Finding the Best Online
DNP Programs for You

See 2020’s top schools, browse scholarships and financial aid, review program details, and get the inside scoop on career growth for DNP graduates.

Last Updated: 08/03/2020
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The healthcare field is constantly adapting to the population’s health challenges, and high-caliber nursing professionals are needed to help meet those demands. Advanced practice nurses who are looking to specialize their knowledge and advance their careers may consider enrolling in an online Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program. This decision can have a significant professional impact, making it vital for prospective DNPs to do their research before applying to schools.

Because online DNP programs can vary in quality, content, price, and format, it can be tough to make a school decision with confidence. To help, we’ve researched and analyzed data from more than 7,700 colleges and universities across the country. The goal? To identify the online DNP programs with the best combinations of affordable, academic excellence, and student support. Review and compare our top program choices below.

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About the ranking

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Methodology for EduMed’s 2020 Rankings

To be considered for this ranking, each school must have the following:

  • Institutional accreditation from an organization recognized by the U.S. Department of Education.
  • Program(s) offered at least partially online.

School Metrics Explained

EduMed.org data scientists analyzed government higher education data and created a proprietary algorithm to rank each U.S. postsecondary institution and its online programs using 5 primary factors:

  • Cost: Relative cost of attendance compared to peer schools on the list. Based on tuition and fees per academic year.
  • Online Program Availability: Number of online programs in subject area reported by school to Department of Education.
  • Academic Counseling: Existence of this service on campus or online.
  • Career Placement: Existence of this service on campus or online.
  • Students w/ Institutional Aid: Percentage of students who receive financial aid from the school itself.

About Our Data

EduMed’s rankings use the latest official data available from The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS).

Most recent data pull: February 2020

# 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 Purdue University GlobalDavenport, IA Private, For-Profit $$$ 2

Purdue University Global’s Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program is tailored for current nurses who want to become advanced practice nurses (APRN) or nurses who want to make the most of their APRN credentials. Through a classwork curriculum of approximately nine classes, students will learn subjects such as analytic methods and project proposal, clinical decision making for practice doctorate, and scientific foundations for practice doctorate. The DNP program ends with students completing a final project. Students also have the option of adding up to 12 credits of independent courses. And while most classes can be completed online, at least 1,000 hours of clinical practice will be needed before the DNP degree is conferred.

Program Overview:

Doctor of Nursing Practice

  • Credits: 48-60 quarter credits
  • Length: Approximately two years
  • Cost: $700/credit
  • Mode: Partially online
  • Accreditation: HLC (school); CCNE (program)
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
0%
AccreditationHigher Learning Commission
2 Briar Cliff UniversitySioux City, IA Private, Not-for-Profit $$ 1

Briar Cliff University (BCU) offers nursing students the ability to earn their terminal nursing degree through the Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program. The curriculum consists of two main components. The first component is the classwork, most of which can be completed online for maximum flexibility. The second component is the practicum. Here, students must complete at least 480 hours of real-world experience. It’s during this time that students will build and enhance their skills and knowledge in areas such as ethics, informatics, financial matters, diversity awareness, and management. Prospective students must possess a master’s degree to apply to BCU’s DNP program.

Program Overview:

Doctor of Nursing Practice

  • Credits: 36
  • Length: Two years
  • Cost: $25,944 (total program cost)
  • Mode: Partially online
  • Accreditation: HLC (school); CCNE (program)
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
97%
AccreditationHigher Learning Commission
3 Stony Brook UniversityStony Brook, NY Public $$$ 2

Stony Brook’s School of Nursing offers advanced practice registered nurses (APRN) the ability to earn a terminal degree through its Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program. Open only to nurses who possess a master’s degree, the DNP program will teach students how to better treat patients from a strategic point of view. This means DNP trained nurses will spend more time analyzing clinical evidence and creating policy so they may better deliver proper treatment to patients. Once enrolled, students can focus on certain areas of concentration, such as adult-gerontology, pediatric, psychiatric, family, neonatal, and women’s health. In addition to the classroom work, students must also complete at least 500 hours of scholarly practice through the completion of practicums.

