3 Best Online DNP-Educational Leadership Programs For 2024

Written By: Darby Faubion BSN, RN

Are you a registered nurse who loves the idea of sharing your knowledge with others? When nursing students come through your place of employment, are you one of the nurses who volunteers to be a preceptor? Have you wondered if there is something more you can do with your career that will have a lasting impact on the nursing industry? Do you tell yourself that if you only had more time you would go back to school? If you answered yes to these questions, you might be interested in learning about online DNP in Educational Leadership programs. In this article, you will find information about some of the best online DNP-Educational Leadership programs for 2024 and how enrolling in and graduating from one of these programs can help you accomplish your dream of becoming a leader in nursing education.

What Exactly Is A DNP-Educational Leadership Program?

DNP Educational Leadership programs are nursing programs designed to prepare advanced practice nurses to become nursing education leaders. DNP Educational Leadership programs provide the resources to equip students with the knowledge needed to design and implement programs for nursing education partnerships, academic institutions, and centers for nursing excellence. Online DNP-Educational Leadership programs, like the ones featured in this article, are leadership-focused, practice-based programs that prepare nursing faculty, deans, and program directors to become leaders in nursing education.

6 Benefits of Pursuing Online DNP In Educational Leadership Programs

Every potential student may have his or her idea of why one college program is a better idea than another to pursue. It comes down to your personal career goals and how much time you have to devote to your studies. Weighing the benefits of a potential career pathway will help you decide the direction you want to go moving forward. This section will share some benefits of pursuing an education through one of the DNP in Educational Leadership online programs.

1. Influence Nursing Education:

Accredited DNP in Educational Leadership programs online offer students the opportunity to gain the knowledge and perspective needed to become influential in developing strong nurses for the future. The Educational Leadership DNP track is designed to create competent leaders proficient in performing the skills necessary for teaching today's nurses. Graduates of these programs can feel confident in presenting the material they have learned to nursing students in both clinical settings and the classroom.

2. Create Long-term Job Security:

According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN), faculty shortages at nursing schools throughout the United States have caused colleges and universities to limit the number of students admitted to their programs. This is especially unfortunate as the need for professional nurses continues to rise. By enrolling in one of the available online DNP in Educational Leadership programs, you can leverage your degree to secure a suitable job, thereby filling the gap that the shortage of nurse educators has caused.

3. Increased Earning Potential:

Nursing, in general, is an industry that offers the opportunity to earn a generous salary. Master’s-prepared registered nurses earn an average salary of $93,000 per year. DNPs earn nearly $10,000 per year more than MSNs. Graduates of accredited DNP-Educational Leadership programs online typically earn approximately $116,000 annually. However, with continued work experience, and depending on the setting where they work, some DNPs in Educational Leadership make even more. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the top ten percent of DNPs with Educational Leadership specialization earn an average of $133,460.

4. Experience a Sense of Personal Accomplishment:

There is a difference between feeling prideful or boastful and feeling a sense of accomplishment. When you graduate from an Educational Leadership Doctor of Nursing Practice program, you will have completed a rigorous curriculum that challenges you to think on a higher level, plan for the unexpected, and teach other people to become the best nurses they can be. There is no doubt that this will leave you with a sense of personal accomplishment.

5. Respect of Peers in the Nursing and Medical Communities:

It takes true dedication to complete online DNP-Educational Leadership programs. Members of the nursing and medical communities understand that the program is not only rigorous, but the job you get after graduation can be challenging at times, too. While there is much to enjoy about being an Educational Leader in Nursing, it is a great responsibility to teach both new and experienced nurses. Legal policies change. Recommendations from the Department of Health and Hospitals or the Centers for Disease Control are updated often, which means the information provided to students must follow. Having the ability to keep up in a field that is ever-evolving is something that will earn you the respect of your peers in the healthcare industry.

6. Become an Effective Voice to Help Influence Healthcare Policy:

Educational Leadership DNPs have the knowledge and understanding of both the academic and clinical side of nursing, making them great advocates for changes to healthcare policy. Whether you participate in coalition building, policy intervention, or legislative evaluation, your knowledge and experience as a DNP in Educational Leadership can be instrumental in forming new healthcare policies for future generations.

How Long Are Online DNP-Educational Leadership Programs?

Online DNP in Educational Leadership programs vary in length, typically ranging from five to eight semesters. Many programs can are designed for completion in three years or less. To get a better idea let us look at the program length for each of the best online DNP-Educational Leadership programs listed in this article.

