Inside Top BSN to DNP Programs Online

See the best online BSN to DNP programs online, get cost and curriculum details, and learn what it takes to get in, succeed, and graduate.

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Renee Warmbrodt

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Renee Warmbrodt is a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner with extensive experience working with pediatrics in a range of settings. She graduated from Saint Louis University with her MSN and currently works with a pediatric urology group in St. Louis, MO. Prior to becoming a nurse practitioner, Renee worked several years with critically ill children as a PICU staff nurse. She also has experience educating, precepting, and mentoring nursing students.

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Last Updated: 09/21/2021
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2021’s Best Online BSN to DNP Programs

Colleges across the U.S. continue to add online components to their nursing bridge programs. This holds true for the BSN to DNP online, with more and more schools creating programs that are fully online. But which of these programs has high-quality and flexible learning that’s within your tuition range? The data science team at EduMed.org has collected, researched, and analyzed data from more than 7,700 post-secondary schools across the country. The goal? To see which offer students the best online BSN to DNP programs for their money. See which colleges made the list in 2021.

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About the ranking

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Methodology for EduMed’s 2021 Best Online Programs

1. Create List of Eligible Schools and Programs

To be eligible for this ranking, schools were required to meet the following criteria based on government data provided by The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS).

  • Institutional accreditation from an organization recognized by the U.S. Department of Education.
  • At least one program in subject area offered partially or fully online.

2. Assign Weightings

After creating the list of eligible schools, EduMed data scientists assigned weights and ranked schools based on a mix of affordability, support services, and online program availability metrics. Online program availability and overall affordability metrics received the heaviest weightings.

Online Program Availability

  • Number of online programs in subject area reported by school to the U.S. Department of Education.

Affordability

  • Cost – Relative cost of attendance compared to peer schools on the list. Based on tuition and fees per academic year.
  • Students w/ Institutional Aid – Percentage of students who receive financial aid from the school itself.

Support Services

  • Academic Counseling – Existence of this service on campus or online.
  • Career Placement – Existence of this service on campus or online.

About Our Data

EduMed’s rankings use the latest official data available from The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS). Most recent data pull: July 2021

# School Name Type Cost Online Programs More Details School Information Online Students Academic Counseling Career Placement Students w/Institutional Aid Median Earnings 10yrs After Entry Accreditation
1 University of MaryBismarck, ND Private, Not-for-Profit $$$$ 1

The University of Mary’s BSN to DNP Family Practitioner is designed for current BSNs seeking an accelerated path to earning their Doctor of Nursing degrees and becoming advanced practitioners and leaders in the nursing profession. The 86-credit hour program is in a hybrid format consisting of asynchronous online coursework (lectures, reading materials, discussions, assignments, etc.) and in-person week-long intensives on UM’s Bismarck, North Dakota, campus at the start of select semesters and during the final week of the program. Students also complete 1,180 clinical hours at program-approved clinical facilities typically in the student’s home community. Admission requires a bachelor’s degree and a current unencumbered RN license. All applicants must submit up-to-date resumes and two references. Select applicants must also complete an interview and “head-to-toe” physical assessment demonstration on a person of the applicant’s choice.

Program Highlights:

BSN to DNP: Family Nurse Practitioner

  • Credits: 86
  • Length: 2.7 years (full-time)
  • Cost: $665/credit
  • Mode: Partially online
  • Accreditation: HLC (school); CCNE (program)
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
99%
AccreditationHigher Learning Commission
2 University of Louisiana at LafayetteLafayette, LA Public $$ 1

The online Doctor of Nursing Practice: BSN to DNP Track program at UL Lafayette provides current nursing bachelor’s holders a streamlined path to gaining the skills for leadership positions in nursing administration, academia, research, government, risk management, the pharmaceutical industry, and more. The 10-semester program is in a cohort format, meaning students in each cohort start and progress through the program together. Cohorts start once a year with the spring semester. All didactic coursework is accessed and completed entirely online. However, students must participate in face-to-face activities on the school’s campus at the start and conclusion of the program. Students also complete a minimum of 1,000 in-person supervised clinical practice hours (typically in or around the student’s local community) as part of the curriculum’s residency courses. In addition to a bachelor’s degree, admission requirements for the BSN to DNP track include a current unencumbered RN license and a formal letter of application with a statement of purpose addressed to the DNP Program Coordinator. The letter should outline the applicant’s program goals and potential contributions to the program and describe the focused area of interest for the student’s synthesis project.

