FNP Certification and Certificate Programs

This article discusses educational certificate programs for the family nurse practitioner. Read on for certification information, educational prerequisites, potential program coursework and employment outlook statistics.

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Essential Information

A family nurse practitioner (FNP) provides primary healthcare to individuals and families, often in a hospital or outpatient primary care clinic. In most states, an FNP candidate must be a registered nurse with an advanced nursing degree and must also have received nurse practitioner certification and a family practice certificate before becoming an FNP. Certification and certificate programs can vary greatly by state, as can the duties that FNPs are allowed to perform.

Nurse Practitioner (NP) Certificate Program

A NP certificate program combines the skills that students learned in nursing school with a solid primary healthcare education. This serves as a first step toward an FNP certificate. Students will learn how to provide many of the same services as primary care physicians. These include diagnosing medical conditions, prescribing treatment plans, providing ongoing healthcare for chronic conditions and managing community outreach programs.

After completing a nurse practitioner program, students are eligible to take the certification test, which is available through a few accredited national agencies, including the American Nurses Credentialing Center ( and the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners (

This program teaches students the skills needed to diagnose and treat many of the everyday health problems that patients face at a primary care level. FPNs will learn how to provide a wide variety of medical services, which may include critical care, chronic disease care, diagnostic research, home healthcare and medication prescription.

Program Coursework

NP certification coursework gives students an overall education in the basics of primary care. Classes focus on diagnostic skills, disease management and patient care.

  • Primary care
  • Pharmacology
  • Health assessment
  • Clinical field study
  • Population care
  • Health promotion
  • Acute health care
  • Chronic disease care
  • Adult care
  • Psychiatric nursing

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

Job prospects for nurse practitioners and family nurse practitioner are expected to grow at higher than average rate from 2010 to 2020, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics ( The overall aging of the population and the lack of primary healthcare resources in rural areas combine to create a growing need for nurse practitioners, especially for those with a certificate in family practice.

Salaries for NPs and FNPs can vary depending on the region and type of employer; urban areas and hospitals typically pay more, while clinics in rural areas tend to pay less. According to the BLS, the median salary in 2012 for a NP was $89,960.

Family Nurse Practitioner Specialty Certificate Program

A nurse practitioner with a specialization in family care will be able to treat a variety of patients in a primary care setting. Specialty programs in family practice focus on the individualized needs of patient groups divided into several categories, including age, health problem and care type. Programs also delve deeper into other medical areas, such as diagnostic skills, disease research and prescription medications.

Educational Prerequisites

Usually, students must achieve national nurse practitioner certification before entering a family nurse practitioner specialty program. Some colleges, however, combine the two programs.

Program Coursework

Coursework varies according to individual state requirements for FNP certification; however, most programs focus heavily on primary care with individualized attention to specific healthcare groups, such as children, adolescents and senior citizens. Classes deal with:

  • Advanced primary care
  • Research methods
  • Pediatric care
  • Adolescent care
  • Geriatric care
  • Reproductive health
  • Advanced pharmacology
  • Chronic health management
  • FNP residency
  • Women's health

Continuing Education Information

Many family nurse practitioners continue their education to specialize in specific types of family care, such as pediatrics, women's health and geriatrics. Such specialization requires additional college-level coursework in the specific field and students may face additional health board testing depending on state requirements.

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