Online or On-campus: Which MSN-FNP Is Right for You?

A significant number of registered nurses are leaving their current roles to pursue work as family nurse practitioners. These advanced practice nurses leverage their cutting-edge clinical skills and expanded practice authority, including prescriptive privileges, to serve patients with health care needs of all kinds.

Through this important work, FNPs help mitigate larger issues affecting the cost, quality and availability of medical care in the U.S., including the growing primary care physician shortage, according to the American Association of Nurse Practitioners. Today, there are more than 140,000 of these health care professionals working in hospitals, clinics and other medical institutions across the country, earning a median salary of $107,000, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics found in 2018.

The total number of FNPs is expected to increase by 2,000 by 2025, according to the AANP. RNs looking for new opportunities midcareer would be wise join this growing group of powerful medical professionals. However, such a move requires renewed investment in nursing education, as more than 97 percent of FNPs hold graduate degrees, the AANP found. And an advanced degree is now mandatory.

Pursuing these extra educational credentials can be a wise decision in today’s competitive job market. U.S. professionals with graduate degrees earn an average of $12,000 more annually than those with only bachelor’s degrees, according to the BLS. In the FNP field, graduate degrees are a key component in certification eligibility.

How should aspiring FNPs earn graduate degrees? Are traditional, on-campus master’s degree tracks best, or are online programs the ideal option? Prospective students should evaluate some key factors when comparing these two approaches, according to U.S. News and World Report.

Considering The Variables

Student service accessibility

Student service accessibility is another critical variable potential FNPs consider when looking into available graduate degree programs. This makes sense, as learners who have access to key institutional services such as tutoring often outperform students without similar resources, according to research from the Department of Education.

With this in mind, many aspiring FNPs assume on-campus master’s programs offer superior student services. In the early years of the distance learning movement, this was true. Today, however, individuals enrolled in online degree programs can often access the same level of services found on physical campuses via cutting-edge web portals and communication tools.

Education quality

Many assume that on-campus master’s programs offer superior education compared to online iterations. Again, this may have been the case during the initial rise of such tracks. Now, students can expect to cultivate the same caliber of insights and skills in virtual classrooms as in physical learning spaces due, in part, to the availability of connected, powerful instructional technology. Peer-to-peer learning, one-on-one instructor-student interaction, classroom collaboration — it’s all possible in online environments.

Finding The Right Program

For aspiring FNPs pursuing the online master’s degree route, the options are limitless. More than 5.7 million Americans are currently enrolled in web-based degree programs, driving universities to roll out new online offerings as quickly as possible, analysts for the Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics found. However, just because online degree programs can yield the same transformative results as on-campus versions does not mean all the web-based programs on the market rise to such a level.

RNs looking to make midcareer moves to FNP roles must carefully consider their options and select online programs that get results. The online Master of Science in Nursing – Family Nurse Practitioner program at Bradley University falls into this category.

The 100 percent online program unfolds over 65-74 credit hours and equips RNs with the practical and theoretical knowledge and clinical experience they need to succeed as FNPs. The online MSN-FNP track at Bradley addresses critical concepts such as advanced pathophysiology, advanced pharmacology and evidence-based practice. It also includes five FNP-centered paired theory and practicum courses that give aspiring FNPs the specialized insights they require to serve the elderly, children, women and individuals with acute or chronic conditions.

The online Master of Science in Nursing – Family Nurse Practitioner program at Bradley University closes with five preceptor-led practicums designed to help FNPs translate their new skills into clinical environments. Many learners complete the program in two years and go on to assume FNP roles in a variety of health care domains, including hospitals, private practices, community clinics and schools.

With demand for FNPs on the rise, RNs in search of new, exciting opportunities would be wise to look into this increasingly popular and important role, and perhaps pursue the advanced education they need to move into such a position.

The online Master of Science in Nursing – Family Nurse Practitioner program at Bradley University is the ideal instructional track for midcareer medical professionals who wish to expand their clinical skill sets and re-enter the health care arena as FNPs. With accreditation from the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education and Higher Learning Commission, the online MSN-FNP degree track at Bradley stands out.


U.S. News and World Report

American Association of Nurse Practitioners

Bureau of Labor Statistics

College Board

Department of Education

National Center for Education Statistics