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What’s the difference between an FNP and an APRN?

A healthcare professional listens carefully to a patient

By Cooper Nelson

At a glance

  • The responsibilities of an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) can include diagnosing a patient’s illness or injury, ordering lab tests and more.
  • A family nurse practitioner (FNP) is a type of APRN. In addition to the traditional responsibilities of an APRN, FNPs focus on primary, preventive healthcare for patients of all ages.
  • APRNs and FNPs both require undergraduate and graduate degrees. FNPs tend to operate within the field of family nursing; other types of APRNs may work in a wide variety of roles and specializations.
  • Explore the range of advanced nursing degree options, including the MSN/FNP program, at University of Phoenix!

What is the difference between APRN and FNP?

Many registered nurses (RNs) seek a specialty to practice more advanced nursing and obtain greater knowledge, skill and responsibility. While some nursing careers are available to candidates who have completed an undergraduate degree — like a bachelor’s degree in nursing — other nursing positions require advanced licensure or certification.

Nursing specialty careers provide advancement opportunities for RNs who have already obtained their degree, passed the NCLEX-RN examination and achieved state licensure. Specialty professions equip nurses to practice a greater range of patient care, providing services beyond an RN’s typical scope of practice.

In advanced practice nursing, you can choose from a variety of specialties, like pediatrics or primary care. 

There are different types of advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs), and family nurse practitioners (FNPs) are one example. These and other nursing specialties allow RNs to deepen their knowledge of a particular field or type of health condition.

What is an APRN?

APRN is an advanced nursing certification that allows RNs to shoulder greater responsibility in a healthcare environment. APRNs obtain further certification, which enables them to perform specialized responsibilities, such as diagnosing a patient’s illness or injury, ordering lab tests, developing treatment plans and educating patients and family members. In certain states, qualified APRNs can also prescribe medication.

Education requirements

To become an APRN, you need to become a registered nurse first. To start, students typically have a degree in nursing or other healthcare-related degree. After obtaining your initial nursing education, you must pass the NCLEX-RN and obtain licensure in the state in which you wish to practice. You then must continue and receive a master’s degree in an advanced nursing practice field, pass the certification examination required in your state and obtain your state’s required certification/licensure in your chosen practice area.

A group of RNs confer on a patient's chart

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Salary range

APRN salaries largely depend on several factors, like your employer, work location, education, years of experience and active certifications. Salary also depends on the specific nursing field. For example, nurse anesthetists earned between $131,840 and $208,000 in May 2021, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Nurse midwives, on the other hand, earned between $61,500 and $166,170 in May 2021, according to BLS.

Salary ranges are not specific to students or graduates of University of Phoenix. Actual outcomes vary based on multiple factors, including prior work experience, geographic location and other factors specific to the individual. University of Phoenix does not guarantee employment, salary level or career advancement. BLS data is geographically based. Information for a specific state/city can be researched on the BLS website.

Job outlook

Positions for nurse midwives, nurse anesthetists and nurse practitioners — three critical APRN positions — are projected to grow 40% from 2021 to 2031, according to BLS. In addition, a projected 32,000 jobs are expected to open in this field annually because of nurses retiring, moving into other careers and so forth. This growth rate presents a positive outlook for those interested in becoming an APRN. 

What is an FNP?

Family nurse practitioners (FNPs) provide healthcare for patients of all ages. They focus on primary, preventive healthcare to assist patients in maintaining their long-term health and a higher quality of life. They also work in maintaining population health.

Many FNPs operate independently within a community, helping families and individual patients address all health concerns. In other cases, an FNP might work in tandem with other nurses, physicians or physician assistants as part of a larger primary care network.

Education requirements

To become an FNP, students need to complete their bachelor’s degree, usually in nursing but sometimes in another related field, as well as the NCLEX-RN exam. After that, they need to obtain their RN license and obtain a master’s degree in an advanced practice nursing concentrating in family practice. After this, students must apply and obtain certification as an advanced practice nurse in family practice in the state or states where they wish to practice. 

Salary Range

The income for a family nurse practitioner likely depends on many factors, including whether self-employment is permitted or depending on the employer, work location and years of experience. In May 2021, nurse practitioners earned between $79,470 and $163,350, according to BLS. It is important to note that this salary range includes all nurse practitioners, not just those specializing in family practice. BLS does not provide salary ranges for nurse practitioner specialties.

Salary ranges are not specific to students or graduates of University of Phoenix. Actual outcomes vary based on multiple factors, including prior work experience, geographic location and other factors specific to the individual. University of Phoenix does not guarantee employment, salary level or career advancement. BLS data is geographically based. Information for a specific state/city can be researched on the BLS website.

Job outlook

The field of nurse practitioners is projected to grow 40% between 2021 and 2031, according to BLS. This projected growth translates to 30,200 job openings per year. And, just as with other APRN specialties, new FNP positions should open as other nurses retire or switch to other professions. 

FNPs vs. other APRNS: The similarities and differences

APRNs comprise various nursing specialists who have increased responsibilities and abilities beyond RNs. FNPs are a type of APRN and are no exception. They all provide a range of services, such as diagnostic care and the ability to prescribe medication (prescribing privileges vary by state).

FNPs specialize in family medicine, and they may work in physician offices, hospitals and other clinical settings. Their focus is on preventive, long-term healthcare for patients of all ages.

Other APRN specialty areas include geriatrics, mental health and certified nurse midwives. For those interested in this field, there are many options outside of family practice.  

Earn a degree in nursing at University of Phoenix

If you’re eager to grow your knowledge and skill set within the nursing field, University of Phoenix offers several degrees to consider, depending on your current occupational status. Here are just a few: