20 Best Online DNP-CNS Programs – 2024

Written By: Darby Faubion BSN, RN

Are you ready to become a Doctor of Nursing Practice? Are you passionate about earning a degree in a clinical specialty area? DNP-CNS programs might be a great option for you as they allow you to become both a DNP and a Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS). Choosing a specialized program is a big decision and requires you to research which programs are available and which ones will be a good fit for you. With that in mind, you may ask yourself, “What are the best online DNP-CNS programs?”

In this article, you will find a list of the 20 best online DNP-CNS programs for 2024. I will share information about program lengths, costs, courses you may take, and much more. Additionally, I’ll give you some insight into the advantages and disadvantages of the programs as well as tips for getting accepted into a top program.


Online DNP-CNS programs aim to prepare students to become advanced practice registered nurses at the highest level of clinical practice in the role of a Clinical Nurse Specialist. The program’s goals are to provide you with evidence-based practice principles, analytical and decision-making skills, and leadership expertise to help drive healthcare delivery and innovation.


If you choose one of the best online DNP-CNS programs, you will gain important new skills and abilities. Here are the top seven you will learn to help get you excited about pursuing this degree:

1. You Will Master Clinical Assessment and Diagnosis:

DNP-CNS online programs will prepare you with the knowledge needed to perform clinical assessments and diagnose patients. Clinical assessment and diagnosis are exciting new skills, as they allow you to advance your nursing practice to the next level. Whether you enter the program as a bachelor's- or master's-prepared registered nurse, the knowledge and skills you gain that allow you to assess and diagnose are crucial.

2. You Will Learn to Become a Patient Advocate:

As a doctoral-prepared Clinical Nurse Specialist, you will be instrumental in advocating for patient needs. In online DNP-CNS programs, you will learn to recognize patient needs and identify what services are most appropriate to meet those needs. Your knowledge of healthcare systems and clinical specialty skills will help you navigate the sometimes-tricky world of prior authorizations and healthcare politics to become an effective advocate for your patients.

3. DNP-CNS Online Programs Teach You the Art of Leadership:

One of the trademark skills DNP-CNS graduates gain is leadership. Earning the highest clinical nursing degree and becoming a Clinical Nurse Specialist means other nurses and healthcare professionals will look to you for guidance and leadership.

4. You Will Learn Measures of Promoting Quality Improvement:

Understanding data and using it to guide quality improvement measures is an important skill healthcare employers seek in candidates. Quality improvement measurements may be driven by the government or by individual health organizations. Online DNP-CNS programs will teach you the importance of quality improvement and ways to implement positive changes affecting the delivery of healthcare services.

5. You Will Learn to Use Clinical Decision Making in Daily Practices:

DNP-CNS online programs will teach you specialized skills to help you interpret and utilize patient information to make difficult clinical decisions. You will use clinical decision-making skills to assess patients, interpret test results, create care plans, and monitor patient progress.

6. Online DNP-CNS Programs Will Teach You Ways to Promote Health and Prevent Disease:

One of the most important abilities that DNP-CNS graduates have is the ability to promote health and prevent diseases. Like all medical providers, part of your role involves educating patients and ensuring they know what wellness means and how to implement measures to attain and maintain good health.

7. You Will Learn to Utilize Informatics and Technology:

Informatics and technology are rapidly growing areas in healthcare. In DNP-CNS online programs, you will learn to utilize informatics and technology to improve your practice. Informatics drives how electronic healthcare records are created and how patient information is collected. Therefore, staying up to date about relevant information and incorporating it into daily practice is essential.


Going back to college to get a higher degree is a major decision. Choosing to pursue a career as a Doctor of Nursing Practice-Clinical Nurse Specialist requires careful consideration of the pros and cons. The following are five main advantages of online DNP-CNS programs to consider as you research programs to find the right path and options.

1. You will earn the highest clinical nursing degree:

Online DNP-CNS programs prepare you with the highest level of clinical nursing degrees. The knowledge and skills you obtain in the program make you an excellent candidate for many clinical nursing roles based on your clinical specialty.

2. You will become an expert in using evidence-based practices to promote positive patient outcomes:

One of the core competencies of DNP-CNS online programs is to implement evidence-based nursing interventions into practice. Your understanding of evidence-based practices means you can make sound decisions for patient care that promote positive patient outcomes.

