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Best RN to Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) Programs Online

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Author: Angela Myers

Discover what it takes to go from RN to family nurse practitioner, including online degree paths, popular courses, and more.

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A smiling nurse in blue scrubs gives a high-five to a young boy sitting with his mother while a doctor with a tablet stands nearby. The interaction takes place in a medical setting, likely a clinic or hospital.

Nursing is a rewarding career at every level, from nursing assistant to chief nursing officer. If you’re an RN ready to augment your skills and your income, becoming a nurse practitioner might be for you. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, on average nurse practitioners earn over $120,000 a year in a field that’s adding jobs rapidly.

However, there isn’t just one type of nurse practitioner or one type of master’s or doctorate for NPs. Instead, NP students choose a specialty, such as gerontology or psychiatric-mental health nursing, and enroll in a program for that concentration.

For those who have a passion for providing care across a patient’s lifespan, becoming a family nurse practitioner is a great specialization. To become an FNP, nurses need a master of science in nursing (MSN) or a doctor of nursing practice (DNP) and a specialty in family practice.

This guide provides insight into which RN to family nurse practitioner online program type is right for you, plus some stand-out programs to consider. By the end, you’ll feel prepared to choose the right RN to family nurse practitioner online degree for you and more confident in your professional future. Keep reading to take the first step down this exciting path.

When searching for RN to family nurse practitioner online programs, it’s hard to tell which are the best. That’s because the right program is different for everyone, though there are some standard signs of quality to guide your search. The three universities below stand out in terms of academics, scholarship opportunities, and student support.

Herzing University

Herzing University hosts one of the best RN to family nurse practitioner online programs. This program is an accelerated option that takes just 24 months. All classes are offered online, although students also complete 630 clinical hours, 500 of which must be with patients. Typically, these patient-facing hours are in person, though it’s possible to find a telehealth provider to complete these hours virtually. To be eligible for this program, students should have either their associate or bachelor’s degree in nursing and be licensed nurses. Unlike other programs, Herzing University focuses on career development and places less emphasis on nursing theory. It also provides courses in a flexible, often asynchronous, format. Students have access to online support resources, such as tutoring and professional development guidance. The degree costs $735 per credit; Herzing University offers scholarships to lower the overall cost.

South University

Those looking for RN to family nurse practitioner online programs should consider South University. The degree is hosted almost entirely online, though students do complete 750 clinical hours at an approved healthcare site, usually in person. The program also has two paths: one for those with an associate degree and another for those with a BSN. Applicants should already be licensed nurses. The track for nurses with an associate degree starts with undergraduate nursing coursework and progresses into graduate-level classes. The track for nurses with a bachelor’s degree dives into graduate-level coursework. At the graduate level, students take a combination of general nursing courses and specialized courses in family practice, such as women’s health, adult gerontology, and pediatric health. There’s also a transitional course to help students utilize their nurse practitioner degree to advance their careers. This program is $617 per credit and offers financial aid options.

The University of Texas at Arlington

The University of Texas at Arlington offers a robust RN to family nurse practitioner online degree. In as few as 42 months, licensed nurses who have their bachelor’s can become family nurse practitioners in the state of Texas. There’s also a longer option for students with an associate degree, which results in a BSN and MSN. The program places a heavy emphasis on developing students’ clinical, diagnostic, and research skills through online coursework and in-person clinical hours. Students complete their clinical hours near where they live or work. The curriculum also focuses on providing care throughout a patient’s lifespan, with courses in pediatric nursing, gerontology nursing, and adult nursing. The total tuition cost is $38,308. Financial aid options are available.

Compare Your Options for Becoming a Family Nurse Practitioner Online

When looking for the right NP program, consider your current education level. Amazing MSN programs are available for those with associate or bachelor’s degrees, and stand-out DNP programs are available for those with bachelor’s degrees. The three most common degree types are outlined below.

ADN to MSN

Those who already have their associate degree in nursing can get their master’s on an accelerated timeline with an ADN to MSN program. These programs are rare, often carry a significant cost, and usually take four years. While the coursework is delivered online, students typically complete in-person clinical hours to receive their NP license. Sometimes these hours can be completed at a student’s workplace if they’re already working as a nurse. For an idea of what this program may look like, check out South University (profiled above). South’s degree costs $617 per credit hour and requires 750 clinical hours before graduation.

