Family nurse practitioner certification information

Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) Certification: What You Need to Know

Becoming a family nurse practitioner (FNP) can help aspiring RNs broaden their job aspirations and make them more adaptable and flexible in this rapidly developing field. It can also give nurses more autonomy in their career, allowing them to provide primary and preventive care for patients in need. To become a family nurse practitioner today, RNs typically need to complete an accredited degree program and apply for FNP certification, which can be earned via examination through a credentialing body. There are various types of FNP certifications available to nurses looking to take that next step.

If you are ready to level up your career, read on. Below we discuss the importance of the FNP role, the value of the FNP credential, and the steps you can take to prepare for and pass the FNP certification exam.

What is the role of a family nurse practitioner?

Family nurse practitioners (FNPs) are a type of nurse practitioner who focuses on health across the lifespan, from infancy through elder adulthood. A growing trend in healthcare today shows that nurse practitioners now provide many of the same services as physicians while offering additional benefits such as faster scheduling and more availability. Since achieving prevention first is a measure of success in healthcare, the value of this cannot be over-emphasized.

In the United States, according to the Health Resources and Services Administration, a 37% shortage of primary care physicians in nonmetropolitan areas is expected by the year 2036. The Bureau of Labor Statistics further illustrates this transition of nurse practitioners into primary care roles, stating that about half of today’s nurse practitioners are employed by physician’s offices. The densely populated Southern and New England states have the highest nurse practitioner employment concentrations. The FNP role differs from an MD role in that FNPs can often spend more time with the families they serve than their physician counterparts. They also enjoy a lifestyle that does not require them to be on-call during personal time, and enjoy less time in medical school — meaning more time out in the field.

What are the advantages of earning FNP certification?

An aspiring FNP can bring their educational acumen from a baccalaureate degree (as an RN) to an APRN-FNP master’s degree in just 27 months part-time. (In contrast, medical school for aspiring physicians takes around four years, followed by a three-year residency.) Family nurse practitioner candidates also benefit from a flexible educational offering, with online classes available.

Affordability is another factor to consider when attempting to get ahead in your healthcare career. The average cost of a medical school education is $207,000. In contrast, tuition for an FNP master’s degree can cost approximately one-quarter of that. A salary comparison shows that family medicine physicians make $211,300 annually, while nurse practitioners make over one-half an MD salary or $121,610 annually.

FNP certification is typically required to practice, though requirements vary by state. In any case, nurse practitioners do need to be licensed. Be sure to check your state’s certification and licensing requirements for FNPs as you begin your journey. For example, Connecticut APRNs are required to complete certification from a reputable, national organization like the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC).

Even if FNP certification is not required in your state, it comes with great benefits! Adding an FNP certification to your graduate credentials can positively impact the already great salary potential for nurse practitioners, as well as build professional credibility as an APRN, improve your job prospects (since employers love certification), and enhance your patient outcomes, with the added investment in nursing school.


Learn how to become an FNP and succeed in our free downloadable guide.


How to earn your FNP certification

1. Get the credit you deserve with the right FNP program

Before diving into any FNP master’s program, it’s a good idea to research whether the programs you are considering are accredited. For nurse practitioners hoping to get an FNP certification, accreditation is so important that you should eliminate any programs from your list that are not.

There are two FNP certifications that are nationally recognized. The American Academy of Nurse Practitioners (AANP), offers a certification called the FNP-C. The American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) certifies for the FNP-BC credential. Both credentialing bodies require that FNP applicants possess at least a graduate-level APRN-FNP degree, accredited by a nursing accrediting organization that the U.S. Department of Education or the Council for Higher Education Accreditation recognizes, such as the:

The Goodwin University APRN-FNP master’s program is CCNE accredited. This means that the program has passed testing that assures learners and employers that the education provided at the awarded institution lives up to the highest standards available in the nursing profession. It also means that its graduates have obtained all eligibility components that enable them to take an FNP certification exam.

2. Complete the FNP certification eligibility requirements

Besides an accredited master’s degree program, there are a few additional eligibility requirements for an FNP certification. Luckily, the requirements for both the FNP-BC and the FNP-C certifications are mostly identical. They include:

  • A current and active professional nurse licensure
  • An academic transcript that reflects these advanced practice registered nurse core courses: Advanced pharmacology, Advanced physical assessment, Advanced physiology/pathophysiology
  • At least 500 clinical practice hours

With all the necessary classes, plus 100 clinical hours more than the FNP certification eligibility requirement, Goodwin University’s FNP master’s degree covers everything that FNP certification seekers need to schedule their exam.

3. Decide which FNP certification you will take

The FNP-C and the FNP-BC offer equivalent credentials. How do you choose which one to take? There are subtle differences in the desired outcomes of each FNP certification. The FNP-C tests candidates more rigorously on clinical knowledge, while the FNP-BC skews towards policy and theoretical topics. For FNP applicants hoping to continue to be hands-on with patients or who have thoroughly enjoyed their clinical hours, the FNP-C may be a better match. FNPs who have excelled at study and research, or who desire to enter academia, could find that the FNP-BC is an ideal FNP certification for their interests and skills.

4. Prepare for your FNP certification exam

Once you’ve decided which exam is best for you, it’s time to learn all about the test and begin a study regimen. Reserve time regularly in your schedule to explore practice exams and other resources. Both exam providers offer such study materials. There are about 175 questions on the ANCC exam and 150 questions on the AANP exam. Both exams are graded in a pass-or-fail manner. The pass rate is slightly higher for the FNP-BC exam and costs more.

Some notable differences include that the FNP-BC is the only option that can be taken online, though if a test is failed, the waiting period before retaking it is 60 days. FNP-C testers only need to wait 2-3 weeks post-exam to attempt to reverse a failing grade. Content areas on both exams include essential FNP job responsibilities, such as patient assessment and diagnosis, knowledge of preventative measures across the lifespan, and policy, legal, and theoretical topics about population health, ethics, and alternative interventions.

Becoming a family nurse practitioner is an excellent choice for taking your career to the next level, and earning a valuable FNP credential can truly make you stand out in your career trajectory. If you are interested in Goodwin’s online FNP program, or want to learn more about how we can prepare you to become a certified FNP, please do not hesitate to reach out.


Learn how Goodwin University’s FNP program is an excellent accelerant to your nurse practitioner aspirations by visiting us online here! You may also call 800-889-3282.