FNP vs. PNP Careers: What’s the Difference?

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A family nurse practitioner (FNP) and pediatric nurse practitioner (PNP) are two categories that fall under the larger profession of nurse practitioner (NP). NPs are qualified to specialize in six categories of patient populations. Apart from family and pediatric specialties, NPs may focus on neonatal care, women’s health, adult-gerontology, and psychiatric-mental health. For the purposes of this article, we’ll focus on FNPs and PNPs.

Before being able to practice as a registered NP, FNPs and PNPs must complete an advanced degree program in nursing and pass a certification exam. The essential difference between an FNP vs. PNP is that a PNP specializes in providing care to children, from infants through adolescents, whereas the focus of an FNP is broader based. FNPs are qualified to provide care for family members of all ages, from infants to geriatric patients.

Educational Requirements

Both FNPs and PNPs are required to have a minimum of a master’s degree in nursing (MSN) to practice. The eligibility requirements for nurses to enroll in a master’s degree program are very specific. A candidate must be a registered nurse (RN), hold a bachelor’s degree in nursing (BSN), and have several years of post-graduation experience.

Master’s Degree Options

Most RNs enter a graduate program to obtain a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN). However, there are other accredited programs such as a Master of Nursing (MN), Master of Science (MS) with a major in nursing, and a Master of Arts (MA) with a nursing major. The Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN) and the Commission of Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) manage the accreditation of these degree programs. Currently, there are more than 330 accredited master’s degree programs across the United States.

At some schools, RNs who have not yet earned a bachelor’s degree in nursing can study toward both their bachelor’s and master’s degrees through a single program. Other universities and colleges offer joint degree programs that enable RNs to earn a master’s degree in nursing combined with another area of study. These may include a Master of Public Health (MPH), Master of Hospital Administration (MHA), or a Master of Business Administration (MBA) with a concentration in health care.

Typical Curricula

●       Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP)

A typical curriculum for a master’s degree with a concentration in family practice nursing includes the following courses:

  • Family planning
  • Child development
  • Adult and geriatric care
  • Family/lifespan nursing theory and care
  • Family counseling
  • Advanced health and physical assessment
  • Nutrition
  • Health promotion and disease prevention
  • Acute and chronic illness management
  • Dynamics of family health care
  • Health policy
  • Advanced pharmacology
  • Advanced pathophysiology

This degree program also enables FNP students to specialize in a certain medical environment or areas. These include pediatrics, cardiac care, urology, pulmonary care, orthopedics, critical care, long-term care, rehabilitation, surgical, or ER/trauma.

●       Pediatric Nurse Practitioner (PNP)

In addition to some of the same courses that define the FNP program, PNPs typically study the following specialized courses for their master’s degree:

  • Pediatric physical assessment
  • Advanced pediatric clinical assessment
  • Child pathophysiology
  • Pediatric primary care
  • Pediatric emergencies
  • Interpersonal violence and abuse prevention, assessment, and intervention
  • Advance pediatric and neonatal pharmacology
  • Fundamentals of comprehensive care
  • Genetics and genomics

Furthermore, PNP students are permitted by many schools to specialize in primary or acute care.


All FNPs and PNPs must be certified before they are allowed to practice. There are two different agencies used by various states for NP certification. These are the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) and the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC). Both agencies require NPs to be recertified every five years. In addition, NPs must meet clinical practice and ongoing education requirements in between their recertification cycles.

FNP vs. PNP Duties and Responsibilities

●       Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP)

FNPs may practice independently or in collaboration with physicians and are qualified to prescribe medicines and diagnose and treat medical conditions. FNPs provide care to patients of all ages and often develop relationships with entire family units. Typical practice duties and responsibilities include:

  • Conducting health and physical assessments
  • Conducting diagnostic tests and analyzing results
  • Prescribing medicines
  • Providing preventive care and disease management
  • Formulating plans to treat chronic and acute illnesses
  • Counseling on disease prevention and healthy lifestyles

●       Pediatric Nurse Practitioner (PNP)

PNPs can deliver most of the health care needs of children, consulting with doctors and specialists when necessary. PNPs typically have the following duties and responsibilities:

  • Physical and health assessment
  • Compiling child health care programs
  • Treatment of common childhood illnesses
  • Management of chronic illnesses in children
  • Writing prescriptions for medications
  • Ordering diagnostic tests
  • Counseling parents on child development issues and healthy lifestyle choices

Job Outlook

FNPs and PNPs practice in a variety of settings, including hospitals, clinics, medical practices, and schools. Many doctors share their office space and consulting rooms with these nursing professionals. FNPs and PNPs often develop interdependent relationships to provide a better level of health care for their communities.

Nurse practitioners of all specialties are consistently in high demand. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has forecast the demand for these professionals to grow by 31 percent from 2016 to 2026. In 2017, the median pay for NPs was $110,930 per year.

Learn More

It’s an exciting time to be a nurse practitioner. Nurse practitioners who complete post-master’s certificates are eligible to sit for certification board exams. Demand for these NPs is high across the nation, and opportunities are plentiful for career advancement and leadership roles for these advanced practice providers.

Regis College prepares nurse practitioners to take the next step in their careers with the online Nurse Practitioner Post-Masters Certificate program. NPs who enroll in the program experience the same rigorous academic classes as traditional students, but with the flexibility of an online course delivery method.

Recommended Reading

Should Nurse Practitioners Have Full Practice Authority?

Nurse Practitioners and the Primary Care Shortage

7 Career Specializations for Nurse Practitioners



Bureau of Labor Statistics

American Association of Nurse Practitioners

National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners