DNP PROGRAM FINDER is an advertising-supported site. Clicking in this box will show you programs related to your search from schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other information published on this site.

Best Online 2-Year DNP Programs For 2021

Written By: Darby Faubion BSN, RN

If you are a nursing professional ready to make a career move with endless possibilities, this article is for you! Maybe you have thought about going back to school to earn a DNP degree, but you haven't yet committed. With opportunities provided by 2-year DNP programs online, there is no time like the present to get started. A Doctor of Nursing Practice gives nurses the chance to achieve the highest level of nursing practice and enjoy the personal, professional, and financial benefits that come with the degree. The best online 2-year DNP programs for 2021 featured in this article give nurses like you access to professional leadership and mentors who can help equip you with the knowledge and skills you need to provide the highest standard of care to patients and communities in complex healthcare systems.

What Is the Main Purpose of A 2-Year DNP Program?

To meet the demands of the healthcare industry, the need for clinical experts who possess the knowledge and skills to practice effectively is of utmost importance. 2-year DNP programs are formatted with the main goal of preparing advanced practice nurses with the highest level of scholarly practice and clinical experiences, making them instrumental in building a strong healthcare network that supports individuals and communities and helping to improve patient outcomes. These programs, like the online 2-year DNP programs featured in this article, prepare graduates to assume clinical roles and leadership positions as clinical experts, executive nurse leaders, and professional network leaders.

5 Benefits Of 2-Year DNP Programs

Up to this point in your career, everything you have accomplished has been the foundation for your future goals. Learning is a lifelong process and deciding to go back to school is a significant step. If you are considering taking your nursing career to the next level but still need some reasons to pursue online 2-year DNP programs, the following five benefits could help you make your final decision.

1. Give yourself a raise! According to, Bachelor's prepared nurses earn approximately $77,000 yearly. Master's prepared nurses earn nearly $93,000. DNPs, on the other hand, make around $103,000 annually.
2. You can choose a specialty that you are passionate about. DNP students, like those enrolled in 24-month online DNP programs, can focus their studies on areas of healthcare that are important to them. A few examples of specialty concentrations for DNP students to choose from include Pediatric, Adult-Gerontology, Women’s Health, Executive Leadership, and Clinical Leadership.
3. You will earn the respect of peers in the industry. A Doctor of Nursing Practice is a terminal nursing degree. It takes a genuine commitment to study, your goals, and the cause that has led you to pursue this degree. Peers in the nursing field understand the dedication and hard work it takes to become a DNP and will respect your accomplishment.
4. You can fit your educational goals around your schedule. Online 24-month DNP programs are tailored to accommodate busy practicing nurses. Although the program requires a time commitment, it offers more flexibility than programs taken in brick-and-mortar settings.
5. Increased Long-Term Job Security: In 2004, the schools affiliated with the American Association of Colleges of Nurses voted to endorse the Position Statement on the Practice Doctorate in Nursing. The endorsement called for making the level of preparation for advanced practice nurses to be moved from a master’s degree to a doctorate.

How Much Do Online 2-Year DNP Programs Cost?

As you research two-year online DNP programs, you will find the cost of tuition and other fees varies from school to school, sometimes significantly. Using published rates for some of the featured programs in this article, the tuition range for online 2-year DNP programs is $20,000 to over $75,000. Students may incur other expenses while enrolled in an online DNP 2-year program, including technology fees, book expenses, uniforms for clinicals, and the cost to commute to and from clinical sites.

The University of Maryland in-state tuition is $824, and out-of-state tuition is $1,461 per credit hour. MSN to DNP students complete thirty-seven to forty-seven credit hours, depending on previous coursework and transferable credits. The total tuition cost of the program is between $30,488 and $68,667.

The University of Missouri offers five areas of study for students searching for accredited two-year DNP programs online. All programs are approved by the Missouri State Board of Nursing and accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education. The estimated program cost is from $20,662 to $28,836.

At Rush University, DNP programs are available for both baccalaureate and master’s prepared registered nurses. Admission faculty perform a GAP analysis and develop an individualized plan of study based on a prospective student’s previous graduate education. Tuition for the program is calculated at a rate of $1,166 per credit hour. Depending on the number of credits students need to meet their program plan of study, the total tuition cost ranges from $34.980 to $75,790.

The University of Portland welcomes master’s- prepared registered nurses who are licensed, certified, and practicing nurse practitioners to apply to its MSN to DNP program. Tuition for the two-year, forty-credit hour program costs $1,326 per credit hour, with an average of $53,040 in total tuition costs.

