Top Online Family Nurse Practitioner Programs

According to the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP 2021), the largest clinical focus area for nurse practitioners is family practice, at 69.7 percent. This means that out of the 325,000 licensed nurse practitioners in the United States, two out of three nurse practitioners will study to become family nurse practitioners (FNPs).

These statistics predict good news in the wake of a shortage of primary care doctors, estimated to hit 139,000 by 2032 (AAMC 2021). Nurse practitioners (NPs) are helping to bridge that gap. In fact, the number of NPs is expected to grow a staggering 45 percent between 2019 and 2029 compared to the average of 4 percent for all occupations, with an additional 117,700 nurse practitioner jobs being created between 2019 and 2029 (BLS 2021).

Family NPs must earn a graduate degree in nursing, such as a master of science in nursing (MSN) or doctor of nursing practice (DNP), with a family nurse practitioner specialization. MSN-prepared registered nurses (RNs) may alternatively pursue a post-master’s FNP certificate.

Earning an FNP degree empowers nurses to expand their scope of practice to help more patients and ready themselves to pursue advanced degrees such as a doctor of nursing practice (DNP). Between 2018 and 2019, the estimated number of licensed nurse practitioners grew by 8 percent, reflecting a trend predicted to continue in the coming years (AANP 2019).

While a doctor of nursing practice (DNP) degree is not currently required to become a nurse practitioner, the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN), with the support of the National Institute of Health (NIH), the Institute of Medicine, and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, has advocated for the DNP to be the new educational standard in the nurse practitioner field. As of August 2021, that standard has not been universally adopted for the time being, with many universities continuing to offer MSN degrees and post-MSN certificates with NP specializations.

Online Family NP Program Rankings

Aspiring FNPs may choose from a large variety of online master’s, post-master’s certificate, and doctoral level programs. In fact, there are more online FNP programs than there are any other type of NP program, which stands to reason given that FNPs represent two-thirds of all practicing NPs.

Typically, in online FNP programs, students complete coursework online, sometimes visiting campus for immersions. Many programs do not require any campus visits at all. All online FNP programs require clinical preceptorships, which in most cases may be completed at an approved facility local to the student.

The comprehensive NPSchools.com database includes more than 900 online NP programs at the MSN, DNP, and post-master’s certificate levels that were actively accepting students at the outset of the 2021-2022 academic year. To qualify for inclusion, each program had to require fewer than ten total campus visits. Programs are ranked by their school’s AdvanceU score, which factors in cost, admissions flexibility, and program variety.

AT NPSchools.com, we have done our best to ensure the accuracy of the data on our website; however, please contact us if we have missed any programs, or if there is erroneous information that needs to be corrected.

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