3. You will experience a greater level of autonomy in practice.

Online DNP-CNS programs offer extensive training, preparing you for more independent roles. Your broader scope of practice will include quality assurance, client advocacy, research, and collaboration.

4. You can lobby for changes in healthcare:

As a doctoral-prepared nurse and Clinical Nurse Specialist, you will have the in-depth knowledge and skills that make you a voice of reason to lobby for changes in healthcare policies. You may speak in legislative meetings, campaign for awareness about diseases and healthcare issues, and advocate for patients and healthcare workers.

5. You can choose from different specialties:

Online DNP-CNS programs offer several specialization options. Some specialties you may choose from include population-focused concentrations like pediatrics, neonatal, adult health, and adult gerontology. You may also choose to become a clinical nurse specialist specializing in emergency, medical/surgical, or critical care. There are also subspecialties based on diseases or health issues, such as diabetes, oncology, public health, pain, or wound care.


After reviewing the advantages of DNP-CNS online programs, it is good to weigh them against possible disadvantages to determine if this is an academic and career path you wish to pursue. The following are three main disadvantages of these programs.

1. Online DNP-CNS programs have rigorous curriculum requirements:

One of the main disadvantages of DNP-CNS online programs is the heavy courseload you must complete. The program curriculum includes masters and doctoral-level courses, specialty courses, and clinical practicum experiences. Because most coursework is delivered in an online (sometimes asynchronous) format, it takes determination and commitment to studies to stay on track.

2. Reduced faculty oversight can feel overwhelming:

While there are advantages of online learning, like having the freedom to study and learn on your own time, lack of faculty oversight can leave you feeling overwhelmed. Because online DNP-CNS programs have content-rich, heavy courseloads and strenuous clinical requirements, it is natural to want more faculty interaction. If you begin to feel stressed or overwhelmed, reach out to your academic advisor or faculty to discuss options for support.

3. Your role as a DNP-CNS can be very stressful:

With increased knowledge comes increased responsibility. DNP-CNS online programs can teach you stress and time management skills, but that does not mean stress will disappear. It is essential to be aware of your emotions and stress level and to seek help or take a break when you need it.


Online DNP-CNS programs are accredited by either the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN) or the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE).

S.NO.Accrediting Agency
1Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN)
2Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)


DNP-CNS online programs have various start dates. The number of start dates and their times are determined by each school. Some schools have only one start date annually. Others have two, three, or more start dates. The following are the start dates for five of the programs featured in this article.

At the University of Colorado- Anschutz Medical Campus, the online DNP-CNS program starts twice per year in the fall and spring.

The online DNP-CNS programs at the University of Detroit Mercy offer three start dates each year in the fall, winter, and summer semesters.

You can start your DNP-CNS program at Texas Christian University in the fall or spring of each year.

Kent State University admits students to its online DNP-CNS program each Fall.

At St. John Fisher University, the DNP-CNS online program offers fall and spring start dates for most specialties. The DNP-CNS Psychiatric Mental Health NP track admits students in the fall semester.


The number of credits required in online DNP-CNS programs varies based on whether you enter with a bachelor’s or master’s degree in nursing. Post-baccalaureate pathways may require 65 to 90 credits, while post-master's pathways may offer a 30-60 credit curriculum. Your previous degree level and the number of credits you transfer into the DNP-CNS program will also determine the total credits you need to graduate. The following are some examples of credit requirements at some of the nation’s best programs.

The University of Minnesota’s online DNP-CNS programs require 75 to 77 credits, depending on your chosen specialty. The Adult-Gerontology Clinical Nurse Specialty pathway is a 75-credit program, and the Pediatric Clinical Nurse Specialist track requires 77 credits.

Texas Christian University offers a Pediatric DNP-CNS online program. The program features a 66-credit hour curriculum.

At the University of Southern Indiana, students enrolled in the online DNP-CNS program complete 78 credits.

The University of South Alabama offers an MSN to DNP-CNS online program with an Adult Health Concentration, which requires students to complete 36 credits. The university also offers a post-baccalaureate online DNP-CNS program with an Adult Gerontology specialization. This option includes 69-87 credits.

Loyola University Chicago’s Adult-Gerontology DNP-CNS online program consists of 64 credit hours.


DNP-CNS online programs typically take between two and four years to complete. However, the time it takes you to graduate is determined by whether you enter with a BSN or MSN degree and if you enroll as a part-time or full-time student. The following list provides examples of expected timeframes to complete some of the programs featured in this article.

Rush University is home to three options for online DNP-CNS programs, Adult-Gerontology, Neonatal, and Pediatric DNP-CNS. Each pathway is designed in a part-time format and can be completed in two to three and a half years.

The University of Colorado-Anschutz Medical Campus offers a post-baccalaureate BSN to DNP-CNS online program. The program typically takes four years (12 semesters) to complete.

The BSN-to-DNP Adult-Gerontology CNS program at the University of Oklahoma can be completed in three years of full-time study or four years part-time.

The BSN-to-DNP CNS program through Nebraska Methodist College can be completed full-time in three years or part-time in four to five years.

At Winona State University-Rochester, the online DNP-CNS programs take two to four years to complete, depending on your previous degree. The BSN to DNP pathway typically takes four years to complete. The MSN to DNP program can be completed in three years.


Online DNP-CNS programs can cost as little as $60,000 to $120,000 or more. Some schools calculate tuition using a per-credit rate, and others charge per semester or year. As you research programs, verify if the estimated program costs include fees and other program expenses or if you need to prepare for them separately. The costs of some of the best DNP-CNS online programs in the nation include the following.

The University of Minnesota charges $1,053 per credit regardless of your residency status. Tuition for the Adult-Gerontology online DNP-CNS degree costs $78,975. The Pediatric DNP-CNS online program costs approximately $81,081.

Tuition at Nebraska Methodist College costs $817 per credit. The Adult-Gerontology DNP-CNS online program requires students to complete 75 credits, making the program cost $61,275.

At Winona State University- Rochester, the online DNP-CNS Adult-Gerontology program costs approximately $81,000.

Eastern Michigan University calculates tuition on a per-credit basis. In-state and out-of-state students pay $1,070.50 per credit hour. The program consists of 84 credits, which means tuition costs $89,922.

Loma Linda University offers an Adult-Gerontology BSN to DNP-CNS online program that costs $116,495.


The average minimum GPA to get into online DNP-CNS programs is 3.0 on a 4.0 grading scale. However, some schools require higher grade point averages. Additionally, some programs offer applicants with lower GPAs conditional admission consideration. The admission GPA is one of the most important criteria considered, so be careful to verify guidelines when applying. Here are a few examples of the minimum GPA requirements at five schools offering top DNP-CNS online programs.

At Rush University, candidates need a minimum 3.0-grade point average for admission to the online DNP-CNS program.

Nebraska Methodist College prefers candidates with at least a 3.0 GPA from their BSN program. Candidates with a 2.75-2.99 GPA may be given individual consideration based on the last year of their BSN program.

The online DNP-CNS program at St. John Fisher University requires a 3.0 cumulative GPA from your bachelor’s nursing program.

At Eastern Michigan University, a minimum 3.0-grade point average is preferred. However, students with a 2.75 GPA may apply for conditional admission.

Applicants seeking admission to the Loma Linda University online DNP-CNS program must have a cumulative college and nursing GPA of at least 3.0 on a 4.0 scale.


Admission to the best DNP-CNS online programs can be competitive. Although many schools have standardized requirements, there can be some slight differences. If you plan to apply to multiple programs (which I encourage), it is crucial that you verify the admission criteria for each program and follow their application guidelines carefully. The following are examples of the admission requirements for some of the nation’s programs.

To be eligible for admission to the online DNP-CNS program at Johns Hopkins University, you will need to have a BSN or entry-level master's degree conferred by a CCNE or ACEN-accredited college or university with a cumulative GPA of at least 3.0 and complete a college-level statistics course. Candidates must possess a current, unrestricted RN license and need at least one year of clinical experience as a registered nurse. Applicants must provide copies of their nursing license and all official post-secondary transcripts. Additionally, along with your application, you must submit three letters of recommendation, a current resume, a goal statement, GRE scores (recommended but not required), and a TOEFL or IELTS score if you are not a native English speaker. Candidates who meet all other admission criteria will participate in an admissions interview with the program faculty.

