Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP): Job Description, Salary, and How to Become One

FNPs are trained at the graduate level and have earned their Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) or their Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP). Careers

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If you're a registered nurse (RN) looking to support patients and families more meaningfully, becoming a family nurse practitioner (FNP) may be right for you.

An FNP is a skilled and experienced advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) who serves as a primary care provider in a variety of healthcare systems and settings.

To help you discover if it suits your interests, we've detailed everything you need to know about becoming an FNP, from what they do and their responsibilities to how much they make and the steps to becoming one. 

FNP Job Description

FNPs are trained at the graduate level and have earned their Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) or their Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP). This advanced training prepares an FNP to provide primary and specialty care to patients of all ages, including infants, adolescents, adults, and seniors, in various settings throughout a patient's lifespan. They can also obtain certifications based on the needs of their communities, such as diabetes management.

FNPs prioritize health promotion and preventative care. This involves educating about healthy lifestyles, conducting routine checkups, and addressing health concerns before they escalate, encouraging patients to maintain their health and well-being throughout their lifetime.

Like primary care providers, FNPs are fully autonomous in diagnosing, treating, and managing acute and chronic illnesses and injuries. They also collaborate with other healthcare providers to ensure their patients receive comprehensive, individualized care.  

FNPs are eligible to prescribe medications in all fifty states and territories of the U.S., though some states or regions may have reduced or restricted practice regulations, meaning an NP may need to be overseen by another healthcare provider or may be limited in at least one area of their practice.

Related: Best Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) Programs in 2023

FNP Responsibilities

  • Provide health promotion and disease prevention services 
  • Perform health assessments and physical exams
  • Order, perform, and evaluate diagnostic tests
  • Diagnose acute, chronic, and complex health problems
  • Prescribe medications and non-pharmacological treatments
  • Develop and manage treatment plans
  • Follow up and evaluate patient status
  • Maintain patient records
  • Patient, family, and community education and counseling
  • Coordinate patient care and make referrals as needed

FNP Places of Work

FNPs work in various primary care healthcare systems and settings, including:

  • Private practices 
  • Outpatient clinics 
  • Community health centers
  • Public health departments
  • Nursing homes
  • School clinics
  • Homeless shelters
  • Hospitals
  • Urgent care centers

Working as an FNP is less about the care setting and more about the needs of the patient, family, and community they serve. 

Benefits of Becoming an FNP

As the population continues to grow and age, there is a need for more primary care physicians and services in the United States. FNPs are stepping in to fill this primary care gap for communities in need. 

Becoming an FNP can be a fulfilling career, providing working nurses with more autonomy and the ability to change patient outcomes at the preventative level. They also receive higher pay.

Family Nurse Practitioner Salary

The average annual salary for an FNP is $139,918, with the 25th percentile earning  $97,000-$119,000 and the 75th percentile earning $189,000-$232,000.

Salary for an FNP grows with experience: 

  • 1-3 years experience: $107,543
  • 7-9 years experience: $122,983
  • 15+ years experience: $138,489

Geographic location also plays a significant role in determining salaries, as FNPs in certain states earn significantly more or less than the national average.

States with the highest FNP salaries:

  • New York: $128,012
  • New Hampshire: $119,032
  • Vermont: $117,451

States with the lowest FNP salaries: 

  • Texas: $89,363
  • Louisiana: $85,244
  • North Carolina:: $79,881

These numbers significantly differ from the highs and lows listed above, as the aggregate data in this section is from ZipRecruiter, while the aggregate data above is from Glassdoor. Unfortunately, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) does not make a distinction between APRN and NP salaries. 

Family Nurse Practitioner Job Outlook

While no data is specific to the FNP job outlook, the BLS predicts APRN employment will grow 40% from 2021 to 2031, with an estimated 112,700 new NP job openings. 

FNPs will be particularly needed to provide preventative and primary care, an area of healthcare already facing strain. Additionally, as the large baby-boom population ages, more primary care practitioners will be needed to support this demographic in maintaining their overall health and managing chronic conditions that come with aging. 

Five Steps to Become an FNP

Step 1: Basic Nursing Education

Becoming an FNP starts with obtaining your nursing degree, ADN or BSN. Once you have completed an undergraduate program in nursing, you are eligible to sit for the boards, also known as the NCLEX-RN. 

Step 2: Become a Licensed RN 

After you obtain your RN license to practice, you will need to gain real-world experience. The amount of RN experience you will need depends on the graduate program you choose but will range anywhere from one to five years. 

Step 3: Advanced Nursing Education 

Your next step to becoming an FNP will be applying to an FNP program.

MSN FNP Pathway

The MSN is the standard entry-level credential for all APRNs, including FNPs. There are various paths to earning an MSN with a concentration of FNP, including BSN to MSN, RN to MSN, and Bridge RN to MSN. Obtaining your MSN FNP will take two to four years, depending on previous education and full-time or part-time studies. Admission requirements, program length, and course load will also vary based on your pathway. 

Post-Masters FNP Certificate Pathway

Nurses who already hold an MSN can earn a post-master certificate in FNP to obtain certification in the specialty. The certificate programs are divided into two groups based on whether you are an RN or an APRN with your current master's degree, and either pathway will take about a year and a half to two years to complete. 

Related: 10 Best DNP Programs in 2023

DNP FNP Pathway

Nurses interested in obtaining a DNP with a concentration in FNP have several options, including BSN to DNP and MSN to DNP pathways. Full-time post-bachelor's degree DNP programs typically take three to four years, whereas part-time programs can take four to seven years. 

Before deciding on your FNP pathway, it is good to remember that the CCNE has mandated that doctorate-level education is essential for APRNs, aiming to make DNP the standard entry-level credential for APRNs by 2025. 

Once you have chosen your pathway for graduate-level nursing education, it is essential to make sure the program is nationally accredited through Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE), Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN), or the National League for Nursing Commission for Nursing Education Accreditation (CNEA). This ensures that the FNP program meets all the standards for your FNP education and future APRN practice. 

Among all the graduate-level education pathways for FNP students, you must gain at least 500 direct patient care clinical hours. Each FNP program will be slightly different in its clinical hour requirements, but to sit for your FNP certification exam, you will be mandated to at least 500 as per the current regulations. 

Step 4: FNP Certification Exam 

Like the NCLEX-RN is required to become an RN, FNPs are required to take a certification exam to work as an APRN. The certification to practice as an FNP can be taken through the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) or the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC)

Step 5: Apply for APRN FNP licensure in the state you will be practicing. 

As a registered nurse, pursuing a career as an FNP can be a rewarding and impactful step forward. It offers the opportunity to make a positive difference in the lives of patients and communities in need while advancing your professional growth and earning potential.

With the increasing demand for APRNs, becoming an FNP is a valuable way to contribute to the well-being of others and fulfill your aspirations in the field of healthcare.

Edited by Erin Lee

Editorial Team / Admin

Erin Lee has 12 years experience as a BSN, RN and specializes in Critical Care, Procedural, Care Coordination, LNC.

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