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Is an FNP Degree Worth It? Here's the Pros and Cons

Trailblazers / Is an FNP Degree Worth It? Here's the Pros and Cons
Is an FNP degree worth it? a picture of an FNP smiling with a young female patient
June 14, 2022

Since COVID-19, many registered nurses (RNs) have started to leave the hospital bedside. This is due to many factors, including workplace stress and burnout, long hours, traumatic patient experiences, and much more. The decision to leave the bedside can be challenging. Still, there are many opportunities for nurses who wish to continue working with patients – a family nurse practitioner (FNP) being one of them. But, is becoming an FNP worth it? Ultimately, it's up to you to do the research and make the decision for yourself, but we can help you decide!

But how can you decide if getting your FNP is worth it? There's a lot to consider, like the time commitment and financial costs it brings. In this article, we’ll discuss the pros and cons of becoming so you can decide if it becoming an FNP is worth it.

Pros - What makes being an FNP worth it?

Although it can be challenging, becoming an FNP is worth it! There are many benefits and a range of opportunities the position offers. As an FNP, you’ll have more flexibility and independence and serve as a leader in the medical community. Here are some more pros of becoming an FNP:

1. Great job outlook for FNPs

The number of FNPs continues to grow each year because the role is becoming more necessary in the primary care world. This is intensified by a shortage of primary care providers. 270,000 people become FNPs every year, yet this still doesn’t keep up with the demands. Becoming an FNP will offer new growth and career opportunities over the next few years as the role grows.

2. FNPs flexible work hours

Most FNPs work in settings other than a hospital, such as a clinic, primary care, urgent care, specialty clinics, or private practice. This is one of the more popular reasons that make an FNP worth it. These settings often have more flexible schedules that allow FNPs to work around and change as they need to. Most hospitals require RNs to work 12-hour shifts.

3. Competitive pay

As the need for FNPs continues to grow, so does the pay. This is also one of the primary reasons why becoming an FNP is worth it. Clinics and organizations are desperate to hire more providers and FNPs to meet the demands, so their salary is competitive and often high. According to Indeed.

4. FNPs have the opportunity to specialize

FNPs have an opportunity to specialize in things like cardiology, pediatrics, emergency room care, and more. As an FNP student, you gain a broad knowledge of all types of patients and medical issues. This training will prepare you to choose a specialization in an area in which you are interested and passionate.

5. Longevity of an FNP career

With the rising demand for primary care providers, a permanent need for FNPs is likely to persist. This makes being an FNP worth it, too. Many career paths are slowly being replaced by technology; however, this will likely never happen in the medical field due to the need for the human element. Because of this, you never have to worry about the job outgrowing you.

6. Employer tuition reimbursement programs

Many clinics will offer reimbursement programs. If you work with the same clinic for a certain amount of time, they may pay off your student loans. This can be a huge factor in determining where you might work as an FNP, as it can save you thousands of dollars in the long run.

7. Respected, trusted, and challenging FNP profession

Nursing has been identified as the most respected and trusted profession for 20 years. Becoming an FNP is worth it because you make a difference by serving your patients this way. You are also challenged every day at work. While that may sound like a con, it’s actually a pro. Being intellectually stimulated keeps you satisfied with your work far more than if you’re bored.

Cons – Why an FNP is not worth it?

So, now that we’ve explored the pros of working as an FNP, what are some snags? All professions, no matter which, always have drawbacks that are less than ideal, and working as an FNP is no exception. Some cons of the FNP role include:

1. Lengthy education and continuing to work while in school

Getting your FNP degree can take years, whether it’s a doctorate or a master’s. You'll have to decide for yourself and amongst your family if becoming an FNP is worth it. Going to school full-time will take two and a half to three years, and most people can’t do it full-time. Most RNs will continue working while going to school for a number of reasons. Therefore, anything other than full-time will make the program last even longer, sometimes upwards of five to six years. This can be time-consuming, stressful, and challenging for the schooling or the work environment.

2. Having to pass a certification exam before working

Once you finish your FNP degree, legally, you are not allowed to practice as one just yet. You must pass the board exams. These exams are difficult and often require months of prep. This can prevent you from starting work sooner if the test-taking process is complex for you. While this is similar to taking the NCLEX exam to be an RN, the FNP boards are more complex and in-depth due to your increased scope of practice.

3. Variability in FNP working hours

While this may improve from your hours as an RN, it can still be challenging. Many clinics have late-night hours and are open on the weekends, so you may have to work occasionally and not routinely. A lack of routine in your work schedule may be tricky, especially with responsibilities like children on your plate.

4. Working conditions for FNPs

Working conditions vary by location and setting. Conditions can be difficult where you have high patient ratios and see up to 20 or 30 patients a day. This could make becoming an FNP not worth it for some. On the other hand, it can be easier to see one patient per hour in a specialty clinic. However, more than likely, you’ll be required to see a large number of patients per day due to insurance requirements for reimbursement. You’ll also be responsible for more patients with follow-ups, labs, etc. The conditions that require more interaction can be stressful for some.

5. FNP Workplace and emotional stress

With the demanding working conditions described above, it’s clear that stress may increase. You’ll also be more responsible for medical decisions as an FNP than you were as an RN. This can be incredibly stressful both in the workplace and on your own mental and emotional health. For some, this can tip the scale and make being an FNP not worth it. To prevent burnout and to help you get through your days as an FNP, consistently practicing self-care is essential.

6. Legal responsibilities and inconsistent scope of practice

As an FNP and primary care provider, the buck stops with you. You will make all the final decisions. Because of this, you are legally more responsible for your patient’s medical decision-making. An FNPs scope of practice varies from state to state, which can be confusing at times. Legal issues can be mentally draining and difficult financially.

7. Student loans FNP

Getting a graduate degree is not cheap. The average tuition cost of FNPs programs in the U.S. as of 2021 is $18,000. Most people cannot (and should not) pay that much out of pocket. This means you may have to take out loans that you’ll have to pay back later. This could have people believe that an FNP is not worth it. This can be very difficult as interest builds over the course of the year. Your ability to manage your finances is crucial. If your interest is truly piqued, you may want to check out our FNP program with payments starting as low as $375 per month.

Decision time! Is an FNP worth it?

Now that we’ve explored the pros and cons of getting your degree and working as an FNP, what do you think? Do you think becoming an FNP is worth it? Like all jobs, there’s a multitude of both, and you’ll have to decide which pros and which cons are most valuable to you.

If you’re ready and feeling good about all those pros, check out United States University’s FNP program today!

Alison Shely, DNP, FNP-C is a nurse practitioner, nurse coach, and nurse content writer who specializes in articles, guest blogging, and as a healthcare worker. She has been in nursing since 2014 and has worked in intensive care, women’s health, and primary care as an rn and FNP. Her specialty topics include mental health, health and wellness, yoga philosophy and practice, and community health. She also serves as a health coach and a mentor to other nurses and healthcare workers regarding healthy lifestyles and mental health.