12 Best BSN-to-DNP Executive Leadership Online Programs For 2023

Written By: Darby Faubion BSN, RN

Are you a BSN-educated registered nurse dreaming of becoming a leader within the complex healthcare environment that exists today? Does a role that allows you to use evidence-based knowledge to advance nursing leadership interest you? If so, one of the online BSN-to-DNP Executive Leadership programs in this article could be what you need to help you accomplish that dream. As you continue reading, you will find information about some of the best BSN-to-DNP Executive Leadership online programs for 2023. You will learn what the purpose of the programs is, what to do to qualify for admission, and what you can expect after graduation.

What Exactly Is A BSN-to-DNP Executive Leadership Program?

BSN to DNP Executive Leadership programs are graduate nursing programs designed to prepare nursing leaders with the knowledge and skillset necessary to work in executive roles within the healthcare industry. These programs teach students to use scientific findings to design innovative healthcare delivery systems that positively impact patient outcomes. Graduates of these programs are vital members of the healthcare delivery team.

5 Big Reasons Why You Should Pursue BSN-to-DNP Executive Leadership Programs

The nursing industry comprises a diverse group of professionals who work on many levels to promote better healthcare and improve patient outcomes. Executive nurse leaders significantly impact how healthcare is delivered and are vital members of healthcare teams. In fact, there are some excellent reasons why pursuing a BSN-to-DNP Executive Leadership degree is a great decision. Look at these five big reasons!

1. Better Career Opportunities:

Graduates of accredited BSN-to-DNP Executive Leadership programs online are at an advantage when moving into advanced leadership or executive-level positions.

2. You Will Be the Voice of Other Nurses on an Executive Level:

Executive Nurse Leaders represent teams of nursing providers. In this position, you will use leadership skills to design, implement and evaluate plans to improve nursing care and negotiate on behalf of other nurses.

3. You Will Perfect Your Decision-Making and Leadership Skills to Become an Effective Leader:

Accredited BSN-to-DNP Executive Leadership online programs prepare students to become experts in strategy-based transformation for healthcare purposes. Pursuing a degree through one of these programs means you will learn expert ways to make decisions that improve healthcare delivery processes and have a positive impact on nursing and patient outcomes.

4. Experience Increased Income:

As of June 9, 2022, ZipRecruiter reports the average annual salary for a DNP Nurse Executive in the U.S. is $86,537. Although the average reported income is significant, the same source reports that DNP Nurse Executives with experience can earn up to $128,000 or more.

5. Long-Term Employment Opportunities:

Employers who hire Executive Nurse Leaders look for individuals committed to staying with a company and helping it grow. That means the chance of finding a place to work that offers positions of long-term employment is good, which is a positive, especially as a nurse ages and wishes to step out of clinical roles.

How Long Are BSN-to-DNP Executive Leadership Online Programs?

While the average accredited BSN-to-DNP Executive Leadership online programs are completed in two years, some may take from twelve months to four years or longer to complete. The most influential factor in how long a student takes to graduate is whether they attend school part-time or full-time. If any course or clinical component of the program must be repeated, this can prolong a student's length of time in the program, as well.

Following are a few examples of how long it takes to complete some of the accredited programs featured in this article:

1. The BSN-to-DNP online Executive Leadership program at the

University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center

is available in two, four, or five-year study plans.

Anderson University

and Tennessee Technical University students can earn their BSN-to-DNP Executive Leadership degree in nine semesters of full-time study.

Abilene Christian University’s

program can be completed in twelve to eighteen months.

How Much Do BSN-to-DNP Executive Leadership Online Programs Cost?

The cost of accredited BSN-to-DNP Executive Leadership online programs is from $40,000 to $125,000. The following are examples of the cost of some of our featured programs.

