How to Choose the Best Family Nurse Practitioner Degree

This article discusses why you should earn a degree as a family practitioner with a Master of Science in Nursing. It will provide you with advice on how to select a good NP program, the different specialties you can choose, the advantages of earning the degree, and critical accreditation information.

What Is a Family Nurse Practitioner Degree?

A family nurse practitioner degree is actually a specialty of a Master of Science in nursing, a graduate degree that takes two or three years to earn. A master of science in nursing or MSN will provide you with the skills and training that you need to provide advanced primary and/or specialized care to many patients.

An MSN degree is an essential part of becoming an advanced nursing practice professional, and one of those specialities is that of nurse practitioner. A degree as a nurse practitioner will provide you with the training so that you can diagnose and treat many common illnesses and injuries. NPs also manage hypertension, diabetes, heart problems, depression and other common disorders that people usually go to primary care physicians to handle.

Most NPs also can order and diagnose lab tests and x-rays, and can prescribe most medications. They also can practice independently in some states, but in others must work under the supervision of a doctor.

After you complete your NP degree and the required number of clinical hours – at least 400 – you will then need to pass your national certification examination for NPs that is administered by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing. You also may earn many specialties as an NP, and you obtain certification through the American Nurses Credentialing Center. Some of these specialties include:

  • Neonatal
  • Pediatrics
  • Mental health
  • Primary care
  • Gerontology
  • School NP
  • Home health
  • Ambulatory care
  • Vascular nursing
  • Informatics nursing
  • Prenatal
  • Trauma care
  • Oncology

Why Earn a Nurse Practitioner Degree?

The biggest reason to get your MSN degree to become an NP is simply – job demand! According to Forbes magazine in 2015, NPs are often in more demand than doctors. This is because an NP can do probably 80% or 90% of what a doctor can do, at less than ⅔ of the cost of a typical primary care doctor. This is a very attractive way for health care providers to provide good care affordably.

Forbes also states in the same article that 20 years ago, neither NPs or physician assistants were in the top 20 of demand for health care professions. Today both are #4 on their list, ahead of doctors.

The statistics from the US government also indicate that demand for NPs will be huge in coming years. The Bureau of Labor Statistics states that the demand for all advanced practice nurses – including NPs, nurse anesthetists, and nurse midwives – will soar by 31%. Specifically, BLS anticipates that the demand for NPs will increase by an astonishing 35% by 2024.

Choosing Your Degree Path

All professionals who want to become an NP must earn their master of science degree in nursing. However, there are a few types of these degrees. If you have a background in nursing and already have your RN designation, you will take a slightly different MSN program than a professional without an RN designation or any nursing experience:

  • Master of Science in Nursing – FNP Track – Advanced Standing: This one or two year program is designed for the nursing professional who already is an RN and has either an associate’s degree or bachelor’s degree in nursing. Current nurses with an active RN license get credit for some or most of their past coursework in nursing, allowing some nurses to earn their degree faster.
  • Master of Science in Nursing – FNP Track – Direct Entry: This is graduate nursing program is designed for professionals who have a bachelor’s degree in another field and do not have nursing experience. In these programs – such as Northeastern University – you need to earn your BSN first, work for a year in nursing, and then finish your MSN degree. The entire program takes approximately four years.
  • Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP): An MSN degree is what is required to become an NP, but there are some nursing professionals who may choose to also earn their DNP degree at some point. This is usually for professionals who want to teach in nursing schools or conduct advanced research.

Online Nurse Practitioner Degree Options

There are many excellent online MSN options today that let you earn your nursing degree in two or three years, with all classes online. You only must complete your clinical rotations in your local region. One of the best is the FNP program offered online by Chamberlain University. In as few as eight semesters, you can complete your graduate degree and sit for your national NP certification examination.

After you complete your MSN core courses and the first several FNP courses, you then will do your practicum in your area. This is where you start to apply your advanced nursing knowledge in real life clinical situations. The total number of practicum hours in this program is 625.

Your required curriculum includes:

  • Foundational Concepts and Applications
  • Theoretical Basis for Advanced Nursing Practice
  • Healthcare Policy
  • Fundamentals of Nursing Informatics
  • Advanced Pathophysiology
  • Advanced Pharmacology
  • Leadership and Role of the Advanced Practice Nurse


Ensuring that your NP degree program is accredited is a very important part of your education process. By being certain that your program has acquired accreditation, you are ensured that you are learning the advanced nursing skills that are required for you to succeed as nurse practitioner. Your potential healthcare employers also know that you have learned from a high quality program.

The standard bearer for nursing program accreditation is the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education or CCNE.


Becoming a nurse practitioner is possibly the best possible career choice in health care today in terms of total job demand and salary. You can earn up to $100,000 or even more in some areas, and go to school for ½ the time that it takes to become an MD.