Program Highlights:

Doctor of Nursing Practice: BSN to DNP Track

  • Credits: 70
  • Length: 2.5 years (full-time)
  • Cost: $480/credit
  • Mode: Partially online
  • Accreditation: SACSCOC (school); CCNE (program)
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
57%
AccreditationSouthern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges
3 Maryville University of Saint LouisSaint Louis, MO Private, Not-for-Profit $$$$ 1

Specialization options and study flexibility are features of Maryville University’s online BSN to DNP program. Students choose from among five concentrations: Family Nurse Practitioner, Pediatric Nurse Practitioner, Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner, Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner, and Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner. All didactic core and concentration coursework is 100% online in an asynchronous format. No campus visits are required. However, all concentrations require substantial supervised clinical practice hours at program-approved facilities typically in a student’s community as part of clinical practicums. Clinical hour totals vary by concentration. Students start programs in the spring, summer, or fall. Maryville’s BSN to DNP program is open to applicants with a BSN degree earned with a minimum 3.25 GPA from a CCNE or ACEN accredited program and an unencumbered RN license. Additional application materials include a current CV or resume and a personal essay. GMAT or GRE test scores are not required.

Program Highlights:

BSN to DNP

  • Credits: 68 to 77 (varies by concentration)
  • Length: As few as 36 months (depends on concentration and study pace)
  • Cost: $813/credit (MSN-level courses); $897/credit (DNP-level courses)
  • Mode: Partially online
  • Accreditation: HLC (school); CCNE (program)
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
62%
AccreditationHigher Learning Commission
4 Misericordia UniversityDallas, PA Private, Not-for-Profit $$$$$ 1

Misericordia University offers its Doctor of Nursing: BSN to DNP Track with Family Nurse Practitioner and Adult-Gerontology Primary Nurse Practitioner concentration options. Both curriculums require approximately 2 ½ years of full-time study (eight semesters for FNP, nine semesters for AGPNP). Students receive MSN degrees in their chosen concentration upon completion of all master’s-level coursework and are eligible for board certification in their specialization field. DNP degrees are awarded upon completion of the entire course of study. Didactic coursework is entirely online. In addition, students attend on-campus intensives on the school’s Dallas, Pennsylvania campus during the first and second years of study as well as complete in-person practice/clinical hours (1,130 hours for FNP students, 1,040 hours for AGPNP students) at healthcare facilities in and around their local communities. Admission into Misericordia’s BSN to DNP program requires a current, unencumbered RN license and a BSN degree with a minimum 3.25 GPA. Additional application submittals include a current resume or CV, two letters of reference, and a statement of personal and professional goals.

Program Highlights:

Doctor of Nursing: BSN to DNP Track

  • Credits: 68 (FNP); 45 (AGPCNP)
  • Length: 2.5 years
  • Cost: $795 (master’s-level courses); $800 (DNP courses)
  • Mode: Partially online
  • Accreditation: MSCHE (school); CCNE (program)
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
100%
AccreditationMiddle States Commission on Higher Education
5 Abilene Christian UniversityAbilene, TX Private, Not-for-Profit $$$$$ 1

The BSN to DNP program at Abilene Christian University is made up of two separate programs. Students first complete the online BSN to DNP Pathway, a fast-track program that allows students with a BSN to complete the coursework needed to start their DNP programs without first earning a nursing master’s degree. The 18-credit hour BSN to DNP Pathway requires a minimum of 12 months to complete. Students then move on to ACU’s online Doctor of Nursing Practice program where they choose one of two track options: Advanced Practice Nurse or Executive Nurse Leadership. Both DNP tracks consist of 39 credit hours completed in a minimum of 26 months. Coursework in both programs is completed entirely online. However, students complete 1,000 supervised clinical/practice hours (500 in the BSN to DNP Pathway program and 500 as part of the culminating project in the DNP program) in a program-approved clinical setting.

