MSN-FNP vs. DNP-FNP: Which Should You Pursue?

Health care reform in the U.S. has led to increased opportunities for nurses who want to take on leadership roles in medical organizations. Demand for advanced practice registered nurses — which includes nurse practitioners (NPs), nurse midwives and nurse anesthetists — is expected to grow by 31 percent between 2014 and 2024, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

These opportunities create an inherent demand for higher education for nurses, particularly if you are interested in working as a family nurse practitioner (FNP). To pursue a career as an FNP, a higher degree is a must, but you have options. Depending on your career goals, you can choose to pursue a Master of Science in Nursing – Family Nurse Practitioner (MSN-FNP) or a Doctor of Nursing Practice – Family Nurse Practitioner (DNP-FNP) degree. If you already possess an MSN, you can choose the post-master’s FNP Certificate program.

Family nurse practitioner typing on laptop
The MSN-FNP Degree

NPs who work in family practice provide primary care for an increasing number of individuals and families across the U.S. An MSN will build on your existing nursing experience to equip you with the skills and knowledge to excel as an NP.

The Bradley University MSN-FNP online program specifically will prepare you for advanced practice nursing focused on family medicine. Topics covered in this program include evidence-based practice, health care policy, legal and ethical issues in health care, as well as principles for primary care in the treatment of women, children, adults and the elderly.

While the rewards of a career as an NP are numerous, there is also a financial incentive to pursuing this role. NPs make an average annual salary of $101,260, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. This amount is a significant increase compared to the $67,490 median annual salary of a registered nurse as reported by the organization.

The DNP-FNP Degree

While an MSN-FNP will qualify you to practice as an FNP, the degree is not your only option for a higher education in the specialized field. A Doctor of Nursing Practice – Family Nurse Practitioner (DNP-FNP) takes the MSN-FNP a step farther and dives deeper into the leadership aspects involved with the advanced practice role. In addition to the FNP-specific courses and practicums, you will complete advanced courses in topics such as data management systems, planning, decision-making, performance measurement, health care policy, management in health care organizations, economic markets, health promotion and more.

As a result of shifting demands in health care in the U.S., there is increased demand for higher levels of education for nursing professionals, according to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing. While an MSN will meet the qualifications to work as an FNP at most health care organizations, a DNP will increase your competitive edge in the job market. This degree also gives you the option to take on a leadership position within your organization.

An MSN usually is completed within three years, a DNP can take closer to five.

Your Nursing Degree

When trying to determine whether an MSN-FNP or DNP-FNP is the right choice for your career, your first step is to consider your goals to determine which degree will get you there. While both degrees will allow you to practice, you need to decide where you wish to be 10 or even 20 years from today. If your ultimate goal is to work in a clinic treating patients, an MSN might be the right choice at this time. But, if you already know that you want to rise through the ranks of your health care organization to a leadership position in the long term, a DNP-FNP may be the better choice. However, you also can complete the MSN-FNP and pursue the DNP-FNP later in your career.

Through Bradley, you can complete your degree from the time and place of your choosing via the convenience of your computer. Online degree programs give you the option to further your education — whether it is a master’s or a doctorate program — while simultaneously working as a nursing professional. In this way, you can increase your workplace experience and your academic credentials at the same time, giving your career the boost it needs to get to the next level.