifery
University of Cincinnati — If you want to advance your career in nursing, the University of Cincinnati offers online degrees for nursing professionals including an MSN in Women's Health or Nursing Midwifery. UC was founded in 1819 and while the school now has over 42,000 students, the student to faculty ratio is only 15 to one, so you get the support and attention you need as you pursue your degree.
South University
MSN in Nurse Practitioner
South University — South University has an impressive online division that is convenient for working professionals trying to earn their MSN. A Georgia-based school, South U was founded in 1889 and now offers almost 30 online programs and has schools in eight states.

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