The DNP in Executive Leadership at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, another one of the best online 2-year DNP programs, is aligned with the Essentials of Doctoral Education for Advanced Nursing Practice established by the AACN. Tuition costs range from $1,001 to $1,891 per credit. Students complete at least thirty-two credit hours, depending on credit from previous coursework, making the program's cost between $32,032 and $60,512.


Although DNP coursework varies from school to school, accredited 2-year DNP programs online typically follow the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) standards when determining curriculum for their programs. The AACN published The Essentials of Doctoral Education for Advanced Practice Nursing, which outlines the foundational outcome competencies and curriculum expected of DNP programs. The core content of DNP programs focuses on eight elements of content which include the following.

◦ Organizational and Systems Leadership for Quality Improvement and Systems Thinking
◦ Clinical Scholarship and Analytical Methods for Evidence-Based Practice
◦ Information Systems/Technology and Patient Care Technology for the Improvement and Transformation of Healthcare
◦ Healthcare Policy for Advocacy in Healthcare
◦ Interprofessional Collaboration for Improving Patient and Population Outcomes
◦ Clinical Prevention and Population Health for Improving the Nation’s Health
◦ Scientific Underpinnings for Practice (Human Biology, Psychosocial Sciences, Philosophical, Ethical, and Historical Issues related to the development of science)
◦ Advanced Nursing Practice

In addition to the core essentials included in the curriculum for online 2-year DNP programs, specialty classes and competencies relevant to areas of practice and interest are offered. Specialty classes are specific to a concentration of study, such as Pediatrics, Psychiatric Mental Health, Women’s Health, Adult-Gerontology, and Executive Leadership, to name a few.

The following are some examples of the curriculum at some of the best 2-year DNP programs online featured in this article.

The University of Iowa: The faculty of the DNP program at the University of Iowa are nationally recognized. Their efforts to deliver quality education to top-level nurses are evident with high completion rates and successful certification exam rates for graduates. The university offers five online 2-year DNP programs. The programs include flexible course offerings, tuition assistance, scholarships, and arranged preceptors for clinical practices. They are tailored for master’s prepared registered nurses and include the following coursework.

Adult/Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner (44 credit hours/1,090 clinical hours)

This study plan emphasizes care for patients who are technologically dependent, physiologically unstable, and vulnerable to complications. Graduates of the program meet the eligibility to sit for the American Nurses Credentialing Center and American Association of Critical Care Nurses Certification Corporation certification examinations.

◦ Clinical Data Management and Evaluation
◦ Advanced Diagnostic and Therapeutic Procedures for Acute Care
◦ Graduate Pharmacology Specialty
◦ Interprofessional Skills and Team-Based Healthcare I, II, and III

Pediatric Acute Care Nurse Practitioner (44 credit hours/1,090 clinical hours)

This pathway focuses on the care of complex acute, critical, and chronically ill infants, children, adolescents, and their families. Upon completing the program, graduates are eligible to sit for the national certification examination through the Pediatric Nursing Certification Board.

◦ Health Policy, Law, and Advocacy
◦ Pediatric Acute Care I and II
◦ Care Coordination Across Professional and Organizational Boundaries
◦ Genetics/Genomics for Advanced Nursing Practice

Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (46 credit hours/1,000 clinical hours)

Like the other 24-month DNP programs offered by the University of Iowa, the Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner program includes didactic and clinical experiences. This specialty pathway prepares students to succeed in any psychiatric-mental healthcare environment.

◦ Psychiatric/Mental Health Nursing for Advanced Practice I and II
◦ Psychotherapeutics for Advanced Practice Nursing Across the Lifespan I and II
◦ Evaluating Evidence for Practice
◦ Quality and Safety

Duke University - Executive Leadership Specialty Program (35 credit hours/1,000 clinical hours)

The Duke University Doctor of Nursing Practice Executive Leadership Specialty Program is designed for working professionals. The program includes distance-based classes and requires on-campus sessions each semester. The on-campus sessions are formatted to help students establish a deeper understanding of course content and to foster a network of leadership among students within the program and after graduation.

◦ Data-Driven Healthcare Improvement
◦ Transforming the Nation’s Health
◦ Applied Finance and Budget Planning
◦ Appraising and Synthesizing for Evidence-Based Practice

The University of Virginia - MSN to DNP (40 credits/At least 500 post-master's clinical hours)

At the University of Virginia, master's prepared nurses with an advanced practice specialty are eligible to apply for admission to the MSN to DNP program. Coursework is offered online, with students meeting face-to-face once a month or at the beginning and end of each semester. In addition to didactic coursework and clinical hours, students must complete a DNP scholarly project.

