ANCC vs. AANP: The Differences Explained + Which to Take

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

Nurse practitioners looking to work professionally or improve their job prospects should consider certification. Learn more about two of the most popular nurse practitioner certification providers and what they offer.

[Featured Image] A student studies for an exam.

Nurse practitioners (NP) treat and diagnose patient ailments, order diagnostic exams, and (in some states) prescribe medication. As a result, NPs undergo years of medical training to do much of the same work as physicians. 

Aspiring NPs often wonder which certification will best prepare them for their professional future and keep them competitive in the job market. Two of the most popular organizations awarding NP certifications include the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) and the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners Certification Board (AANPCB).

But, how are certifications from these organizations different? And, which is the right one for you?

If you're asking yourself these questions, then this is the article for you. Here, you’ll learn more about the certifications provided by each of these organizations and find a clear methodology to identify the best one for you. 

ANCC and AANPCB key facts

The ANCC and the AANPCB are two of the most recognized organizations providing NP certifications in the United States. While not every state requires NPs to be certified, even NPs practicing in states without certification requirements should consider obtaining one to remain competitive in the job market.

Here’s what you need to know about the ANCC and AANPCB before deciding on the one for you. 

Does certification matter?

Certification can help you stand out to employers and improve your earning potential. For example, according to research by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, individuals with certification earn $357 more a week than those without either a license or certification [1]. 

Read more: How to List Certifications on Your Resume: Guide + Examples


ANCC certification overview

The ANCC is a credentialing board that was created in 1991 as a subsidiary of the American Nursing Association (ANA), which has provided certification services for several decades. Today, the ANCC offers four different certifications for nurse practitioners specializing in different subjects. They are: 

  • Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner Certification (AGACNP-BC)

  • Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner Certification (AGPCNP-BC)

  • Family Nurse Practitioner Certification (FNP-BC)

  • Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner Certification (PMHNP-BC)

While the specifics for each of these specializations vary from one to the other, according to the ANCC certification home page, they all follow the same test format, cost the same, and take the same amount of time to complete. At a glance, these include:

Format175 questions (150 scored plus 25 pretest questions that are not scored)
Time3.5 hours
CostNon-member: $395 ANA member: $295 AANP member: $340 AANP student member: $290

AANPCB certification overview

The American Association of Nurse Practitioners Certification Board (AANPCB) was founded in 1993 by the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP). Today, the AANPCB provides three specialized nursing certifications for aspiring NPs. They are:

  • Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP)

  • Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner Certification (A-GNP)

  • Emergency Nurse Practitioner Certification (ENP)

While the specifics of each exam vary from certification to certification, according to the AANPCB certification page, they all follow the same format, take the same time to complete, and cost the same. These include: 

Format150 questions (135 scored)
Time3 hours
CostNon-member: $315 AANP & AAENP members: $240

ANCC vs. AANPCB certification at a glance

As you can see, the ANCC and AANP have many similarities and several key differences that may impact which one you pick. To help you get a better idea of how they stack up with one another, here are some key facts side-by-side:

SpecializationAdult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner Certification (AGACNP-BC); Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner Certification (AGPCNP-BC); Family Nurse Practitioner Certification (FNP-BC); Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner Certification (PMHNP-BC)Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP); Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner Certification (A-GNP); Emergency Nurse Practitioner Certification (ENP)
Format175 questions (150 scored, 25 not scored) over 3.5 hours150 questions (135 scored, 15 not scored) over 3 hours
CostNon-member: $395 ANA member: $295 AANP member: $340 AANP student member: $290Non-member: $315 AANP & AAENP members: $240


ANCC and AANP certifications both provide similar benefits to those who obtain them. In addition to potentially increasing your earning potential, both certifications demonstrate your grasp of specialized knowledge and your commitment to their field. As a result, each certification has the potential to increase your credibility, improve your hireability, and demonstrate your overall competence to employers and other medical professionals.

How to choose the right certification for you 

Both organizations offer credentials that are well-recognized by employers, so the right certification for you likely depends on your own personal career goals and resources. Here’s what you should consider when choosing an NP certification:  

1. Pick the certification that matches your specialization. 

The first step to picking the right nurse practitioner program for you is to identify the specialization that you’re pursuing and match it with the appropriate certification. As noted earlier, the ANCC provides four certification specializations: Adult-Gerontology Acute Care NP, Adult-Gerontology Primary Care NP, Family NP, and Psychiatric-Mental Health NP.

The AANPCB meanwhile, offers three certifications for NPs: Family NP, Adult-Gerontology Primary Care NP, and Emergency NP. 

The only two specializations overlapping between both organizations are certifications for Family-NP and Adult-Gerontology Primary Care NP. As a result, if you are pursuing a certification in a specialization other than those two, then your decision will be guided by what each organization offers. 

2. Consider the one that matches your style and skill set. 

If you’re pursuing a certification as a Family NP or Adult Gerontology NP, then you should consider the exam that best matches your style and skill set. For example, you might consider that the ANCC exams cover more questions than AANPCB exams but also provide half an hour more to complete the test. Depending on your test-taking habits, you might prefer a test that has fewer questions and less time or one that has more questions and more time. 

You might also consider diving into the specifics of each test and comparing the subjects and types of questions covered, their respective pass rates, and whether there are any study guides available that match your learning style. If one has more questions about an area in which you feel strong, then you might consider that test over the other. 

Read more: 11 Good Study Habits to Develop

3. Factor in your available resources. 

Price is an important factor to anyone considering a certification exam. The prices for each exam vary considerably depending on whether you are a member of a particular professional association, so make sure to compare the price you might pay for each certification and whether it sways you toward one test or another. 

Continue your health care education with Coursera  

Nurse practitioners are highly trained medical professionals who provide care to patients facing a wide variety of ailments. Prepare for your future career as an NP by taking a flexible, online course through Coursera.

The University of Houston’s Value-Based Care Specialization, for example, explores the power of effective communication between health care professionals and patients that leads to a partnership focused on quality care.

In the University of Minnesota's Integrative Nursing Specialization, meanwhile, you'll learn how to practice a patient-centered, relationship-based approach to nursing that utilizes a variety of integrative healing modalities like aromatherapy, acupressure, and mindfulness.

Article sources


US BLS. “Median weekly earnings by certification and licensing status and selected characteristics,” Accessed September 8, 2023.

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