The DNP with Educational Leadership specialization at

American Sentinel University

offers classes that are eight weeks long. The school offers rolling enrollment, making it easy for prospective students to find a start date that works well with their own schedule. This Educational Leadership DNP program is exclusively online. The program can be completed in twenty-eight months.
Students enrolled in the Educational Leadership DNP program at

Grand Canyon University

graduate after eight semesters of full-time enrollment. Courses begin every eight weeks and are 100% online. Students are advised to plan to spend twenty to twenty-five hours dedicated to each class weekly.

The University of North Georgia

has designed its DNP Educational Leadership program to be accessible to working professionals. The program can be completed in five semesters of full-time study or eight semesters of part-time study. Classes are delivered in an online format and include asynchronous and synchronous class meetings. Orientation and DNP Intensive each require on-campus experiences.

How Much Do Online DNP-Educational Leadership Programs Cost?

The total cost of an online DNP-Educational Leadership program varies from school to school. While some colleges and universities have different tuition rates for students who attend college in their home state and out-of-state learners, others have a flat rate for all students. As you research program options and decide which Educational Leadership DNP program you prefer to apply to, be sure to request an estimated cost list from each school. Things you want to look for are fees that students may be responsible for in addition to tuition. Some additional costs may include technology fees, the cost of books and other supplies, and travel expense to and from clinical sites.

The following is a list of estimated tuition for each of the best DNP in Educational Leadership online programs listed in this article.


American Sentinel University’s

tuition rates are $770 per credit hour. The DNP Educational Leadership program here requires students to complete forty-two credit hours. Excluding textbooks, supplies, and other fees, tuition at American Sentinel University's DNP Educational Leadership program is $32,340. The college has implemented a tuition freeze for all programs. The time frame for the tuition freeze begins on the date of enrollment and remains in effect for thirty-three to forty-two months, depending on whether students need additional MSN credits.

Grand Canyon University’s

DNP in education leadership is a forty-eight-credit program which you can complete at a rate of $695 per credit. Total tuition cost is $33,360. GCU offers scholarship opportunities for doctoral students to help defray some of the costs of the program. The New Doctoral Student Scholarship opportunity offers a 10% discount off tuition for new doctoral students. The Alumni Doctoral Degree Scholarship is offered to GCU alumni enrolling in a doctoral program for the first time. The Alumni Doctoral Degree Scholarship is a $2,000 scholarship. Applicants to the DNP Educational Leadership program can contact the financial aid office at Grand Canyon University for more information on scholarship eligibility and application forms.

University of North Georgia’s

tuition rate is $581 per credit hour. The DNP Educational Leadership program is a forty-four-credit-hour program, making the cost of tuition approximately $25,564. The University of North Georgia has several options for prospective students to apply for scholarship opportunities to offset the cost of tuition and fees. Visit the school’s scholarship information page to see the types of scholarships the school offers and the criteria for being awarded one.


A Doctor of Nursing Practice program with a concentration in Educational Leadership includes coursework that revolves around curriculum development, instructional technologies, educational strategies, and faculty leadership. Students learn techniques to carry out assessment and evaluation of their pupils, research techniques, and learn theories to be implemented in their work as an Educational Leadership DNP. Below is a list of the best online DNP-Educational Leadership programs featured in this article and samples of coursework in the curriculum at each school.

American Sentinel University

offers its DNP Educational Leadership Program exclusively online. The curriculum covers a wide range of issues related to nursing and healthcare, in general. It is designed to give students solid foundations and skills to teach new nurses for the field and lead educational and academic initiatives. The educational leadership specialization degree program requires students to complete forty-two credit hours of coursework. Coursework includes:

◦ Leadership: Setting the Example

- In this class, students are introduced to leadership theory and learn to consider governmental complexities and organizational culture and how they affect patient care.

◦ Organizational Dynamics of Higher Education

- This course focuses on how higher education is structured. It includes topics such as how state and federal laws govern academic institutions. Students also learn accreditation standards and measures to become successful in leadership roles in private and public institutions.

◦ The Role of Technology and Simulation in Nursing Education

- This class helps students explore the use of the internet and online technologies used to deliver academic programs. Students are exposed to research on the best practices associated with online learning.

Grand Canyon University

prepares graduates to initiate evidence-based nursing practice strategies designed to enhance health care delivery and improve patient outcomes. The DNP-Education leadership program at GCU is offered by the College of Nursing and Health Care Professions. It emphasizes teaching strategies, student assessments, and curriculum development. The forty-eight-credit hour program includes the following coursework.

◦ Facilitation of Learning in Nursing Education

- This course explores the nurse educator's role in higher education settings. It provides particular emphasis on methods used to foster critical thinking and facilitate learning effectively. Students learn instructional strategies and techniques focused on evidence-based practice and theory and are engaged in selecting appropriate teaching strategies that promote understanding among diverse student populations.

◦ Curriculum Design and Assessment

- Here, students are guided to focus on curriculum design and assess students' outcomes in nursing education. They are taught to examine best practices for curriculum development, including performing assessments, creating formative and summative assessments, and writing learning objectives.

◦ Data Analysis

- In this class, students learn to analyze data focused on clinical practice. The course emphasizes the use of analytic methods to evaluate data that has been collected and implement the best evidence for practice. Students are instructed on measures to disseminate findings from evidence-based practices and research used to improve health care outcomes.

The University of North Georgia

offers a Post-Master's Doctor of Nursing Practice with Educational Leadership concentration consisting of forty-four credit hours for completion. The program is aligned with the educational preparation for APRNs as recommended by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing. Although the program does require a few campus visits, they are minimal, and the remainder of the program is delivered online. Coursework includes:

◦ Nursing Program Development and Educational Leadership

- This class presents learners with the challenge of examining issues related to the development of nursing programs within the highly regulated and often complex environment of nursing education. Students determine the best methods for designing, improving, and evaluating nursing education programs to meet the industry's diverse needs.

◦ Leadership for Advanced Nursing Practice

- Students learn to implement political skills, business and financial insight, and systems thinking in this course. These skills are necessary for the Educational Leadership DNPs to care for the needs of patients, a target population, or a community. In addition to book work, this course requires one hundred hours of practicum/field experience.

◦ Healthcare Informatics

- This course provides students with the foundations for using information technology and systems to support and improve health care systems and patient care. Students learn the skills they need to manage individual and aggregate level information and use information technology and systems to evaluate care programs, outcomes of care, and care systems using industry standards and regulatory, legal, and ethical principles.

Clinical Training

Some of the most common questions prospective DNP in Education Leadership students have are how many clinical hours are required, where they will participate in clinical rotations, and who is responsible for arranging clinicals. Clinical training requirements differ somewhat among even the best online DNP-Educational Leadership programs. The Essentials of Doctoral Education for Advanced Nursing Practice published by the American Association of Colleges of Nurses specify that all academic nursing programs must require clinical practice hours. The Doctoral Essentials states that for a program to achieve DNP competencies, Doctor of Nursing Practice programs should provide a minimum of 1,000 hours of post-baccalaureate clinical practice. Schools that offer Post-Master's DNP programs are responsible for reviewing an applicant's previous clinical hours and assessing how many of those hours are relevant graduate clinical hours that can be applied toward completing the degree.


American Sentinel University’s

DNP Educational Leadership students are not required to participate in hands-on clinical experiences. Instead, students participate in practice experiences designed to provide an opportunity to apply knowledge and concepts learned in nursing courses. Practice experiences are assignments that require students to be actively involved in completing them. They have specific objectives, competencies, and expected outcomes that students must meet.

Grand Canyon University’s

DNP in educational leadership students must complete practice immersion hours and a Direct Practice Improvement (DPI) project and must have access to a clinical site. Practicum hours are conducted during three education-specific courses. They may be completed at a clinical or academic site. Students are required to complete 550 post-master's clinical hours. DPI project immersion hours do not apply to the required clinical practicum hours.

The University of North Georgia

requires DNP Educational Leadership students to complete a minimum of 1,000 post-baccalaureate clinical practice hours. Most of the practice hours needed to complete the program are met during the planning, implementation, and evaluation phases of the DNP Scholarly Project. Additional clinical hours may be earned through participation in doctorate-level practice hours during the program, with prior approval from course faculty. Students who wish to receive credit for previous clinical practicum may be allowed a credit for up to five hundred master's-level clinical hours. Previous clinical hours must be verified by UNG program faculty before approval is granted.

Admission Requirements

While each nursing school has the right to set admission criteria for each of its programs, general admission requirements are similar among most schools. Some colleges and universities offer RN TO DNP, BSN to DNP, or MSN to DNP options. Admission criteria may differ somewhat depending on a participant's degree level at the beginning of the chosen program. All DNP programs require applicants to possess a current, unencumbered license to practice as a registered nurse, provide copies of official transcripts, and pass state and federal criminal background checks and pass a drug test.

The accredited online DNP-Educational Leadership programs featured in this article are Post-Master's DNP with Educational Leadership Programs. Therefore, applicants to these programs are expected to possess an MSN, MS in Nursing, MA in Nursing, or a BSN with a non-nursing master’s degree. Other admission criteria for the featured online DNP-Education Leadership programs include the following.

