How Do I Choose an FNP Program?

How Do I Choose an FNP Program?

So, youve decided its time to further your education? Or maybe you havent decided yet because you are unsure what to do. So many questions are swimming through your mind: Are all FNP programs the same? How much will it cost? Can I still work as an RN while I’m in school? How will I know which program is right for me? Well, never fear; you may find the answers you need

Are All FNP Programs the Same?

The short answer is no, and that can be a good thing. All accredited FNP programs in the United States must follow the standards of their accrediting bodies, both for nursing and their university at large, governmental regulations, licensure standards, and other guidelines. However, the standards can be arranged in several different ways. This allows nursing colleges to offer programs that fit various student needs.

The FNP curriculum is typically offered in three different formats: online, traditional face-to-face, or a hybrid of online and traditional. Online programs have made educational experiences more accessible to students who would not otherwise have the opportunity to further their education or who prefer the flexibility of online learning. When considering online learning, ask whether the classes are presented in synchronous, asynchronous, or a combination of formats.

Synchronous delivery typically means having online classes with a live instructor at specific times, discussions with other students, and opportunities to ask questions and receive feedback. Asynchronous classes usually consist of recorded content, allowing students to access their learning experiences at any time of the day or night, with scheduled opportunities to interact with instructors. Combination formats are just that, a combination of the two.

Traditional programs provide face-to-face learning with an experienced instructor, and hybrid programs offer a taste of both in-person and online learning. So, determining which of the program types is right for you may take some self-evaluation. Some students need the structure of being required to show up in person at a specific date and time, and some are more self-regulated. Neither is right, and neither is wrong. Just make sure to think it through to set yourself up for success.

Another similarity between FNP programs is the requirement for hands-on patient care in clinical settings with properly vetted preceptors. Make sure to inquire about preceptor policies when considering a program. Some programs arrange clinical experiences for their students. However, the vast majority of programs require students to arrange their own clinical experiences. So, the time to start networking with FNPs in your area is now. Most programs allow students to learn from physicians for some required hours.

However, the majority of hours should be spent learning from an experienced nurse practitioner. Because the FNP scope of practice encompasses patients across the lifespan, students will likely be required to have preceptors in differing specialties: pediatrics, womens health, primary care, and urgent care. Many programs also allow preceptorships within sub-specialties such as aesthetics, dermatology, podiatry, cardiology, urology, etc. Think outside the box. It never hurts to ask whether your favorite practitioner could be approved for a clinical experience.

A couple of words to the wise concerning preceptorships:

  • Some preceptors require payment for their services, and some do not. Some colleges allow paid preceptors, and some do not. Make sure to ask about this before you enroll in a class that requires a preceptor.
  • Contact your states Board of Nursing (BON) to ensure they allow clinical experiences while you learn from another location. The college you apply to should provide this information, but it always helps to check it out yourself.

How Much Will an FNP Program Cost?

According to, the range for graduate credit hours is approximately $500 to $2000. Required credits usually range from 46 to 54, but there are variations. So, look at the program curriculum and do the math. Also, dont forget to ask about fees, books, supplies, etc., and start thinking about scholarships, grants, and financial aid now.

Please consider your time cost as well. Colleges and universities must calculate in-class time, expected out-of-class work time, clinical time, lab time, etc. So, think of solutions ahead of time for things like childcare, vacations, practice, and life in general. While graduate school is temporary, it will likely mean change for the whole family. So, make sure to talk it through with all of those important people in your life. After all, people can do just about anything for a while, as my Nana always told me.

Can I Still Work as an RN While Im in School?

Most people do work while in graduate school. However, this may factor into your decision about the type of program you want to attend. An asynchronous program may work better if your practice site requirements conflict with traditional or synchronous course requirements. Or your practice site may be willing to accommodate the changes you need. It never hurts to ask. Just remember, a practice site is a great place to make contacts for clinical preceptors.

How Will I Know Which Program is Right for Me?

Consider the things above and talk to people that you trust. Ask them to tell you about their experiences. Then, consider what they say with your perspective in mind. Ask good questions and do your homework in examining available programs. You must consider your learning style, non-negotiable responsibilities, resources, and your familys willingness to be flexible for a little while. When considering a program, you need to know about the format, the colleges accreditation status, the programs success in licensure pass rates and graduate placements, the length of the program, the cost in money and time, the programs preceptor requirements, and whether your BON allows learning from the colleges state. Then, choose wisely and GO FOR IT!