The Ultimate Guide to the Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) Career – Average Salary, Education and More

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A nurse practitioner (NP) is a registered nurse (RN) who has achieved a master’s degree and received in-depth training in a specialized field such as women’s health or pediatric care. Family nurse practitioners (FNPs) typically have more autonomy than RNs, and can even run their own practices without a physician in some states. Becoming a family nurse practitioner (FNP) can be a great career move for a registered nurse (RN) who would like to work in a more specialized field. FNPs generally have more earning power and more opportunities for career advancement than RNs.

What does an FNP do?

Although FNPs do many of the same tasks as RNs, their extra training and certification allows them more authority in choosing and carrying out treatment plans. An FNP working as a primary care provider will likely care for patients of all ages, and will often see the same patients through childhood and into adulthood and old age. Some common FNP responsibilities are:

  • Diagnose disease and order a course of treatment
  • Manage chronic disease
  • Order and evaluate diagnostic tests
  • Prescribe medications
  • Order physical therapy and other rehabilitation.
  • Conduct physical examinations
  • Educate patients about healthy behaviors

The specific responsibilities of any FNP will be influenced by their level of experience, field of specialty, and the type of facility they work in, but the above duties are common in most settings.

Career Opportunities for FNPs

Hospitals are the largest employers of RNs in the US, but many FNPs choose between opening their own family practice, or joining an established one with other NPs or doctors. However, after becoming an NP, there are various specialties that you can pursue that will lead you into different settings. Nurse midwives concentrate specifically on aiding women throughout pregnancies and during childbirth, and certified registered nurse anesthetists (CRNAs) specialize in administering anesthesia. Other nurse practitioner specialties include:

  • Geriatric care
  • Pediatric care
  • Psychiatric care
  • Neonatology

These specialties require different types of certification than family practice, but are easier to pursue for FNPs, since they already have a Master of Science in nursing.

Additionally, FNPs can be involved in clinical research or nursing education, although this might require you to achieve a doctoral level degree or a PhD in nursing. Becoming a nurse educator is slightly less lucrative than being a care provider, but due to high demand for new nurses and explosive growth across the medical field, nurses who teach are greatly needed.

It is also possible to travel as an FNP. The Department of Veterans Affairs is running a three-year pilot program to hire RNs for temporary nursing assignments at VA medical centers across the US. Additionally, many cruises and tours have a health staff on board, and there are abundant opportunities to work for medical agencies in developing countries.

Education Requirements and Licensure

A Bachelor of Science in nursing and a Master of Science in nursing are the minimum educational requirements to become an FNP. Every state requires some type of certification for FNPs to practice, but the regulations vary by state. The specific regulation information for each state can be found by contacting that state’s board of nursing. Additionally, 24 states are members of the Nurse Licensure Compact (NLC), which allows nurses who reside in a member state to be licensed to work in any of the member states. The NLC is growing in popularity as both a streamlining effort and a way to increase cooperation among state nursing boards across the US.

There are ample opportunities for financial assistance for aspiring FNPs. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) of 2010 allotted $30 million to help RNs become NPs, and to encourage part time students to become full-time ones so they will enter the workforce sooner. There are many scholarships, both governmental and privately funded, to help FNPs finish their educations.

Continuing education is a major responsibility for FNPs. The medical industry innovates rapidly, and FNPs must regularly update their knowledge of medicine, technology and policy changes in their field. Every state requires FNPs to show proof of continuing education, although the scope of the requirements may differ between states.

Career Outlook for a Family Nurse Practitioner

Two parallel forces are driving growing demand for nurse practitioners:

  1. The average age of nurses has increased rapidly since the 1980s, and many nurses are expected to retire in the next decade.
  2. A deficit of nurse educators means that not everyone who wants to become a nurse can get into a good program, and retiring nurses are not being replaced as fast as they should be.

These factors point to a peachy outlook for well educated nurses. RNs are in growing demand all over the country, and the higher education and specialization of NPs will only make them more employable.The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that demand for nurses will increase by 23% in the next decade. The chart below depicts the employment status of RNs from 1980-2008. The percentage of RNs who are employed full time has increased by over 10% since 1980.

http://bhpr.hrsa.gov/healthworkforce/rnsurveys/rnsurveyinitial2008.pdf

Additionally, the ACA allotted $15 million for the creation of new nurse practitioner-led clinics to lessen the damage from the primary care provider shortage. These new clinics will create more leadership roles for nurses, as well as creating new jobs at every level of the clinical ecosystem.

The Location Factor

Underserved areas such as rural communities and inner cities have a special need for NPs who provide primary care at a lower cost than MDs. There is a growing shortage of primary care physicians, and the number of medical students choosing primary care as a focus is decreasing. FNPs are starting to take over these primary care responsibilities.These areas offer excellent opportunities for an aspiring FNP with a desire to help others and educate patients. Additionally, the government offers tax breaks for primary care providers working in underserved areas, which may offset the lower earnings available there.

How Much Money do FNPs Earn?

PayScale.com reports that family nurse practitioners can expect to earn a salary of between $68,000 and almost $84,000 a year, but your location and the type of facility you work in can also affect your pay. California, Massachusetts, Alaska, Hawaii, and Maryland have the highest average incomes for RNs in the U.S., according to a BLS survey.

When considering salary offers, it’s important to consider all factors that influence pay. An FNP’s salary is dependent on certain considerations such as:

  • educational background
  • years of experience
  • area of specialty – geriatric, pediatric, or psychiatric care

Negotiating pay is a standard practice, and if you come to the table with professional experience and an advanced degree, consider yourself in a fortunate situation. Make sure to highlight your areas of proficiency such as research, patient care, community outreach, and other skills. Employers look for a wide-variety of talents, experiences, and backgrounds so don’t sell yourself short.

Is Being an FNP for You?

If you enjoy helping people get healthy and teaching them how to stay healthy, then a career as an FNP is worth looking into. The rigorous education and certification requirements are not easy to meet, but there are many informational and financial resources to help people who choose to become FNPs. Talking to a practicing NP or FNP could also help you learn more about getting your degree and working in the nursing field. Our list of accredited schools will help you find the right program to meet your career goals.

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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