Program Overview:

Doctor of Nursing Practice

  • Credits: 42
  • Length: Approximately two years
  • Cost: $1,179/credit (resident); $1,472/credit(non-resident)
  • Mode: Partially online
  • Accreditation: MSCHE (school); CCNE(program)
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
70%
AccreditationMiddle States Commission on Higher Education
4 The University of Tennessee-ChattanoogaChattanooga, TN Public $$$ 1

For registered nurses looking to earn a doctoral degree, the University of Tennessee – Chattanooga’s Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) is a program worth considering. This program is specifically tailored to meet the AACN’s (American Association of Colleges of Nursing) recommendation that advanced practice nurses possess a doctoral-level degree. During the DNP program, students will take courses such as evidence-based practice and nursing systems, health care policy, and leadership in complex health care systems. But the key portion of the curriculum is completion of the Translational Project. This is where students will use an evidence-based approach to tackling a serious problem with the current health care system and presenting their findings to a committee.

Program Overview:

Doctor of Nursing Practice

  • Credits: 36
  • Length: Two to four years
  • Cost: $562/credit (resident); $609 (non-resident)
  • Mode: Partially online
  • Accreditation: SACSCOC (school); CCNE (program)
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
43%
AccreditationSouthern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges
5 Upstate Medical UniversitySyracuse, NY Public $$$ 2

Upstate Medical University’s Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program is specially designed for working nurses who are looking to advance their skills from an advanced practice role to a policy and leadership role. That’s why this program is offered in year-round, part-time coursework. Students will take roughly six to seven credits during each spring and fall semester, and three credits during the summer. The typical incoming student will be a clinical nurse specialist or nurse practitioner possessing a master’s degree in nursing. The curriculum is designed to meet the doctoral education standards as set forth by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN).

Program Overview:

Doctor of Nursing Practice

  • Credits: 40
  • Length: Two-and-a-half years
  • Cost: $43,461/year (resident); $50,681/year (non-resident)
  • Mode: Partially online
  • Accreditation: MSCHE (school); CCNE(program)
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
0%
AccreditationMiddle States Commission on Higher Education
6 Brandman UniversityIrvine, CA Private, Not-for-Profit $$$ 3

Brandman University created Doctor of Nursing Practice programs to accommodate registered nurses from various backgrounds. For those with a bachelor of science in nursing, there’s the BSN to DNP Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner program. Students can expect to take classes in topics such as biostatistics for clinical practice, advanced pathophysiology across the lifespan, and psychopharmacology across the lifespan. For those with a master of science in nursing degree, there’s the Post-Masters to DNP program. Here, students will be able to take courses in health communication, leading through innovation, and transforming health care through outcomes management. As many as 40 of the program’s credit requirements can be met with transfer credits from the student’s master’s degree.

Program Overviews:

BSN to Doctor of Nursing Practice

  • Credits: 88 credits
  • Length: As little as 36 months
  • Cost: $1,155/credit
  • Mode: Partially online
  • Accreditation: WASC (school); CCNE (program)

Post-Masters to Doctor of Nursing Practice

  • Credits: 97 credits (includes 40 transfer credits from master’s degree)
  • Length: Length: As little as 20 months
  • Cost: $1,155/credit
  • Mode: Partially online
  • Accreditation: WASC (school); CCNE (program)
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
0%
AccreditationWASC (school); CCNE (program)
7 University of MaryBismarck, ND Private, Not-for-Profit $$$$ 1

As long as a student has at least a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN), they can enroll in one of University of Mary’s Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) programs. For those with a BSN, there’s the BSN to DNP: Family Nurse Practitioner program. Students will complete curriculum requirements by engaging in coursework online, then attending the occasional intensive at the University of Mary’s campus in Bismarck, ND. Students who already have a master of science in nursing degree (MSN) and who would like to advance their management abilities can consider the MSN to DNP in Organizational Leadership program. The learning format is almost exclusively online, with only one on-campus visit required at the end of the program.

Program Overviews:

BSN to DNP: Family Nurse Practitioner

  • Credits: 86
  • Length: Approximately three years
  • Cost: $650/credit
  • Mode: Partially online
  • Accreditation: HLC (school); CCNE (program)

MSN to DNP in Organizational Leadership

  • Credits: 32-37
  • Length: 20 months
  • Cost: $620/credit
  • Mode: Partially online
  • Accreditation: HLC (school); CCNE (program)
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
99%
AccreditationHigher Learning Commission
8 University of the Incarnate WordSan Antonio, TX Private, Not-for-Profit $$$$ 2

The University of the Incarnate Word offers two Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) programs for nursing students. For those with just a bachelor’s degree, there’s the BSN-DNP program. This is a three year program that prepares registered nurses to become either psychiatric mental health or family nurse practitioners. Those with a master’s degree will want to enroll in the MSN-DNP program. Here, students can obtain doctoral credentials through a curriculum that focuses on developing clinical management and leadership skills. Both programs will deliver the majority of course materials through asynchronous learning formats. However, synchronous learning opportunities may be necessary in some courses.

Program Overviews:

BSN to Doctor of Nursing Practice

  • Credits: 76-77
  • Length: Nine semesters
  • Cost: $980/credit
  • Mode: Partially online
  • Accreditation: SACSCOC (school); CCNE (program)

MSN to Doctor of Nursing Practice

  • Credits: 32 credits
  • Length: Five semesters
  • Cost: $980/credit
  • Mode: Partially online
  • Accreditation: SACSCOC (school); CCNE (program)
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
99%
AccreditationSouthern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges
9 Jacksonville UniversityJacksonville, FL Private, Not-for-Profit $$$ 1

Jacksonville University provides two Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) programs for those interested in earning a terminal nursing degree and taking their practice to the highest level. Nurses who possess a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) degree have two pathways open to them based on their professional preferences. For students who want to focus on treating patients, there’s the BSN to DNP Family Nurse Practitioner program. For nurses who want to take a more prominent management role in their organization, there’s the BSN to DNP Leadership program. Students with a master of science in nursing (MSN) degree have similar options available in the post-MSN DNP program. Here, students can choose between the Advanced Practice and Leadership tracks.

Program Overviews:

BSN to DNP Family Nurse Practitioner

  • Credits: 59 or 70
  • Length: Approximately three to four years
  • Cost: $650/credit
  • Mode: Partially online
  • Accreditation: SACSCOC (school); CCNE (program)

Post-MSN to DNP

  • Credits: 36
  • Length: Approximately two to three years
  • Cost: $650/credit
  • Mode: Partially online
  • Accreditation: SACSCOC (school); CCNE (program)
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
94%
AccreditationSouthern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges
10 George Washington UniversityWashington, DC Private, Not-for-Profit $$$$$ 2

Nurses looking to take the next step in their nursing career and earn a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree have two DNP program options to choose from when attending George Washington University. The first is the post-BSN option for nurses possessing a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) degree. This offers several opportunities for specialization, such as in adult-gerontology primary care and family nurse practitioner. The second is the post-MSN option, for nurses with a master of science in nursing degree (MSN) who would like to specialize in executive leadership or nursing practice. Both DNP program options are available in part-time and full-time course loads and will typically require in-person clinical training.