The University of Detroit Mercy requires applicants to the DNP-CNS online program to have a BSN degree from a nationally accredited program with a minimum college GPA of 3.0. You must submit your official transcripts, proof of an active and unrestricted nursing license, three letters of recommendation, a resume, an autobiographical statement of personal goals and objectives and participate in an admissions interview. Although previous work as a registered nurse is encouraged, new BSNs are encouraged to apply regardless of clinical work experience.

Admission requirements for the University of Wisconsin-Madison's online DNP-CNS program include the following. Applicants must have a Bachelor of Science in Nursing from an accredited nursing school and one year of professional nursing experience. Candidates must have, or be eligible for, a Wisconsin RN license. A minimum 3.0 GPA for the last 60 credits of the baccalaureate nursing program and a graduate-level statistics course with a grade of at least a "B" are required.

Students seeking admission to the DNP-CNS online program at Michigan State University must first complete an online application. Candidates are required to have a bachelor’s degree in nursing with a cumulative GPA of at least 3.0 and an active, unencumbered license to practice as a registered nurse. Applicants must complete a three-credit undergraduate statistics course with a minimum grade of “C.” In addition to meeting these requirements, candidates must submit a written essay detailing career goals and reasons for choosing graduate study, three letters of recommendation, and participate in an admission interview with faculty.

Widener University's online DNP-CNS program requires candidates to meet the following admission criteria. Applicants must complete an online application, provide transcripts from all higher education institutions, complete an undergraduate statistics course with a grade of "C" or higher, and have a minimum cumulative college grade point average of at least 3.0 on a 4.0 scale. Candidates must submit two letters of recommendation, one from an educator or advanced practice nurse and one from a current or previous employer with a graduate degree. Additionally, applicants must provide a Goal Statement highlighting interests in the program, a curriculum vitae, and a copy of their RN license, and complete an admission interview.


The courses offered in online DNP-CNS programs typically include a combination of core MSN, DNP, and specialty classes. Your prior degree and experience will determine which classes you must take to earn the DNP-CNS degree. The following are examples of some classes you will take in the best DNP-CNS online programs.

Students enrolled in the online DNP-CNS program at the University of Southern Indiana complete classes, including Roles for Advanced Nursing Practice, Resource Utilization, Theoretical Foundations for Advanced Nursing Practice, Advanced Nursing Assessment and Intervention I, II, and II, Clinical Pharmacology, Applications in Population Health, and Strategies for Patient Teaching.

At Michigan State University, the DNP-CNS online program’s curriculum includes classes such as Clinical Epidemiology for Healthcare Practice, Healthcare Informatics, Leadership in Complex Health Systems, Advanced Physical Assessment for the Advanced Practice Registered Nurse, Wellness Promotion for Diverse Populations, and Clinical Nurse Specialist Advanced Practice Role Development.

Loyola University in Chicago offers another of the best online DNP-CNS programs in the nation. Students study subjects, including Theories & Concepts for Advanced Clinical Practice, Population-Focused health, Social Justice and Ethics in Health Care, Evidence Translation for Advanced Clinical Practice, Advanced Pharmacology, Advanced Quality and Safety in Health Care, and CNS Practice Across the Adult-Age Spectrum.

The University of Oklahoma's BSN to DNP-CNS Adult Gerontology online program features a 67-credit hour curriculum. Students take classes such as Advanced Physical/Health Assessment & Diagnostic Reasoning, Economics & Finance in Healthcare for Advanced Practice Nurses, Roles, Innovations, & Opportunities for the DNP, Evidence-Based Practice & Scholarship in Nursing, Research Methods, and Principles of Epidemiology.


Practical training for DNP-CNS online programs includes clinical hours and either on-campus immersion or simulation lab experiences. The number of hours you need to complete will be based on your previous degree-specific program requirements. Here is an overview of some of the practical training requirements:

The practical training for the online DNP-CNS programs at Johns Hopkins University consists of 784 CNS clinical hours and 224 hours of DNP practicum, totaling 1,080 practical training hours. As a student at Johns Hopkins, you will participate in on-campus immersion experiences where you will learn and practice advanced health assessment skills, preparing you for clinical practicum. In the second year of the program, clinicals begin and continue for the remainder of the program. The CNS Specialty Track Coordinator and clinical placement team help locate and secure clinical placement sites and preceptors.

