AGNP vs. FNP: Comparing Two Essential Nursing Roles

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A young female nurse practitioner discusses a medication with an elderly woman.Patients in the United States make more than 1 billion visits to nurse practitioners (NPs) every year, according to the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP). NPs provide essential services to the American health care system. Two popular specializations a nurse practitioner can decide between are family nurse practitioner (FNP) or adult-gerontology nurse practitioner (AGNP). Professionals considering either AGNP or FNP specialties need to understand the differences and similarities between the two.

Defining the Roles of AGNPs and FNPs

By 2033, there will be a projected shortage of between 54,100 and 139,000 physicians in both primary and specialty care, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC). Nurse practitioners who provide primary care in adult-gerontology or family medicine will continue to be in high demand. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of jobs for nurse practitioners is expected to grow by 45% between 2019 and 2029.

The health care system in the United States has more than 290,000 licensed NPs, according to the AANP. Some licensed NPs decide to specialize as AGNPs or FNPs. An AGNP primarily focuses on providing health care for older adults, though they can provide care to younger individuals from adolescence and beyond as well. By 2050, 22% of the world’s population is expected to be over the age of 60, according to the World Health Organization. AGNPs will play a vital role in providing adequate health care to this population.

Like AGNPs, FNPs also play an important role in the health care field. They are responsible for providing medical care for patients from infancy through adulthood. They also work as intermediaries between physicians and patients. FNPs have the medical knowledge to diagnose and treat illnesses. In some cases, FNPs can prescribe medication to patients without physician oversight, as well as oversee checkups.

Both AGNPs and FNPs act as health care advocates. They develop health care programs that teach patients healthy habits and encourage healthier lifestyles. These programs can also be developed to target specific health issues affecting the community, such as obesity. AGNPs and FNPs play a major role in providing health care services to the community.

Similarities Between the Nursing Careers

Like primary care physicians, AGNPs and FNPs have the medical knowledge and skill set to provide primary care to patients. These professionals collaborate with physicians when patient care exceeds their expertise. In most cases, they can effectively diagnose and treat their patients without physician supervision or intervention. Moreover, they can interpret charts and lab results to provide patients with the most effective treatment plan.

The educational requirements are similar for both AGNPs and FNPs. To become either an AGNP or FNP, these professionals must first become licensed registered nurses (RNs). Many RNs pursue a bachelor’s in nursing prior to obtaining their RN license. These professionals are required to gain experience as an RN before pursuing a career as an NP.

The skill sets for FNPs and AGNPs are similar. These professionals both need the analytical and critical thinking skills necessary to make accurate medical decisions affecting patient care, as well as to interpret laboratory tests and medical data. FNPs and AGNPs must also be effective communicators when dealing with patients and collaborating with physicians. Furthermore, both occupations require strong leadership skills in managing other nurses and developing health programs for the community.

After gaining experience in the nursing field, candidates looking to pursue a career as an NP should consider an advanced degree, such as an online Master of Science in Nursing. Students can pursue an accredited program that prepares them for the NP certification process. Separate certifications are available for family care and adult-gerontology specialties. Two organizations provide prospective applicants with certification — the American Association of Nurse Practitioners and the American Nurses Credentialing Center.

Differences: AGNP vs. FNP

When it comes to AGNPs vs. FNPs, there are several differences that set the two roles apart.  , according to the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP). Most FNPs work in clinics and physicians’ offices, which offers them the opportunity to establish their own schedules. In contrast, AGNPs typically work in inpatient facilities and hospitals, which can contribute to a busy work schedule.

The major difference between AGNPs and FNPs is the type of care each provides to patients. The AGNP specialty allows practitioners to diagnose and treat older patients who may have chronic or critical conditions such as dementia, heart disease, respiratory disease, pneumonia or vision loss. These professionals help patients monitor their chronic conditions and work with doctors to develop their health care plans. In contrast, FNPs have a medical knowledge base that allows them to treat patients of all ages. Their primary focus is developing treatment and care plans for patients from childhood throughout adulthood.

The salaries for AGNPs and FNPs are comparable. The median annual salary of AGNPs is around $90,700, according to PayScale. The top 10% of AGNP salary earners make up to around $110,000. In comparison, the median annual salary of FNPs is around $94,800, while the top 10% make up to around $117,000.

Discover a Fulfilling Career in Nursing as an AGNP or FNP

Whether an individual decides to pursue a career as an AGNP or an FNP, both paths can provide a wealth of opportunity to become leaders in the nursing field. Nurses looking to expand their professional knowledge and develop their nursing skills should consider an advanced degree in nursing from the University of North Dakota. The university offers three professional concentrations: Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner, Family Nurse Practitioner and Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner.

Students are required to pursue a core curriculum developed to prepare them for careers as nurse practitioners. These core courses include Advanced Health Assessment, Advanced Pathophysiology, Theories and Concepts in Nursing, and Health Promotion, among others.

Discover how the University of North Dakota’s online Master of Science with a Major in Nursing can prepare students to become leaders in the medical field as AGNPs or FNPs.

Recommended Readings

5 Leadership Skills in Nursing That Nurse Practitioners Should Master

Exploring the Types of Nursing Specialties and Salaries of Nurse Practitioners

What Is Health Policy and What Role Does It Play in Nursing?


Advanced Practice Education Associates, “Should I Take the AANP or ANCC Certification Exam?”

American Association of Nurse Practitioners, NP Fact Sheet

American Association of Nurse Practitioners, What’s a Nurse Practitioner (NP)?

American Senior Communities, The Top 10 Health Concerns for Seniors

Association of American Medical Colleges, New AAMC Report Confirms Growing Physician Shortage

PayScale, Average Adult-Gerontology Nurse Practitioner (AGNP) Salary

PayScale, Average Family Nurse Practitioner (NP) Salary

StatPearls Publishing, “Nursing Shortage”

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Nurse Anesthetists, Nurse Midwives, and Nurse Practitioners

World Health Organization, Ageing and Health