Program Overviews:

Post-BSN to DNP

  • Credits: 81
  • Length: Approximately four to six years
  • Cost: $1,435/credit
  • Mode: Partially online
  • Accreditation: MSCHE (school); CCNE (program)

Post-MSN to DNP

  • Credits: 36-43
  • Length: Approximately two to three years
  • Cost: $1,435/credit
  • Mode: Partially online
  • Accreditation: MSCHE (school); CCNE (program)
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
75%
AccreditationMiddle States Commission on Higher Education
11 Loyola University New OrleansNew Orleans, LA Private, Not-for-Profit $$$$ 1

Loyola University New Orleans provides prospective doctoral nursing students three specialized tracks to choose from when enrolling in the Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree program. The exact pathway will depend on the student’s educational background and professional goals. Students with a bachelor of science in nursing degree can enroll in the Family Nurse Practitioner track. Master’s trained nurses will get to choose between either Nurse Practitioner or the Executive Leader tracks. Whether the student has a bachelor’s or master’s degree, they can tailor their learning to meet their specific needs through taking elective courses in addition to the core curriculum coursework.

Program Overview:

BSN to DNP

  • Credits: 78
  • Length: Three to four years
  • Cost: $818/credit
  • Mode: Partially online
  • Accreditation: SACSCOC (school); CCNE (program)

MSN to DNP

  • Credits: 39-48
  • Length: Approximately three years
  • Cost: $818/credit
  • Mode: Partially online
  • Accreditation: SACSCOC (school); CCNE (program)
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
98%
AccreditationSouthern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges
12 University of San FranciscoSan Francisco, CA Private, Not-for-Profit $$$$$ 1

Through its School of Nursing and Health Professions, the University of San Francisco offers future Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) nurses a variety of online DNP program Plans of Study. The first is the Family Nurse Practitioner Plan of Study, available to nurses with bachelor of science (BSN) or master of science (MSN) degrees. The second Plan of Study is Executive Leadership, which is only available to MSN prepared students. Next, there’s the Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner Plan of Study; it is open to both BSN and MSN trained nurses. The last Plan of Study to choose from is Population Health Leadership, only available for nurses who already have their MSN degree.

Program Overview:

Doctor of Nursing Practice

  • Credits: Varies based on prior degree and chosen area of specialization
  • Length: Approximately two to five years
  • Cost: $1,480/credit
  • Mode: Partially online
  • Accreditation: WSCUC (school); CCNE (program)
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
82%
AccreditationWSCUC (school); CCNE (program)
13 University of IndianapolisIndianapolis, IN Private, Not-for-Profit $$$$$ 1

The School of Nursing at the University of Indianapolis provides multiple pathways to nurses who would like to earn a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree. All pathways require students to have a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN), but the exact pathway a student takes will depend on whether they have a master of science in nursing (MSN) as well. If they do, they can take the Post MSN pathway. If they have a master’s degree in a subject other than nursing, they can enroll in the Executive pathway. And for those without an MSN degree, there’s the BSN to DNP pathway.

Program Overview:

BSN to DNP

  • Credits: 65 to 65.5
  • Length: Eight semesters
  • Cost: $730/credit
  • Mode: Partially online
  • Accreditation: HLC (school); CCNE (program)

Post-MSN to DNP

  • Credits: 34-40
  • Length: Two to three years
  • Cost: $730/credit
  • Mode: Partially online
  • Accreditation: HLC (school); CCNE (program)
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
99%
AccreditationHigher Learning Commission
14 MGH Institute of Health ProfessionsBoston, MA Private, Not-for-Profit $$$$$ 1

MGH Institute of Health Professions’ Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program is designed for advanced practice nurses. Therefore, the curriculum can be shorter, allowing students to earn their degree much faster. During each semester, students will take 10 online class sessions synchronously. This instruction will be supplemented with two on-campus weekend intensives. The curriculum is unique for several other reasons: It takes advantage of the student cohort model. Each semester consists of just one, detailed, integrated class. Classes make use of the case study learning model. Finally, individual mentoring will be available to all students who desire additional instruction and guidance.