At Widener University, students in the DNP-CNS online program complete at least 1,060 clinical hours. Practical training experiences include 500 direct-care clinical hours and at least 560 hours of DNP-specific clinical hours in direct or systems-based care. Widener University has clinical partnerships at over 300 healthcare sites, offering you a broad array of clinical experiences. You will work with your clinical advisor to locate and secure clinical practice sites and approved preceptors.

Students enrolled in the Adult-Gerontology and Pediatric DNP-CNS online programs at the University of Minnesota complete a minimum of 1,000 clinical hours. Clinicals are arranged by faculty with consideration of your geographical location and traveling ability.

In addition to on-campus intensives that prepare you for clinical practicum, Texas Christian University’s online DNP-CNS program includes 1,000 clinical practice hours. Clinicals are arranged by program faculty with your input and located as close to your home region as possible.

The University of Wisconsin-Madison’s online DNP-CNS program includes at least 1,000 clinical practice hours. Practical training includes clinical and leadership practicums. You will complete 500 clinical practice hours and 500 clinical leadership hours. The University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Nursing arranges clinical placements. Every attempt is made to honor student requests to complete practical training requirements in their home communities.


DNP-CNS online programs come with the typical challenges faced in graduate-level nursing programs. Knowing possible challenges early on gives you time to prepare for them and create a plan to overcome them and succeed. The following are three major challenges you may face in one of these exceptional programs.

CHALLENGE #1: Finding Adequate Clinical Placements

About the Challenge:

Many online DNP-CNS programs allow you to complete clinicals close to where you live. While being close to home has its advantages, it can be challenging to locate appropriate clinical sites and preceptors on your own. Searching for and securing clinical sites and qualified preceptors can be time-consuming and stressful, especially when you need specialized experiences aligned with your DNP-CNS specialty.

How to Overcome:

Ask questions during the application and admission process, so you understand how much clinical placement support the school provides. Finding a program with a dedicated clinical placement team can reduce your stress and save you time. If you are set on a school that does not assist with placements knowing this early on will allow you to start searching for clinical sites and preceptors before you find yourself in a time crunch.

CHALLENGE #2: Time management

About the Challenge:

Success in DNP-CNS online programs requires you to be accountable and motivated. Without the stricter requirements of in-person classes, it can be easy to fall behind or not dedicate enough time to completing your studies. It can be challenging to manage your time when it comes to classes, clinicals, and personal responsibilities.

How to Overcome:

To overcome the time management challenge, you must develop a system allotting the necessary time for all activities you need to complete. Consider using a calendar, planner, or time management app to help you get organized. Writing or typing everything out can help you plan time for studying, clinicals, personal responsibilities, and any other tasks you need to complete.

CHALLENGE #3: Navigating Online Learning Platforms

About the Challenge:

DNP-CNS online programs utilize different online learning platforms. Some students find navigating discussion rooms, changing from asynchronous and synchronous learning, and submitting work and online exams through these platforms challenging.

How to Overcome:

Before starting your DNP-CNS online program, read up on the software and internet requirements for the learning platform used by your school. Starting with a computer that can support the platform will save time and prevent frustration. Next, see if your program offers any videos or tutorials to help you become familiar with the platform and comfortable with the learning environment. Learning to use the platform before class begins is the best way to overcome this challenge.


(Based on our ranking methodology, the following are the 20 Best Online DNP-CNS Programs in the nation for the year 2024.)