Program Highlights:

BSN to DNP (BSN to DNP Pathway + DNP)

  • Credits: 57 (18 BSN to DNP Pathway; 39 DNP)
  • Length: 38 months (12 months for BSN to DNP Pathway; 26 months for DNP)
  • Cost: $650/credit (BSN to DNP Pathway); $871/credit (DNP)
  • Mode: Partially online
  • Accreditation: SACSCOC (school); CCNE (program)
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
97%
AccreditationSouthern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges
6 Regis CollegeWeston, MA Private, Not-for-Profit $$$$$ 2 Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
98%
AccreditationNew England Commission of Higher Education

Profiling Online BSN to DNP Programs

Before you apply to an online BSN to DNP program, you need some questions answers. How long will the program take? Is it fully online? Will I be able to afford it? To help, we’ve profiled three of today’s most popular BSN to DNP programs online. Read what it takes to get in, complete your courses, and graduate.

Fort Hays State University

Fort-Hays-State-University

From its home base in Hays, Kansas, Fort Hays State University provides a BSN to DNP program for individuals who already meet all Bachelor of Nursing requirements. The program is mostly online, but students will need to visit the campus a few times during their four years of full-time study. The school publishes the dates for campus intensives at least six weeks in advance to help students prep for travel.

The BSN to DNP program at FHSU follows a family nurse practitioner tract, which requires 76 credits in total. The program starts in the summer, beginning with foundations for the doctoral leader and informatics in health care systems. Students are required to take two to three classes each semester, covering topics such as evaluation and management in health care systems, epidemiology in public health, advanced pathophysiology, and evidence-based practice and scholarly tools.

Applicants need at least a 3.25 GPA and must submit three letters of recommendation, a resume, and a personal statement. An interview is also required. FHSU maintains accreditation through the Kansas State Board of Nursing, the Kansas Board of Regents, and the Higher Learning Commission.

Delta State University

Delta-State-University

Mississippi’s Delta State University provides a hybrid BSN to DNP program that can be completed in just seven semesters. Part-time options are also available. Most of the coursework is taught online, but students are required to visit campus between one and three times each semester. The school will help current students find an approved clinical location to fulfill degree requirements, but the site must be in either Mississippi or Arkansas.

The program requires 80 credit hours, a clinical practicum totaling 1,020 hours, and 420 hours devoted to a scholarly project. Students should expect the program to take 3.5 years to complete.

Applicants will need a minimum 3.0 GPA from their BSN, an analytic score of 3.0 or higher on the GRE, an unencumbered RN license, and three up-to-date letters of recommendation. All of these must be submitted by February 15. The program costs $393 per credit for in- and out-of-state students.

Once accepted, students can expect to cover topics such as health policy and ethical decision making, management of client care, health care policy and economics in clinical practice, and leadership and role development in advanced nursing practice. The institution maintains accreditation through the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges.

Duke University

Duke-University

Duke University’s School of Nursing offers a BSN to DNP program for currently practicing registered nurses who want to pursue an advanced practice specialty area. Current options include nurse practitioner and nurse anesthesia. Once enrolled, online students will need to complete at least 74 credits. Most students complete the program in three years.

Topics covered include transforming the nation’s health, data-driven health care improvements, evidence-based practice: implementation and evaluation, and quantitative analysis for evaluating health care practices. Students also need to complete all clinical practicum requirements.

In addition to online courses, students take part in a two-day orientation at the Durham, North Carolina campus, as well as executive on-campus sessions lasting two to three days in October, February, and June of each year.

Admission requirements include a BSN from a school accredited by ACEN or CCNE, a minimum 3.0 GPA (GRE requirements waived if above 3.4), current licensure, and three letters of recommendation. An interview is also required. Once accepted, students pay $1,769 per credit, although the department offers several scholarships.

All of Duke’s faculty possess broadly diverse skill sets and experiences to help create a space for all interests and backgrounds. Duke maintains accreditation through the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.