BSN to MSN

A virtual BSN to MSN family nurse practitioner online degree is the most common program type. Typically, these degrees take about two years to complete and include clinical hours that are in person (sometimes at the student’s current workplace). To be eligible for this degree, students should already be registered nurses and hold a bachelor’s degree in nursing. These degrees vary in cost, though finding programs that cost less than $20,000 is possible.

Nightingale College offers a quality MSN FNP program designed for students who already hold a BSN.

BSN to DNP

Registered nurses with their bachelor’s degree can skip their master’s and go straight to their doctorate in nursing practice with a BSN to DNP program. Typically, these programs take four years to complete, with many course components available online. Depending on the program, students may complete clinical hours in person; sometimes, these can be done at the student’s workplace. These programs can cost more than their BSN to MSN counterparts, though there are some more affordable options. For example, the degree at Fort Hays State University costs $428 per credit hour.

Common Courses in RN to MSN Programs Online

While the curriculum for RN to MSN family nurse practitioner online programs varies, there are some common classes most students take. These include courses in nursing theory, clinical decision-making, pediatric healthcare, and nurse practitioner roles. Keep reading to explore these common nurse practitioner courses in more detail.

Advanced Theoretical Perspectives for Nursing

Nurse practitioners are experts in their field and must understand the theory behind their degree. Most likely, you’ve taken some theory classes in your associate or bachelor’s degree. In a nurse practitioner program, students take more advanced theory classes that analyze nursing from various perspectives, including healthcare, economic, and social lenses. Usually, these classes can be completed online, and some are offered in an asynchronous format, meaning students watch prerecorded classes and complete assignments whenever works for them.

Clinical Decision-Making

All nurses play a critical role that requires decision-making about patients’ treatment. However, nurse practitioners have more autonomy to diagnose and create treatment plans under the guidance of a physician. Because of this increased autonomy, family nurse practitioners should be adept at clinical decision-making. To prepare students, most programs offer a course in the analytical skills needed to make the right decisions regarding patient treatment.

Healthcare of Infants, Children, and Adolescents

A key part of family nursing practice is understanding and treating infants, children, and adolescents. Because pediatric patients often require different treatment than adult patients, most family nurse practitioner programs have a class devoted to pediatric healthcare. This course may be delivered entirely online, though often in a synchronous format with class participation. Family NP students also complete clinical hours working with infants, children, and adolescent patients.

Healthcare of Infants, Children, and Adolescents

A key part of family nursing practice is understanding and treating infants, children, and adolescents. Because pediatric patients often require different treatment than adult patients, most family nurse practitioner programs have a class devoted to pediatric healthcare. This course may be delivered entirely online, though often in a synchronous format with class participation. Family NP students also complete clinical hours working with infants, children, and adolescent patients.

Roles for Nurse Practitioners

As a nurse practitioner many roles are available to you, so many programs have a course in the final semester to explore these options. Most family nurse practitioners work in a family health practice or hospital setting; this class covers the differences between these two options. It also explores nonclinical career opportunities for family nurse practitioners. At most schools, this class can be completed online in either an asynchronous or discussion-based format. Once enrolled, students should set aside time to reflect on their own professional lives and what career they’d like to pursue.

A Closer Look at FNP Career Earning Potential

While almost all nurses make a healthy salary, nurse practitioners are often the highest paid. In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the median salary for NPs is $121,610 annually. The growth rate for nurse practitioners is 52.2% — much faster than the national average for other jobs — this growth rate means a significant number of new jobs and leadership positions will be available to nurse practitioners in the next 10 years.

Beyond salary and industry growth rate, nurse practitioners tend to like their jobs. A 2022 study polled NPs across the nation and found 90% were satisfied in their current role. Reasons for such high job satisfaction included a helpful work environment, autonomy in their work, and feeling they made an impact on patients’ lives.

Family nurse practitioners have a robust skill set that can be used in small private practices and large hospital systems, making it an excellent specialization for anyone who wants flexibility and options in their career.

AreaOccupationEmployment
(2020)
New Jobs
(2020-2030)
Job Growth RateAvg. Annual Openings
(’20-’30)
United StatesNurse Practitioners220,300114,90052.2%26,000

Source: Projections Central

AreaOccupation10th PercentileMedian90th Percentile
United StatesNurse Practitioners$87,340$121,610$165,240

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics