4 Best 12-Month Online DNP Programs – 2024

Written By: Darby Faubion BSN, RN

If you are a registered nurse considering a doctoral of nursing practice degree, you likely have several questions. In this article, we will look at what a 12-month online DNP program is, consider questions to ask as well as pros and cons, and review four of the best 12-month online DNP programs.

What Exactly is the Goal of a 12-Month Online DNP Program?

A 12-month online DNP program is a program designed for nurses who wish to pursue and obtain a terminal nursing degree as a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) in the shortest time possible.

Nurses who feel that it is necessary to work while continuing their education or who have other obligations such as caring for children or loved ones, may find that this option is a good fit.

Pros and Cons of Pursuing a 12-Month Online DNP Program

It is safe to say that anything you do has pros and cons, and examining each will help you make a more informed decision about pursuing a 12-month DNP online degree.

The pros of pursuing a 12-month online DNP program include:

• Convenience:

Choosing to enroll in an online DNP program allows you to further your education in a location that is most convenient for you. Attending an online program can help eliminate the need for long commutes or to relocate to a geographical area near a brick-and-mortar school.

• Flexibility:

The benefit of having flexibility when it comes to scheduling study time is a major determining factor for many prospective online students. This is especially helpful if you have a job or a family to take care of as you can study and complete courses at times that are best for you.

• Technology skills development:

While the world of technology may not be something you think of when you consider your nursing career, technology plays a large part in a nurse's day-to-day work. For example, most healthcare delivery systems use some type of electronic health record and computer-based systems to store patient information. As a leader in the nursing industry, DNPs must learn to navigate electronic records, and an online DNP program can help you improve those skills.

• More affordable:

While semester tuition may be similar for both online and on-campus learners, online students can save money by choosing this path of study. Reduced commuting costs, less wear and tear on your vehicle, and the ability to use digital sources of study instead of purchasing books can all help reduce the price of a DNP degree.

The cons of pursuing an online DNP program:

• Communication with instructors may be limited:

While students who enroll in an online program still benefit from having an academic advisor and can email instructors, communication may feel more limited than when attending in-person classes. If you are confident that you can work on assignments independently and don't feel the need for daily communication with an instructor, you may not feel at as much of a disadvantage.

• Increased demands on time:

Any DNP program requires motivation and dedication. A 12-month DNP program leaves little room for extra time of “doing nothing.” The program is quite rigorous when it comes to how much time needs to be dedicated to studying.

• Responsibility of setting up clinical practice:

Typically, online DNP programs require students to find appropriate sites for clinicals by themselves. The school will likely give guidelines for the type of relevant clinical sites. However, you may have to meet with the director of a healthcare facility to see if they will accept DNP students for clinicals and get approval from the school to schedule your clinical rotation. Because this may be time-consuming, it is good to start working on approval ahead of time.

• Most of your work is done alone:

While an online DNP program may be the best option for you because of work or other responsibilities, one of the disadvantages is that your communication with classmates may be limited to group discussions or message boards. This can leave you feeling alone, especially if you are having trouble comprehending some of the material.

Factors to Consider Before Deciding to Pursue a 1-Year Online DNP Program

If you are considering 1-year online DNP programs, chances are, you have several questions. Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) programs require a significant amount of study time and resources. Therefore, carefully considering the factors before enrollment is essential. Some factors to consider before deciding to pursue a 1-year online DNP program include the following.

1. Are you self-disciplined?

Successful completion of an online DNP program requires students to be dedicated to extensive study time focused on advanced coursework.

2. Do you plan to continue working while you are attending school?

If you plan to continue work or have other obligations that require your time, you may find that an online DNP program offers you more flexibility. Still, it is crucial to be deliberate when balancing the time you work and the time you dedicate to study.

3. Are you good at communicating through writing (email, written assignments)?

While there may be times that phone calls with instructors or academic advisors may be scheduled, most of your personal communication with staff will be through email or on message boards.

4. Are you able to commit to a full-time course load?

A 12-month DNP program requires a student to engage in a full-time course load. While obtaining your doctoral degree in the shortest amount of time is appealing, it is essential to understand the dedication it requires to pursue this degree in such a short amount of time.

5. Make sure the school is accredited.

If a school is accredited, this is a good indication that the program is a quality program and that you will be well-prepared for your career as a DNP. The United States Department of Education offers a comprehensive list of accrediting agencies. You can find it here.

How Long Do Online DNP Programs Take to Complete?

An online DNP program could take you as little as twelve months to complete or up to four years, depending on whether you take classes full-time or part-time and whether you must repeat any courses. A BSN to DNP program may take from three to four years to complete.

The shortest DNP programs take between twelve and eighteen months to complete. These classes typically require applicants to possess a Master’s in nursing degree (MSN) and be currently practicing as an APRN.

How Much Do 12-Month Online DNP Programs Cost?

The cost of a DNP program will vary from school to school. The average price of a DNP degree ranges from $40,000 to over $115,000. When you schedule an appointment with an advisor at the school of your choice, be sure to ask if out-of-state fees are waived for online students. While not all schools offer this, it is worth asking.

The University of Miami's DNP program, whose information is listed below, requires 39-47 credit hours for students to complete the program. Currently, students at this university can expect to pay approximately $2,170 per credit hour. This means that obtaining a DNP degree from the University of Miami could cost between $84,630 and $101,990. This estimate does not include expenses for travel to clinical sites or the cost of study materials, books, or uniforms if required.

Another example of tuition costs and fees is Samford University. The university for both in-state and out-of-state students if $888 per credit hour. Post-Master's DNP Nursing Administration path requires 37-39 credit hours, which equals approximately $33,744 for the online coursework. Additional tuition fees may be necessary while enrolled and attending required practicum hours.


While each educational institution has specific courses required for completion of any program, most DNP programs follow the same guidelines. Most DNP programs require students to complete coursework in translational research, healthcare policy, leadership within the healthcare system, and a clinical practicum. Additionally, some programs may require biostatistics, health care economics, and finance.

One important thing to remember when trying to choose one of the best 12-month DNP online programs is to verify with the state where you will be licensed what the minimum requirements are for DNP licensure. This way, you can choose a plan that meets your state's guidelines, which could prevent wasted time and money.

Clinical Training

According to the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE), Doctor of Nursing Practice students in an accredited DNP program are expected to successfully complete at least 1,000 post-BSN clinical practice hours. The CCNE makes allowances for schools with post-MSN Doctor of Nursing Practice programs to give credit to post-MSN students for the clinical hours they achieved in the MSN program. Because master's level nursing programs typically require at least 500 clinical hours, many students entering a post-MSN DNP program may only need an additional 500 clinical hours. However, it is up to you to discuss this option with an admissions advisor and make sure that all required documentation is submitted to the school for approval.

Admission Requirements

While there are BSN to DNP programs, to complete a DNP degree in 12 months online, the DNP program requires students to possess a master's degree in nursing (MSN).

General admission requirements for students entering an online 12-month DNP program include:

• Hold a current, unencumbered masters-level license to practice as a registered nurse valid in the state where clinical practicum courses will be completed.
• Have achieved a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or higher for the most recently obtained degree.
• Many colleges and universities do not require a GRE, but it is important to check with your school of choice to determine if it is necessary for admissions.
• Current curriculum vitae or resume that includes professional accomplishments.
• Three professional references: Most schools require that at least one of the professional references be obtained from a former/current supervisor, nursing instructor, or someone qualified to evaluate the prospective student's nursing practice.
• After other admission requirements are met, candidates for admission are typically required to participate in an interview with the program director and/or staff.

Following are the 4 Best 12-Month Online DNP Programs for 2024

1. University of Minnesota - Minneapolis, MN

At the University of Minnesota, the Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program is an option for registered nurses who have completed a BSN or MSN degree. The university's 12-month program is a post-master's DNP program that is tailored for nurses who have accomplished a master’s degree in one of the following specialty areas:

• Nurse practitioner
• Clinical nurse specialist
• Nurse anesthetist
• Nursing informatics
• Nurse midwife
• Nursing leadership
• Public health nursing

The post-master's DNP program at the University of Minnesota is a one-year (three-semester) program that is primarily online. Students are, however, required to be present on campus for one four-day session each semester.

