Sun. Dec 10th, 2023
How are Family Nurse Practitioners Different from Nurse Practitioners

Nurses planning to advance their careers often opt for advanced degrees like a master’s or a doctorate. There are several degrees they can pursue to advance their education. However, the most common career for nurses interested in providing care across the age spectrum is family nurse practitioners (FNPs). Family nurse practitioners are essentially a subcategory of nurse practitioners.

Nurses can pursue a master’s in nursing to become a nurse practitioner or a family nurse practitioner. Nurse practitioners (NP) have a variety of specialization options like women’s health, adult-geriatric care, pediatrics, and more whereas, a family nurse practitioner (FNP) specializes specifically in family medicine.

Family nurse practitioners have a flexible job allowing them to treat and deal with people of all ages. Nurse practitioners, on the other hand, have limited options and narrowly scoped specializations focused on a specific age group, medical setting, or branch of medicine.

Even though the basic nursing skills are similar for both careers, considerable differences also exist between the two. Let’s discuss the several differences in educational requirements, job roles, and career outlook for a nurse practitioner and a family nurse practitioner.

Required Qualifications

Both career pathways require a bachelor’s degree in nursing (BSN) for starters and a master’s degree in nursing as well. However, the type of master’s degree required is different. Furthermore, both the programs include a clinical aspect that trains students by making them work in environments similar to the ones that they would be working in the future.

The different educational requirements and specializations for each role are discussed below;

Family Nurse Practitioner

Nurses interested in family nurse practitioner careers can pursue an MSN degree with a specific specialization. For clinical training, FNPs can work with patients from several age groups and in different practice areas to broaden their clinical experience. They can choose to specialize in disease management, family counseling, child development, dynamics of family healthcare, and more during their master’s degree. FNPs can subspecialize in critical care areas but, every state has different licensing and credentialing rules. Therefore, check your state rules before pursuing a specialty practice as a family nurse practitioner.

Nurse Practitioner

The nurses aspiring to become nurse practitioners complete an MSN degree with their chosen specialization. Based on the specialization a nurse practitioner chooses, they may require further education and training. For clinical training, nurse practitioners are encouraged to work in their chosen specific focus areas. For example, aspiring women’s health practitioners should complete their training in an OB/GYN office. Nurse practitioners can also improve their skills through fellowships and residency programs. These programs are run by healthcare organizations and offer specializations in care areas like surgery, oncology, cardiology, and more.

Some universities and colleges offer an accelerated program to registered nurses without a bachelor’s degree and allow them to pursue either one of the two specializations. Moreover, universities accommodate students by offering part-time and online degree options. The eligibility requirements for nurse practitioner and family nurse practitioner programs differ from university to university.


Certification is a crucial aspect for both NPs and FNPs, as it serves as a permit for them to begin practice. Nurse practitioners and family nurse practitioners should pass the national council licensure examination (NCLEX). Both the roles require further certifications as well that are discussed below;

Family Nurse Practitioner

FNPs need to pass a national FNP certification. There are different options for licensure available. However, the two most common certifications and the institutes offering them are;

  • The FNP-BC primary care certification awarded by The American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC)
  • A national certificate in family practice awarded by The American Academy of Nurse Practitioners (AANP)


Nurse Practitioner

Nurse practitioners should earn national certification as certified nurse practitioners (CNP). They should also pass an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) state licensure as a certified nurse practitioner. Moreover, based on their specialization, NPs may require further specialization-specific certifications. They should complete all required certifications to begin their practice.

Roles and Responsibilities

Even though the primary nursing roles required in both specializations are similar, the advanced roles and responsibilities of FNPs and NPs are quite different. Let’s analyze these differences;

Family Nurse Practitioner

FNPs care for patients from all age groups, including infants and elderly people. They may provide care to a single individual or a whole family. They provide primary care to their patients and are not specialized in treating a specific patient population. They can identify, diagnose, and treat common illnesses, along with helping to prevent acute diseases. FNPs are skilled in treating a broad range of mild ailments. However, they refer serious patients and complex cases to specialists. Family practitioners may work at hospitals or physician’s offices.

Nurse Practitioner

Nurse practitioners are also advanced practice registered nurses who focus their practice on a specific medical field specialization. They usually work with a particular population having a specific type of health condition like heart disease patients. Other specializations for nurse practitioners include oncology, adult-gerontology, women’s health, and pediatrics. Nurse practitioners diagnose patients, treat and prevent further ailments, and educate patients to adopt healthy habits to avoid preventable diseases. Nurse practitioners may work at a doctor’s office, outpatient facility, nursing homes, hospitals, and urgent care clinics.

Job Outlook

The career outlook for nurse practitioners and family nurse practitioners is quite similar. Both the roles are in increased demand because of the increased demand for primary care providers by the increasing population of aging people. Moreover, job growth is also expected in the coming years.

According to the bureau of labor statistics, the nurse practitioner’s career is predicted to grow 45% in the next decade, with almost 271,900 job openings each year. The earning potential for both roles is also considerably larger than registered nurses. Family nurse practitioners earn a median salary of $110,930, while nurse practitioners earn a median pay of $117,670.

The Wrap Up

Family nurse practitioners and nurse practitioners are specialized nursing careers. Nurse practitioners are qualified to deal with a specific population having a similar health condition, whereas family nurse practitioners deal with people of all ages from infancy to old age, providing them with primary care.

NPs and FNPs have similar basic nursing education and skills. However, different master’s degrees lead them to become experts in different fields that they choose themselves. The educational requirements and certifications to start practicing as either an FNP or NP are different. Their roles and responsibilities also vary. However, the job outlook is equally promising for both careers. In this article, we compared the various differences between FNPs and NPs. If you are planning to pursue either of the two specializations, hopefully, this article will help you make an informed decision.

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