Working as a Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) or Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner (AG-ACNP) – What’s the Difference?

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FNPs and AG-ACNPs differ in whether they treat patients of all ages or concentrate on acute care for adults.


Family nurse practitioners (FNPs) provide care for a wide range of patients — from infants to the elderly — while adult-gerontology acute care nurse practitioners (AG-ACNPs) focus on providing acute care for adults only. FNPs treat everything from common childhood illnesses to chronic medical conditions. AG-ACNPs specialize in diseases, ailments, and illnesses that worsen during the aging process.

As clinical experts, both FNPs and AG-ACNPs focus on diagnosing and treating medical conditions with an emphasis on healthcare management and disease prevention. FNPs usually work in private practice, either with or without physician oversight, as primary-care providers. AG-ACNPs work in inpatient facilities such as nursing homes, rehab centers, emergency rooms, and intensive-care units (ICUs).

All nurse practitioner specialties, including the FNP and AG-ACNP, require a masters in nursing and offer a variety of options for career advancement.

Differences Between FNPs and AG-ACNPs

To become an FNP or AG-ACNP, RNs must undergo rigorous training and meet high educational standards. Each program of study has coursework specific to the specialty. For example, at Ohio University, FNP students take coursework that focuses on primary-care medicine. AG-ACNP students take coursework that focuses on care of adults in acute care settings.

In addition, one of the most significant differences between FNPs and AG-ACNPs includes their places of employment:

  • FNPs

Across the United States, FNPs are working as primary-care providers in areas that need assistance the most, including rural and underserved communities. They work in community health clinics, outpatient centers, and private practices. They help individuals and families to address both wellness, episodic health issues, and chronic medical needs.

Due to the shortage of primary-care providers, a growing number of patients are turning to FNPs. In “Can Nurses Replace Doctors?,” said patients are increasingly turning to NPs because they “may be more accessible since physicians’ offices are sometimes overcrowded and an appointment is hard to come by.”

“Mostly it’s because people are coming to realize that nurse practitioners are extremely capable and knowledgeable health professionals that can offer a high level of excellent care.” Nurse practitioners are a vital part of healthcare teams and are trained to be both autonomous healthcare providers as well as strong collaborators with their physician colleagues to facilitate high-quality, integrated primary care.


AG-ACNPs work with young adults (beginning at age 13), older adults, and frail elderly who are experiencing sudden or urgent healthcare needs. As the world population gets older, AG-ACNPs are expected to be in higher demand.

AG-ACNPs work in specialty areas that include nephrology, cardiology, neurology, and surgery and closely collaborate with physicians and other specialists. They help adults with new acute conditions or exacerbations of severe chronic diseases.

“They handle complex patient circumstances, including assessing an immediate health situation, ordering and interpreting diagnostic tests, and developing a treatment plan to stabilize a patient or maximize overall senior health,” said.

AG-ACNP’s manage care of their patients as well as collaborate with physician colleagues and other healthcare professionals to achieve positive patient outcomes.

Salary Expectations and Career Growth for Family Nurse Practitioners and Acute Gerontology Nurse Practitioners

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), NPs in all specialties are in high demand. The job outlook for NPs is projected to grow by 26% through 2028 due to the aging population and longer individual life expectancies, the BLS said. The physician shortage also contributes to a greater demand for NPs, who serve many of the same functions as primary-care physicians.

The median pay for NPs is $113,930 per year, according to the BLS. PayScale, which uses consumer-collected data, said the average NP salary is $92,878. NPs who work for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and the CVS walk-in clinic MinuteClinic reported earning about $102,822 and $100,000 respectively, PayScale said.

PayScale also said the average AG-ACNP salary is $89,643. AG-ACNPs with five to nine years of experience can expect to earn more than $100,000, PayScale said. Salaries for FNPs and AG-ACNPs fluctuate depending on region and specialty.

Education and Licensure Requirements for FNPs and AG-ACNPs

To work as an FNP or AG-ACNP, RNs must earn an MSN degree and be licensed to practice in their states.

At Ohio University, FNP students take courses that will prepare them for family-focused practice and must complete 500 clinical practice hours. RNs on the AG-ACNP track take classes that encourage advanced clinical decision-making and diagnostic skills and must complete 650 clinical hours.

RNs who graduate from the Ohio University MSN degree program are eligible to sit for board certification exams by the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (AACN) and the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP), among others.

About the Ohio University Online Master of Science in Nursing Program

Ohio University’s online MSN program offers advanced nursing degrees in four practice areas — family nurse practitioner, adult-gerontologic acute care nurse practitioner, nurse educator, and psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner.

The School of Nursing at Ohio University has been educating students for more than 40 years. The online nursing education programs are tailored to meet the needs of busy healthcare professionals.

For more information about the Ohio University online MSN program, visit the program webpage today.


Recommended Reading:

Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioners: Understanding Adult Health Problems

Adult Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner Program Overview

Steps for Starting a Family Nurse Practitioner Practice


What is Acute Care Nursing?:

Can Nurses Replace Doctors?:

ACNPC-AG (Adult-Gero.): American Association of Critical Care Nurses

World’s older population grows dramatically: NIH

AGACNP – Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner Jobs:

Occupational Outlook Handbook, Nurse Anesthetists, Nurse Midwives, and Nurse Practitioners: Bureau of Labor Statistics

New Research Shows Increasing Physician Shortages in Both Primary and Specialty Care: AAMC

Average Family Nurse Practitioner (NP) Salary: PayScale

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