Abilene Christian University

offers a BSN-to-DNP pathway with an Executive Leadership Track. This pathway is designed with leadership roles in mind and does not prepare students for advanced practice roles, such as clinical nurse specialists, certified nurse midwives, certified nurse anesthetists, or nurse practitioners. The program includes fifty-seven credit hours at a rate of $871 each, has a total tuition cost of $49,647.

At the

University of South Carolina

, BSN-to-DNP students who choose the Nurse Executive Leadership pathway complete seventy-four credit hours plus at least 1,000 clinical hours. South Carolina resident tuition is $770.25 per credit hour, and non-resident tuition is $1,438.00 per credit hour. The total cost is between $56,998.50 and $106,412, depending on residency status.

The BSN-to-DNP Executive Leadership online program at

Rasmussen University

, includes sixty-three credits of coursework. The per-credit tuition rate is $695 plus $2,750 for additional fees.


Coursework for online BSN-to-DNP Executive Leadership programs emphasizes the highest level of nursing education to prepare expert leaders for specialized advanced nursing roles. Required classes may differ from one school or program to another. However, the accreditation process helps ensure that students in any of the programs receive similar relevant content. A few examples of classes students take in these programs include the following.

Nursing Research for Evidence-Based Practice:

Provides students with an understanding of nursing research methodology, evaluation of research design, and the appraisal of research results.

Principles of Population Health & Data Analysis for Advanced Nursing Practice:

This course explores the role of race, genetics, lifestyle, age, gender, and environmental factors and their effect on health outcomes. Students learn to use evidence-based research to identify needs within specific populations and use best practice guidelines to suggest ways to address those needs.

Human Resource Management in Health Organizations:

In this course, students focus on the concepts and skills needed to manage people in healthcare organizations. Technical aspects of human resource management and managerial skills are the key focus of the course.

Case Management:

This class focuses on the current and evolving roles of professionals in case management and the managed care environment. Students can explore case management from various theoretical perspectives and examine emerging trends within healthcare. Class discussions, oral and written presentations, and expert testimony are often included in this course.

The following sections give details about some of the required classes included in some of the featured programs from this article. These are examples only. Complete curriculum guidelines can be found at each school’s website.

Vanderbilt University

has a history of over one hundred years of leadership and excellence in nursing practice, concepts, and research. The university offers BSN-to-DNP Executive Leadership education with options of a five or six-semester curriculum plan.

Sample Coursework:

◦ Lean Methodology in Healthcare
◦ Informatics for Scholarly Practice
◦ Evidence-Based Leadership in Healthcare Organizations: Creating Sustainable Value in Healthcare
◦ Healthcare Economics and Finance, OR Advanced Healthcare Economics and Finance
◦ Legal and Ethical Environment

Union University

is home to one of the best BSN-to-DNP Executive Leadership online programs. The thirty-six-month program consists of sixty-eight credit hours of theory and 1,060 hours of clinicals. The average student spends $45,225 to complete this degree.

Sample Coursework:

◦ Advanced Nursing Statistics for the Health Sciences
◦ Advanced Nursing Research and Evidence-Based Practice
◦ Nursing Administration and the Law
◦ Nursing Quality Management
◦ Nursing Resource Management

Anderson University

incorporates coursework from the Master of Business Association program with DNP coursework to offer its BSN-to-DNP Executive Leadership program. MBA classes prepare students for the business side of nursing leadership, demonstrating practical knowledge in management and organizational theory, with a specific focus on accounting, finance, budgeting, organizational development, and strategic planning. The program requires students to complete seventy-three credit hours of coursework and 1,100 hours of clinical practicum.

Sample Coursework:

◦ Informatics in Healthcare Delivery
◦ Faith and Learning Worldview
◦ Advocacy in Healthcare Policy
◦ Management Thought and Application
◦ Improving Healthcare Quality, Safety, and Outcomes

Clinical Practicum

Like admission requirements, the schools that offer BSN-to-DNP Executive Leadership online programs determine the number of clinical hours students must complete to meet graduation requirements. Although some programs may require more, all DNP programs are expected to follow guidelines established by the DNP Essentials that state, “In order to achieve the DNP competencies, programs should provide a minimum of 1,000 hours of practice post-baccalaureate as part of a supervised academic program.

