Adult NP vs. Family NP: Which Specialty Should You Choose

Choosing your nurse practitioner specialty is a difficult decision. You are spending precious dollars to further your nursing education and don’t want to make a mistake. After all, the specialty you choose to pursue significantly impacts your future job outlook. In thinking through your NP specialty options, beginning with the end in mind is a must.

Many NP program applicants neglect to research the job market before deciding on which specialty to study. When they graduate they find themselves having trouble with their job search even though nurse practitioners are in high demand across the country. The decision they made at the beginning of their education has precluded them from many opportunities. This is a particularly common frustration among many Adult-Gerontology Nurse Practitioner graduates

If you are thinking through the Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) vs. Adult-Gerontology Nurse Practitioner (AGNP) decision, here are a few things to consider. 

Being a new grad demands flexibility

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Many employers are looking to hire experienced nurse practitioners. So, as a new graduate you may need to be flexible in your job search. Even if your dream is to work in cardiology or surgery, you may find yourself working in a primary care clinic for a year or so to build a more solid clinical foundation. Having flexibility as to the patient population you are qualified to treat helps immensely in landing your first job. Since FNP grads are qualified to treat all ages, they have a much easier time finding jobs, especially as new nurse practitioner graduates.  

Becoming an FNP doesn’t mean you have to treat kids

One of the most common reasons prospective NPs choose the AGNP specialty is that they aren’t interested in pediatrics. They see themselves working in internal medicine or a specialty clinic. Or, perhaps they have limited experience working with children and the thought of prescribing medication to a newborn is terrifying. 

Family Nurse Practitioners are required to take a few courses in pediatrics and complete pediatric clinical hours throughout their NP program, but the bulk of the FNP eduction is adult focused. FNP’s commonly work and are educated in practices that don’t treat or treat only a limited number of kids.

AGNP’s have limited options in the job market

Given the fact that Adult-Gerontology Nurse Practitioners cannot treat children they often find themselves with few options when it comes to their job search. Family practice clinics, urgent care clinics and emergency departments typically all treat pediatric patients. Even if kids don’t make up the majority of their patient volume, these types of practices must hire nurse practitioners who at least have the capacity to care for younger patients. Hiring an AGNP presents too many logistical challenges so, these types of practices hire FNP’s. With so many primary care and urgent care type clinics across the country, Adult Nurse Practitioners often find their options are limited when it comes time to find a job. 

Your interests may change in the future

Choosing to become an FNP rather than an AGNP gives you more flexibility in your future career. Should your interests change over time and you find yourself looking to switch practice areas, an FNP degree is more likely to accommodate a new practice area. Some Adult Nurse Practitioners find themselves back in school as their interests change because their degree does not allow for as much movement between specialties. 

Overall, many Adult Nurse Practitioners find themselves frustrated as their schooling ends and they begin the job search. Their options are limited and they are often passed over by employers for NPs with more flexibility in their practices. Even if you don’t plan to use the full scope of the FNP degree, choosing a career as a Family Nurse Practitioner is a better bet. 


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13 thoughts on “Adult NP vs. Family NP: Which Specialty Should You Choose”

  1. I could have written this article myself! It sounds just like what I say to ANP students all the time. One of my life regrets is that I didn’t put in just a little more time to become a FNP. Even with many years experience, I find that many places won’t even look at my resume because there is an “A” instead of an “F” in front of NP. Do the extra time. It will allow more doors to open! (Going back now is far more time consuming and expensive.)

    1. Thank you very much for this information. Currently, I am in school for FNP but considering changing to AGNP. With this information, I will stick to FNP.


  2. I actually strongly disagree. Focusing your education on your long-term goals of acute versus primary care should be a much stronger consideration, followed by the population you wish to treat. Adult-Geriatric Acute Care NP are much more suited to work in urgent care than an FNP would ever be based on educational focus and clinical site experience. Upcoming NP students need to consider all avenues when making a decision and I don’t think an FNP is necessarily a “safe” or more marketable option.