BSN to DNP: Campus vs. Online vs. Blended

With so many different nursing specialties available, RNs looking to become advanced practice nurse practitioners (APNP) need to choose their program carefully. Many BSN to DNP programs require students to select a specialty when applying, so you should have some idea of your preferred focus before enrolling.

The following are some of the main types of BSN to DNP programs available, including the main areas of concentration available to students.

Program Delivery Options

There are a variety of ways that online BSN to DNP students can complete their degrees. Fully online programs may best suit those with busy schedules, as these programs make it possible to complete coursework from home on your own timeline. Some students may want to take part in campus activities, but can’t commit to regular visits. For these learners, limited campus visit programs often provide a good balance. Still others want the best of both worlds, preferring a blended approach that lets them straddle time between virtual and brick-and-mortar classrooms.

Read about each to find the one that works for you.

  • Fully online BSN to DNP programs
    Fully online programs allow degree seekers to complete all program requirements without ever visiting campus. Students will need to complete their clinical practicum in person, but they can do this in their area rather than traveling to the location of the school.
  • Limited campus visits
    Schools offering this option tend to provide the majority of coursework online, but schedule several intensives throughout the program that require short visits to campus. These can last anywhere from a weekend to a week and take place as frequently as once a semester or as little as once a year.
  • The blended BSN to DNP
    Also known as hybrid programs, blended programs split program requirements between virtual and campus-based classes. Students will likely spend about half their time in each, providing a great option for those who need some flexibility but also want to enjoy the benefits of face-to-face instruction and access to campus resources.

Areas of Concentration

Nursing is an incredibly broad field with a variety of degree concentrations to help students build skills and competencies in their area of interest. Some individuals may feel a calling to work with the elderly and decide to focus their efforts in adult-gerontological acute care; others may want to work across the lifespan and select the family nurse practitioner specialization. Regardless of your interests, there’s a good chance that a concentration exists for you.

Some of the most popular options currently include:

  • Adult-Gerontological Acute Care
  • Neonatal
  • Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP)
  • Pediatric Acute or Primary Care
  • Psychiatric Acute Care
  • Women’s Health

In Detail: Online BSN to DNP Programs

While every online BSN to DNP program has slightly different coursework and requirements, understanding how these programs typically work can help you decide if it’s the right next step for you. Learning more about the benefits and challenges of an online nursing program and what and how you’ll learn can also help you decide if this format will meet your academic and personal needs.

How BSN to DNP Programs Work Online

Whether a degree seeker selects a fully online or hybrid program, benefits and challenges exist with each. Fully online programs provide maximum flexibility, but some learners may miss interacting with peers and professors on campus each week. Hybrid programs allow for more face-time, but can put a time strain on individuals balancing busy professional and personal lives alongside school.

Many mostly online BSN to DNP degrees exist in a cohort fashion, meaning students enter the program at the same time and progress through the coursework together. This can be great for collaboration, but doesn’t allow students to accelerate their plan of study and graduate more quickly, as they cannot move faster or slower than their classmates.

How the Clinicals Work

As part of degree requirements, all nursing students in this type of program complete clinicals to gain real-world experience before graduating. For most BSN to DNP programs, requirements hover around 1,000 hours. Students enrolled in a brick-and-mortar program usually select from an approved list of sites, while online students need to do a bit more legwork.

Online students typically look for a site in their region, but approval from the program administrator is usually required. Other schools may find an organization for the student. You should check with the program administrator to find out how clinical locations are chosen.

In addition to gaining hands-on skills, clinical experiences can potentially lead to employment. Students who impress their supervisors may be able to leverage the clinical into a job offer, so picking a location where you can see a future is important. Before deciding on a location, however, make sure you do your due diligence. Just because an organization is prestigious doesn’t mean it’s a good fit. Take time to read about the facility’s mission, areas of specialty, employee benefits, and other factors before applying.

The Online BSN to DNP Curriculum

Coursework varies by program, but most cover general topics such as research methods, nursing leadership, nursing across the lifespan, and pharmacology. The following table gives students an idea of what to look for, but you should review individual schools to get a clearer sense of requirements.

