The Guide to Online Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) Programs

Becoming a Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) can be a rewarding career move for Registered Nurses (RNs) looking to further their medical career without fully committing to the doctoral path. The FNP role goes beyond the typical RN experience with added responsibilities and authority to diagnose, treat, counsel, and (in some states) even prescribe medication.

Pursuing an FNP certification may be surprisingly feasible for full-time, working nurses. Individuals that already have a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree and an RN license can pursue a FNP career through an online family nurse practitioner program. The emergence of online FNP programs has made obtaining a degree while holding down a career much more feasible since the student does not uproot their life for schooling.

Jumpstart Your Career in Nursing, Explore Online FNP Programs:

Become a Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) Online with Georgetown University

Become a Family Nurse Practitioner in 27 months by earning your Master of Science degree in Nursing from Georgetown University. Develop the skills needed to manage primary care for patients in your community.

  • CCNE Accredited
  • Complete the 44 credit program in as few as 27 months
  • Clinical Placement Support


Earn Your MSN Online from Simmons University

Earn an MSN online from Simmons University. Choose from two program options — FNP or PMHNP — and prepare to raise the standard of patient care.

  • Choose from two program options — FNP or PMHNP
  • Complete in as few as 24 months
  • Full-time and part-time tracks available


Prepare to Become a Family Nurse Practitioner at Fisher

The Primary Care Family Nurse Practitioner (PCFNP) program from the Wegmans School of Nursing at St. John Fisher University can be completed in as few as 24 months. Bachelor’s in nursing, RN license, and clinical experience required.

  • CCNE-accredited 
  • Complete in as few as 24 months
  • Part-time and accelerated tracks available
  • Four program options


This online approach is tailor-made for RNs looking to take the next step in their medical careers without having to leave their jobs to do so. It typically takes almost a year longer to complete this type of part-time path compared to a dedicated full-time FNP program, but the ability to work while studying is a major plus for those unwilling to take unpaid time away from their current jobs.

The Online FNP Program Experience

FNP programs online allow you to trade traditional classroom learning time for virtual lessons and activities – often without compromising the integrity of the coursework. Online courses can be completed remotely with some combination of a computer, internet access, a microphone, and a webcam. Instead of attending lectures and sharing physical classroom space with peers, these tech tools become the conduit to both information and collaboration.

Ever wondered what the differences between Nurse Practitioner and Doctor of Nursing Practice are? Learn more about NP vs DNP!

When opting for an online FNP program, you can often expect some of the following:

  • A virtual classroom experience: Just because you and your classmates aren’t in the same place, doesn’t mean you miss out on the collaboration and value of the face-to-face experience. Most online courses involve some degree of purposeful digital interaction between students, instructors, and peers to help make the digital classroom feel more like its analog cousin.
  • A centralized digital learning environment: Your coursework, recorded lectures, and supplemental materials will be provided through the school’s learning management system of choice. This is also where you can expect to find important course announcements and discussion forums.
  • Dynamic course content: One of the major benefits of digital curriculum is the ease with which multimedia and interactivity can be integrated into the learning experience. There will be plenty of reading, but online courses usually involve additional content like video, supplemental links, and progress checks to enhance the coursework.
  • Portability: Online courseware allows students the freedom to complete their work wherever they can get online. This makes it easier for students to dive into their materials whenever they have the time to do so, regardless of their location. Be advised however, some digital materials may not run on all platforms.
  • Tech Support: Any time you are relying on technology, you need to be prepared for potential problems. Schools know this and strive to provide on-demand technical support to make sure students can always access and engage with their digital courses.

It is important to remember that becoming a Family Nurse Practitioner still requires hours of on-site clinical work. That said, the ability to complete the academic portions of the certification remotely is a noteworthy convenience.

Furthermore, this type of distance learning potentially enables you to pursue your degree and FNP certification from a university or college that would otherwise be beyond your reach. Most of the nation’s top online FNP programs allow students to both complete coursework off-site and meet their clinical obligations locally rather than on or near the physical campus.

Online FNP Program Admissions Requirements

Getting accepted to many of the FNP programs online may require candidates to meet a base set of requirements including:

  • Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree from an accredited university or college
  • an active registered nurse’s license in good standing
  • a minimum amount of work experience as an RN (amount varies by institution)
  • the ability to meet the particular FNP program’s required clinical and/or on-site practicum

Requirements may vary by program and school, but the bulk of these expectations parallel those set by the nursing licensing boards. Don’t expect requirements to differ too significantly between institutions.

While there are certainly pathways available to those who wish to become a FNP but have not met the aforementioned prerequisites, these avenues tend to involve full-time, on-site coursework rather than online fnp program coursework.

Online FNP Program Curriculum

The academic curriculum of an online Family Nurse Practitioner program typically starts with a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree from an accredited institution. These degrees involve coursework focused on topics such as:

  • lab-based science
  • medical study design, statistics, and analysis
  • best practices in the nursing field
  • holistic care of patients throughout their lifespan
  • global health issues
  • advanced nursing techniques and practice
  • pathophysiology
  • advanced pharmacology
  • workplace leadership

It is worth noting that medical certification boards require applicants to have actual, hands-on clinical experience beyond what they can earn from books and lectures. Therefore, while many of the credits that must be earned as a part of a MSN degree can be completed during an online FNP program, becoming an FNP does come with a substantial commitment to faculty-supervised clinical hours. The actual number of these hours varies by program, but certification from the American Nurses Association (ANA) or the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) requires a minimum of 500 hours.

During these clinical experiences, prospective FNPs are given opportunities to hone their skills by assessing and diagnosing a wide variety of patients – similar to the actual day-to-day demands of being an FNP. Not only does this bring text- and lecture-driven learning to life, but these clinical hours also foster the real-world clinical decision-making skills required of effective FNPs in the field.

Family Nurse Practitioner Career Outlook

An increasing number of Americans are placing an increased emphasis on preventive care, and nurse practitioners are becoming more recognized as more and more states grant more autonomy to the profession. This has created a notable increase in demand for certified FNPs nationwide. At the same time, nurses are beginning to retire in record numbers as the baby boomer generation is starting to leave the workforce.

The combination of these factors creates a strong outlook for those entering the FNP profession. From 2018 through 2028, the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts a strong 26% growth-rate for FNPs and similar careers requiring an MSN degree.

Some of the places where FNPs are and will continue to be in demand include:

  • hospitals
  • outpatient care centers
  • physician’s offices
  • educational institutions

FNP salaries fluctuate based on where you choose to practice, but the median annual wages for a nurse practitioner in 2019 was $115,800, according to the BLS.

These figures make the combination of pursuing a Master of Science in Nursing degree and a Family Nurse Practitioner certificate a viable and worthwhile pursuit for Registered Nurses looking to improve both their career and fiscal standing.

Finding the Best Online Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) Program For You

In searching for the best online FNP programs across the United States, it’s important to take into account the specific type of degree being offered, the clinical hours the program requires of it’s students, and the credit requirements necessary to complete the program.

Online FNP Programs to Consider

We’ve compiled a list of the online FNP programs across the United States along with degree and program requirement information. An important component to any online degree program is their ability to provide top tier clinical placements as well as great online coursework. Any FNP online program worth it’s salt will have a team of dedicated professionals working to match you with a medical center that meets your needs for clinical placement. Explore each program thoroughly to find out which will be the best suited FNP program online for you!

Last Updated May 2020