How to Become a Family Nurse Practitioner

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A mother and her young daughter meet with a family nurse practitioner.One of the most attractive elements of the nursing vocation is its sheer breadth. Nurses may choose from a number of different career trajectories, allowing them to participate in different levels of patient care. For those who wish to play a direct role in administering primary or family care, seeking credentials as a family nurse practitioner, or FNP, may be highly rewarding. And, with a looming shortage of qualified primary caregivers, authorities such as the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) project a highly favorable job market for FNPs and other advanced practice nursing roles.

Individuals exploring how to become a family nurse practitioner should know that advanced clinical training is a must. For this reason, earning a master’s degree in nursing is a critical step in pursuing this career path.

What Is a Family Nurse Practitioner?

A family nurse practitioner is an advanced practice nurse who treats patients of all ages, including infants, children, adolescents, and adults. These nurses are highly trained in clinical processes, meaning they can perform direct patient care with a great deal of autonomy and independence.

Family Nurse Practitioner Job Description

While the precise job description of a family nurse practitioner may vary based on the nature of the practice and the region where they work, some of the most common duties and responsibilities include:

  • Examining and observing patients to form an accurate diagnosis
  • Ordering, administering and interpreting diagnostic tests, including medical imaging
  • Developing and implementing treatment plans, including pharmaceutical interventions
  • Educating patients and their family members about general wellness plus disease prevention

Family Nurse Practitioner Work Environment

Family nurse practitioners can work in a range of clinical care settings, including private practices, community clinics, hospitals, and long-term care facilities. They are often the first point of contact between a patient and their health care institution and work in close collaboration with physicians as well as other nurses.

Steps to Becoming a Family Nurse Practitioner

The path to becoming a family nurse practitioner includes several key steps, entailing advanced education, training, and certification.

Become an RN

Family nurse practitioners begin as registered nurses (RN), which requires the completion of an undergraduate nursing degree (usually a Bachelor of Science in Nursing), followed by passing an RN certification exam. Before moving into advanced practice, it may be helpful to gain clinical experience, providing patient care on different shifts or within different nursing divisions.

Gain Additional Training

To advance their career and become a nurse practitioner, an RN needs additional education and training, typically in the form of a Master of Science in Nursing degree (MSN). This enables aspiring FNPs to hone their clinical expertise and gain greater confidence in practicing autonomously.

Complete FNP Certification

To practice as a family nurse practitioner, it’s mandatory to receive a license from a state nursing board. Aspiring FNPs will need to pass an examination, administered by the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners Certification Board or a comparable certifying body.  This examination will cover such topics as patient diagnostics and care, legal compliance, and medical ethics.

Explore Family Nurse Practitioner Certificate Options

While some FNPs prefer to focus on primary care for adults and children, others narrow the focus of their practice by obtaining certificates in different subspecialties. For example, an FNP can obtain certification in diabetes care or pain management, helping them to more confidently and effectively address particular patient needs within their community. Family nurse practitioner certificate programs can be found in many online nursing programs. Certificate programs allow NPs to pursue a range of specializations within the NP profession.

Family Nurse Practitioner Salary

Because of the scope of services they’re able to provide and the high demand for these nursing professionals, NPs can earn generous salaries. Data from the BLS shows a median annual salary of $120,680 for nurse practitioners in 2021. The median annual salary for family nurse practitioners specifically was approximately $98,800 as of November 2022, according to the compensation website Payscale.

Several factors can affect the family nurse practitioner salary range, including years of clinical experience, geographic location, and education level.

Advance Your Career in Family Care

Nurse practitioners play a crucial role in delivering patient care. Family nurse practitioners are especially vital in regions of the country — most notably in rural America — where other primary caregivers, including physicians, are in short supply.

Pursuing an advanced education is an essential step on the journey to becoming a family nurse practitioner. The Regis College online Master of Science in Nursing program provides an opportunity to hone core clinical skills while gaining exposure to a wide range of potential certificate options, making it an excellent choice for anyone seeking well-rounded FNP training.

Get more information about how Regis College can provide a foundation for meaningfully advanced practice nursing.

Recommended Readings

4 Ethical Dilemmas in Nursing

Eating Disorders in College Students: Effects on Mental Health

Guide to Mental Health Screening in Schools


American Association of Nurse Practitioners, “Are You Considering a Career as a Family Nurse Practitioner?”

American Association of Nurse Practitioners, Nurse Practitioner (NP) Certification

American Association of Nurse Practitioners, “The Path to Becoming a Nurse Practitioner (NP)”

Payscale, Average Family Nurse Practitioner (NP) Salary

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Nurse Anesthetists, Nurse Midwives, and Nurse Practitioners