Term Courses # Credits
Summer Doctoral Leader Foundations, Health Care Systems Informatics 6
Fall Theories in Nursing Development, Health Care Systems Management and Evaluation, Advanced Statistics 9
Spring Policy and Politics within Healthcare, Public Health Epidemiology, Nursing Research 8
Summer Roles in Primary Care for Nurse Practitioners, Primary Care Health and Wellness Promotion 4
Fall Advanced Pathophysiology, Nursing Leadership 6
Spring Advanced Pharmacology, Health Assessment Practicum, Health Assessment Lecture 6
Summer Care Across the Lifespan 2
Fall Primary Care, Scholarly Tools and Evidence-Based Practice, Primary Care Preceptorship 8
Spring Diagnostics and Procedures in Primary Care, Preceptorship, Primary Care, Research Methods 8
Summer Primary Care within Families and Communities, Capstone Project 6
Fall Primary Care Preceptorship, Residency, Capstone Project 6
Spring Capstone Project, Residency, Preceptorship 6

DNP Research Project

The culminating research project is an integral part of any AACN-accredited BSN to DNP program and allows students to put their learning into actionable practice. These projects can take many forms. Some learners may decide to evaluate an existing program using knowledge gained from their courses, while others may write on an emerging topic within nursing.

Students work with an advisor to develop a project that focuses on their specialty area and adequately demonstrates their learning throughout the program. In general, every research program should demonstrate skills in the following areas.

  • Expertise in reflective practice
  • Expertise in your area of interest
  • Independent practice inquiry
  • The ability to evaluate, translate, and use research and evidence to improve health and quality care outcomes
  • Organizational and systems leadership skills
  • Knowledge of advanced healthcare policy, ethics, and law to develop a population-based program based on the best available and current evidence

Entrance Requirements & Admissions

Being accepted to a doctoral program is no small feat, and you’ll need to prove you’re prepared and able to excel if you hope to make the cut. To be considered, individuals will need at minimum a BSN degree and an active and unencumbered RN license. Here are the other requirements students should expect, as well as ways they can stand out.

BSN to DNP Prerequisites

  • A BSN from a program accredited by the CCNE, ACEN, or CNEA.
  • An active RN license. Schools want to see that you successfully passed the NCLEX exam to gain your license and that you’re currently practicing unencumbered. Read about campus, hybrid, and online RN programs.
  • Letters of recommendation. Most schools require three letters of recommendation from current/former supervisors, former professors, and other individuals who can speak to your work as an RN and your preparedness for advanced study.
  • Clinical experience. BSN to DNP programs are less likely to accept a student who just graduated from their BSN and lacks clinical experience. For the best chances, try working in the field full-time for at least a year before applying.

How to Stand Out

Unlike ASN or BSN programs, which frequently take a large cohort of students each year, DNP programs tend to be far smaller, more selective, and competitive. In addition to good grades and impressive work experience, students can take additional steps to help themselves stand out from other candidates.

  • Join a national nursing organization
  • Pursue additional nursing certifications
  • Participate in evidence-based practice projects
  • Apply for traineeships/internships

Students should also consider speaking to a faculty member or alumni from any programs they’re considering. This can help provide insider knowledge on what they look for in prospective students.

How Much Does an Online BSN to DNP Program Cost?

Since this program is at the doctoral level, the cost-per-credit for tuition tends to be higher than bachelor’s programs, but they also typically require fewer hours. In general, students pay the lowest tuition at in-state colleges or at schools that charge resident and non-resident online students the same rate.

Tuition rates can vary widely, so it’s important for students to find a program that meets both their academic and financial needs. The programs highlighted below illustrate the range of costs.

1 1. Maryville University BSN to DNP: $897/credit
2 2. Georgetown University BSN to DNP: $2,065/credit
3 3. University of Arkansas BSN to DNP: $560/credit
4 4. University of North Carolina BSN to DNP: $65,400/program (resident);
$119,629/program (non-resident)

For information on how to pay for your online BSN to DNP program, check out the following pages: