Family Nurse Practitioner Career: Job Description & Salary Info

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A family nurse practitioner's median salary is around $95,000. Is it worth the education and certification requirements? Read real job descriptions, get salary info and learn the truth about career prospects to decide if becoming a family nurse practitioner is right for you.
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Pros and Cons of a Family Nurse Practitioner Career

Unlike registered nurses, family nurse practitioners (FNPs) have primary care duties similar to physicians. Learn about the pros and cons to determine if this career is a good choice for you.

Pros of an FNP Career
Nursing is a rapidly growing field (31% expected growth from 2012-2022)*
Good income compared to most other careers (median annual wage of $95,000 as of 2014 for all nurse practitioners)*
Can provide highest level of nursing care to families*
Gratifying career helping those in need*
Numerous accredited sources for quality training available*

Cons of an FNP Career
Weekend, on-call and round-the-clock work possible*
Requires several years of education and training*
Licensing, certification and continuing education are mandatory*
Potentially stressful job*
Potential contact with infectious diseases and hazardous conditions (radiation, accidental needle sticks)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Essential Career Information

Job Description

Family nurse practitioners are advanced practice nurses that serve as primary care providers to patients and their families. As an FNP, you may record and analyze patient histories, perform physical examinations and treat illnesses. You may also recommend diagnostic tests, counseling and even pre-natal care. FNPs are authorized to prescribe and administer medication as well.

These professionals commonly work in hospitals, outpatient clinics and other healthcare facilities. The job can be rewarding, as you provide a valuable service to patients. However, increased workloads, long or unusual work schedules and challenging patient issues can lead to job stress.

Salary Information and Career Outlook

According to PayScale.com, most family nurse practitioners earned between $68,000 and $103,000 annually as of July 2015. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that the median salary for all nurse practitioners, regardless of their area of specialization, was about $95,000 in 2014. The top 10% of nurse practitioners made about $131,000 or more per year.

The career outlook for nurse practitioners is bright, according to the BLS; the number of employed RNs is expected to grow 34% from 2012-2022. Inner cities and rural areas are typically underserved, so nursing opportunities may be strong in those areas. Nursing care facilities, home health care organizations and private practices will also be seeking FNPs in the coming years.

What Are the Requirements?

Education and Training Info

Aspiring FNPs usually need to complete a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) program or a graduate certificate program. These programs typically take 2-3 years to complete; requirements for admission often include a bachelor's degree in nursing and RN licensure. Family nurse practitioner programs explore topics like pathophysiology, health promotion, healthcare statistics and diagnosis techniques. In addition to lecture-based sessions, you'll participate in clinical practicums.

Licensing Info

In order to become an RN, you must pass the National Council Licensure Exam for Registered Nurses. State licensure requirements can vary, so it's important to check with your individual state board. In some states, you also need to obtain FNP licensure or registration. Common requirements include an RN license and a nurse practitioner master's degree. In some cases, certification through a recognized professional organization can qualify you for FNP licensure.

FNP Certification Requirements

Obtaining RN licensing and required education makes candidates eligible for Family Nurse Practitioner certifications. The American Nurses Credentialing Center and the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners both offer credentials for advanced practice nurses. Continuing education is required in order to maintain active status for any type of nursing certification.

What Employers Are Looking For

Employers are looking for licensed, certified FNPs who can work a variety of shifts, including days, nights and weekends. Experience is typically desired. Below are some examples of job opportunities available as of April and May 2012:

  • In California, an FNP is needed to perform physicals and general medical care. Candidate must have at least 3 years of experience for this full-time position with potential on-call, holiday and weekend hours. Current licensure is required.
  • An Oregon GYN practice seeks an experienced FNP. This is a full-time position that pays between $80,000 and $95,000 annually; benefits are included.
  • A Colorado healthcare practice needs an FNP for a short-term contract position. Eligible candidates should have a master's degree in nursing, Colorado licensure and at least one year of experience.

How to Stand Out in the Field

Because most FNPs hold master's degrees, earning a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) may give you an edge on the competition. These programs can prepare you for leadership and research roles, as well as nursing school instructor positions. Possible degree specializations may include mental health or population health.

Joining a professional nursing organization may also help you stand out in the field. Organizations like the American Nurses Association and the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners offer member access to job boards, continuing education, affiliated certification and networking opportunities.

Other Career Options

If you're interested in the medical field but don't want to complete extensive training, you may want to become a registered nurse. You're still required to obtain licensure, but training programs can be completed in two years. The level of care that RNs provide is less than that of FNPs. However, you're still able to help those in need while earning a good living. The BLS reported employment growth at 26% in the 2010-2020 decade; RNs earned a median salary of $66,000 as of May 2011.

Perhaps nursing doesn't sound appealing, but you're still interested in healthcare careers; consider becoming a physician assistant (PA). These professionals observe patients, diagnose illnesses and prescribe medications under the guidance of physicians. PAs need at least a bachelor's degree and must also finish an accredited physician assistant program, which commonly leads to a master's degree. Similar to nurses, licensure is required. More than half (54%) of PAs work in doctor's offices, and employment was expected to grow 30% from 2010-2020. Additionally, average pay in the career is strong; PAs earned a median salary of around $87,000 as of 2011.

Popular Schools

  • Online Programs Available
    1. Kaplan University

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • Master of Science - DNP Executive Leader
      • Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP)
      • Master of Science - DNP Path (Doctor of Nursing Practice)
    Master's
      • Master of Science - DNP Family Nurse Practitioner
      • Master of Science in Nursing - Adult - Gerontology Practitioner
      • M.S. in Nursing - Family Nurse Practitioner
      • Accelerated BSN to MSN
      • MS in Nursing
      • Master: Nursing/Nurse Educator
    Bachelor's
      • Bachelors of Science in Nursing - RN to BSN (RN License Required)
      • Bachelor: Health Science
      • Bachelor: Healthcare Admin
    Certificate
      • Family Nurse Practitioner Graduate Certificate
      • Nurse Educator Graduate Certificate
  • Online Programs Available
    2. George Mason University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Science in Health Informatics
  • Online Programs Available
    3. American University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Science in Healthcare Management
  • Campus and Online Programs
    4. South University

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • Nursing Practice (DNP)
    Master's
      • Nursing with a specialization in Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner (MSN)
      • Nursing with a specialization in Family Nurse Practitioner (MSN)
      • RN to Master of Science in Nursing with a specialization in Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner (RN to MSN)
      • RN to Master of Science in Nursing with a specialization in Family Nurse Practitioner (RN to MSN)
      • Nursing with a specialization in Nurse Administrator (MSN)
      • Nursing with a specialization in Nursing Informatics (MSN)
    Bachelor's
      • Nursing RN to BSN Degree Completion (BSN)
      • Healthcare Management (BS)
    Certificate
      • Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner (C)
      • Family Nurse Practitioner (C)
      • Nurse Educator (C)
  • Online Programs Available
    5. Herzing University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MSN - Family Nurse Practitioner
      • MBA Dual Concentration: Healthcare Management and Public Safety Leadership
      • MBA Dual Concentration: Healthcare Management and Project Management
    Associate's
      • Associate of Science - Medical Assisting Services
    Certificate
      • Diploma: Medical Assisting
  • Online Programs Available
    6. Grand Canyon University

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP)
      • Doctor of Nursing Practice with an Emphasis in Educational Leadership
      • EdD in Organizational Leadership - Health Care Administration
    Master's
      • MBA and MS in Nursing: Nursing Leadership in Health Care Systems (Bridge)
      • MBA and MS in Nursing: Nursing Leadership in Health Care Systems (dual degree)
      • MS in Nursing: Nursing Leadership in Health Care Systems
      • M.S. in Nursing: Nursing Education
      • MBA: Health Systems Management
      • MS in Health Care Administration
    Bachelor's
      • BS in Nursing (Registered Nurse - R.N. to BSN)
      • BS in Health Care Administration
      • BS in Health Sciences: Professional Development & Advanced Patient Care
      • Bachelor of Science in Behavioral Health Science
  • Online Programs Available
    7. Argosy University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • Nursing (BSN)
  • Online Programs Available
    8. University of Delaware

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Business Administration - Healthcare Concentration
  • Online Programs Available
    9. Sacred Heart University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • RN to BSN to Master of Science in Nursing
      • MSN - Clinical Nurse Leader
      • MSN - Nursing Management and Executive Leadership
      • RN-BSN-MSN - Clinical Nursing Leader
      • RN-BSN-MSN - Nursing Management and Executive Leadership
      • MSN - Nursing Education
    Bachelor's
      • RN-BSN - RN to Bachelor of Science in Nursing
  • Online Programs Available
    10. Benedictine University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • DUAL MBA-MSN
      • Master of Science in Nursing
      • MBA Health Administration
      • MPH - Health Management and Policy Focus
      • Nurse Executive Leader MSN
      • Nurse Educator MSN

Featured Schools

Kaplan University

  • Master of Science - DNP Executive Leader
  • Master of Science - DNP Family Nurse Practitioner
  • Bachelors of Science in Nursing - RN to BSN (RN License Required)
  • Family Nurse Practitioner Graduate Certificate

Which subject are you interested in?

George Mason University

  • Master of Science in Health Informatics

What is your highest level of education?

American University

  • Master of Science in Healthcare Management

What is your highest level of education?

South University

  • Nursing Practice (DNP)
  • Nursing with a specialization in Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner (MSN)
  • Nursing RN to BSN Degree Completion (BSN)
  • Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner (C)

What is your highest level of education completed?

Herzing University

  • MSN - Family Nurse Practitioner
  • Associate of Science - Medical Assisting Services
  • Diploma: Medical Assisting

What is your highest level of education?

Grand Canyon University

  • Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP)
  • MBA and MS in Nursing: Nursing Leadership in Health Care Systems (Bridge)
  • BS in Nursing (Registered Nurse - R.N. to BSN)

What is your highest level of education?

Argosy University

  • Nursing (BSN)

What is your highest level of education completed?

University of Delaware

  • Master of Business Administration - Healthcare Concentration

What is your highest level of education completed?