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How Long Is A DNP Program? – (Program Length Of Top DNP Programs)


Written By: Jennifer Schlette MSN, RN

Have you ever dreamed of the prestigious accomplishment of completing your terminal degree, such as your Doctorate of Nursing Practice? It sounds pretty awesome, right? Let me guess, you are just not sure how long it is going to take you? It all just seems so confusing. Well, sit tight; I have the answer for you. I took all the confusion and leg work out of deciphering the DNP program length at the top schools for pursuing your degree. Regardless, if you are starting out with a BSN or MSN, you will find choices to fit your needs. This guide will help you choose a program based upon what is the best fit for you. Let’s take a look at some of the top programs out there and answer the question, how long is a DNP program?


Typically, How Long Is A DNP Program?


The first thing you should know about a DNP program is that you can enter the program at different entry points. I know you are sitting there thinking, "what does that mean?" This means you can start your DNP coursework either with an earned BSN degree or an MSN degree. Yes, the DNP program length will vary depending on your entry point. If you enter with your BSN, 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.

Type of DNP Program Full-Time Part-Time
BSN to DNP36 to 48 Months48 to 84 Months
MSN to DNP12 to 24 Months24 to 48 Months


DNP PROGRAM LENGTH FOR THE TOP 20 BSN-TO-DNP PROGRAMS

Below, let’s take a closer look at the program length of the nation's top BSN-to-DNP programs.