The following are examples of the clinical requirements for some of the programs mentioned in this article.

Nova Southeastern University (NSU-Florida)

is known for its expert nursing faculty and for graduating exceptional nurse leaders. The university offers one of the best BSN-to-DNP Executive Leadership programs online. The program includes sixty-nine credits of coursework, including Nursing Decision-Making in Complex Health Systems, Fiscal Management in Complex Health Systems, Healthcare Informatics and Outcomes Management, and Business Economics of Healthcare. Students also complete over five hundred clinical hours in the MSN portion of the program and a minimum of five hundred additional hours in the DNP portion of the program, giving them over 1,000 clinical practice hours while enrolled.


Rasmussen University

, applicants who possess a baccalaureate degree in nursing and a master’s degree in a non-nursing field and who meet additional admission requirements are considered for admission to the DNP-Executive Leadership program. Coursework is offered exclusively online and is complemented by clinical practice experiences relevant to the student’s community and interests as close to the student’s home as possible. All DNP students must complete at least 1,000 graduate-level clinical hours.

Tennessee Technical University

has partnered with East Tennessee State University to offer the DNP-Executive Leadership program. Although coursework is offered online, the program is considered a hybrid format, as students attend required on-campus intensives two to three times yearly. Students must complete seventy-seven credit hours of coursework and 1,040 hours of preceptor-supervised clinical practice hours to meet graduation competencies.

Admission Requirements

Colleges and universities reserve the right to determine admission criteria for the programs they offer. As you research different BSN-to-DNP Executive Leadership online programs, you may find some variation in requirements. However, standard admission criteria are similar among most programs and include the following.

◦ Hold a bachelor’s degree in nursing from an accredited college or university
◦ Possess a current, unencumbered license to practice as a registered nurse
◦ Submit letters of professional recommendation (At least one letter should come from a nursing supervisor, clinical preceptor, or nursing instructor. Most programs ask for three letters of reference.)
◦ Statement of Personal Goals for doctoral study
◦ Clear a criminal background check
◦ Pass an initial drug test and random drug tests during the program

Below are examples of admission requirements for some of the online BSN-to-DNP Executive Leadership programs featured in this article. These are examples only; therefore, getting a complete list of admission requirements from each school where you wish to apply is necessary.

Students enrolled in the BSN to DNP-Executive Leadership program at

East Tennessee State University

complete forty-five credit hours of MSN coursework as they work toward completion of the Doctor of Nursing Practice. Admission to the program is competitive and requires applicants to meet admission criteria for both the ETSU College of Nursing and the ETSU School of Graduate Studies. Once submitted, all applications submitted are reviewed by the College of Nursing Graduate Admissions Committee.

Admission Criteria:

◦ Possess a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) from a nationally accredited nursing program
◦ Submit official transcripts with a cumulative undergraduate grade-point-average of at least a 3.0 on a 4.0 scale (Students with less than a 3.2 GPA as reported by their BSN institution must submit GRE scores)
◦ At least two years of full-time experience as a registered nurse

Duquesne University

offers the Executive Nurse Leadership and Health Care Management online program. Students can complete this post-baccalaureate program in four years by completing sixty-two credit hours of classroom theory and at least 1,000 post-baccalaureate clinical hours.

Admission Criteria:

◦ Have a current, unencumbered license to practice as a registered nurse
◦ Hold a bachelor’s degree (nursing or non-nursing) from an accredited college or university (Preference is given to applicants with a BSN)
◦ Complete an undergraduate statistics course with a minimum grade of “C”
◦ Applicants must have at least one year of full-time work experience as a registered nurse before beginning specialty courses or clinicals.