All students in the University of Minnesota DNP program must complete 1,000 hours of supervised clinicals. Credit for clinical hours earned during a previous master's degree nursing program will be awarded when a Clinical Hours Verification Form is completed by the school where you received your master's degree.

Per semester cost of the DNP program at the University of Minnesota is approximately $11,500. This cost does not include educational material such as textbooks. It does include tuition, School of Nursing fees, and a student health insurance policy.

All applicants to the Doctor of Nursing Practice program are considered for one $20,000 scholarship. The university awards fifty of these scholarships annually, and the funds are disbursed toward the recipient's education throughout the DNP program.

2. University of Miami - Coral Gables, FL

The University of Miami offers a BSN to DNP program, which takes approximately two to four years to complete, depending on part-time or full-time attendance, and an online 12-month MSN-to-DNP program. Both programs are referred to as a “lock-step” program, which means students must successfully complete coursework for their chosen plan of study.

The one-year MSN-to-DNP plan of study offered by the university is geared to meet the academic needs of post-master's degree nurses who are seeking a terminal degree focused on nursing practice. It consists of three semesters: spring, summer, and fall. The total program involves 39 to 47 credit hours and 560 to 1000 clinical hours. The required number of credit hours and clinical hours you may be required to take will depend upon whether you are transferring credits from another learning institution and how many post-BSN clinical hours you have already completed.

To receive the MSN-to-DNP degree from the University of Miami, you will be required to complete all coursework with a minimum 3.0 cumulative GPA. Additionally, you will be required to complete a total of 1000 post-BSN clinical hours, pass a university-administered comprehensive exam, and complete the DNP scholarly project assigned by the school.

3. Samford University - Birmingham, AL

Samford University offers DNP programs for those wishing to pursue a post-MSN Doctor of Nursing Practice degree. While Samford University offers more than one DNP program of study, the programs that can be completed within 12-months are the DNP Nursing Administration and DNP Advanced Practice pathways. Also, although these programs offer part-time and full-time enrollment, full-time enrollment is necessary to complete the program within 12 months.

• DNP Nursing Administration

is designed to equip graduates with the skills necessary to administer healthcare organizations and develop and implement policies on health. Educator add-on courses are available for students who plan to teach nursing but are not a required part of this pathway.

• DNP Advanced Practice

track is available to master’s-prepared advanced practice nurses and gives graduates the educational tools needed to help advance the health care management of individuals and families and to help improve the quality and safety of patient care.

In addition to the 12-month online DNP programs offered, Samford University also offers three other DNP paths that can be completed in 24-months.

• DNP Family Nurse Practitioner

option targets MSN-prepared registered nurses who wish to complete a practice doctorate (DNP) and sit for the national Family Nurse Practitioner certification.

• DNP Emergency Nurse Practitioner

program focuses on preparing nurses to practice in urgent care and emergency settings.

• DNP Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner

program prepares graduates to provide mental health care services to clients in need of psychiatric services.

4. Chatham University - Pittsburgh, PA

Chatham University offers a DNP program that is tailored for nurses who already hold a master's degree. Most students can complete this program in 12 months if enrolled full-time. The program requires successful completion of 27 credits. Additionally, the Essentials of Doctoral Education for Advanced Nursing Practice (2006, AACN) requires 1000 hours of post-BSN clinical practice experience. Since the 12-month DNP program at Chatham University is open to MSN-prepared nurses, applicants will be expected to provide a copy of current national certification that will serve as evidence of having completed 500 hours of clinical practice. The remaining 500 hours of clinical practice will be done under the supervision of an approved proctor while enrolled in the DNP program.

If a DNP seeking student has not yet completed an MSN program that includes 500 supervised clinical hours, they can apply to attend Chatham as a non-degree seeking student to pursue those hours by enrolling in the Nursing Practice Experience (NUR697) course.

The DNP program offered at Chatham University is an online program. However, you will be required to attend a two-day residency at the campus. During the two-day residency, you will present posters representing the evidence-based project you will be required to complete.