Program Overview:

Doctor of Nursing Practice

  • Credits: 34
  • Length: As little as 16 months
  • Cost: $1,585/credit
  • Mode: Partially online
  • Accreditation: NECHE (school); CCNE (program)
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
0%
AccreditationNew England Commission of Higher Education

Profiling Online DNP Programs

Making the decision to go back to school is the first step. Finding the right school is the second. Even when you’ve seen a list of the best online DNP programs out there, the more research you can do, the better. Below, we’ve profiled two of today’s most popular online DNP programs. They vary in size, cost, and curriculum, but that should help you get a better handle of the variation you can expect. See which of these DNPs online might be what you’re looking for.

Simmons University

Simmons

Simmons University offers a fully online DNP program designed for certified APRNs who already have a master of science in nursing. The Simmons online DNP is practiced-based but is research and writing heavy. Throughout the program, students work on a research-based project in their chosen area of advanced nursing practice. This research and the corresponding clinical hours are done independently, generally at the student’s workplace. Although this is an online degree, classes are delivered live, so students have face-to-face interactions with faculty and peers. Since classes generally have 20 or fewer students, students have the opportunity to develop meaningful relationships and get focused support from instructors and peers. The 30-credit program is meant to be completed part time over seven 14-week terms and culminates with an on-campus symposium, where students present their final projects and meet their peers and instructors in person. To help students pay for their online DNP, Simmons offers multiple scholarship opportunities. Students are automatically considered for these scholarships and do not need to fill out an additional application.

Yale University

Yale

Yale University’s DNP is a hybrid program, giving students the benefits of both online and in-person learning. The program is comprised of on-campus classes, live online follow-ups and asynchronous online components like forum discussions and peer review. Yale’s unique proprietary technology makes it possible for students to attend on-campus classes even when they can’t be there in person: stand-in robots allow students and guest speakers to be present in the classroom just as they would in person. Students also have access to proprietary video conferencing accounts that ease online meetings. Students can have video meetings with anyone who has a Yale video conferencing account, not just those in their class, which can streamline mentorship and networking opportunities. The program is geared toward applicants who have a master’s in nursing or a related field and who are licensed RNs, APRNs or CRNs. Those with master’s degrees outside of nursing may apply, but they have to undergo special review and their bachelor’s degree must be in nursing. Since the DNP program requires 1,000 hours of clinical practice, which includes hours earned during master’s programs, those whose master’s degrees are in another field may have to take additional coursework to gain the necessary clinical hours.

12 Month Online DNP Programs

While most online DNP programs take between 15 and 24 months, some may be shorter, depending on whether you have a master’s already and choose to enroll full-time. For those who wish to graduate within 12 months, Hawaii Pacific University’s and Chatham University’s online DNP programs may be the fastest available. Take a look at these 12-month online DNP options.

Hawaii Pacific University

Hawaii

Hawaii Pacific University’s online DNP is a relatively new program, with the first cohort starting in 2017, but it’s a great option for students who want to advance their practical nursing knowledge quickly. The 100-percent online program can be completed in 12 months of full-time study. It’s designed for students who have an MSN and want to continue their education in their specific advanced nursing practice areas. The program begins with a one-week intensive in Hawaii. After that, students work through their coursework online and complete practice hours on their own. Students are also required to propose and carry out a final project. The project is discussed during the initial on-campus intensive, and students must meet project benchmarks throughout the program. Upon completing their projects, students must give a presentation and submit a final paper.

Chatham University

Chatham

Students may enroll in Chatham University’s online DNP program on a part-time basis, but full-time students have the benefit of being able to earn their degree in a year over three semesters. The program is fully online except for a two-day residency on campus near the end of the program, where students meet their peers and present their final projects. Students must complete 500 practice hours during their DNP program. The practice hours are highly self-directed, as is the writing-intensive online coursework, so full-time students should enter the program with strong time management skills. Applicants also must hold an MSN and a current nursing license. While cohorts are admitted in spring and fall only, applications are accepted and reviewed on a rolling basis.