1. Johns Hopkins University - Baltimore, MD

Programs Offered:

BSN-to-DNP and Entry-Level MSN-to-DNP

BSN-to-DNP Specialties Offered:

Adult-Gerontological Health Clinical Nurse Specialist, Adult-Gerontological Critical Care Clinical Nurse Specialist, and Pediatric Critical Care Clinical Nurse Specialist

Entry-Level MSN-to-DNP Specialties Offered:

Adult-Gerontological Health Clinical Nurse Specialist, Adult-Gerontological Critical Care Clinical Nurse Specialist, and Pediatric Critical Care Clinical Nurse Specialist

2. Rush University - Chicago, IL

Programs Offered:

BSN-to-DNP and MSN-to-DNP

BSN-to-DNP Specialties Offered:

Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Clinical Nurse Specialist, Neonatal Clinical Nurse Specialist, and Pediatric Clinical Nurse Specialist

MSN-to-DNP Specialties Offered:

Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Clinical Nurse Specialist, Neonatal Clinical Nurse Specialist, and Pediatric Clinical Nurse Specialist

3. University of Maryland - Baltimore, MD

Programs Offered:

BSN-to-DNP and MSN-to-DNP

BSN-to-DNP Specialties Offered:

Adult-Gerontology Clinical Nurse Specialist

4. University of Colorado Anschutz - Aurora, CO

Programs Offered:


BSN-to-DNP Specialties Offered:

Adult-Gerontology Clinical Nurse Specialist

5. University of Minnesota - Minneapolis, MN

Programs Offered:


BSN-to-DNP Specialties Offered:

Adult/ Gerontological Clinical Nurse Specialist and Pediatric Clinical Nurse Specialist

6. University of Detroit Mercy - Detroit, MI

Programs Offered:


BSN-to-DNP Specialties Offered:

Adult-Gerontology Clinical Nurse Specialist

7. Texas Christian University - Fort Worth, TX

Programs Offered:


BSN-to-DNP Specialties Offered:

Pediatric Clinical Nurse Specialist

8. University of Wisconsin-Madison - Madison, WI

Programs Offered:


BSN-to-DNP Specialties Offered:

Adult-Gerontology Clinical Nurse Specialist

9. Kent State University - Kent, OH

Programs Offered:


BSN-to-DNP Specialties Offered:

Adult-Gerontology Clinical Nurse Specialist

10. University of Southern Indiana - Evansville, IN

Programs Offered:


BSN-to-DNP Specialties Offered:

Adult Gerontologic Clinical Nurse Specialist

11. University of South Alabama - Mobile, AL

Programs Offered:

BSN-to-DNP and MSN-to-DNP

BSN-to-DNP Specialties Offered:

Adult-Gerontological Clinical Nurse Specialist

MSN-to-DNP Specialties Offered:

Adult-Gerontological Clinical Nurse Specialist

12. Michigan State University - East Lansing, MI

Programs Offered:


BSN-to-DNP Specialties Offered:


13. Loyola University Chicago - Maywood, IL

Programs Offered:


BSN-to-DNP Specialties Offered:

Gerontology Acute Care Clinical Nurse Specialist

14. University of Oklahoma - Oklahoma City, OK

Programs Offered:


BSN-to-DNP Specialties Offered:

Adult/Gerontology Clinical Nurse Specialist

15. Saint John Fisher College - Rochester, NY

Programs Offered:


BSN-to-DNP Specialties Offered:

Adult/Gerontology Clinical Nurse Specialist

16. Nebraska Methodist College - Omaha, NE

Programs Offered:


BSN-to-DNP Specialties Offered:

Adult-Gerontology Clinical Nurse Specialist

17. Winona State University - Winona, MN

Programs Offered:

BSN-to-DNP and MSN-to-DNP

BSN-to-DNP Specialties Offered:

Adult-Gerontology Clinical Nurse Specialist

MSN-to-DNP Specialties Offered:

Adult-Gerontology Clinical Nurse Specialist

18. Eastern Michigan University - Ypsilanti, MI

Programs Offered:


BSN-to-DNP Specialties Offered:

Adult-Gerontology Clinical Nurse Specialist

19. Loma Linda University - Loma Linda, CA

Programs Offered:


BSN-to-DNP Specialties Offered:

Adult-Gerontology Clinical Nurse Specialist

20. Widener University - Chester, PA

Programs Offered:


BSN-to-DNP Specialties Offered:

Adult-Gerontology Clinical Nurse Specialist



Graduates of online DNP-CNS programs can work in a variety of settings, but here is where they mostly work.

1. Hospitals:

Graduates of DNP-CNS online programs find plenty of job opportunities within hospital settings. Depending on your CNS specialization, you may provide care to a specific patient population, and participate in strategic planning, execution of evidence-based practices, and patient education.