1. Emory University: This University is located in Atlanta, Georgia, and has been educating nurses since 1907. Emory University offers students two different entries into their DNP program and various specialty tracks to choose from. At Emory University, you will have the opportunity to enter the program with a BSN; you can expect the DNP school length to be 7 semesters or two years.
2. Chapel Hill University: Chapel Hill University is located in beautiful North Carolina; this University offers students two different entry points into their DNP program. So, let us concentrate on how long the DNP program takes at Chapel Hill when you have already earned your BSN. Entering the program with a BSN will have a DNP school length of three years. These three years are full-time study, and you will be completing 66 to 75 credits depending on the advanced nursing specialty that you choose.
3. Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center: This University offers students the opportunity to become a DNP with two different concentration options if they already hold a BSN. This terminal degree is designed to be completed in nine semesters if you wish to pursue the family nurse practitioner degree. The program length for the psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner degree will also be nine semesters to complete the coursework.
4. University of Virginia: The University of Virginia, like many DNP programs, offers students different pathways to pursuing your DNP. So, how long does it take to get a DNP at the University of Virginia? The BSN-to-DNP track will require 4 years of study at the standard program. The University of Virginia also offers an accelerated program, the length of the DNP program in the accelerated format is three years.
5. University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center: The University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center is Oklahoma's most extensive nursing program. This University offers its students who wish to pursue their DNP-family nurse practitioner degree the option of entering their program with a BSN. This program will require two to three years of study, depending on if you choose to study full-time or part-time. Please note, the DNP program length will increase with the part-time format.
6. Columbia University: Located in the bustling city of New York, Columbia University offers its students the option to enter their DNP program with an earned BSN degree. They also provide students multiple specialties to choose from. Your coursework at Columbia University will require three years of full-time study to complete the program of your choice.
7. University of Buffalo: The University of Buffalo is known as a research-intensive public university. The University of Buffalo offers students multiple specialty tracks to choose from when pursuing their DNP terminal degree. So, how long are the DNP programs here? Well, if you are entering the program with a BSN, you can expect to complete your degree in three to five years, depending on your track and if you decided to attend full-time or part-time.
8. University of Maryland: The University of Maryland’s Doctor of Nursing Practice degree is ranked No. 6 in the nation by U.S. News and World Report. They also offer students the option to specialize in a particular area. They currently have eight different specialty areas that you can choose to pursue. You can complete your degree with 80-93 credits depending on your course of study.
9. University of Pennsylvania: The University of Pennsylvania offers those with a BSN the opportunity to gain their Doctor of Nursing Practice degree as a Nurse Anesthetist. The program length of the DNP degree if you choose to pursue the Nurse Anesthetist specialty at the University of Pennsylvania is 36-months for full-time study.
10. University of Tennessee Health Science Center: Students who decide to pursue their degree at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center are able to choose to study various DNP specialties. Students will also have the choice to either pursue one DNP specialty or to pursue a dual concentration specialty. Depending on what you choose, you are looking at 61 to 100 credits to complete your degree.
11. University of Colorado Denver Anschutz Medical Campus: Located in the beautiful Rocky Mount Region, the University of Colorado Denver Anschutz Medical Campus also offers students various specialty track options to choose from; they have nine to be exact. Entering the program with your BSN, you can expect to earn your degree in about five years. This will all be dependent on which specialty track you choose.
12. East Carolina University: The BSN-to-DNP Program at East Carolina University has been accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education. This pathway at this University, comes with three specialty areas. The specialty areas you can choose from are adult-gerontology primary care nurse practitioner, family nurse practitioner, or the certified registered nurse anesthetist. The program can be completed on a full-time or part-time basis, but you must earn 61 to 90 semester hours to complete your degree.
13. Duke University: Duke University has always been known for the prestigious education that they provide to their students. At Duke University, you can pursue your DNP degree if you already hold a BSN. To earn your DNP degree, you must complete 74 credits at the minimum.
14. Seattle University: Students who are interested in pursuing a BSN-to-DNP degree from Seattle University can choose from multiple acute care and primary care specialties. This is a full-time program that will take you about three years to complete.
15. Regis University: At Regis University, the BSN-to-DNP program offered to their students is a 100% online curriculum. For those who feel that they learn better in the classroom setting, the college also has an option for that. The BSN to DNP program at Regis will take 40 months to complete, and Regis University also offers its students six different tracks to choose from.
16. University of Rochester: The University of Rochester offers a BSN-to-DNP option for their students. You can choose to pursue the Nurse Practitioner or the Clinical Nurse Leader Course of study. The program length for the BSN-to-DNP degree here is two to three years.
17. John Hopkins University: John Hopkins University offers students who already hold a BSN the opportunity to earn their DNP. This University has multiple tracks that you can choose to pursue. The coursework in order for you to obtain your DNP will take two to three years to complete.
18. University of Arkansas: This University offers students a 100% online BSN-to-DNP program. Students can choose from two different concentrations. You can select the Family Nurse Practitioner or the Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner track. This DNP program will take you about four years to complete.
19. Old Dominion University: At Old Dominion University, those who hold a BSN can pursue a DNP as a Nurse Anesthetist. The coursework that you must complete to obtain your DNP will take about three years to complete. Keep in mind you will not be able to apply to this program directly after earning your BSN. You must have worked for one year in an intensive care unit in order to be considered for admission to the program.
20. University of Delaware: At the University of Delaware, students with a BSN can pursue their DNP degree. You can choose from three specialty advanced tracks. The length of the BSN-to-DNP program here is about three years full-time and five years part-time.


DNP PROGRAM LENGTH FOR THE TOP 20 MSN-TO-DNP PROGRAMS

Below let’s take a closer look at the program length of the top MSN-to-DNP programs in the nation.

1. East Carolina University: East Carolina University offers students the opportunity to enter their DNP program with an MSN degree. The DNP program at this University is being provided on a part-time basis to those who enter with an MSN degree. The MSN-to-DNP program length here is 36 to 72 semester hours, depending on which track you choose to pursue.
2. Regis University: Regis University, which is located in the lively greater Boston area, offers its students the opportunity to become a DNP if they already hold an MSN degree. Well, how long is the DNP program at Regis University? You will be able to complete your coursework in 24 to 36 months, depending on what specialty you choose to pursue.
3. John Hopkins University: John Hopkins University offers students who already hold an MSN the opportunity to pursue their DNP degree. John Hopkins University offers two types of MSN to DNP degrees. The first is if you already hold an entry-level MSN. This route will take you two to three years to complete. The second way to pursue your DNP is if you already earned an MSN as a Nurse Practitioner, Clinical Nurse specialist, or you are in Management. This route will take you two years to earn your DNP.
4. Old Dominion University: At Old Dominion University, students who already hold an MSN can work towards earning their DNP degree. Students can work towards a DNP as a Nurse Executive or a DNP in advanced practice. In terms of how long are the DNP programs, well, you will be looking at about one and a half years to two years of study.
5. University of Delaware: The University of Delaware offers an MSN-to-DNP program. Eligibility to this program is for students who have master’s degrees in nursing and certification as an advanced practice registered nurse. If you are wondering how long is the DNP program, it can be completed in two years full-time and four years part-time. You will have the option to add on an additional concentration, but that will increase the time to complete your degree.
6. Villanova University: Villanova University is known as the only Augustinian Catholic University in the nation. Villanova University offers its students a post-master DNP degree. This terminal DNP degree can be completed full-time in five consecutive semesters and part-time in eight consecutive semesters.
7. Duke University: Duke University provides multiple specialty options for those who already have their MSN to pursue the DNP degree. Depending on the specialty you choose, the program length for the MSN-to-DNP degree here is anywhere from 24 to 36 months.
8. University of Buffalo: The University of Buffalo, located in Buffalo, New York, offers multiple specialty tracks for students to choose from when pursuing their DNP. If you already hold an MSN, you can expect to complete your coursework for your DNP in five to seven semesters. This all depends on the track you choose as well as your full-time or part-time status.
9. University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center: The University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center offers its students who wish to pursue their family nurse practitioner degree at the DNP level the ability to do this by entering the program with an MSN. This University will require two to three years of study to earn your DNP.
10. Binghamton University: This University offers those who already hold an advanced practice degree four different specialty tracks to choose from when pursuing their DNP. They also offer students a full-time and part-time option. I know what you are thinking; how long does it take to get a DNP with these options? Well, depending on the option it will take you two to three years to complete.
11. Quinnipiac University: This University is a small private University located in Connecticut. The online MSN-to-DNP program here requires that students enter the program with an MSN. You will have a choice of two concentrations once you enter the program. You can choose from either, Care of Populations or Nursing Leadership. The entire doctorate can be completed in 2 years on a full-time schedule. There are campus requirements, but they are minimal.
12. Northeastern University: Northeastern University offers those who already hold an advanced practice degree the option of full-time and part-time study to earn their terminal DNP degree. The full-time MSN-to-DNP program length is two years, whereas the program length for those seeking the part-time option is three years.
13. Seattle University: The University of Seattle offers students the opportunity to achieve their DNP degree if they already hold an MSN. This degree can be pursued on a part-time or on a full-time basis. In order to complete this degree, you must complete 48 credits.
14. University of Kentucky: The MSN-to-DNP option at the University of Kentucky is comprised of seven different specialties. So, how long is the DNP program at the University of Kentucky? This degree can be completed in two years of full-time study or in three years of part-time study. The DNP nursing courses are offered online and will only require you to attend the Lexington campus for one to six days each semester.
15. Vanderbilt University: At Vanderbilt University, you can complete your DNP degree with either a five-semester or six-semester plan if you are entering after completing your MSN. There are three specialty tracks that you will be able to choose from. You will be required to visit the campus, but the time spent there is minimal.
16. Frontier University: Frontier University offers its students a 100% remote learning option. You will have to make five to six campus visits during your coursework. Since the degree is completely online you are probably thinking, how long is the DNP program? You will be able to choose from a five-semester or six-semester plan. The post-master’s DNP here is for those who already hold an advanced practice degree in nursing. There is also the option for those who have a master’s degree in another field of nursing to still pursue the DNP degree. You will need to obtain a post-master’s certificate in an advanced nursing practice and then transfer into the DNP program. This will add time to your schoolwork, so it is best to check with an advisement counselor at the University to map out how long it will truly take you to complete your degree.
17. University of San Diego: This program offers its coursework mainly online with the exception of two-weekend sessions per semester. There are four different MSN-to-DNP specialty tracks to choose from at the University of San Diego. Well, if this University has different tracks to choose from, I bet you are wondering how long are the DNP programs? Well, you will have the option to pursue the degree on a full-time, two-year basis or a part-time, three-year plan of study. For some of their DNP specialties, an Advance practice nursing degree is required.
18. Thomas Jefferson University: Thomas Jefferson University’s program is presented fully remote. Thomas Jefferson University offers a 36-credit online post-master’s DNP. This DNP is available in a two-year, three-year, or five-year plan of study. Although this program is fully remote, it is best to check with your program director to see if you will be required to come to campus for orientation and to defend your dissertation.
19. University of Arkansas: The University of Arkansas offers students who already hold an MSN degree the opportunity of completing their DNP degree. This program can be completed entirely online with minimal campus visits. Those who wish to pursue this degree are looking at two years of study if they choose to go full-time and three years of study if they decide to go part-time.
20. University of Colorado Denver Anschutz Medical Campus: The University of Colorado Denver Anschutz Medical Campus offers students the opportunity to earn their DNP if they have already completed their MSN. This University offers its students various specialty track options to choose from. You can expect to earn your degree in three to four years, depending on which specialty track you choose.


The Bottomline


So, what do you think? I bet you are not so confused anymore on how long DNP programs are. I am guessing you now feel pretty confident in choosing what the next steps will be for you. The terminal degree of a DNP is definitely obtainable regardless of if you are starting out with your BSN degree or your MSN degree. The DNP program length will be adjusted based on your entry point. These top programs all have their own uniqueness, and I’m sure one will fit your busy and demanding life. Many of these top schools will help you achieve that dream of yours. Think about it, one day, you can have that prestigious title of being a Doctor of Nursing Practice.


FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ANSWERED BY OUR EXPERT


1) Will I be able to work and still pursue my DNP degree?

So, here is the thing, some programs will allow time for you to work where others strongly urge against it. You need to first look at programs that are part-time if you plan on working. Yes, this means you will be in school longer, but you will also have less coursework at any given time, which will allow you the ability to balance study and work. I am not saying you cannot pursue your degree full-time and work. Some people do find the time to work and go to school full time, but remember you are not just going to have to fit in your classes; you will have to make time for your coursework, job, and whatever else is going on in your life. If you are not sure if a program can be accomplished while attending full-time and working, it is best to ask a graduate counselor at the institution you plan on attending.

2) Is the DNP required to practice as a Nurse Practitioner?

At this time, the DNP is not required to practice as a Nurse Practitioner. The DNP still remains optional due to some disagreement over this change. However, the AACN voted to move the level of preparation for nurse practitioners from an MSN to a DNP beginning in 2015. It would not be surprising to see the DNP as the minimum educational requirement for Nurse Practitioners somewhere down the road.

3) Is the DNP a valuable degree to obtain?

Yes, the DNP is a valuable degree to obtain. It is a terminal degree for starters, meaning that you cannot pursue and earn a higher degree in Nursing. It also advances your profession by placing you on par with other healthcare professionals who have already obtained their Doctorate degrees. It will also increase your knowledge as a professional. The American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) and the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) both agree that the DNP should be a requirement for all Nurse Practitioners.

4) Will I make more money if I have a DNP degree?

Yes. Doctorally prepared nurses earn more money than those with an MSN and a BSN. A 2018 salary survey by Advance Healthcare Network concluded that DNP-prepared nurse practitioners earned at least $8,000 more than their master’s prepared colleagues.

5) Is getting a DNP hard?

There really is not an easy answer to this question. Some people may find that the DNP degree is very challenging, where others may find earning the degree is a breeze. Other factors will impact if a person perceives the degree as hard or not, such as working full time and what your social/family life is like. So, answering the question is getting a DNP degree hard is a multifaced question.

6) Is there financial assistance when earning my DNP?

There are different options that you may want to explore regarding financial assistance in obtaining your DNP. You should investigate if the institution you are earning your degree from provides its students the opportunity to apply for scholarships through the University. Another place you can turn is the federal government through the U.S. Department of Education’s Federal Student Aid website to complete a FAFSA. Two other loans you can apply for are the Direct Unsubsidized Loan and the Grad PLUS Loan. You could also check with your employer to see if they have any type of financial aid for employees wishing to advance their degrees. Keep in mind that there are also many other scholarships out there that you may qualify for. Here are a list of places to check: CareerOneStop, Peterson’s, Johnson & Johnson, American Association of Nurse Practitioner, and your state and local nurses association. When all else fails, you could consider taking out a personal loan.


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.