10 Pros And Cons Of DNP Degree

Written By: Jennifer Schlette MSN, RN

When it comes to deciding whether or not to earn your DNP degree, there are pros and cons to consider. I mean, this is a big step to take; going back to school could add some pressure to your life. Well, before you decide if you are going to or not going to take the plunge into the world of earning your DNP, you need to ask yourself, what are the top pros and cons of a DNP degree? Don’t worry, I’m going to help you answer that question. Keep on reading below where I took the leg work out of outlining the top 10 pros and cons of a DNP degree.


(The following are the top 10 cons of earning your DNP degree.)

1. Earning a DNP can be expensive

Earning your DNP will not be free. If you enter a DNP program with your BSN degree, the program's cost will range from $26,490 up to $254,260. If you enter a DNP program with your MSN already completed, the DNP program's average cost will range from $17,660 to $169,510. Regardless, those figures are pretty hefty.

2. You would have to give up your free time

So, if you are somebody who enjoys their free time, then you can kiss that goodbye. The coursework that is associated with the DNP degree will take up all that free time you have. You will have reading and assignments that must be turned in on time. Oh, and let’s not forget to mention your DNP project that must be completed prior to graduation.

3. Debt

One of the top cons of a DNP degree is that you may find that although you have managed to muster up funds to pay for your DNP degree, your debt ratio is substantially increasing. Students who choose to take out personal loans to further their careers tend to find themselves in substantial debt at the end of this process. This is partially due to the interest you will incur from these loans.

4. If I decide to continue to practice as an NP, do I not gain any new practice skills?

If you intend on continuing to work in the practice setting as a Nurse practitioner, earning your DNP will not help you learn any new hands-on skills. The DNP is geared towards organizational and systems leadership, health care information systems/technology, inter-professional collaboration, health care policy, and evidence-based practice.

5. Lengthy Education Path

The length of your DNP program will vary depending on your entry point. For some people, the length of a DNP program is one of the top cons a DNP program. It can be a lot of your time to dedicate to school. If you enter with your BSN already completed, you are looking at anywhere from 38-48 months if you choose to go full-time and 48-84 months if you choose the part-time option. Now, if you are entering a DNP program with an MSN degree, you are looking at 12-24 months if you decide to go full-time and 24-48 months if you choose to go part-time.

6. Stress

Whenever you are taking on added responsibility, added stress will be soon to follow. Earning a DNP is not an easy task, and you will find that juggling all that life has in store for you on the path to achieving this degree can cause added stress.

7. A DNP may not be eligible for tenure

If you hold a DNP degree and you really wish to teach in an academic setting, you need to keep in mind that some institutions will not make DNP faculty eligible for tenure. I know what you are thinking, why? The answer to this is because of the educational preparation of the faculty member. Ph.D. degree is more geared towards research whereas the DNP is rooted in clinical. Tenure is typically reserved for the Ph.D.-prepared faculty.

8. If you are already working as an advanced practice nurse, it will not change your patient load

Although you have earned a terminal degree, you will not see a reduction or increase in your patient load at work. Some people may think that earning a terminal degree will affect their work life. Finding out that it truly may not, maybe one of the cons of a DNP degree for some. Institutions do not allocate patient populations based on if you have a master’s degree or a doctorate.

9. You will have to complete research

So, if research is not your thing, I have some bad news for you. In order to obtain your DNP degree, you will have to complete a research assignment or project to graduate with your degree.

10. Not all DNP programs make the cut, so watch out.

Let’s face it, not all DNP programs are crated equal. The type of education that you receive is quite important in regards to meeting your educational requirements and finding a job. Finding a school that meets the standards will require you to put in additional time to research theses programs. Many employers will search for programs that are CCNE or ACEN accredited. This accreditation offers the employer the assurance that the program meets or exceeds the standards of a quality education. So, if you complete a program that is not accredited then you may not be allowed to be certified which looks like you might have a pretty hard time using that very expensive degree.


(The following are the top 10 pros of earning your DNP degree.)