Edgewood University

, BSN-prepared applicants who possess a master’s degree in a non-nursing discipline may be considered for admission to the DNP Executive Leadership online program. The DNP program focuses on indirect care and involves a curriculum that includes preparation in biostatistics, epidemiology, informatics, and healthcare finance. Baccalaureate-prepared students are also required to complete at least 1,000 clinical hours to satisfy DNP Essential competencies.

Admission Criteria:

◦ Graduate from a nationally accredited baccalaureate nursing program and from an accredited master’s degree program (Applicant must have at least a 3.3 grade-point-average on a 4.0 scale from their master’s program.)
◦ Complete a graduate statistic course within the three years prior to admission
◦ Complete an interview with program Graduate Admissions and Progression Committee


1. Vanderbilt University - Nashville, TN

2. Duquesne University - Pittsburgh, PA

3. University of Oklahoma - Oklahoma City, OK

4. East Tennessee State University - Johnson City, TN

5. Union University - Jackson, TN

6. Anderson University - Anderson, SC

7. Abilene Christian University - Abilene, TX

8. Edgewood College - Madison, WI

9. Nova Southeastern University - Ft Lauderdale, FL

10. Rasmussen College - Bloomington, MN

11. Tennessee Technological University - Cookeville, TN

12. University of South Carolina - Columbia, SC


Career Opportunities After Graduating with This Degree

After graduating with a degree from one of the accredited BSN-to-DNP Executive Leadership degree programs, there are several career opportunities.

• Chief Nursing Officers

are usually involved in advising upper management on best nursing practices, managing nursing budges, creating employee retention programs, and representing nurses at board meetings.

• Director of Nursing

is responsible for supervising and leading a nursing unit. They oversee the hiring of new employees, staff training and development, and communicate with patients, families, and other members of the healthcare team.

• Director of Patient Services

has various responsibilities, including handling questions or complaints from patients, family members, or staff, maintaining detailed patient records, hiring and training new employees, and evaluating employee performance.

Earning Potential for Graduates of This Degree

Graduates of online BSN-to-DNP Executive Leadership degree programs earn an average yearly salary of $86,537. Prior work experience, any certifications you have, and the type of job you get as a DNP Nurse Executive may contribute to higher wages. Additionally, as with other careers, it is reasonable to expect salary increases as you gain more experience. When you consider employment offers and begin to negotiate a salary, be sure to ask about benefits packages and calculate their monetary worth. Some benefits packages are worth thousands of dollars yearly, which is a great perk to the already above-average income that Executive Nurse Leaders earn.

Hourly $41.60
Monthly $7,210
Annual $86,537
(Source: Ziprecruiter.com)

Job Outlook for Graduates of This Degree

Recent healthcare trends indicate a positive career outlook for BSN-to-DNP Executive Leadership graduates. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, DNP-Nurse Executive roles will increase by at least twenty percent through 2026.


If you are ready for a leadership role in nursing, there is no time like the present! The best BSN-to-DNP Executive Leadership online programs for 2023 featured in this article offer excellent opportunities for nurses like you to achieve a terminal nursing degree and step into a new realm of career possibilities.


Is it a good idea to work while I’m enrolled in an online BSN-to-DNP Executive Leadership program?

Online nursing programs are often designed with the working nurse in mind. They give students the chance to pursue an education on their own terms. However, while it is possible to work while pursuing your DNP-EL, be honest with yourself about how much time you need to devote to school to be successful. Then decide if you can balance school and work commitments.

Do all BSN-to-DNP Executive Leadership online programs require applicants to have nursing work experience?

It is typical for most colleges that offer DNP programs to require applicants to have at least one year of experience as a registered nurse. Some programs require more than one year of experience. One thing that's important to keep in mind is that, even if a program did not require prior experience, it would likely be difficult (if not impossible) to lead nursing teams or healthcare organizations without having a personal experience.

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.