Question: Are there 1-year post-master’s FNP programs? Learn more about 12-month post-master’s Family Nurse Practitioner graduate certificate programs
Updated: February 3, 2024
Answer: Post-master’s Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) programs are designed for registered nurses (RNs) who have earned their MSN and/or DNP in a nursing discipline other than advanced practice family nursing, and who wish to add this specialty to their scope of practice. Generally comprised of 12-23 credits, these programs can take as few as 8 months of full-time study to complete. Accredited post-master’s FNP programs are designed to enable APRNs in other specialties to earn FNP certification through the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners Certification Board (AANPCB) and/or the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC).
Post-master’s FNP certificate programs are for MSN or DNP-prepared RNs or Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRNs) who want to expand their scope of practice into advanced practice family nursing. Typically, these programs can be completed in 12 to 24 months depending on the courses students completed during their MSN program. Programs that can be completed in 8 to 12 months often require students to be practicing Nurse Practitioners (NPs) who have already completed courses in advanced health assessment, human physiology and pathophysiology, and human pharmacology. As a result, students are able to embark immediately on FNP specialization coursework and practicums without having to take other master’s level courses in nursing.
Nurses who are interested in 12-month post-MSN FNP programs should note that the total time it takes to complete an FNP graduate certificate program depends on their previous background and clinical experiences, as well as whether they decide to pursue a full-time or part-time course of study. Most programs that can be completed in 8 to 12 months require full-time enrollment, which may be difficult for APRNs who plan to continue to practice while pursuing their FNP certificate. In addition, these programs often have rigorous admission requirements, as applicants need to show proof of graduate-level training and experience in advanced nursing practices and procedures, as well as substantial clinical experience.
Through the coursework in these programs, students learn about advanced health assessments across the lifespan; principles of preventative care; primary care for adults and children; differential diagnosis/diagnostic reasoning; and clinical management for patients within the context of the family unit. In addition, students of these programs are expected to complete practicums in settings that are relevant to advanced practice family nursing.
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Admission Requirements and Prerequisites for 12-Month Post-MSN FNP Certificate Programs
While admission requirements for post-MSN FNP certificate programs vary by program, programs that can be completed in 12 months or less generally expect students to have earned an MSN degree in a field related to family and/or primary care nursing from an accredited institution, and to have completed clinical hours in primary care settings. In addition, applicants are required to show proof of a valid state license to practice as a registered nurse (RN), and in some cases they may need to show proof of NP certification through one of the following APRN credentialing bodies:
- American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC)
- American Academy of Nurse Practitioners Certification Board (AANPCB)
- American Association of Critical Care Nurses (AACN)
- National Certification Corporation (NCC)
- Pediatric Nursing Certification Board (PNCB)
In addition to the above requirements, post-graduate FNP programs may have minimum GPA requirements for admission, such as an overall GPA cutoff of 3.0 in all nursing-related coursework. Application materials that students may also be required to submit include a graduate application, transcripts of past undergraduate and graduate work, personal statement, curriculum vitae or resume, and two or more letters of recommendation.
Note: Admission requirements for FNP graduate certificate programs vary across different schools of nursing and nursing departments. As a result, students should consult directly with the admissions offices of their programs of interest to learn the most accurate and specific information about admission requirements.
Curriculum for Post-MSN FNP Certificate Programs
Post-master’s FNP graduate certificate programs generally conduct a gap analysis of each admitted student’s past coursework and clinical experiences, looking for completion of the following courses within the past five years (specific titles for accepted prerequisite coursework may vary):
- Advanced Physical/Health Assessment
- Advanced Human Physiology and Pathophysiology
- Advanced Pharmacology
- Preventative Care and Health Promotion
If students have not fulfilled these prerequisites, it can increase the time required to earn a post-MSN FNP certificate and make it difficult to complete a program in 12 months or less. For students who are able to waive these courses, as discussed earlier, the curriculum for 1-year post-MSN FNP certificate programs is fairly straightforward, consisting of specialization coursework and clinical practicums. Below is a sample, full-time curriculum structure for a program that follows the semester system:
*Students pursuing a graduate certificate in family nursing are required to complete clinical hours in different settings with different patient populations. Depending on a student’s background, it is possible that some of those clinical hours may be waived as most programs also conduct a gap analysis on a student’s past clinical work to determine if they have already completed clinical hours that are required as part of the FNP curriculum. For example, Women’s Health Nurse Practitioners who are interested in becoming FNPs are typically not required to complete additional clinical hours working in women’s health, whilePediatric Primary Care Nurse Practitioners are not required to complete additional clinical hours working with pediatric patients in primary care settings.
Examples of Post-Master’s FNP Graduate Certificate Programs that can be Completed in 12 months
There are a variety of post-MSN FNP graduate certificate programs offered at different nursing schools across the nation. Many of these programs have online and/or hybrid course options to maximize flexibility for working RNs. The programs described below are just a few examples of online post-master’s FNP programs that can be completed in 12 months or less.
Spring Arbor University’s Online Post-Master’s Certificate for the Family Nurse Practitioner is a 23-credit program that offers tracks for practicing NPs and MSN-holding non-NP students. Practicing NPs can complete the program in as few as eight months, depending on their educational and clinical background and the number of credits they take per term. This program utilizes a faith-based approach to preparing RNs for providing primary care to diverse patients. Students take 7-week classes with a one-week break in between, and benefit from a dedicated Student Success Coach who supports them during their completion of the coursework. Students take classes on primary care methods for patients across the lifespan, and health care leadership from a faith-based perspective. Learn more about Spring Arbor’s Post-Master’s FNP certificate program by visiting their website.
UMass Boston’s Nursing Online Post-Master’s Certificate with a Specialization in Family Nurse Practitioner has a 12-credit track for practicing NPs who have earned national certification as adult or pediatric nurse practitioners, and a 21-credit track for MSN-holding students who are not certified NPs. Students take courses in the mental and psychosocial health of families in urban settings, primary care methods and principles for individuals of all ages, and patient empowerment through education. Students who are practicing, certified/licensed adult or pediatric NPs must complete 300 hours of clinical experience, while students who are not practicing NPs must complete 600 hours of clinical practicum. Students can complete this program in as few as seven to eight months, depending on their past academic and clinical work. Visit UMass Boston’s website to learn more about the online post-master’s certificate program.
Hawai’i Pacific University’s (HPU) Online Post-Master’s FNP Certificate is a 24-credit program that students can complete in 12 months of full-time study. Courses in this program cover advanced theories of primary care for children and women, as well as primary care methodologies and principles for both episodic and chronic conditions. Students complete four separate practicum experiences in clinical settings that are relevant to their desired areas of work within advanced family nursing practice. Students of this program have access to dedicated clinical placement support, where program staff help them find qualifying sites within their region. To learn more about HPU’s online post-master’s certificate programs visit their website.