1. You can earn on a higher pay scale

Earning your DNP degree does come with some reward in the monetary department. This monetary adjustment in your paycheck may be one of the top pros of the DNP degree in your book. Think about it, you are an expert in your field with that terminal degree; why wouldn't you be rewarded for it. The Advanced Healthcare Network’s 2018 ADVANCE Salary Survey for Nurses showed that those who have earned their DNP have a salary increase of around $8,000 per year higher than their MSN counterparts. The average salary for those with a DNP is $113,347.

2. You can be an instrument of change

Nurses who have earned their DNP possess the skills and knowledge base to take on leadership and management roles in the healthcare system. DNP-prepared nurses can positively affect change by developing policies in their organizational environments. You will also have the option to take on a broader role within the state and/or national policy development and influence change there.

3. You will be in demand

As a DNP, your advanced knowledge and expertise will put you in the position of being in high demand. Many factors contribute to this in-demand terminal degree, such as the ability of DNP prepared nurses to respond to the rapid expansion of knowledge which will drive practice; the increased complexity of the presenting patients; the concerns about the quality of care that patient’s receive, and the overall safety of patients; The ongoing struggle of the nursing shortages demands a higher level of preparation for leaders such as DNP prepared nurses who can design and assess care; and there is a lack of having doctoral-prepared nursing faculty in order to prepare the next generation.

4. You have achieved the highest level Nursing degree

Well, you cannot earn any higher of a degree in Nursing than your Doctorate. That is quite an achievement. This is the reason the Doctorate is known as a terminal degree because it is the last one you can earn. I mean, for those of you who have earned this prestigious degree, I applaud you.

5. The Doctorate degree may one day be the entry-level degree for nursing

In 2004, the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) members voted to increase the requirements of the advanced practice nurse from a master’s degree to a doctorate level degree. If you have already earned your terminal degree, you are well ahead of the pack. To some, this may be one of the pros of a DNP degree because you get to live with the sign of relief that you have already completed these vital requirements.

6. Marketability

Earning your DNP will absolutely make you more marketable to potential employers. DNP-prepared nurses are now able to fill jobs that physicians once occupied. This means that you with your DNP degree have so many more potential job opportunities than somebody who does not possess this degree.

7. You will gain confidence

Throughout your DNP education, you will be called upon to present your work in many different settings. Through submission of your work alongside those who are mentoring you, you will grow in character and confidence and become a vital component of the DNP community.

8. You will expand on your time management skills

Earning a DNP will require you to juggle a variety of aspects of your life. When you are a DNP student, there is a lot that will be expected of you. You will have to learn to manage your schoolwork, family life, personal life, and job. The upside to this is that you gain precious time management skills that will carry over after your degree is completed.

9. You can pursue an advanced leadership role

Many institutions look for DNPs because of their advanced training in leadership. As a DNP, you have the potential to climb the career ladder to becoming a Chief Nursing Officer, Nurse Educator, CEO at a Healthcare Organization, Director of Nursing Services, or a Chief Nurse Anesthetist, to name a few.

10. Independence

Earning the DNP degree can really propel you forward in terms of your independence. This is definitely one of the top pros of a DNP degree if you have ever had dreams of opening your own practice. As a Nurse Practitioner that holds a DNP, you can open your own private practice. Having that terminal degree when opening your own practice really makes you stand out from the rest.

Summing It Up

So, I think I have given you a pretty good idea of the pros and cons of a DNP degree. Ultimately you will need to decide if the pros out-weigh the benefits for you when you decided if you want to pursue this terminal degree. In some circumstances, the cons will outweigh the benefits, and you will determine that this is just not the right fit for you. I hope this guide I provided for you outlining the top 10 pros and cons of a DNP degree will help you decide what path is right for you.

Jennifer Schlette MSN, RN
Jennifer Schlette is a registered nurse in pediatric critical care in New York City. She is the former Director of Undergraduate Nursing at a college located in New York. After obtaining her BSN from the College of Mount Saint Vincent, she went on to complete her MSN.