When considering FNP vs ACNP, remember that both may be desirable educational paths. That’s because those working in any area of nurse practitioner might be needed professionals in needed positions. According to the BLS, overall employment of nurse practitioners is expected to increase 38% between 2022 and 2032, which is much faster than average for all occupations. The key here is determining what type of field and work environment is perfect for you.

Working as a family nurse practitioner may be what some desire. These individuals typically work to provide primary care to people in a range of settings. Another route may be working as an advanced practice registered nurse, sometimes called an advanced practice registered nurse or APRN. These providers typically offer advanced practice skills. Opportunities exist in both fields. Consider which is perfect for your needs.

Take a closer look at the breakdown of what you could expect in FNP vs ACNP programs.

What Is an FNP?

An FNP assesses the healthcare needs of a person. They often work with families. Sometimes, you may work with the same people from their childhood into elderly care. They may treat children, teens, and young adults. Many also work with adults and those in retirement. Their specific skills typically provide primary care services. That means providing more versatile and a larger range of service even in every day practice.

Patients of all ages may need this type of help. FNPs in a practice setting typically spend time working with a large group of people. Yet, the scope of practice changes readily in some situations. You may have a lot of control over what you do when choosing the care you desire.

What Education and Certifications Do FNPs Need?

 Many may start with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree. This allows the student to become a registered nurse (RN). Many may then go on to enter a graduate nursing program. This leads to a Masters of Science in Nursing degree.

There may be other options for earning an MSN as well. For example, for those with an associates degree (AND) or a nursing diploma, as well as those with a non-nursing discipline, it may still be possible to work towards an FNP.

Having an MSN is a requirement for receiving an FNP certification. Students may need to first earn this degree. Then, they may need to earn a national board certification. This may be done through the American Academy of Nursing Practitioners National Certification Board (AANPCB). Another route is through the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) Certification Program. The American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) is another route.

Many students could expect continuing education. This may allow for more concentration down the road for some individuals as well.

FNP Courses:

1st course Quantitative Methods

Advanced Pathophysiology

In this course, the student may analyze and apply human responses to pathophysiologic mechanisms and conditions. This may include normal and abnormal responses as well as evaluations of the responses.

2nd course Economics for Finance

Advanced Physical Assessment

In this course, the student may increase their skills in health assessment. The student may develop assessment techniques using medical history as well as medical exams in order to make determinations.

3rd Course Fixed Income

Advanced Pharmacology Fundamentals

In this course, students may study commonly used prescription drugs. Portions of the course may cover analysis and applications of these medications as well expanding overall knowledge of the principles of pharmacology.

4th Course Derivatives

Population Health, Epidemiology, and Statistical Principles

In this course, students often look at population health, statistics and epidemiology. These principles may be analyzed and evaluated to help in making determinations. The use of data and statistics in aiding decision making and how to best treat patients.

Skills gained in this program:

  • Making Ethical Decisions – Being able to make decisions based on the best interests of the patient as well as following the rules and regulations of the practice.
  • Critical Thinking – Learning the skill of critical thinking and reasoning and applying it to decisions. Being able to make decisions not only on a day to day basis but in the heat of the moment as well.
  • Effective Communication – Being able to get across a point to your staff, patients and fellow employees requires the ability to communicate effectively. Learning to listen as well as provide feedback are integral parts of this skill. Missing small steps or overlooking small changes could lead to big problems. Making sure to listen to the patient and look at all aspects of why they are there to see you is integral. Being able to draw conclusions.

Concentrations in an FNP Program

As a family nurse practitioner you may choose to concentrate. It is possible for an FNP to concentrate in a specific area of people. Some may focus in geriatrics or pediatrics, for example. Once you receive your licensure, you may choose a particular field, too. This could be in dermatology or cardiology. This may mean taking courses in a concentrated field as a component of your MSN studies. You may need to complete a certification exam in some situations.

Here are a few examples of concentrations. You may find other opportunities available to you as well.

FNP Concentrations:

  • Dermatology – Some of the skills learned and practiced when focusing on becoming a dermatology FNP may be diagnosing and treating  dermatological issues in patients. They may also learn to treat and manage common and complex issues following a diagnosis.
  • Pediatrics – As a pediatric nurse practitioner you may learn a number of skills regarding how to care for children as an FNP. Pediatric primary health may be the main focus, but other areas learned may be chronic illness care and treatment as well as treating adolescents. These may occur either in a practice or a clinic environment.
  • Adult Gerontology – When looking to become an adulty gerontology FNP you may learn and master a specific set of skills. Skills that you may learn are the treating of adults and elderly as well as treating of adolescents. Some areas where this focus is working are internal medicine offices, specialty clinics and rehab centers.