American Sentinel University

applicants must be graduates of an MS in Nursing, MA in Nursing, or MSN nursing program accredited by an agency recognized by the U.S. Department of Education or the Council for Higher Education Accreditation. Applicants must meet the following criteria to be eligible for admission.

◦ Have a minimum cumulative GPA of 2.5 on a 4.0 from any bachelor’s or master’s programs completed
◦ Complete application to the DNP program
◦ Submit a resume, curriculum vitae, or a list of professional accomplishments
◦ Unemployed applicants must verify access to a suitable work environment where they can complete classroom assignments
◦ Find available locations/sites to fulfill the practical experience and DNP project requirements associated with the program and submit a request for approval of this/these locations
◦ Provide documentation of MSN clinical practicum hours for approval of transfer of up to five hundred master’s-level clinical practicum hours

Grand Canyon University

requires either high school or college transcripts to be considered for full admission to the university. If students cannot meet the GPA requirements with their transcripts alone but have test scores or a college-GPA that meets admission requirements, full admission may be granted. Applicants must meet the following criteria to be eligible for admission.

◦ Submit official transcripts from all post-secondary schools attended
◦ Have a cumulative grade point average of 3.4 or higher on a 4.0 grading scale (Applicants who have a GPA of 3.0 or higher but less than 3.4 may be offered provisional admission if there are vacancies in the program)
◦ Possess an active, unencumbered license to practice as a registered nurse
◦ Be a graduate from an ACEN, CNEA, or CCNE/NLNAC accredited MSN program
◦ Submit a Letter of Intent 250 – 400 words

Applicants to the DNP Educational Leadership program at the

University of North Georgia

must submit all application materials to the Graduate Admissions office. After all application material is received, admission counselors will notify the applicant. Copies of all materials will then sent to the DNP program office for review. Some applicants may be required to go to the Dahlonega campus for an interview or testing to determine preparedness for the DNP Educational Leadership program.

◦ Graduate Admissions application
◦ Official transcripts from all post-secondary institutions: Applicants must have a cumulative grade point average of 3.25 on a 4.0 scale or better from an MSN program.
◦ Current, unencumbered license to practice as a registered nurse and APRN licensure
◦ Copy of APRN national certification
◦ Three letters of recommendation: If the applicant graduated within the previous five years, one letter of recommendation must be from an academic reference, such as a former instructor
◦ Resume or curriculum vitae which include education, professional development, work experience, personal and community activities and any
◦ Personal statement of intent

6 Factors to Consider Before Choosing the Right Online DNP In Educational Leadership Program

If you want to choose from the best online DNP in Educational Leadership programs, there are certain factors to consider that will help you choose the right program for you. The following is a list of six essential things you should consider and ask questions about before selecting a program.

1. Is the curriculum stimulating?

A strong DNP in Educational Leadership curriculum should include a mixture of clinical or practice immersion hours and learning experiences. The program should inspire students to get out of their comfort zone and learn new skills specific to a nurse educator leadership role. You can learn a lot about a program by visiting the school's website and social media page(s), joining social media groups for past and present students, or talking to program alumni.

2. Be sure you are looking for a program that is accredited.

Accredited online DNP-Educational Leadership programs improve your marketability as an Educational Leader in Nursing. Accreditation is a process used to evaluate nursing programs to ensure they meet state and national standards. The United States Department of Education states that “accreditation is meant to assess the quality of academic programs at institutions of higher education.”

3. Is the Direct Practice Improvement or DNP Capstone project achievable?

A DNP project represents the culmination of everything a student has learned while enrolled in a doctoral program. Students must use the skills they have learned through education and practice to solve a clinical problem. The DPI or DNP Capstone project takes a great deal of time to complete. If you are trying to choose from the best accredited DNP-Educational Leadership programs online, talk to academic advisors and find out if a Project is required and how the curriculum facilitates its completion. If a program requires a DPI or DNP Capstone project, there should be sufficient time within the study plan to allow students to complete it successfully.

4. What percentage of graduates find employment in their chosen specialty?

It is not uncommon for colleges and universities to have information on their websites or school bulletin boards that feature program alumni and their post-graduate accomplishments. This is especially true with programs such as Educational Leadership DNP. If the school does not have public information on their website or posted at the campus for you to see, ask an advisor where their graduates work after completing the program. Schools that offer good quality programs will be glad to talk about their student's accomplishments, which can have a positive impact on student recruitment.

