About OnlineFNPPrograms.com: OnlineFNPPrograms.com was created to provide nursing students with a comprehensive and unbiased resource on online graduate nursing programs with a specialization in family nurse practitioner (FNP). For nursing students who are considering pursuing their Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) or Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) online, we have all the information needed to make an informed decision about an online FNP program. Through extensive research, we are creating the only website with a comprehensive list of accredited online MSN- and DNP-FNP programs, complete with program details, admission requirements, tuition costs, and more. OnlineFNPPrograms.com also provides useful information on eligibility requirements for online FNP programs and specific graduation requirements that include clinical internships and campus visits.
In order to obtain licensure to work as an FNP in one’s state of residence, one must complete an FNP program that has been accredited by either the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) or the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN). Online FNP programs must meet the same rigorous accreditation standards as on-campus programs. On OnlineFNPPrograms.com, we only list online FNP programs accredited by either the CCNE or ACEN.
About Family Nurse Practitioners
Nurse practitioners are advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) who have received graduate-level training in patient treatment, diagnosis, and evaluation. Family nurse practitioners (FNPs) provide long term health care to patients of all ages by performing physical examinations, diagnosing health conditions, developing treatment plans, and monitoring patient health. Nurse practitioners can also specialize in acute care, pediatric primary care, adult primary care, and adult-gerontology acute care. Nurse practitioners, along with nurse midwives and nurse anesthetists (two other types of APRNs), are expected to experience a 31 percent growth in employment between 2014 and 2024, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (bls.gov), which is over four times greater than the national average for job growth across all professions surveyed by bls.gov (seven percent).
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Overview of Online Family Nurse Practitioner Programs
While both on campus and online nursing programs must abide by certain criteria in order to achieve accreditation by CCNE or ACEN, there is at present no set standard for what can be called an online program. Based on data from the CCNE and ACEN websites, there are over 510 universities with master’s-level nursing programs in the United States. Based on our research, we have identified over 60 universities that offer online FNP programs.
On OnlineFNPPrograms.com, we classify any program that requires three or fewer visits to the campus per year as an online program. We categorize programs that require more than three visits per year to the campus as hybrid programs, and do not include them on the site at this time. Programs that require multiple visits to the campus per year are more designed for students who live close to a university and want the flexibility of online education.
Please note, all FNP degree programs, online, hybrid and campus, require students to complete clinical hours at a local site to graduate.
Types of Online FNP Degree Programs
All online FNP programs require that their students be registered nurses (RNs) with an active license. However, different online FNP programs exist for RNs who have obtained different levels of education. OnlineFNPPrograms.com currently classifies FNP programs into 14 different categories and includes 12 of those categories on the site. Of the 12 categories, four are MSN programs, two are post-masters certificate programs, and six are DNP programs.
Online MSN and Post-MSN Certificate FNP Programs
- Online BSN to MSN-FNP Programs: On OnlineFNPPrograms.com, online BSN to MSN-FNP Programs are classified as programs that accept RNs who have earned a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) from a program that has been accredited by the CCNE or ACEN. This includes both schools that require a BSN for admission and schools that accept students with a Bachelor’s degree in a non-nursing field as BSN graduates are eligible for both types of programs.
- Online Bachelor’s to MSN-FNP Bridge Programs (non-BSN students): On OnlineFNPPrograms.com, online Bachelor’s to MSN Programs are classified as programs that accept RNs who received their bachelor’s degree in a field other than nursing, and who wish to earn their MSN without earning an additional baccalaureate degree in nursing first. These programs are similar to BSN to MSN programs except they typically require students to complete a set of bridge classes before starting the MSN curriculum. To help students better find programs for which they are eligible for admission, the online Bachelor’s to MSN programs page only includes programs that accept students who have not earned a BSN. (Note: Some nursing schools also refer to Bachelor’s to MSN programs as RN to MSN programs.)
- Online RN to MSN-FNP Programs: On OnlineFNPPrograms.com, online RN to MSN programs are broken into two categories based on their admission requirements. In general, online RN to MSN programs are defined as programs that accept RNs who have earned either an associate degree in nursing (ADN) or a diploma in nursing from an accredited nursing program. While some programs will accept RNs with either an ADN or a diploma (category one) others require an ADN for admission (category two). The majority of these programs allow RNs to earn their BSN and MSN together through one program, although some programs only grant an MSN upon completion. (Note: Some nursing schools offer RN to MSN programs that require a bachelor’s degree in a non-nursing field for admission. We classify these types of programs as Bachelor’s to MSN programs instead.)
