FAQ: How long does it take to become a Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP)?

Reviewed By Elizabeth Clarke, FNP, MSN, RN, MSSW

Degree-seekers can explore many program options for becoming family nurse practitioners (FNP). For those wondering “what is an FNP?,” these professionals provide care for patients across the lifespan by evaluating and creating treatment plans for individuals and families.

FNPs coordinate patient care in several different healthcare settings, including physician’s offices, hospitals, and clinics. Nurse practitioners earned a median annual salary of $109,820 in 2019, with salaries differing based on location, educational and professional experience, employer, and industry.

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Steps to Becoming a Family Nurse Practitioner

Aspiring FNPs must complete several steps on their way to becoming professionals. Each interested individual can start by earning a minimum education of a master’s degree in nursing. In addition to obtaining their registered nurse (RN) license, FNP candidates must obtain national advanced practice registered nursing (APRN) certification by passing a national certification exam.

Get Licensed as a Registered Nurse

Before becoming an FNP, each candidate must earn RN licensure. RN candidates must earn an associate degree in nursing (ADNs) or a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN). While either degree meets the qualifications, many employers prefer to hire candidates with a BSN. After earning their degree, candidates can complete the NCLEX-RN exam to become licensed.

Earn an MSN with an FNP Specialty

To become an FNP, each candidate must earn a master of science in nursing (MSN). During their master’s program, nursing students can pursue a specialization in the FNP discipline. The curriculum prepares learners to sit for the national certification exam after graduation and provides them with the credentials they need to begin their career. Master’s students can consider several program options, including those listed below.

  • RN-to-MSN Programs

    An RN can enroll in an RN-to-MSN bridge program to earn their BSN and MSN at an accelerated rate. Accredited RN-to-MSN programs with an FNP specialization include both undergraduate and graduate-level courses, which allow enrollees to earn their degree quicker than those who pursue them separately.

  • BSN-to-MSN Programs

    RNs who hold BSNs from accredited schools can enroll in BSN-to-MSN bridge programs. Many FNP students choose to pursue BSN-to-MSN programs rather than earning their degree separately to complete fewer courses in less time. Online students may encounter asynchronous and synchronous components during their curriculum.

  • Non-Nursing Bachelor’s-to-MSN Programs

    A student who holds a bachelor’s degree in a non-nursing field can pursue master’s-level nursing education by enrolling in a bachelor’s-to-MSN bridge program. Bachelor’s-to-MSN bridge programs typically take 2-3 years, with students spending the first year completing RN studies, passing the NCLEX exam, and obtaining RN certification before MSN studies can begin. These programs typically require fewer credits to graduate and culminate in an MSN degree only, rather than a BSN and an MSN. While other bridge programs require an applicant to hold an ADN or diploma in nursing, these bridge programs do not.

  • MSN-to-DNP with a Second Specialty Program

    To become an APRN, a nurse must first earn a master’s degree in nursing, although many employers now require candidates to hold a doctor of nursing practice (DNP) degree. Students who already hold certification in an APRN specialty and want to add a second certification can pursue the MSN-to-DNP second specialty track.

Pass National APRN Certification Exam

Each state features distinct requirements to become an APRN. Across states, each APRN candidate must hold an unencumbered RN license and complete an accredited graduate nursing program.

Candidates must complete a national certification exam through a qualifying certification board before they can legally practice. These tests allow candidates to select their desired patient population and obtain certification to provide advanced practice nursing care within that particular discipline.

Apply for State Licensure

Depending on a nurse’s state, they can experience differing requirements when applying for state licensure. An eligible APRN candidate must hold an active, unencumbered RN license and complete an accredited master’s or doctoral degree in nursing. After they meet the necessary criteria, candidates must then pass their national certification exam. APRNs are expected to renew their RN licenses either annually or biannually, adhering to their state’s specific requirements.

Learn More About Online FNP Programs

Reviewed by Elizabeth Clarke, FNP, MSN, RN, MSSW

Elizabeth Clarke, FNP, MSN, RN, MSSW

Elizabeth Clarke is a board-certified family nurse practitioner. A native of Boston, MA, Clarke tired of the cold and snowy winters and moved to Coral Gables, FL in order to complete her undergraduate degree in nursing at the University of Miami. After working for several years in the UHealth and Jackson Memorial Medical systems in the cardiac and ER units, Clarke returned to the University of Miami to complete her master of science in nursing. Since completing her MSN degree, Clarke has worked providing primary and urgent care to pediatric populations.