◦ Applied Statistics for Clinical Practice
◦ Culturally Sensitive Care/Population Health
◦ Resilient Leadership and Resource Management in Complex Healthcare Systems
◦ Nursing Ethics for Advanced Practice

Ohio State University: OSU offers two of the best online 2-year DNP programs, the DNP Clinical Expert and DNP Nurse Executive. To complete the program in two years, students must maintain full-time enrollment.

DNP Clinical Expert Track (37 credit hours/1,000 Post-Baccalaureate Clinical Hours)

The Clinical Expert DNP program uses a collaborative interprofessional approach to prepare DNPs who promote wellness by using evidence-based practices.

◦ Health Promotion in the Age of Personalized Health and Healthcare
◦ Quality Improvement for the Doctor of Nursing Practice
◦ Informatics for Leadership in Healthcare
◦ Science of Practice Innovation

DNP Nurse Executive Track (37-38 credit hours/ 1,000 Post-Baccalaureate Clinical Hours)

In the DNP Nurse Executive track, students are prepared to transform healthcare organizations using informatics, personal health and wellness, and immersion experiences. Faculty challenge students to develop self-awareness, critical thinking, strategic vision, and safe quality healthcare practices.

◦ Nurse Executive Leadership
◦ Nursing Policy for Doctoral Nursing Practice
◦ Methods of Measurement for Clinical Practice Scholarship
◦ Foundations of Evidence-Based Practice

Clinical Training

According to the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE), clinical practice experiences are defined as learned activities in nursing practice designed to help students understand, perform and refine professional nursing competencies. All nursing programs, including two-year DNP programs online, must include clinical practice experiences relevant to the program specialty for which the student is being prepared. To achieve DNP competencies, programs typically require a minimum of 1,000 post-baccalaureate supervised clinical hours. The settings and clinical experiences are relevant to the student's specialization.

Below are examples of some of the clinical requirements for some of the 2-year DNP online programs featured here.

Johns Hopkins University: Learn to address significant issues associated with population health and healthcare delivery systems in Johns Hopkins University’s DNP program. Graduates of the program demonstrate systems and organizational leadership to promote quality and safety in healthcare, use strategies to reduce the risk of illness/prevent disease, and promote positive patient outcomes. Students enrolled in the DNP Executive program must complete at least 1,000 clinical hours. Up to 552 verified master’s program clinical hours may be transferred to the DNP program, leaving 448 DNP practicum hours.
D’Youville University: D’Youville University, home to one of the best online 2-year DNP programs we’ve found, combines graduate-level research and traditional coursework with clinical experiences to offer its DNP with Family Nurse Practitioner specialty program. Program faculty are working professionals engaged in active who come from various career paths with diverse specialties. Students complete thirty-four hours of coursework and 1,000 clinical hours.
The University of Miami: Master's-prepared registered nurses are invited to apply to the MSN to DNP program at the University of Miami. The program's goals are to prepare nursing leaders who effectively use integrated knowledge, concepts, and theories to develop ethical healthcare systems, evaluate research methods, synthesize knowledge, and model expert nursing practices. Students must complete didactic coursework, a nursing capstone project that spans two semesters, and a minimum of 560 post-master's clinical hours.
The University of Michigan: MSN to DNP students at the University of Michigan have access to an extensive network of clinical sites located throughout the United States where they engage in a DNP residency. The post-master's program, one of our top 25 online two-year DNP programs for 2021, instructs students on methods of leading healthcare delivery, influencing healthcare policy and change, and translating evidence into nursing practices. Students must complete at least 1,000 hours of advanced clinical practice. Up to 500 hours from the student's MSN program may be counted once verified by the program faculty.
Yale University: The Clinical DNP program offered by Yale University is designed for advanced practice nurses currently in a clinical setting. The program is designed to help the DNP graduate develop effective skills to help them develop new clinical processes, roles, and practices, contributing to better health outcomes for society. Students must complete 540 practicum hours while enrolled in the Clinical DNP program. Admission to the program is contingent upon the applicant entering with at least 500 clinical hours from their MSN program.

Admission Requirements

Colleges and universities reserve the right to establish the admission criteria necessary for applicants of each of their programs. Although there is some variation in requirements for admission, most online 2-year DNP programs have similar minimum admission criteria, including the following.

◦ Possess an active, unencumbered license to practice as a registered nurse
◦ Pass a state and federal background check
◦ Submit official transcripts from all post-secondary schools/programs attended
◦ Provide letters of professional recommendation (Two or three are typically required.)
◦ Submit to and pass a drug test
◦ Possess a Master of Science in Nursing or a Bachelor of Science in Nursing with a Master’s in a non-nursing health-related field

Below are examples of admission requirements for some of the best programs featured in this article.