- Online Post-MSN FNP Programs: Post-MSN FNP certificate programs are defined as programs that require an MSN for admission and are designed for MSN graduates who would like to pursue additional certification as an FNP. OnlineFNPPrograms.com classifies these programs into two categories: New or Second Specialty (any MSN accepted) and Second Specialty (APRN required). New or Second specialty programs accept RNs with any type of MSN (e.g. clinical nurse leader, nursing administration, nurse practitioner), while Second Specialty programs require an APRN certification for admission. The difference between these two types of programs is the number of MSN-level courses required to earn the certificate. New or Second Specialty programs will typically allow APRNs to waive or transfer credits for classes they have already completed, so the two types of programs are essentially the same for APRNs. The main difference is that one type requires an APRN certification while the other does not.
Online Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) FNP Programs
Students looking to pursue a DNP while earning FNP certification have several degree paths to choose from, based on their current level of education. Below are the six different categories of DNP-FNP programs:
- Online BSN to DNP-FNP Programs: This degree path is designed for licensed RNs who have earned their BSN, and want to pursue a DNP without first completing a separate MSN program. Students in an online BSN to DNP-FNP program can expect to take master’s-level FNP specialty courses along with the DNP core curriculum. Some BSN to DNP programs award students both an MSN and DNP, while others only culminate in the doctorate.
- Online Bachelor’s to DNP-FNP Programs: Some post-baccalaureate DNP programs are open to RNs who possess a non-nursing bachelor’s degree in addition to an ADN. The completion of certain prerequisite or bridge courses may be required before students can begin the core MSN curriculum. While BSN to DNP and Bachelor’s to DNP programs are two separate categories on this site, most schools do not treat them as independent programs. Schools typically offer a post-baccalaureate DNP program that either requires a BSN or will accept RNs with a non-nursing bachelor’s degree as well.
- Online MSN to DNP-FNP with New or Second Specialty Programs: This online MSN to DNP path is open to any master’s-trained RN who wants to earn their DNP alongside FNP certification. Typically, these programs will accept RNs who have completed any type of MSN program, whether it is in an APRN specialty or a non-APRN field, such as nursing administration, clinical nurse leader, or nursing education. Current APRNs pursuing their second specialty may be able to transfer MSN-level credits from their previous master’s program and waive certain classes they have already completed.
- Online MSN to DNP-FNP with Second Specialty Programs: These particular post-master’s DNP programs are for current APRNs who want to earn a second certification as an FNP while completing their doctorate. In order to be considered for enrollment, students must possess both an MSN and national certification in an APRN specialty area. For APRNs, New or Second Specialty and Second Specialty programs are typically the same. The primary difference between the two paths is that Second Specialty programs do not accept RNs who are not already licensed APRNs.
- Online RN to DNP-FNP Programs: While relatively rare compared to BSN to DNP or MSN to DNP programs, there are online DNP programs designed for RNs who want to pursue their doctorate without completing a separate BSN or MSN program first. Online RN to DNP programs are broken down into two categories based on their admission requirements. Most require students to possess an ADN; however, some will accept RNs with a nursing diploma as well. (Note: Some RN to DNP programs may require a non-nursing bachelor’s degree. On OnlineFNPPrograms.com, we classify these as Online Bachelor’s to DNP-FNP Programs.)
Additional Types of Online FNP Degree Programs
The following two categories of FNP programs are not currently included on OnlineFNPPrograms.com, either because they cannot typically be completed online or they do not train students to become FNPs:
- Master’s Entry or Accelerated MSN FNP Programs: These programs are for non-nurses who possess a bachelor’s degree, and would like to enter the nursing profession. Students in Master’s Entry programs take undergraduate nursing courses before sitting for the NCLEX-RN exam to become registered nurses. They then proceed onto the MSN curriculum to become FNPs. It is rare for an accelerated MSN program to be offered online, as they require clinical training at the undergraduate level. That is why they are not currently included on our site.
- Online MSN to DNP-FNP in the Same Specialty Programs: These MSN to DNP programs are not as common as the previously mentioned MSN to DNP paths, and require students to already have both their MSN and APRN certification in the FNP specialty. As they are MSN to DNP-FNP programs for practicing FNPs, they do not prepare students for FNP licensure. While not always the case, students should carefully review MSN to DNP programs that specifically include FNP in their program name to determine if an FNP certification is required for admission.
While some nursing schools may only offer one type of nursing degree program, other schools may offer multiple degree options to students.