2. Colleges or Universities:

Many online DNP-CNS program graduates work in academic settings, such as colleges and universities. In this setting, you may become a nursing program faculty, work in research roles, to name a few. With continued experience, you may find a job as a college or university dean.

3. Private or Public Health Clinics:

With a degree from online DNP-CNS programs, your specialty concentration may create opportunities for you as a primary care provider. For example, you may choose to work in outpatient settings as a provider or choose a leadership or administrative role in public or private health clinics.


You will have a lot of career options as a graduate of any of these DNP-CNS online programs, but here are the five best jobs.

1. Healthcare Administrator:

Graduates of online DNP-CNS programs are well-qualified to work in administrative positions within the healthcare industry. Some jobs in healthcare administration online DNP-CNS graduates may pursue include Chief Nursing Officer, Director of Patient Care Services, Medical Group Practice Manager, and so many more. Choosing a healthcare administrator job allows you to use your leadership skills to positively impact nurses and healthcare providers in various settings.

2. Nurse Educator:

Nurse educators work for universities, colleges, and some large healthcare systems. Teaching future nurses or providing ongoing education for current employees is critical to the future of the nursing field. As a graduate of DNP-CNS online programs, you can use your degree to its fullest potential by educating and inspiring others.

3. Clinical Nurse Leader:

Another excellent job opportunity for online DNP-CNS program graduates is Clinical Nurse Leader. In this role, you will work closely with the healthcare team, collaborating to care for a cohort of patients. Your job requires ensuring quality patient care supported by evidence-based practice, industry innovations, and proven models of care delivery.

4. Clinical Nurse Consultant:

Healthcare facilities, employers, and their staff rely upon the expertise of clinical nurse specialists to provide consultations and develop and assess the effectiveness of practice standards. Graduates of DNP-CNS online programs working as clinical nurse consultants evaluate the healthcare delivery systems and patient care cases within healthcare facilities to determine the effectiveness of care and create plans for improved care and patient outcomes.

5. Primary Care Provider:

Depending on the state where you are licensed and your specialty certifications, you may work as a primary care provider. Online DNP-CNS programs prepare you with the knowledge and skills you need to be an effective provider capable of improving patient and organizational outcomes.


New graduates of online DNP-CNS programs can expect to make around $84,700 per year. This salary is equal to $40.72 hourly, $1,620 weekly, or $7,060 per month.



The average salary of DNP-CNS online program graduates is $125,815 per year. This pay breaks down to approximately $60.49 per hour, $2,420 weekly, or $10,480 monthly.



The 10-year job outlook for graduates of DNP-CNS online programs is excellent. According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, graduates should see an increase in jobs of 45.68% between 2021 and 2031, which is much faster than all other jobs. The increase is related to a demand for advanced-level practitioners, current practitioners aging and retiring, and the growing demand for preventative and specialized healthcare services.

(Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics)


Most DNP-CNS online programs cost between $60,000 and $120,000. When you consider the cost of the programs, it can feel overwhelming. However, when you compare the cost of the program to the average annual income for graduates, which is $125,815, the numbers are not as troubling. If you consider a side-by-side comparison of the cost of earning the degree to your earning potential, the cost is worth the return on investment. In fact, even if you earn a starting salary of $84,700 for the first three years, you could exceed the cost of the most expensive programs.


Admission to DNP-CNS online programs can be a competitive process. Simply meeting minimum admission requirements may not be enough to get a spot in your chosen program. With extra effort and diligence during the application process, you can improve your chances of admission. The following are five tips to help you make it into one of the best online DNP-CNS programs in the nation.

1. Get Nursing Experience in a Relevant Field.

Having relevant clinical nursing experience in the specialty area, you wish to pursue shows the admissions team you are committed to earning your degree. Since you will be starting the program with a solid foundation, you will become a more favorable candidate for admission to DNP-CNS online programs.

2. Create a Tailored, Well-Written Statement.

Make your written statement specific to the DNP-CNS online program and specialty track that interests you. Avoid general statements and repeating any information they can find in your resume or supplemental application forms. Your personal statement is your opportunity to explain why you want to earn your degree from this specific school and program.

