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Focusing Your Nursing Career: Family Nurse Practitioner vs. Pediatric Nurse Practitioner


A problem is emerging in the United States: There aren’t enough doctors. A large portion of the U.S. population is aging and requiring medical care, thereby increasing pressure on the healthcare industry to meet the need for advanced medical professionals. The American Association of Medical Colleges (AAMC) predicts there will be a potential six-figure shortage of physicians by 2032, creating a healthcare void across the country. The AAMC reports rural and historically underserved areas will suffer most from the shortage, but the whole nation will feel its effects despite advancements in treatments, efficiency, and preventive care.


To combat the shortage of medical doctors, many states are turning to nurse practitioners (NPs). Nurse practitioners are advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) who have gone back to school for a graduate degree and received specialized training in a specific area of care. Depending on where they practice, nurse practitioners can open their own medical offices, diagnosing patients and prescribing medication without any oversight from doctors, though most states still require NPs to work with or under the supervision of a doctor. There are many specialties that nurse practitioners might pursue. Here we examine two common APRN job titles: family nurse practitioner and pediatric nurse practitioner.

Family Nurse Practitioner Overview

Family nurse practitioners see patients throughout the lifespan. They most commonly work with families, treating parents and children of all ages. They can also see individual adults, children, or elderly patients. They typically serve as primary care healthcare professionals, similar to general practice physicians. Family nurse practitioners can provide yearly checkups or see patients for a specific medical issue, such as an illness or injury.

Family Nurse Practitioner Salaries and Job Outlook

Family nurse practitioners are one of the most prevalent types of primary care nurse practitioners. Their versatility and ability to work in many different settings can be an asset. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) found there were 189,100 nurse practitioners working in the United States as of May 2018. The BLS expects the job market for all nurse practitioners to grow 28% between 2018 and 2028, bringing the total number in the U.S. to around 106,000.

Pediatric Nurse Practitioner Overview

Pediatric nurse practitioners are childhood specialists who know how to diagnose, assess, and treat a range of illnesses and conditions that affect infants, children, adolescents, and young adults. They can be either primary care or acute care specialists. Primary care pediatric nurse practitioners work in doctors’ offices, where they see patients on a regular basis or for minor issues, such as the common flu. Acute care pediatric nurse practitioners manage more serious conditions and illnesses and tend to work in hospitals or inpatient facilities.

Pediatric Nurse Practitioner Salaries and Job Outlook

The BLS data does not have a specific category for pediatric nurse practitioners, but October 2019 data from PayScale indicates that the median annual salary for pediatric nurse practitioners is around $89,000. Pediatric nurse practitioner jobs will grow at a similar rate as all NP jobs, with a projected 28% increase in their employment between 2018 and 2028.

Similarities Between Family Nurse Practitioners and Pediatric Nurse Practitioners

Both family nurse practitioners and pediatric nurse practitioners are primary care NPs who often serve as the first line of medical defense for their patients. Both career paths require registered nurses to earn an advanced degree, either a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) or a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP). Each of these disciplines also requires further specialized training and certification. Both professionals can work in a variety of medical environments, where they diagnose, assess, and treat patients with many different conditions, both acute and chronic.

Differences Between Family Nurse Practitioners and Pediatric Nurse Practitioners

While family nurse practitioners and pediatric nurse practitioners are both primary care NP specialties, there is a good deal that sets them apart. The ages of the patients they see, their required certifications, and typical work environments can all vary between the two careers.

Patient Age

Pediatric nurse practitioners see patients who are under 18, from infants to young adults. They focus on treating and managing illnesses and conditions that affect people in that age range.


Family nurse practitioners can treat the same age range as pediatric nurse practitioners, but they work with adults as well. In that way, they can serve as an entire family’s healthcare provider, treating conditions that affect children and performing evaluations and checkups on adults. They also identify and treat chronic conditions and acute illness.


Pediatric nurse practitioners must earn a pediatric-specific certification, such as the Pediatric Nurse Certification Board’s Certified Pediatric Nurse Practitioner in Primary Care (CPNP-PC) or Certified Pediatric Nurse Practitioner in Acute Care (CPNP-AC).


Family nurse practitioners must earn different certifications, such as a Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) certification from the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners Certification Board. The exam covers diagnosis, planning, and evaluation for patients of all ages, from prenatal through the elderly.

Work Environment

Family nurse practitioners can work in all sorts of medical facilities, given the range of individuals they treat. They might work in children’s hospitals, nursing homes, outpatient facilities, or their own private practices.


Pediatric nurse practitioners’ work is more focused on working with children. As such, they’re more likely to work at children’s hospitals or other child-focused medical offices. They may also work in schools.

Family Nurse Practitioners and Pediatric Nurse Practitioners: Which Is Right for You?

Registered nurses who want to pursue an advanced education and work as an NP might consider becoming a family nurse practitioner or pediatric nurse practitioner. Each career offers the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of patients, from children to adults. Deciding on the population you’d like to work with, as well as the environment you’d like to work in, is an important step toward determining which path is the best fit for your interests and career aspirations. Discover how Maryville University’s online Master of Science in Nursing and online pediatric nurse practitioner programs can put you in the right position to enter one of these rewarding careers.


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