family nurse practitioner vs. pediatric nurse practitioner

FNP Vs. PNP: What’s the Difference?

Many nurses consider advancing their careers and becoming a nurse practitioner. These are many different types of nurse practitioners out there, including FNPs and PNPs. As you consider your future in nursing, you may also be wondering, “Should I become a family nurse practitioner (FNP) or a pediatric nurse practitioner (PNP)?”

The FNP and PNP career paths each offer the unique opportunity to make a difference in the lives of individuals and families. While both are rewarding and meaningful, deciding career path to follow – and which program to study – can be challenging. Of course, going to graduate school should best suit your career goals and interests. To better determine which professional nurse practitioner path is right for you, keep reading this guide. Below you will find definitions, descriptions, and differences between FNP vs. PNP degrees and developing careers.

Nurse Practitioner Overview

Nurse practitioners are advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) who’ve earned a minimum of a Master’s of Science in Nursing (MSN). Nurse practitioners assess, diagnose, and treat patients with diverse conditions. However, their scope of work can vary greatly, depending on their specialization.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projected that the nurse practitioner profession will skyrocket between 2020 and 2030. As one of the fastest-growing careers in the nation, the BLS estimated a 52% increase within the decade, adding 11,490 nurse practitioner jobs each year.

Two specializations of nurse practitioners include family nurse practitioners (FNPs) and pediatric nurse practitioners (PNPs). Although the FNP and PNP concentrations are both considered APRNs, the two healthcare positions have an array of curriculum and career differences.

FNP vs. PNP: Distinctions Between Degrees and Duties

The general difference between family nurse practitioners vs. pediatric nurse practitioners is the patient populations they serve. FNPs provide care for patients across the lifespan, from infants to geriatrics. Meanwhile, PNPs only see patients under the age of 18.

As a result, FNPs have a more extensive range of potential career environments to choose from —hospitals, nursing homes, outpatient facilities, private practices, and more. In contrast, pediatric nurse practitioners are limited to children-focused work settings.

Additional differences between FNPs and PNPs include program and professional requirements, concentration content, career responsibilities, and salary potential, as detailed below.

FNP vs. PNP Program and Professional Requirements

Advanced practice registered nurses perform a very high level of care, and may serve as primary care providers to patients in need. Therefore, they must complete certain requirements before becoming eligible to practice. Every state has different requirements for APRNs. Additionally, every job title has different educational and licensure requirements.

For example, aspiring FNPs in Connecticut must:

  • Become a licensed registered nurse
  • Earn a Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing from an accredited nursing school
  • Successfully complete 30 hours of nursing practice
  • Complete a Master’s in Nursing program in a related specialty
  • Successfully pass the FNP certification exam, offered by either the American Nurse Credentialing Center (FNP-BC certification) or the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (FNP-C certification) – Learn about the differences here!
  • Apply for state certification
  • Renew board and state certifications as applicable

Similarly, pediatric nurse practitioners are required to:

  • Become a licensed registered nurse
  • Earn a Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing program accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) or the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN)
  • Gain one to three years of professional experience and complete applicable clinical hours in pediatrics
  • Complete a graduate nurse practitioner program specializing in pediatric care
  • Earn a Certified Pediatric Nurse Practitioner – Primary Care (CPNP-PC) certification or Certified Pediatric Nurse Practitioner – Acute Care (CPNP-AC) through the Pediatric Nursing Certification Board (PNCB)
  • Apply for PNP state certification
  • Renew board and state certifications as applicable

Each graduate school and degree program also has different requirements for admission. However, there are some similarities between schools. Below are the admission requirements for the FNP-APRN program at Goodwin University, as an example:

  • Complete a graduate application for admission
  • Pay a $50 non-refundable application fee
  • Provide a current, unencumbered RN license, demonstrating a passing grade on the NCLEX-RN exam
  • Have a minimum of 2 years of RN experience within the last five years
  • Provide a professional resume
  • Submit a transcript verifying receipt of a bachelor’s degree in nursing (BSN) with a cumulative GPA of at least a 3.0
  • Submit proof of immunizations
  • Participate in an interview with the program director
  • Write an 800-1000 word statement answering the following questions:
    • What are your nursing career goals?
    • How will obtaining your MSN in the Family Nurse Practitioner track enable you to fulfill the role of an FNP in today’s healthcare system?

After graduating from an FNP program, graduates prepare to sit for the FNP certification from the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) or the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC). Those who pass their certification exam go on to apply for and maintain their board and state certifications — upholding required clinical hours, continuing education credits, and active status.

FNP vs. PNP Concentration Content

A standard family nurse practitioner curriculum includes courses in advanced pharmacology, adult/pediatric/complex clients, clinical applications, policy, politics, and organization of healthcare, and more.

Additionally, FNP graduates can attend a post-graduate PNP certification program if they want to specialize in pediatrics later in their careers.

Courses typically taught in PNP programs include advanced pediatric primary care, pediatric emergencies, advanced pediatric and neonatal pharmacology, and more.

An FNP concentration ultimately enhances more professional possibilities upon graduation, as a PNP focus primarily treats a specific population, and its graduates can only pursue pediatric healthcare professions. Family nurse practitioners, as noted above, have the option to pursue a PNP program later in their career path.

FNP vs. PNP Career Responsibilities

Due to the patients they serve, FNP career outcomes and PNP professional responsibilities also differ.

Since family nurse practitioners are qualified to treat people at every stage of their lives, they often develop long-term medical rapport with patients and their families. FNPs educate patients on preventative care and pain management, develop healthcare strategies, and treat acute and chronic illnesses. Family nurse practitioners also conduct and analyze physical assessments and diagnostic tests.

PNPs treat pediatric illnesses and chronic conditions and implement childhood wellness strategies.

Primary care PNPs typically work in doctor’s offices and see patients regularly for minor issues like the common flu. Acute care PNPs work in hospitals or inpatient facilities and treat more severe conditions.

Overall, PNPs offer specific assessments of their patients throughout childhood, and they work with caregivers to ensure infants, children, and adolescents practice healthy habits well into adulthood.

FNP vs. PNP Salary Potential

As of May 2021, the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics identified that the average annual wage for nurse practitioners was $118,040. This is an average across all nurse practitioner occupations.

In April 2022, detailed that nurse practitioners, particularly those practicing in Connecticut, produce a median salary of $124,755. also specified that family nurse practitioners make a median annual salary of $115,310 while pediatric nurse practitioners earn a wage of $111,546 per year.

At the end of the day, both nurse practitioner careers are rewarding, financially and personally. As an advancing nurse, it is up to you to decide which path aligns best with your interests and goals.

Are you ready to start your meaningful career as a future nurse practitioner? Click here to learn more about Goodwin’s flexible FNP program!