For quick reference, we created the following table to help students determine which program types they should research based on their educational background:
|Classifications of Online FNP Degree Programs on OnlineFNPPrograms.com (12 Categories)|
Applicable Degree Classifications
|RN + Nursing Diploma||MSN||RN to MSN (ADN or Diploma accepted)|
|RN + ADN||MSN||RN to MSN (ADN or Diploma accepted) and
RN to MSN (ADN required)
|RN + Non-Nursing Bachelors||MSN||MSN (BSN or Non-Nursing Bachelors accepted)|
|RN + BSN||MSN||MSN (BSN or Non-Nursing Bachelors accepted) and
MSN (BSN Required)
|RN + MSN||Certificate||Post-MSN Certificate New or Second Specialty (any MSN accepted)|
|RN + MSN + APRN Certification||Certificate||Post-MSN Certificate New or Second Specialty (any MSN accepted) and
Post-MSN Certificate Second Specialty (APRN required)
|RN + Nursing Diploma||DNP||RN to DNP (ADN or Diploma accepted)|
|RN + ADN||DNP||RN to DNP (ADN or Diploma accepted) and
RN to DNP (ADN required)
|RN + Non-Nursing Bachelors||DNP||DNP (BSN or Non-Nursing Bachelors accepted)|
|RN + BSN||DNP||DNP (BSN or Non-Nursing Bachelors accepted) and
DNP (BSN Required)
|RN + MSN||Certificate + DNP||MSN to DNP with New or Second Specialty (any MSN accepted)|
|RN + MSN + APRN Certification||Certificate + DNP||MSN to DNP with New or Second Specialty (any MSN accepted) and
MSN to DNP with Second Specialty (APRN required)
Degree Programs Not Included on OnlineFNPPrograms.com
|RN + MSN||DNP||MSN to DNP Leadership, Advanced Clinical Practice, APRN Specialization|
|Bachelor's Degree (No RN)||MSN||Master's Entry, Accelerated MSN programs|
Overview of Admission Requirements
The admission requirements for an online FNP program will vary by degree level, program path, and school. Apart from the entry-level education requirements detailed above, the primary admission requirement for all online FNP programs is an active RN license in one’s state of residence. Some programs may also require applicants to have one or more years of professional nursing experience, or have completed certain college courses, such as health assessment or statistics, prior to enrollment. Depending on the particular program track, bridge courses or prerequisite coursework may be required before students can begin graduate-level coursework. Many online MSN- and DNP-FNP programs do not require applicants to submit GRE scores; however, students often must meet a minimum GPA threshold in order to be considered for admission.
Application materials for online FNP programs typically include transcripts for all post-secondary coursework, a professional resume, a personal statement, and letters of recommendation from people who have seen one’s work in an academic and/or health care setting (for example, one’s college professors and internship supervisors).
Full-Time versus Part-Time Online FNP Programs
Full time programs are generally designed for nursing students who want to complete their graduate course of study and earn their advanced nursing degree as quickly as possible. Nursing schools that offer these programs generally do not recommend that students work full time while enrolled due to the course loads and clinical internship hours that are required. Students who want or need to work full-time while pursuing their advanced degree may want to explore part-time online FNP programs, which do not have as intense of a course load per quarter/semester/term. However, these types of programs tend to take longer to complete.
BSN to MSN Programs
- Full-Time online BSN to MSN-FNP programs generally take 15 to 24 months to complete, depending on the school.
- Part-Time online BSN to MSN-FNP programs typically take between 24 to 48 months to complete, depending on the program.
Bachelor’s to MSN Programs
- Full time online Bachelor’s to MSN-FNP programs typically take between 20 and 24 months to complete, depending on the school.
- Part time online Bachelor’s to MSN-FNP programs generally take between 24 and 48 months to complete, depending on the program
RN to MSN Programs
- Full-Time online RN to MSN programs can typically be completed in 28 to 36 months, depending on the program.
- Part-Time online RN to MSN programs typically take between 36 and 48 months to complete, depending on the school.
- Full-Time online post-MSN certificate programs generally take between 12 and 15 months to complete.
- Part-Time online post-MSN certificate programs can typically be completed in 15 to 24 months.
BSN to DNP Programs
- Full-Time online BSN to DNP programs generally take three to four years to complete.
- Part-Time online BSN to DNP programs may take anywhere from four to seven years to complete.
MSN to DNP with a Specialty Programs
- Full-Time online MSN to DNP with a Specialty programs can typically be completed in one to two years of study.
- Part-Time online MSN to DNP with a Specialty programs may take anywhere from two to three years to complete.
RN to DNP Programs
- Full-Time online RN to DNP programs generally take around four years to complete, depending on the particular program.
- Part-Time online RN to DNP programs can take as many as six or seven years to complete.
Clinical Hours and Preceptors in Online FNP Programs
Accredited FNP programs, including online FNP Programs, have mandatory clinical hours that students must complete in order to earn their degree. Clinical hours are defined as the time that nursing students spend in an actual medical setting, fulfilling actual nursing responsibilities and receiving hands-on training under the supervision of preceptors, who are medical professionals that serve as mentors to students. Clinical hours function as mandatory medical internships for nursing students. Depending on their place of residence and specialization, nursing students may be able to fulfill their clinical hours in a number of different medical settings, including hospitals, private medical offices, community health centers, volunteer clinics, and wellness centers.
Based on the data we have collected, BSN to MSN-FNP, Bachelor’s to MSN-FNP, RN to MSN-FNP, and post-MSN FNP programs generally require students to complete between 525 and 800 clinical hours in order to graduate. DNP students must fulfill a minimum of 1,000 post-baccalaureate clinical hours to earn their doctorate. For Post-Baccalaureate to DNP or RN to DNP students, these 1,000 or more hours are often completed during the program itself. MSN to DNP programs typically include around 500 clinical practice hours as part of the program requirements, with students transferring the other 500 hours from their previous graduate program to meet the total required 1,000 hours. This assumes post-master’s students completed at least 500 clinical hours during their MSN program.
The precise number of required clinical hours varies depending on the program. Some programs match students with approved sites and preceptors where they can fulfill their clinical hours, while other programs provide students with guidance in finding sites to complete their clinical hours, but place the primary responsibility of finding a site and preceptor on the student.
On-Campus Intensives and Clinical Immersions for Online FNP Programs
Most online FNP programs require that students come to the campus a limited number of times during their course of study. (As noted above, on OnlineFNPPrograms.com, we classify any program that requires three or fewer visits to the campus per year as an online FNP program.) During these on-campus visits, students typically participate in simulated clinical scenarios and/or other hands-on training sessions, interact in person with faculty and fellow students, and engage in networking events.
These on-campus visits, sometimes called on-campus intensives or clinical immersions, are typically two to three days in length, but may last as long as a week, and are often designed to focus on a particular area of nursing or health care. For example, an on-campus intensive may focus on advanced health assessment training or core issues that family nurse practitioners may face in a medical setting. Some schools even have simulations centers that allow students to practice certain nursing skills and tasks in a low-risk yet realistic environment.
Instruction Methods in FNP Online Programs: Synchronous vs. Asynchronous Instruction
Most nursing schools use one of three types of instruction methods for their online FNP programs: synchronous, asynchronous or a combination of both. Each form of instruction has its advantages and disadvantages and it is really up to the student to determine which instruction method is best for them.
Synchronous instruction, also known as “real-time” instruction, requires students and instructors to meet at scheduled times to participate in live lectures and discussions; this type of instruction typically involves interacting with people using a web camera and/or participating in real-time chat discussions with peers and faculty. Synchronous instruction typically gives a more realistic “classroom” feel to a program’s curriculum, and enables students to engage more directly with their instructor and fellow students.
Additionally, as online nursing programs with synchronous instruction have lecture and discussion schedules that students must abide by (with assignments that are oftentimes due before these real-time meetings), some students may prefer this method of instruction due to the structure it provides to the learning experience. Please note that all online FNP programs with synchronous instruction inherently have an asynchronous component, because students must complete some assignments and study for exams on their own time.
With asynchronous instruction, students can access course materials and pre-recorded lectures at any time, and are not required to attend lectures with their instructor and fellow students in real time. Online FNP programs with asynchronous instruction allow students to view lectures and other course materials on their own schedule; as a result, such programs are inherently more flexible than programs that use synchronous instruction.
In place of virtual classroom discussions, programs that utilize asynchronous instruction test students’ understanding and progress through homework assignments and exams. Additionally, instructors oftentimes engage with students by posting regular assignments to online discussion forums where students must earn participation credit. Students can also typically interact with instructors through email and potentially web/video conferencing if the instructor has live office hours. Finally, depending on the school, some FNP online programs with asynchronous instruction may still require students to participate in group projects with fellow classmates, while others may not.
Please note, all online programs require discipline from students to stay on top of lectures, course materials, and assignments, but programs with asynchronous instruction in particular necessitate that students stay organized and proactive, as these types of programs do not have the degree of structure that synchronous instruction provides.
Combination of Synchronous and Asynchronous Instruction
Some online FNP programs use a combination of synchronous and asynchronous instruction. This merging of instruction methods usually follows one of two formats: 1) the program uses both synchronous and asynchronous instruction depending on the particular class and instructor; or 2) the program has classes that require students to attend a limited number of real-time lectures/sessions during the semester or term.