Family nurse practitioners (FNPs) are advanced-practice nurses who focus on patients of all ages- from infancy through adulthood. It is one of the most commonly selected certifications that NPs choose, mainly because it is one of the most in-demand NP specialties. Due to a nationwide physician shortage, NPs are more often "filling the gap" to help meet the growing needs of patients. FNPs are specialized in all ages, which makes them very much in-demand.

When attending a master's or doctoral program, students can choose which population foci they wish to concentrate on, such as Adult-Gerontology, Pediatrics, Women's Health, and Family Medicine. Certification is usually required with licensing as an NP, but new graduate NPs should check with their state's board of nursing for specific licensing requirements.

The FNP certification is a little different than a post-graduate certificate. FNP certification is usually obtained after a student finishes an APRN program specializing in family medicine. A graduate certificate is usually earned after a master's or doctoral program, perhaps if the APRN is wanting to switch or add specialties. The post-graduate certificate usually does not include the foundation courses needed in an APRN program such as advanced assessment, physiology, or advanced pharmacology as these were most likely completed already.

Why Do I Need a Family Nurse Practitioner Certification?

As stated earlier, one of the main reasons to earn certification is because it is usually required for licensure as a nurse practitioner. However, this depends on the state. Additionally, certification indicates that not only was the nurse practitioner trained in family medicine, but is "certified" to practice as an FNP. It's valuable not only to the NP and employers but to healthcare consumers as well. By having the title "FNP-C" or "FNP-BC", nurse practitioners can build trust with patients as it denotes expertise in the field as well as a well-rounded knowledge base. Moreover, it builds trust with physicians who may be new at providing oversight to NPs.

Another reason why certification is important is for professional development and hireability. It may give a new NP an edge when applying for positions.

It is important for new nurse practitioners to ensure they select an appropriate certifying agency as it may affect licensing. Some state and local agencies may offer certification for NPs, but the agency should be nationally recognized to prevent licensing issues later down the line. Examples of nationally recognized certifying agencies include the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners and the American Nurses Credentialing Center.

What’s the Difference Between an FNP-C and an FNP-BC?

The main difference between these two certifications is that the FNP-C is provided by the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) and the FNP-BC is through the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC). Both organizations are credible and result in respected certifications. The tests, however, differ slightly in the content they cover, with the ANCC’s version being a bit longer (around 175 questions versus AANP’s 150 questions) with more emphasis on policy and professional topics, as well as nursing theory. For this reason, some choose to earn ANCC’s FNP-BC if they wish to go into academia, while clinicians may prefer AANP’s FNP-C, but this is not a hard and fast rule. Cost may also be a determining factor, with the FNP-BC coming in a bit more expensive than the FNP-C (see below for more information). Students are encouraged to research each exam and certification to determine which one is right for them, though it’s nice to remember that these certifications are equal.

Where Can I Get a Family Nurse Practitioner Certification?

There are different organizations that offer certifications for NPs, but it's essential that the NP checks with their state's board of nursing to determine which ones are accepted in their home state. The two main titles for a certified family nurse practitioner are the FNP-BC and the FNP-C, as outlined below:

American Academy of Nurse Practitioners (AANP)

Certificate Name: Family Nurse Practitioner

Credential Awarded: FNP-C

Cost: AANP members: $240, non-members $315

Certification Requirements & Eligibility

  • Must be a graduate of an accredited master's, doctoral, or post-graduate NP program
  • Must have completed the required APRN core courses: advanced pharmacology, physiology, and advanced health assessment.
  • Completed a minimum of 500 clinical hours of supervised direct patient care
  • Must have a valid U.S. or Canadian RN license

American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC)

Certificate Name: Family Nurse Practitioner

Credential Awarded: FNP-BC

Cost: $270 for ANA members, $395 for non-members, $340 for AANP, GAPNA, or NGNA members

Certification Requirements & Eligibility

  • Have a current RN license
  • Completed a master's or doctoral program specializing in Family Medicine
  • Have completed a minimum of 500 hours of supervised clinical hours
  • Have completed advanced pharmacology, physiology, and health assessment

Whichever certifying agency the NP chooses, he or she can be reassured that the titles FNP-C and FNP-BC are equivalent, and therefore meet both state licensure requirements as well as professional goals.

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