Nurse Practitioner School: FNP vs ACNP?


I have finally decided that I want to steer my career into the direction of Nurse Practitioner, but I have questions!

The biggest question would be what kind of education should I seek? My goal is to work in the hospital setting as an Acute Care NP (preferably in a Cardiac population) as I really do enjoy inpatient services. While schooling for ACNP would seem like the way to go, I have gotten mixed opinions on which education to pursue.

On one hand, I was told ACNP schooling would be preferred if you want to work in an inpatient setting, but it severely limits you if you ever want to branch out to outpatient as it is a very narrow field.

On the other hand, I have been told FNP schooling can allow you to work inpatient, but it also is broad enough to allow you to branch out.

Speaking to the Cardiothoracic NP resident on my unit, she explained to me that she has her FNP, but they hired her as an ACNP because she has 5+ years experience as an ICU floor nurse. This answer just further complicates my decision.

Additionally, what kind of accreditation should I be looking for when looking for schools?

What opinions do you have on education for NP? What would be most beneficial to me to work in an inpatient setting? Thank you all for your help!

Bumex, DNP, NP

1 Article; 384 Posts

Specializes in Assistant Professor, Nephrology, Internal Medicine. Has 13 years experience.

Look into combined acnp/fnp programs. If you are willing to put in a little extra work, it may be the best option for flexibility. However, acnp is strongly preferred in my area if you want inpatient.

Has 7 years experience.

Many threads have gone over this topic. For some reason, many NPs have it in their heads that the FNP will give them so many more job prospects - but in practice areas they are not interested in.... If you want to work in family medicine go FNP. If you want to work inpatient go ACNP. Women's health? WHNP. Psych? PMHNP. Peds? PNP. Getting your FNP will not make you competitive for, or prepare you to practice in, acute care/hospital based care. Again, as the consensus model gains momentum and enough ACNPs graduate, at some point your training/education will limit which practice setting you will be able to work in. ACNPs will be limited to inpatient, FNP will be limited to outpatient.


1,871 Posts

Go ACNP, you can work outpatient specialty clinics as an ACNP

Trauma Columnist

traumaRUs, MSN, APRN

153 Articles; 21,232 Posts

Specializes in Nephrology, Cardiology, ER, ICU. Has 31 years experience.

Moved to student NP forum

Has 7 years experience.

I was just looking at a job posted for an inpatient surgical specialty at a huge health system in my area, and this is what's listed:

Physician assistant graduates:

PANCE certification (if applicable)

Minimum of a bachelor's degree

A current state PA license, certified by the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA) is required prior to start date

Nurse practitioner graduates:

MSN is preferred

A current state RN license and CRNP certification is required prior to start date

ACNP preferred