Accreditation and Online DNP Programs

When comparing online DNP programs, it’s important to make sure the program you choose is accredited. Accreditation is a voluntary process that schools and individual programs of study undergo to show that they meet quality standards set forth by a board of experts. Prospective DNP students can look for two main types of accreditation: institutional and programmatic. Institutional accreditation assesses a school as a whole. Regional accrediting bodies governed by the Council for Higher Education Administration (CHEA) are the most widely recognized providers of institutional accreditation.

Programmatic accreditation is more specialized and focuses on certain areas of study. Online DNP programs may be accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) or the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN). The standards set by these accrediting bodies aim to further the nursing field and ensure that nursing professionals have access to quality education programs that prepare them for the current and future nursing landscapes. Graduating from an accredited program helps employers see that potential employees have a standard body of knowledge gained during their DNP. Furthermore, students must be enrolled in an accredited program to receive federal financial aid, so checking for accreditation is essential.

Accreditation DNP

Inside Online DNP Programs: What to Expect

Before enrolling in an online DNP program, prospective students need to get familiar with program details so they can make the right choice for their education and career goals. Program requirements, expectations, delivery formats, cost and completion time should all be considered in advance.

How do online DNP programs work?

Online programs have a ton of variety, so students should be sure to check their prospective DNP programs for details. Online DNP programs may be synchronous, where students log into their classes at specific times to participate in live video lectures, real-time forum chats and face-to-face video conferences with instructors and peers. Asynchronous online DNP programs are also common. These classes generally provide students with 24-hour access to course materials, so they can complete assignments at their convenience. Students interact with instructors and each other through forums and online peer review. Some programs combine both synchronous and asynchronous elements.

Online DNPs may also be available as hybrid programs, where students take some classes in person on their school’s campus. Regardless of the delivery format, online DNP programs require clinical hours and a final project. Some may also require short residencies on campus.

What will I learn in an online DNP program?

Curricula for online DNP programs can vary from school to school especially for students taking specialized tracks in their field. However, there are a handful of common courses that tend to serve as the foundation of many DNP programs. Checking out those course descriptions can help prospective nursing students see if an online DNP covers topics that suit their needs and interests.

Leadership

Leadership courses are central to DNP curricula. They can focus on many different aspects of leadership but tend to incorporate management theory to help students gain practical leadership skills used to implement change in healthcare systems. Organizational behavior, collaboration and quality improvement may be addressed.

Course titles to look for: Professional Leadership and Practice Change; Communication and Collaboration for Health Care Leadership; Transformational Leadership: Innovation and Implementation”

Quality in Health Care

Classes focused on quality in health care serve as useful complements to leadership classes. Students may learn how to act as leaders when directing quality improvement initiatives and use evidence-based research to promote safety and quality. Courses often examine quality improvement from a patient-centerd perspective.

Course titles to look for: Quality Improvement in Health Care; Quality and Safety in Health Care Organizations”

Epidemiology

Students will explore epidemiology, a population health science with observational data. In epidemiology courses, students learn how to measure the burdens of disease, track their causes, critically examine epidemiological data and apply findings to healthcare issues.

Course titles to look for: Epidemiology and Social Determinants of Population Health; Epidemiology

Health Care Policy

Health care policy classes tend to incorporate other essential elements, like ethics and politics, to help students recognize and address dilemmas in health care, particularly when it comes to health care policy and advocacy. Students may examine the multifaceted issues that come into play when creating healthcare policy and gain skills in policy development and presentation.

Course titles to look for: Ethics, Policy, and Advocacy for Population Health; Health Policy; Health Care Policy, Politics and Process

Evidence-Based Practice

Evidence-based practice courses often align with students’ clinical practice courses. Students develop skills in gathering and analyzing their own data as well as translating pre-existing data. This is an essential foundational course for many advanced nursing practice careers and DNP practicum projects.

Course titles to look for: Developing Evidence-Based Practice; Evidence-Based Practice

Along with theoretical knowledge gained in classes, online DNP programs aim to give students essential skills that can help them in their advanced nursing careers. Skill acquisition and development can vary depending on a student’s DNP concentration and practicum but may include:

  • Advanced clinical practice
  • Transcultural care
  • Research and data analysis
  • Interprofessional collaboration
  • Health policy development

What DNP tracks can I take?