The University of Kentucky: The University of Kentucky offers some of the best 2-year DNP programs online. Students may choose from specialty options including Family NP, Adult-Gerontology Acute Care NP, Pediatric Acute or Primary Care NP, Psychiatric Mental Health NP, Executive Leadership, and Clinical Leadership.

Sample Admission Criteria:

◦ Possess a Master of Science in Nursing degree from an NLN or CCNE accredited program
◦ Have a minimum grade-point average of 3.0 on a 4.0 scale for all master’s-level coursework
◦ Submit a Goal Statement
◦ Provide an example of scholarly written work related to nursing, completed within two years of application. Samples can be from a formal research paper, a paper written on a nursing issue of interest to the applicant, or a published article on a nursing issue.

The University of Arizona: Like many accredited 2-year DNP programs online, admission to the DNP program at the University of Arizona is competitive.

Sample Admission Criteria:

◦ Master of Science in Nursing from a regionally accredited institution
◦ A cumulative grade-point average of 3.5 or above
◦ Computer literacy
◦ Submit current resume or curriculum vitae in PDF format (preferred)

Northeastern University: The post-master's DNP program at Northeastern State University includes advanced coursework in practice inquiry, health policy, informatics, and leadership. The program is accredited by the CCNE.

Sample Admission Criteria:

◦ Two years of work experience in the nursing field
◦ Master of Science in Nursing with a master’s GPA of at least 3.5 on a 4.0 scale
◦ Three letters of professional recommendation
◦ Participate in an interview with program faculty and admissions staff

Duquesne University: Duquesne University offers Clinical Leadership and Executive Nurse Leadership & Healthcare Management options for students enrolling in their two-year online DNP program. The program has three start dates per year, and students can apply for the study-abroad residency.

Sample Admission Criteria:

◦ Personal Essay detailing why the applicant has chosen a DNP program and how they feel Duquesne University can help them meet their academic and professional goals
◦ Submit official transcripts from all post-secondary schools
◦ Provide resume or curriculum vitae
◦ Three letters of recommendation


(These two-year DNP programs are ideal for nurses who wish to complete their DNP Degree in 24-months.)

1. University of Iowa - Iowa City, IA

Programs Offered: MSN to DNP

MSN to DNP Concentrations: Adult Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner, Adult Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner, Pediatric Nurse Practitioner - Acute Care, Pediatric Nurse Practitioner - Primary Care, and Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner

2. Duke University - Durham, NC

Programs Offered: MSN to DNP

MSN to DNP Concentrations: Executive Leadership

3. University of Virginia - Charlottesville, VA

Programs Offered: MSN to DNP

4. The Ohio State University - Columbus, OH

Programs Offered: MSN to DNP

MSN to DNP Concentrations: Clinical Expert and Nurse Executive

5. Johns Hopkins University - Baltimore, MD

Programs Offered: MSN to DNP

MSN to DNP Concentrations: Executive

6. D'Youville College - Buffalo, NY

Programs Offered: MSN to DNP

MSN to DNP Concentrations: Family Nurse Practitioner

7. University of Miami - Coral Gables, FL

Programs Offered: MSN to DNP

8. Georgetown University - Washington, DC

Programs Offered:MSN to DNP

9. Rush University Medical Center - Chicago, IL

Programs Offered: BSN to DNP and MSN to DNP

BSN to DNP Concentrations: Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Clinical Nurse Specialist, Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner, Neonatal Clinical Nurse Specialist, Acute Care Pediatric Nurse Practitioner, Pediatric Clinical Nurse Specialist, Primary Care Pediatric Nurse Practitioner, and Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner, and Advanced Public Health Nursing

MSN to DNP Concentrations: Transformative Leadership: Systems, Transformative Leadership: Population Health, Advanced Public Health Nursing, Adult-Gerontology Acute Care ClinicalNurse Specialist, Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner, NeonatalClinical Nurse Specialist, Acute Care Pediatric Nurse Practitioner, Pediatric Clinical Nurse Specialist, Primary Care Pediatric NursePractitioner, and Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner

10. University of Pittsburgh - Pittsburgh, PA

Programs Offered: MSN to DNP

MSN to DNP Concentrations: Adult-Gerontology Acute Care, Adult-Gerontology Primary Care, Family (individual Across the Lifespan), Neonatal, Pediatric Primary Care, Psychiatric Mental Health, Adult-Gerontology Clinical Nurse Specialist, and Health Systems Executive Leadership

11. University of Michigan - Ann Arbor, MI

Programs Offered: MSN to DNP

12. Pennsylvania State University - University Park, PA

Programs Offered: MSN to DNP

MSN to DNP Concentrations: Nurse Leadership

13. University of Maryland - Baltimore, MD

Programs Offered: MSN to DNP

14. Yale University - West Haven, CT

Programs Offered: MSN to DNP

MSN to DNP Concentrations: Clinical

15. University of Kentucky - Lexington, KY

Programs Offered: MSN to DNP

MSN to DNP Concentrations: Adult Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner, Family NursePractitionerPediatric Acute Care Nurse Practitioner, Pediatric Primary Care NursePractitioner, Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner, ExecutiveLeadership in Health Care, and Clinical Leadership in Health Care

16. University of Arizona - Tucson, AZ

Programs Offered: MSN to DNP

17. University of Nevada - Las Vegas, NV

Programs Offered: MSN to DNP

MSN to DNP Concentrations: Academic Leadership and Nurse Executive

18. University of Missouri-Columbia- Columbia, MO

Programs Offered: MSN to DNP

MSN to DNP Concentrations: Clinical Nurse Specialist-Adult Gerontology, Clinical NurseSpecialist-Pediatric, Family Nurse Practitioner, Psychiatric & MentalHealth Nurse Practitioner, Pediatric Nurse Practitioner- Primary Care, andNursing Leadership & Innovations in Health Care

19. Northeastern University - Boston, MA

Programs Offered: MSN to DNP

20. University of Portland - Portland, OR

Programs Offered: MSN to DNP

21. University of Hawaii at Manoa - Honolulu, HI

Programs Offered: MSN to DNP

MSN to DNP Concentrations: Organizational Leadership

22. University of Massachusetts Boston - Boston, MA

Programs Offered: MSN to DNP

23. Thomas Jefferson University - Philadelphia, PA

Programs Offered: MSN to DNP

24. Duquesne University - Pittsburgh, PA

Programs Offered: MSN to DNP

MSN to DNP Concentrations: Clinical Leadership and Executive Nurse Leadership

25. University of Massachusetts Lowell - Lowell, MA

Programs Offered: MSN to DNP

View Ranking Methodology

Career Opportunities After Graduating with This Degree

Graduates of accredited 2-year DNP programs online find employment opportunities in a variety of healthcare settings and positions. The following are a few examples of possible career opportunities after graduation.

◦ Health Policy Expert
◦ Chief Nurse Executive
◦ Clinical Nurse Specialist
◦ Nursing Faculty
◦ Director of Nursing
◦ Nursing Program Director

Average Salary for Graduates of This Degree

While statistics reflect DNPs earn more than nurses with other degrees, specific salary statistics are not well-defined for DNP roles. According to, however, after completing 2-year DNP programs online, graduates earn an average of $103,591 per year. A Doctor of Nursing Practice who has previous experience in their chosen specialty or who accepts jobs in executive positions can usually negotiate a higher salary. Geographical location, the type of setting where a DNP works, and the risk associated with the job are other factors that may impact earning potential.

Hourly $49.80
Monthly $8,630
Annual $103,591

Job Outlook for Graduates of This Degree

In addition to the 2004 AACN Position Statement on the Practice Doctorate in nursing, in May 2018, the National Organization of Nurse Practitioner Faculties announced that all entry-level NP programs would shift to DNP programs by 2025. Data published by the Association of American Medical Colleges suggests the United States could see a shortage of 21,400 to 56,000 primary care physicians by 2033. The deficit of providers, increased awareness of the importance of health and wellness measures, and an aging population with complex chronic and acute health conditions indicate the job outlook for graduates of 2-year DNP programs online is promising.


If you are a nursing professional who desires to expand your professional career and enhance your knowledge, earning a Doctor of Nursing Practice is an excellent way to achieve that. By enrolling in one of the best online 2-year DNP programs for 2021, you will have access to professional faculty with years of experience and be prepared for an exciting future in nursing!


Do all 24-month DNP online programs require students to have previous work experience before applying?

Many programs have specific requirements for work experience for program applicants. It is not uncommon for the best 2-year DNP programs online to require students to have a minimum of one year of clinical nursing experience before enrollment in the clinical portion of their programs.

How do students in online 2-year DNP programs complete clinical requirements?

Clinical requirements are determined by the school that offers the DNP program. Typically, students in online DNP 24-month programs will participate in supervised clinicals in areas close to where they live and/or currently work. Academic advisors who help determine your plan of study will be able to answer questions about the requirements for their programs and verify any master’s level clinical hours you may have to see if they are eligible for transfer credit.

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.