5. Is it easy for online students to get technical assistance when needed?

While online learning can be very convenient for the working professional, there are times when independent learning can have its challenges. The issue may be minor, such as needing access to a recorded lecture or a more significant problem like programs not working. In either case, the best online DNP-Educational Leadership programs should offer students access to technical assistance as often as possible.

6. What is the ratio of students to faculty?

Online learning is a great way for practicing nurses to further their degrees. However, although you may not be in a physical classroom with other students, it is essential to know that your instructors are not overwhelmed with such large classes that they cannot accommodate questions from you. As you are researching different DNP-Educational Leadership programs online, ask how many students are accepted into each class. Also, be sure to find out what communication method between students and faculty is used and how soon you can expect responses from faculty if you need them.


1. Grand Canyon University - Phoenix, AZ

2. American Sentinel University - Aurora, CO

3. University of North Georgia - Dahlonega, GA


Career Opportunities After Graduating with This Degree

Graduates of accredited DNP in Educational Leadership programs online find that there are many career opportunities that will allow them to use the knowledge and skills they have obtained. Educational Leadership DNPs specialize in educating current and future nurses on many levels. A few examples of possible career opportunities for graduates include the following.

Hospital Education Director:

In this position, DNPs with an Educational Leadership specialization assist nursing staff in developing and maintaining competencies, advancing professional nursing practice, and promoting career and academic goals. A Hospital Education Director serves as a role model, mentor, and preceptor to encourage the professional development of staff nurses.

College or University Nursing Faculty:

Nursing faculty prepare students with academic information and skills experience necessary to meet state licensing requirements and become well-educated, qualified nurses. Nursing instructors work in the classroom presenting coursework to students, prepare examinations and monitor clinical rotations to ensure students are successful in their endeavor to become licensed nurses.

Clinical Research Nurse:

DNPs with Educational Leadership often lead clinical research studies. They use their knowledge of disease and disorder, coupled with their ability to educate others, research potential causes of illness, and find ways to promote wellness.

Peer Review Specialist:

This position calls on Educational Leadership DNPs to use their knowledge and experience to review colleagues' professional work. Some Peer Review Specialists may review charts and patient care plans to ensure proper management and follow-up care has been provided and make recommendations for changes in policies or procedures related to patient care based on their findings.

Earning Potential for Graduates of This Degree

DNPs with Educational Leadership specialization earn an average annual salary of $115,944. DNPs who have a long work history in nursing may be able to negotiate a higher wage. Additionally, other factors that potential employers consider when offering a salary are how long the DNP has worked in this specialty, the setting where work will occur, their schedule, and the cost of living where employment is offered. Any of these factors can be used as a negotiating factor when discussing salary with a potential employer.

Hourly $55.74
Monthly $9,660
Annual $115,944
(Source: ziprecruiter.com)

Job Outlook for Graduates of This Degree

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates an eighteen percent increase in job openings for Doctors of Nursing Practice from 2018-2028. The current shortage of qualified nursing faculty and the number of nursing school applicants who are being turned away because of that shortage suggests that the job outlook for graduates of the best online DNP in Educational Leadership programs is promising.

The Bottomline

Doctors of Nursing Practice with a concentration in Educational Leadership impact nursing on many levels. Whether you want to be a part of academia and teach nursing at a college or university or see yourself lobbying for healthcare changes, you can make a difference. Suppose you have read this article and think this DNP pathway is one you would like to learn more about. In that case, I encourage you to look closer at the best online DNP-Educational Leadership programs for 2024 featured in this article and get started today! There is no limit to the number of nurses, present and future, that you can influence or how much you can accomplish for the nursing profession overall.


Is it necessary to become certified after completing a DNP with Educational Leadership specialization?

Certification in any field is a way to demonstrate competency and a mark of professionalism. Academic nurse educators who become certified establish nursing education as their specialty area of practice. However, becoming certified is not necessarily a requirement for DNPs with this specialization.

Should I continue to work my regular job while I’m enrolled in the DNP with Educational Leadership program?

The decision to continue working is a personal choice and one that you should weigh carefully. While it is possible to continue working while you are in school, you may find that it is necessary to change your schedule slightly or cut back on hours. The DNP with Educational Leadership specialization program involves heavy coursework and activities that require focus to remain on task. You should consider your personal responsibilities and obligations and decide what is the best fit for your academic and personal goals.

How much work experience do I need as a nurse before enrolling in a DNP with Educational Leadership program?

Each college or university sets its own guidelines for admission. Many require applicants to their program to have at least one year of clinical experience before admission to a DNP program. However, some may require more than one year or suggest that work experience is within a particular concentration. An admissions counselor at any school you are interested in will be able to give you a list of the requirements at their school.

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.