One of the major benefits of a DNP is that it allows nursing professionals to advance their skills and knowledge in a specific area of focus. Often, students hone in on their particular area of professional interest through their practicum and capstone hours, but many DNP programs offer tracks that give students more specialized in-class study, as well. Many DNP tracks have certifications associated with them, which can increase employability. As the healthcare industry becomes more nuanced, nurses with specialized training play important roles client care and industry development. Specializing during the DNP can help prepare advanced practice nurses for nuanced, in-demand careers.

Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP)
Family Nurse Practitioners are advanced practice nurses who provide a range of care to families. FNPs work with patients of all ages and provide a broad range of care. They may act as primary care providers, offering holistic care, treatment of acute ailments and illness prevention techniques.

Pediatric Nurse Practitioner (PNP)
PNPs work with children to help them develop and maintain good physical, social and emotional help. These professionals educate families on the health and development of their children. They may work with patients from infancy to young adulthood and may work to prevent, treat and manage a variety of acute and chronic health issues.

Psychiatric & Mental Health (PMHNP)
This advanced nursing specialization helps prepare nurses to work with patients experiencing a range of mental health issues. PMHNPs may assess and diagnose patients who need mental health and psychiatric care. They also work with patients’ families and may provide follow-up care to aid in continued patient wellness.

Adult-Gerontological Primary or Acute Care Nurse Practitioner
Whether as a primary care or acute care provider, these advanced practice nurse practitioners specialize in caring for adult patients, from adolescence onward. Nurses may focus on different age groups, like young adults or those in late life. Primary care practitioners provide holistic care to patients, while acute care nurses work with acutely and critically ill adult patients.

Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS)
Clinical Nurse Specialists aid in the direct care of patients by diagnosing patients and developing treatment plans. They help manage the overall care of their patients and may use their specialized knowledge in specific areas of nursing and health care to advise and assist other nurses and medical professionals.

Nurse Anesthesia 
In nurse anesthesia programs, students learn how to safely administer anesthesia to different types of patients in various settings. Nurse anesthetists assess pre-operative patients to determine the best course of care, and they help care for patients during and after anesthesia. As part of a DNP program, nurse anesthesia students learn anesthetic practices from a leadership perspective and gain advanced skills in patient care technology and informatics.

How long does it take to earn a DNP online?

On average, online DNP programs can be completed in about 18-24 months. However, some are designed to be completed in as few as 12 months of full time study. DNP programs require that students complete a specified number of practicum hours–usually 1,000 including hours earned during their MSN degree. Many MSN programs require 500 clinical hours for graduation, so students who enter their DNP program with fewer than 500 practicum hours may take longer to complete their DNP, as they will have to earn more practice hours during their program.

How much does an online DNP program cost?

A lot of variables come into play when determining the cost of online DNP programs, like available financial aid, completion time and the school itself. For instance, the online DNP at Simmons University costs $1,410 per credit, with 48 credits required for graduation. This does not include the $160 term fees or the cost of books and travel to on-campus immersions. Chatham University costs $1,017 per credit for their 27-credit 12-month program. Prospective students can use the rankings tool on this page to get cost information on different online DNP programs.

Paying for Your Online DNP

Nothing derails a program of study like not being able to pay for tuition. Ensuring that you can pay for your online DNPs before enrolling in a program can help you stay on track to finish your degree. Calculating costs can get stressful, but many financial aid options exist to help students pay for their online DNPs.

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Scholarships

Scholarships are one of the best forms of financial aid because they don’t need to be paid back and can be either need- or merit-based. Students can check for scholarships through their DNP program and can also apply for general scholarships offered by their institutions. Organizations like AACN can be excellent scholarship resources for nursing students as well. Advanced nursing students can also check out our list of top scholarships for medical and health students.