  3. “Adult-Geriatric Acute Care NP are much more suited to work in urgent care than an FNP would ever be based on educational focus and clinical site experience.” I love when people spread misinformation about subjects they clearly know nothing about. First of all, the topic is really about FNP (Family Nurse Practitioner) vs. AGNP (Adult Geriatric Nurse Practitioner). Acute care NP’s are completely different and they usually end up working in inpatient settings. Additionally, FNP’s are perfect for urgent care, retail clinics, etc because they have been trained to work with pediatric and women’s health patient populations. An adult nurse practitioner specialty has not been trained to work with these populations, nor are they allowed to care for them. In my state, an adult nurse practitioner is not allowed to care for any patient under the age of 13 years old. Novice NP’s will gain most of their expertise when they start their first job, not during their meek 600 hours of clinical rotations.

  4. In my state, AGNPs can see anyone over the age of 13 (or puberty). We are also trained in women’s health and my program consists of 100 hours of women’s health clinical. I think it depends on what you want to do and what your career goals are when deciding between AGNP and FNP. Many AGNPs are in specialties as well as family care clinics, so long as the employer knows and agrees with your population. The geriatric population is growing exponentially and there is a definite need for gerontologists. As I am finishing up my program, I’ve noticed that none of my friends who are graduated have had no difficulties in finding jobs.

  5. I am an AGNP and have not found this to be particularly limiting in regards to job opportunities. I think you will find that geographical differences will likely be a stronger factor in job opportunities than ANP vs FNP. If one truly does not want to practice in pediatrics then spending your time in rotations that are more focussed on geriatrics and adult health make sense. AGNP can practice in any setting where one would see an internist. Consider the many internal medicine subspecialties. The last data from the AHRQ of practicing primary care physicians show that there are roughly 87,000 family practice MDs compared to 93,000 internists. There are only 3,000 geriatricians which reflects a huge shortage. I think the AGNP is a fine choice with many career options available.

  6. This article is absolutely absurd. To say that an AGNP has less opportunities than an FNP is just not true. As an AGNP I have had no difficulties or have met closed doors due to my speciality. RNs seeking to become an NP need to identify the tracks that suits their own career goals. An AGNP would be well suited to work in many internal medicine specialities, if not all.

    1. Josh you hit it on the nail! Additionally, according to US Bureau of labor statistics Acute Care AG NPs command a greater salary at the end of the day as they are specialists as opposed to just generalists like FNPs. Furthermore, there have been some hospitals that have been shut down, and directors and others in executive leadership have been fired for allowing FNPs to work in the hospital environment out of their scope of practice. Hospitals are cracking down on this nationwide. FNPs are primarily positioned to work in the doctors office or private practice setting. Lastly, FNP degrees have become the MBA of nursing degrees so it is highly saturated. Many FNP graduates are faced with the situation of 300 applicants with only 1 or two jobs to fill situations and consequently are either unemployed as an FNP or continuing to work as an RN but with a lot more student loan debt to pay. With this said I would strongly recommend Acute Care and Psychiatric and Mental Health NP over FNP any day of the week and twice on Sundays! With FNP a student is primarily pigeon holed to work in a doctors office or private practice setting. But a Psych NP can work in the doctors office, hospital, government agency, prison, school system etc. Much more options!

  7. This writer is biased. I am AGNP and a new grad, I got a job the first month I started searching. You can’t tell everyone to study FNP when they really don’t want to take care of kids. This is absurd. Why waste your clinical hours in an area you know you won’t like?

  8. Lol… This is like comparing apples to oranges. It’s like why would a physician become internal medicine when they can be family practice… Besides, most larger clinics hire NPs from different specialties even if they see kids… There is plenty of work for everyone… The big question is how do I get to retire early… Hahaha

  9. When I researched NP programs, the only difference between AGNP and FNP was about 2-4 additional classes and clinical sites for FNP. The rest of the curriculum was exactly the same.

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