3. Get Strong Professional References.

Choosing your references wisely can help your application stand out. Avoid using personal friends and family members. Instead, choose former nursing faculty, nursing supervisors, or graduate-prepared employers. Your references should address your professional abilities, strengths, and likelihood of success in the program.

4. Attend Information Sessions.

Taking the time to attend virtual or in-person information sessions can help you connect with program faculty and admissions staff. When you put forth the effort to attend these sessions, it shows your genuine interest, allows you to network, and gives decision-makers a face to put with the name instead of just a name on an application.

5. Do Your Research.

One of the mistakes many nurses make when applying to programs like online DNP-CNS programs is not doing their research. Verify which specialties each school of interest offers and check to see if your previous credits are transferable. Find out admission requirements and work to exceed the minimum requirements. If you research programs and know what they expect from applicants, you can work to meet those expectations, improving your chances of being offered admission.


If you are considering earning your degree as a doctoral-prepared Clinical Nurse Specialist, you may find the process of choosing a program stressful. Getting the right information and answers to questions like, "What are the best online DNP-CNS programs?” can help alleviate some of the stress. In this article, you learned about DNP-CNS programs and discovered information about the admission requirements, curriculum plans, and cost of the 20 best online DNP-CNS programs for 2024.

As you continue to research programs and find the ones that interest you most, I want to encourage you! Earning a DNP-CNS degree is an excellent option for accomplishing the highest level of clinical practice and becoming a specialist. With many job opportunities, excellent income opportunities, and a positive job outlook, there is no time like the present to get started.


1. What Is The Best Online DNP-CNS Program In The Nation?

Currently, the best online DNP-CNS program in the nation is offered at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, MD.

Johns Hopkins University - Baltimore, MD

2. Is It Easy to Get Admission Into Online DNP-CNS Programs?

Admission to online DNP-CNS programs can be competitive. Your previous academic and clinical work experience, and your chosen specialty may impact how easy it is to get into a program. Additionally, the higher your college GPA, the better your chances of being admitted to a program you choose.

3. What Is The Minimum GPA To Get Into DNP-CNS Online Programs?

The average admission GPA for most DNP-CNS online programs is 3.0 on a 4.0 scale. However, this may vary from one school to the next.

4. Can I Get Into DNP-CNS Online Programs With A Low GPA?

If you have a low GPA, there is still a chance you will be admitted into an online DNP-CNS program with conditional acceptance. However, the higher your GPA, the more competitive an applicant you become.

5. What Is The Typical Cost-Per-Credit For DNP-CNS Online Programs?

The per-credit cost for DNP-CNS online programs ranges between $600 and $1,500.

6. Can I Work Part-Time And Complete This Program?

If your current job is flexible and does not require a set schedule, you may be able to continue working part-time while enrolled in an online DNP-CNS program.

7. Can I Work Full-Time And Complete This Program?

Working full-time while completing online DNP-CNS programs is challenging. The programs have rigorous curriculum and clinical requirements, which demand a serious time commitment.

8. What Are The Hardest Classes In Online DNP-CNS Programs?

It is a matter of opinion which classes are the hardest in online DNP-CNS programs. However, many students say some of the hardest classes are statistics and research classes, pharmacology, epidemiology, and ethics in healthcare.

9. How Much Do New Graduates Of This Program Make?

New graduates of DNP-CNS online programs earn an average of $84,700 per year.


10. On An Average, How Much Can Graduates Of This Program Make Per Hour?

The average hourly wage for graduates of online DNP-CNS programs is $60.49.


11. On An Average, How Much Can Graduates Of This Program Per Month?

On average, graduates of online DNP-CNS programs make about $10,480 per month.


12. On An Average, How Much Can Graduates Of DNP-CNS Online Programs Make Per Year?

The average annual salary for graduates of DNP-CNS online programs is $125,815.


Darby Faubion BSN, RN
Darby Faubion is a nurse and Allied Health educator with over twenty years of experience. She has assisted in developing curriculum for nursing programs and has instructed students at both community college and university levels. Because of her love of nursing education, Darby became a test-taking strategist and NCLEX prep coach and assists nursing graduates across the United States who are preparing to take the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX).