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How to Become a Family Nurse Practitioner in 5 Steps

Research what it takes to become a family nurse practitioner. Learn about education, licensing requirements, job outlook and salary to find out if this is the career for you.

What Is a Family Nurse Practitioner?

Family nurse practitioners are advanced practice nurses who diagnose, treat and care for patients ranging from youth to adults. Many nurse practitioners work either in a hospital or in some sort of clinic. When they see a patient, they must listen to his or her health concerns, assess the patient by performing various tests, and treat the patient as necessary. As a family nurse practitioner, you are likely to see a wide range of medical issues and may also need to provide general health and wellness counseling. The following chart provides an overview about becoming a family nurse practitioner.

Degree Required Master's degree
Education Field of Study Nursing
Licensure or Certification All states require registered nurses to be licensed; board certification in family nurse practitioner may be preferred by employers
Key Responsibilities Examine, assess and diagnose patients' health issues; order and perform diagnostic tests and evaluate results; prescribe medications and treatments; advise patients about their health issues
Job Growth (2018-2028) 28% for all nurse practitioners*
Median Salary (2018) $107,030 for all nurse practitioners*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

What Will I Do as a Family Nurse Practitioner?

Family nurse practitioners (FNP) provide patients, ranging from children to adults, with a range of health care services. As an FNP, you'll check vitals, perform some diagnostic tests, make initial diagnoses and manage overall care of the patient. You'll work with patients to manage disease and emphasize preventative care.

Step 1: Complete a Nursing Program

You'll need to undertake a nursing program before seeking licensure. A Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) is required for students intending to continue to graduate studies. This program teaches you the basics of nursing theory, patient care and health care systems. Nursing programs also include an essential clinical practicum that you'll need for licensure.

Step 2: Seek Licensure

The National Council of State Boards of Nursing offers the National Council Licensure Examination for registered nurses (NCLEX-RN) (www.ncsbn.org). Many states use this test as a basis for their licensing requirements, and hospitals require applicants to pass this exam before working as a registered nurse.

Step 3: Apply for a Graduate Program

Nurse practitioner programs are offered at many colleges in a wide range of specializations, including family nurse practitioner. Most programs lead to a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) and adequately prepare you to work with multiple age groups. These programs hone your assessment and care skills in your particular specialty with courses in human development and aging. You'll also complete a clinical practicum during your graduate studies.

Step 4: Obtain Certification

You may choose to obtain certification to demonstrate your level of professionalism. The American Academy of Nurse Practitioners has a family nurse practitioner certification program. You must have completed a FNP master's or post-master's degree program and pass the certification examination. The American Nurses Credentialing Center also offers certification if you have a master's degree, an RN license and demonstrate health prevention knowledge.

Step 5: Find Work

FNPs work in private practices, hospitals, community health centers and emergency rooms. There is a demand reflecting an overall increase in the nursing field. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts job growth for all nurse practitioners to increase by 28% between 2018 and 2028 (www.bls.gov). Medically underserved areas like rural communities and inner cities are expected to have the highest demand for nurse practitioners.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

If you decide to follow the same educational pathway and earn an MSN degree, you may choose a different specialty path. For example, jobs in nursing midwifery are also possible after completing a specialized MSN. These professionals generally work with women (and sometimes their partners) to provide care during pregnancies as well as offer general gynecological care. Another possible MSN program is a nurse anesthetist program. As a nurse anesthetist, you would consult with patients about what kind of medications they regularly take and be in charge of administering anesthesia before and during medical procedures.