Career Opportunities Post Completion of This Program

Career opportunities after completion of a DNP program represent a wide variety of practice areas. The typical types of employment as a DNP usually fall into categories of specific focus, including direct patient care in advanced practice roles or roles outside of direct patient care, including leadership and administration.

Achieving a DNP degree will allow you to specialize in a clinical area within your chosen advanced practice registered nursing role or to assume management/leadership roles in clinical settings.

Direct Care Roles

DNPs who choose to work in an advanced practice role in direct care settings may work as:

• Nurse Practitioners
• Certified registered nurse anesthetists
• Certified nurse-midwives
• Clinical nurse specialists

Many DNP programs offer students the opportunity to focus on minor concentrations that allow them to earn certification in a specific clinical area such as pain management, hospice, orthopedics, endocrinology, or forensics.

Non-Direct Care Roles

DNPs who choose to work in non-direct care roles may work in positions such as nursing administration, informatics, and executive leadership. Many Doctor of Nursing practice programs offer nurses the chance to engage in specialty tracks of study that allow them to focus their careers on a specific organizational role. A few examples include:

• Nursing/health informatics
• Health policy
• Clinical nursing education
• Professional and organizational leadership

DNPs who opt for non-direct care careers may work as chief executive officers, chief nursing executive officers, chief operating officers, chief information officers, or vice presidents of patient services.

Earning Potential

According to a July 2020 report from ZipRecruiter, the average salary for a DNP in the United States is currently approximately $115,944. This is the equivalent of $56/hour, $2,230/week, or $9,662/month.

PayScale, which is another job search site, reports an average annual of $101,932 for DNPs, almost $15,000 less than the national average reported by ZipRecruiter.

Some popular companies that employ individuals with a DNP degree report the following pay ranges.

1. University of Missouri-Columbia- up to $80,000/annually (estimated)
2. Banner Health- up to $106,000/annually (estimated)
3. Mayo Clinic- up to $111,000/annually (estimated)
4. Northrop Grumman Corporation- up to 122,000/annually (estimated)
5. Kaiser Permanente $128,000-210,000/ annually (calculated)

Job Outlook

In consideration of an aging population that is statistically living longer, but who also have a broad range of comorbidities, the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates at least a 31% increase in employment growth for individuals with a DNP degree from 2016 to 2026. As the population ages, nurses who are currently working in the field as DNPs are reaching retirement age. Because of this, the Bureau of Labor Statistics suggests that as the demand for doctorally-prepared nurses increases, DNP salaries will increase as well.


Deciding to pursue an online degree as a Doctor of Nursing Practice is an excellent step towards an enriching career. Opinions vary regarding which is the best 12-month online DNP programs. However, after weighing the pros and cons and deciding which pathway is most suited to your career goals, you can choose from some of the best 1-year DNP online programs.

Frequently Asked Questions Answered

How Long Do Online DNP Programs Normally Take to Complete?

Several factors determine how long a DNP program takes to complete. BSN-to-DNP programs typically require three to four years of full-time coursework to complete. MSN-to-DNP programs can take from one to two years. Most DNP programs consist of 35 to 47 credits plus a minimum of 500 post-master's clinical practice hours.

Are there any Online DNP Programs that can be Completed Faster Than 12 Months?

Currently, the shortest DNP program is the post-Master's DNP program, and in its shortest time generally takes approximately 12 months to complete. Of course, if you have already earned credit for some of the coursework that is required in a DNP program before enrolling, it may be possible to complete the program in less time.

How much more money can I make as a DNP?

Along with having access to more professional opportunities and the respect that comes with a DNP degree, you could earn an average of $7,000 more annually than a Master’s-level registered nurse. Also, DNPs typically earn more than $40,000 per year more than a BSN-level registered nurse.

Darby Faubion BSN, RN
Darby Faubion is a nurse and Allied Health educator with over twenty years' experience. She has assisted in developing curriculum for nursing programs and has instructed students at both community college and university levels. Because of her love of nursing education, Darby became a test-taking strategist and NCLEX prep coach and assists nursing graduates across the United States who are preparing to take the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX).