RN to Family Nurse Practitioner online program

The Pathway from Registered Nurse (RN) to Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP)

If you are a registered nurse (RN) you’re probably passionate about helping patients and their families lead healthy lives, able to understand a diagnosis and treatment plan, and skilled in providing essential care.

While registered nurses earn a great living wage at $81,220 per year, there is always room for growth. Many registered nurses choose to advance their careers as family nurse practitioners (FNPs), gaining more autonomy in the nursing field and earning a sizable salary as a result. On average in the United States, nurse practitioners (including FNPs) earn $125,900 annually, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

This article will outline the steps to transition from a registered nurse (RN) to a family nurse practitioner (FNP) and share a few benefits of pursuing this exciting career path.

Registered Nurse (RN) vs. Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP)

A registered nurse (RN) is a licensed caregiver who works as part of a team, under doctors and physicians, to deliver patient care. Registered nurses perform detailed patient assessments and partner with physicians and other healthcare professionals on everything from preliminary exams to treatment plans and follow-up visits.

Registered nurses pursue their careers by earning a nursing degree from a state-approved nursing school, passing the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN), and completing the application for licensure in the state they wish to practice.

Family nurse practitioners (FNPs) are advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) who have completed all the requirements of an RN, as well as an advanced Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) Master’s degree program.

Due to their higher level of education and training, FNPs provide more specialized, preventative and primary care services. They deliver care to families and patients in diverse populations and of all ages, from infants to octogenarians. Additionally, unlike RNs, family nurse practitioners can prescribe medications and act as primary care providers (PCPs). Other job duties and functions of FNPs include:

  • Performing physicals and other diagnostic tests.
  • Educating patients on preventative care and pain management.
  • Treating acute and chronic illnesses, conditions, and injuries.
  • Developing treatment plans.
  • Maintaining patient records.

Advancing from RN to FNP

To go from a registered nurse (RN) to a family nurse practitioner (FNP) designation, candidates must fulfill several requirements beyond those of a registered nurse.

After obtaining an associate or bachelor’s degree in Nursing, passing the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN), meeting the licensure requirements of the state where they want to practice, and gaining essential hands-on experience and patient exposure, registered nurses are ready to fulfill the family nurse practitioner requirements. These include the following, but can vary by state.

1. Complete a BSN Degree.

Before you can enroll in an FNP-APRN graduate program, you must first earn a bachelor’s degree in Nursing (BSN). This is a prerequisite for any Master’s in Nursing program you will pursue. Many registered nurses today already hold a baccalaureate education. However, because a BSN is not required of RNs, many nurses will launch their careers with an associate degree. If you have an associate degree in Nursing and your RN licensure, you can complete your BSN degree in a flexible, online format. RN-to-BSN programs make this possible. RN-to-BSN degree programs are designed for working nurses, enabling RNs to achieve their BSN part-time, online, and at their own pace. Once this is complete, you can reach for your FNP degree.

2. Apply and Complete an Accredited Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) Program.

Students can be assured that attending and completing an accredited Family Nurse Practitioner degree program means receiving a high-quality education where the curriculum and quality have been evaluated and judged to meet the high standards of the nursing profession.

In addition to accreditation, students should look for a program that includes courses in leadership theory, professional practices, and the policy and politics of healthcare, as well as expanding knowledge and skills in advanced reasoning, pharmacology, advanced practice through the lifespan, and hands-on clinical experience.

Students can expect to take one to three years to complete their Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) degree, with many programs, like Goodwin University’s, offering flexible and affordable options with online courses, tuition transparency, and comprehensive support services.


At Goodwin University, you can complete your BSN and earn your APRN-FNP degree all in one place! Check out our RN-to-BSN or APRN-FNP downloadable guides to learn how you can get on the fast track to a rewarding healthcare career!


3. Apply for Family Practice Certification.

Like registered nurses, family nurse practitioners must be certified to practice in the field. To obtain certification, FNP candidates must have:

  • A current and active registered nurse (RN) license.
  • Master’s degree from an accredited Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) program.
  • At least five hundred faculty-supervised clinical hours.
  • Completed graduate-level courses in advanced physiology/pathophysiology, health assessment, and pharmacology.

Certification is offered by either the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) or the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP). The former organization’s exam focuses on nursing policy, advanced research, and theory, whereas the latter focuses on clinical management, assessment, diagnosis, and patient evaluation.

4. Obtain Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) Certification and Meet Your State’s Specific Requirements.

Every state will have location-specific FNP requirements, processes, and fees that candidates must fulfill to obtain and maintain their certification and licensure.

For example, in Connecticut, candidates must have their Master’s degree in Nursing, with a concentration in family nurse practice. This can be done only after obtaining their registered nurse licensure, BSN degree, and direct clinical experience within the last five years, before moving into the family nurse practitioner role.

Students should research what will be expected of them in the state they wish to practice.

5. Start Your Career and Maintain Certification.

It’s finally time to take the next step in this exciting and fulfilling career path by finding work! Family nurse practitioners (FNPs) find work in a variety of settings, such as hospitals, medical offices, independent practices, community health clinics, long-term care facilities, and more.

Additionally, you need to maintain your certification by fulfilling a minimum number of clinical practice hours, continuing education credits, and renewal fees, depending on the organization you received your certification from and your state’s renewal certification requirements.

Candidates can also earn additional clinical certifications in certain specialties, like emergency medicine, neonatology, and women’s health.

Reap the Benefits of a Career as a Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP)

In addition to their high salaries, a career as a family nurse practitioner is extremely popular due to its diversity of jobs, job responsibilities, and job settings. Not to mention that FNPs acquire a vast and invaluable amount of knowledge, skills, education, and training in their program’s theory and clinical studies curriculum.

Lastly, family nurse practitioners can expect a remarkable job outlook, with employment projected to grow 38 percent by 2032, resulting in an average of about 29,200 job openings per year, as reported by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

There’s no better way to further your skills and love of nursing than to grow from a registered nurse to a family nurse practitioner. Advance your career with our career-focused Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) Master’s program at Goodwin University.

Contact us to learn more about our Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) program, where you’ll receive the support you need to take your nursing career to the next level.

We’re ready when you are!