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Financial aid

Students who fill out the FAFSA are considered for a wide range of federal financial aid opportunities like grants, scholarships and loans. Students must be enrolled in a regionally accredited institution in order to receive this aid. Head over to our financial aid page for detailed information.

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Grants

Grants are similar to scholarships in that they are a form of gift aid and don’t need to be paid back. Grants tend to be need-based but can be distributed based on merit or program of study. When filling out the FAFSA, students may be automatically considered for some government grants, but they can also extend their search to professional organizations, non-profits and local governments.

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Private Loans

While they generally shouldn’t be a student’s first choice when seeking financial aid, private loans are available when other forms of aid aren’t enough. Students should be mindful of high interest rates and penalties for untimely payments to keep loan debt manageable.

What’s After Your DNP?

Many prospective DNPs have nursing experience and a good idea of where they want to take their careers, but before beginning their programs it’s important that they do ample research on the advanced nursing industry and its myriad career paths. Understanding the requirements of getting into a given nursing career and what they’ll get out of it can help professionals pursue the right career for them.

Do you need a special license or certification to work or advance?

DNP programs typically require students to have their nursing licenses, so advanced practice nurses should already have the RN certification required to practice. There are many certifications that advanced practice nurses with DNPs can pursue to highlight their expertise and increase employability. The American Association of Nurse Practitioners highlights the wide range of available certifications and the boards that award them.

certification DNP
certification DNP

What can you do with an online DNP?

Earning an online DNP can open nursing professionals to a huge variety of leadership-driven advanced nursing careers in clinical and academic settings alike. After completing an online DNP program, graduates may further their work in client care, or they may want to move into careers focused on policy development and systematic change. Depending on their concentration area during their program, advanced nursing professionals may use their new skills and knowledge to analyze data and conduct research or shift into healthcare management careers. The small handful of careers below are just a few examples of career options available to nurses who hold DNPS.

DNP Flow
DNP Flow

How much can you earn with a DNP?

To meet increasing demands for health care services, health professionals are highly sought. Nursing jobs in general are expected to see a 26 percent increase between 2018 and 2028 according the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), and nurse practitioner careers in particular have an anticipated 28 percent increase over the same period. By comparison, the projected growth rate for all careers nationwide is 5 percent. The median annual wage for nursing professions in May 2018 was $113,930, but this can change depending on education level and professional experience. Take a look at the salary range for careers available to DNPs.

Career # Employed Entry-Level Early Career Mid-Career Experienced Late Career
Nurse Anesthetists 41,990 $117,520 $143,980 $168,280 $198,660
Nurse Midwives 5,950 $69,980 $86,880 $103,360 $123,840 $149,140
Nurse Practitioners 164,560 $79,500 $91,220 $107,550 $125,760 $151,100
Nursing Instructors and Teachers,Postsecondary 4,200 $58,870 $74,330 $97,950 $135,430
Registered Nurses 2,585,920 $51,210 $58,810 $71,560 $88,030 $106,260
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Related Degrees

If a DNP doesn’t seem like the right fit, students looking to advance their nursing careers or increase their expertise may want to explore other online nursing degrees. Earning an advanced education is a big decision that warrants careful consideration, so exploring alternative degree programs is a smart idea. These may be great options for nursing professionals who want to advance their careers but aren’t set on a DNP route.

Online PhD in Nursing

An online PhD in nursing is like the research-driven counterpart to the practice-drive DNP. Throughout their program, students work on a research project related to a specialized area of their field. This degree may be well-suited to nursing professionals who want to shift away from client care and into research or education.

Online BSN to DNP

Many DNPs are limited to applicants who hold Master of Science in Nursing degrees. However, online BSN to DNP programs are designed specifically for those who haven’t yet earned their master’. These programs allow students to earn a doctorate and a master’s degree at the same time. They tend to follow a traditional DNP curriculum with extra master’s coursework and practicum hours to give new post-bac students the practice and knowledge needed for their advanced degrees.