Duties and Responsibilities of an FNP

A family nurse practitioner has various responsibilities. This is often dependent on the area of concentration  they have. It is common for an FNP to conduct routine checkups. They may also educate people on their condition or medical needs. Many may learn how to prescribe medications. FNPs may also spend time coordinating with other health professionals. They may create treatment plans and then execute them. These professionals work in a variety of settings.

Here are some examples:

  • Record patients medical histories – This means that they may ask questions and find out the history of the patient medically. This may include family medical history as well as current and past medical problems that the patient has had.
  • Perform physicals – An FNP may perform a traditional annual physical. A simple evaluation to determine the overall health of a patient.
  • Diagnose health problems – An FNP has the ability to diagnose patients. They may do this by conducting tests and exams as well as going over the symptoms that the patient is experiencing.
  • Provide patients with medications – An FNP often has the ability to write and administer prescriptions either through a pharmacy or by providing medications in office. These may be simple antibiotics or they may also provide vaccines.
  • Perform diagnostic tests – An FNP may be able to run and order diagnostic tests for a patient. This could be requesting bloodwork or having and EKG performed.
  • Create care plans for patients – The FNP typically has the ability to create a course of action or care plan to aid in the wellness of a patient. Whether it be prescribing a diet or suggesting therapy to rehab a sore joint.

Salaries and Job Outlook for FNPs

The 2022 annual median salary of an FNP is $125,900, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). This job has a growth rate of 38% over the next ten years (through 2032). Primarily an FNP may work in doctor’s offices, nursing and rehab facilities and hospitals.

What Is an ACNP?

An acute care nurse practitioner is a professional who cares for a person for a short amount of time. They tend to handle specific needs in that moment. That’s in comparison to a nurse practitioner that may provide care on an ongoing basis. Many times, ACNPs provide care when there is an acute need for help. This could be due to trauma, illness, or disease. Sometimes it may be for recovery after a procedure or surgery.

Some may work in intensive care units. Others may work with older adults in a geriatrics ward of a hospital. Some work in an emergency department of a hospital or in urgent care centers. They typically work in this type of urgent care situation rather than in a practice setting.

What Education and Certifications Do ACNPs Need?

The skills for an ACNP are a bit different than what an FNP requires. Because of the type of work, they may have a higher level of acute skilled care experience. They tend to have a significant amount of hands-on learning in areas of trauma treatment, wound care, and in responding to life-threatening conditions. This may mean more knowledge of things like pulmonary and acute respiratory conditions and cardiology.

This leads to a different type of course plan. The path begins with earning a bachelor’s degree. This may be in a BSN to MSN program. There are alternatives to this. A person with an AND or a nursing diploma may find programs to enhance their career.. FNP to ACNP program options may exist as well.

After education, students then may sit for a licensure exam. This is an ACNP certification exam. Those who hold a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) could also use their certification to obtain licensure for an APRN. It allows for practice focuses nurses to work as APRNs.

Acute care nurse practitioners could be certified by the ANCC, as noted previously. They could also be certified by the American Association of Critical Care Nurses (AACN) Certification Corporation.

Some people may concentrate in specific areas. If so, they may be able to obtain a certification in that area. These may be available through organizations like the Acute Care Nurse Practitioner Certification Adult-Gerontology (AACN) or the Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner Certification (ANCC).

ACNP Courses:

1st course Quantitative Methods

Acute Care Diagnosis and Management

This course often focuses on evidence and theories when dealing with acute illness in adults. Students may analyze guidelines and often learn to diagnose using all of the tools at their disposal. This includes pharmacology, and pathophysiology.

2nd course Economics for Finance

Theoretical Foundations of Nursing Practice

This course aims to allow students to critique and apply theories to their practice. Students may learn how to apply these theories and systems when treating their patients. This class may aid in working with culturally diverse populations and how to deal with them individually instead of as a whole.

3rd Course Fixed Income

Health Promotion and Disease Prevention

This course typically aims to teach students how to best promote a healthy lifestyle for their patients. Teaching patients about health screenings as well as how to use these tools to create and direct their practice. The class may cover healthcare on all levels, local, state and national.

4th Course Derivatives

Ethics for Advanced Nursing Practice

The purpose of this class is to teach students regarding the ethics of decision making and which principles to apply when making medical decisions. This course may look at evidence based studies as well as presenting ethical dilemmas from which to make decisions.

Skills gained in this program:

  • Preventing Further Complications – When working in this program, students typically learn how to prevent complications in their patients. This may include treating the current symptoms and having the foresight to see where it could go and how to prevent it.
  • Restoring Maximum Health – Students in this program may learn to provide patients with the ability to help patients get back to a level of life that allows them to be productive.
  • Stabilizing Patients – Being able to take incoming patients with health issues and to get them to a point of being able to function.
  • Critical Care Management – Having the skill of being able to take care of patients who present with issues that may result in death and diagnosing. Being able to provide the proper treatments and assessing the best course of action to get them to an acceptable level of health.

Concentrations in an ACNP Program

As an acute care nurse practitioner you may choose to concentrate on a specific area to practice. You may choose to focus on a specific group of people with whom you would like to work with. There may be a need for specific courses and education in order to receive this concentration.

Some may focus in area’s such as women’s health or work as nurse anesthetist. The NP programs you select may play a big role in determining the type of concentration and practice you could complete. For example, you may wish to work in an ICU or in a mental health treatment facility. Here are some examples of ACNP program concentrations. You may find other options that also interest you.

ACNP Concentrations:

  • Adult gerontology – When looking to concentrate in adult gerontology as an ACNP you may need to learn a specific skill set. You may learn the specific skills necessary for treating adults and elderly related to surgical issues and acute medical issues.
  • Pediatrics – When looking to become an ACNP in pediatrics you may learn how to treat and diagnose children and infants dealing with acute and surgical issues. You may learn how to diagnose and treat these issues as well as develop a plan of care for the patient.

Duties and Responsibilities of an ACNP

An ACNP may have a number of different responsibilities based on what it is they are concentrating and in what area of healthcare they choose to work. Many individuals with an ACNP work in hospital inpatient units. This may include ICUs or residential treatment programs. Some may work in urgent care centers, community clinics, or in major health symptoms. Others may work in long term care communities.

The duties of a person in this field depend greatly on the type of work they do. This may include reacting to a patient being brought into the location in an emergency room. They typically work to problem solve. That may include gathering information, diagnosing the problem, and creating treatment plans.

Here are some examples:

  • Analyze test results – An ACNP may need look over and interpret test results to determine a proper course of action. This may mean interpreting lab work or x-rays.
  • Teach patients how to manage their injuries – When a person goes through a surgery or has an injury they may need to seek out an ACNP. You may also be the person who is treating an individual in an emergency room and may need to go over what to do upon being discharged.
  • Operate medical equipment – An ACNP may be able to operate certain pieces of medical equipment. This could include conducting an MRI or even an EKG on a patient to help determine their ailments.
  • Create a patient care plan – As an ACPN you may need to develop a course of action or care plan for the patient to follow.
  • Consult with doctors – At times as an ACNP you may need to consult with doctors to get a broader opinion on what you are dealing with. This communication may be vital in order to best treat and diagnose patients.

Salaries and Job Outlook for ACNP

The growth rate for an ACNP is projected at 45% over the next ten years (through 2032), according to the BLS. The 2022 median annual salary for this position is $121,610 per year. The primary places where these people work are hospitals, doctor’s offices, emergency care facilities. You may also look to work in rehab facilities or nursing homes.

Top Salary Metro Areas in the United States: Nurse Practitioners
Metro AreaAnnual Mean SalaryEmployment
San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA$146,050680
San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA$131,4302,450
Vallejo-Fairfield, CA$129,040170
Stockton-Lodi, CA$127,330110
Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, CA$123,5704,260

Bureau of Labor Statistics

Choosing the Perfect Program for You

Numerous options may exist in these fields. A person considering an education in advanced practicing nursing may wish to think about their goals. Consider what type of setting you wish to work. For example, do you respond well in an emergency situation? Could your problem solve quickly? That may make an ACNP position a good option for you vs an FNP position.

On the other hand, some people do well in processing information and developing relationships. You may benefit from an FNP position if you want to provide care to the same group of people over a long period of time. You may be able to handle a range of care needs, but you value creating a lasting relationship with patients.

Another way to look at the options here is in competencies you hope to have. When considering FNP vs ACNP programs, attending a school with accreditation is important. People in these degree programs may put in clinical hours as part of the preparation. That could give you a better idea of the type of people you wish to work with, such as those who are of any age, those with special needs, or even those who are in need of a specific type of care. What patient population interests you the most?

Private practices may be something that interests those who want to work with people across their lifespan. This may make a FNP seem like a good choice vs an ACNP. On the other hand, if you are interested in just one field, such as cardiology, you may find better opportunities in an ACNP position. An acute care NP typically needs to be able to work rapidly, whereas others may put a lot more value in developing that lasting relationship with patients.

As you think about a nurse practitioner program, ask yourself where you see yourself working. Who are you working with on an ongoing basis? What type of skill and coursework interests you the most? Then, choose the perfect career path for your needs.

  • MSN program applicants must possess a bachelor’s degree, registered nurse (RN) license, and three years of nursing experience.
  • Core Degree Courses (21 Credits)
  • You may be eligible to receive financial aid to help cover the cost of your education.
  • Specializations include adult gerontology primary care nurse practitioner, family nurse practitioner, care coordination, nursing education, nursing informatics and nursing leadership & administration.
  • Accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE).
  • 92% of nursing alumni are satisfied with their Capella education. Alumni Outcomes Survey, 2022–2023