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FNP vs. NP:
What's the Difference?

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Difference Between FNP and NP

What’s the difference between a FNP and NP?

Nurse practitioners (NPs) are master’s prepared nurses that provide advanced level care, including diagnosis, treatment, health promotion, health prevention and disease management.

While most NPs will specialize in caring for a particular age group, family nurse practitioners (FNPs) work with patients of all ages and across various specialties.

For example, in each of these cases, FNPs can handle the same responsibilities as many different types of nurse practitioners.

  • FNP vs. Psychiatric NP. A psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner (PMHNP) specializes in mental health care, including medical/psychiatric diagnosis, designing treatment plans and prescribing medication. A certified FNP is also qualified to handle these responsibilities.
  • FNP vs. Gerontology NP (or AGNP). An ANGP specializes in care for older adults. A certified FNP is qualified for geriatric care under the family practice umbrella.
  • FNP vs. Pediatric NP (PNP). A pediatric nurse practitioner specializes in the care of children and young adults. A certified FNP is qualified for pediatric care under the family practice umbrella. 
  • FNP vs. Acute Care NP. An acute care nurse practitioner specializes in the care of very ill or injured patients, in hospitals and urgent care centers. FNPs are also qualified to provide acute care in these settings.

You may also see additional letters added to FNP or NP to indicate a certification:

  • FNP vs. NP-C and FNP-C vs. NP. A “C” tacked on to the front or back means “certified” by AANP. 
  • FNP-BC vs. NP. When you see “BC” it means board certification. “FNP-BC” means a family nurse practitioner board certified by the ANCC.

In addition to serving a diverse patient population, FNPs have the flexibility of working in a variety of different healthcare environments, including:

  • Primary Care
  • Public Health
  • Retail Health Clinics
  • Urgent Care Clinics
  • School Health 
  • Veterans Administration
  • Women’s Health

Family nurse practitioners are qualified to handle many different specialties under the family practice umbrella, including psychiatry, orthopedics, gerontology, rehabilitation, urology, pediatrics, cardiology, and much more.

Which nurse practitioner specialty is in highest demand?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the need for nurse practitioners is projected to increase 52 percent from 2019–2029. Nurse practitioners that specialize in geriatric care will be in high demand due to the growing healthcare needs of the aging baby boomer population.

Is a physician assistant PA) above a nurse practitioner?

No. PAs and NPs are not the same, but they do have similar roles and responsibilities in patient care. The main difference between the two is that PAs come from a medical education model, while NPs come from a nursing education model focused on holistic care and health prevention. NPs are more specialized in treating certain segments of the population, while PAs have a more generalist education and take a generalized licensing exam.

What are the highest paid nurse practitioners?

The top 10 percentile of nurse practitioners make more than $150,000, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. It can vary quite a bit by your state of employment. In California, for instance, the average annual salary for a nurse practitioner is $133,780. These estimates also depend on your specialty, professional experience, development of your skills, and place of employment–hospitals, clinics or physician’s offices.

Can an FNP work in urgent care?

Yes – a family nurse practitioner may work in urgent care or emergency services.

Can nurse practitioners work in hospitals?

Yes, FNPs and NPs often work in hospitals. It is the second most popular setting for employment after physician’s offices, according to the BLS. Nurse practitioners may also work in outpatient care centers or offices of other healthcare practitioners.

Related: Find out where nurse practitioners work and average salaries in each according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Which FNP certification should I pursue?

There are two certifying bodies for FNPs – the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) and the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC). Your career goals will help you determine which certification is best for you.

Both AANP and AANC certification enable FNPs to work in any clinical setting in any state. The AANC certification differs in that its exam content includes nursing research and theory in addition to nursing practice. The AANC certification is more suited to those who are interested in academic roles, such as becoming a nurse educator at a university.

How do I become a family nurse practitioner?

To become an FNP, you will need to earn a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree in Family Nurse Practitioner (and yes, you can get your FNP degree online!). Whether you’re just beginning your nursing career or looking to advance in your field, Herzing University offers a variety of nursing degree paths to help you achieve your goals. Learn more about the requirements needed to become a nurse practitioner and see what our online FNP nurse practitioner program has to offer.

Learn more about the different types of nurse practitioners

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