Online Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) Programs

About OnlineFNPPrograms.com: OnlineFNPPrograms.com was created to provide nursing students with a comprehensive and unbiased resource on online Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) programs with a specialization in family nurse practitioner (FNP). For nursing students who are considering pursuing their MSN-FNP 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-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 2012 and 2022, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (bls.gov), which is almost three times greater than the national average for job growth across all professions surveyed by bls.gov (11 percent).

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 masters 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 MSN FNP 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. Below are four types of online FNP programs that are currently available at the masters level, classified by their eligibility requirements for applicants:

  • Online BSN to MSN-FNP ProgramsOn 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 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. 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. Some nursing schools also refer to Bachelor’s to MSN programs as RN to MSN programs. 
  • Online RN to BSN/MSN-FNP ProgramsOn OnlineFNPPrograms.com, online RN to MSN programs are defined as programs that accept RNs who have earned their associate degree in nursing (ADN) or diploma in nursing from an accredited nursing program. The majority of these programs allow RNs to earn their BSN and MSN together through one program. (For some nursing schools, their RN to MSN programs actually 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 ProgramsPost-MSN FNP certificate programs are classified as programs that require an MSN for admission and are designed for MSN graduates who would like to pursue additional certification as an FNP. Some programs also offer second Master’s degree programs in addition to post-master’s certificate programs.

While some nursing schools may only offer one type of nursing degree program, other schools may offer multiple degree options to students.

Overview of Admission Requirements

Apart from their core requirements that applicants have an active RN license and some level of accredited nursing education, online MSN-FNP programs also typically have the following admission requirements.

Online BSN to MSN-FNP programs typically require candidates to meet a minimum undergraduate GPA threshold, complete certain college courses (such as health assessment and statistics) with a passing grade, and fulfill one to two years of professional experience as a nurse.

Online Bachelor’s to MSN-FNP Programs require applicants to have a minimum overall GPA for both their bachelor’s degree and their ADN or a diploma in nursing. Bachelor’s to MSN programs also generally expect applicants to have completed two or more years of professional nursing work, and may also require them to complete certain baccalaureate-level pre-requisite courses prior to enrollment.

Online RN to MSN-FNP Programs generally require that candidates meet an overall undergraduate GPA threshold, fulfill certain prerequisite courses, and complete one or more years of professional nursing experience.

Online Post-MSN FNP Programs typically require applicants to meet certain graduate and undergraduate GPA thresholds, complete certain courses, and have one or more years of professional nursing experience.

Application materials for BSN to MSN, RN to MSN, Bachelor’s to MSN, and post-MSN 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 18 to 36 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 36 months to complete, depending on the program.

RN to MSN Programs

  • Full-Time online RN to MSN programs can typically be completed in 24 to 28 months, depending on the program.
  • Part-Time online RN to MSN programs typically take between 30 and 36 months to complete, depending on the school.

Post-MSN Programs

  • 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.

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 540 and 675 clinical hours in order to graduate. The precise number of required clinical hours varies depending on the program. Some programs match students with approved sites 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 on the student.

Nursing students fulfill their clinical hours under the supervision of an assigned preceptor, a medical professional who serves as a mentor and guide for students during their clinical hours rotations. As with clinical sites, some schools find, screen, and match preceptors with students, while other schools ask that students find their own mentors who can oversee their hands-on clinical training.

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 held during the weekends between terms or semesters, and may also be 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

Synchronous instruction, also known as “real-time” instruction, requires students and instructors to meet at scheduled times to participate simultaneously in 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.

Asynchronous Instruction

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, asynchronous programs test students’ understanding and progress through homework assignments and exams. Additionally, instructors typically still engage with students by posting regular assignments, being available over email for students’ questions, and/or asking students to post to a classroom forum for participation credit. Furthermore, 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 has both synchronous and asynchronous classes, depending on the instructor or 2) the program has classes that require students to attend real-time lectures a limited number of times during the session.