DNP PROGRAM FINDER is an advertising-supported site. Clicking in this box will show you programs related to your search from schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other information published on this site.

Best Online DNP-Leadership Programs For 2021

Written By: Darby Faubion BSN, RN

The nursing industry is one of the most diverse industries to work in, with limitless opportunities for growth and development. If you have been considering going back to school and a career in nursing leadership is appealing to you, the online DNP in Leadership programs featured in this article are great examples of places to begin. Whether you want to work in a large corporation, a clinical setting, or in academia, you can find the right leadership concentration at the best online DNP-Leadership programs for 2021. In this article, you will find information about the top Doctor of Nursing Practice programs that offer concentrations in nursing leadership and learn about the admission requirements, curriculum, and how to get started pursuing this sought-after degree.

What Is A DNP-Leadership Program?

Online DNP-Leadership programs are graduate-level nursing programs designed to prepare students for upper-level management positions in nursing. Doctor of Nursing Practice Leadership programs teach students to bring evidence-based knowledge to nursing leadership resulting in effective management and improved patient outcomes.

What Are the Different Types of Leadership Concentrations Currently Available at the DNP Level?

There are many leadership concentrations available at the DNP level. As you research online DNP in Leadership programs, consider the type of job you want or the setting you would prefer to work in to help you decide which leadership concentration is the best choice.

Population Health & Systems Leadership: This concentration prepare nurses for leadership in various settings, including inpatient, outpatient, and community health. Students learn to use evidence-based knowledge and skills to lead teams in health and healing focused on improving the overall well-being of targeted populations.
Executive Leadership: Executive leadership DNP programs provide instruction for nurses to function in executive leadership and management roles focused on creating and/or redesigning symptoms needed to meet the demands associated with an ever-changing healthcare industry.
Health Systems Innovation and Leadership: This DNP concentration leverages doctoral-level coursework and innovative approaches. This concentration prepares graduates to be interdisciplinary partners who can create innovative healing environments while actively transforming healthcare systems on multiple levels.
Transformative Leadership: This concentration is designed to enhance skills necessary to promote clinical health outcomes for patients who are part of vulnerable populations. DNPs with this specialty concentration use the knowledge and skills they acquire across diverse specialty areas to assess illness and the health needs of clinical populations and develop, implement, and evaluate interventions necessary to address those needs.
Health Policy Leadership: Health Policy leadership DNP programs prepare students to influence legislation, serve in political offices, and develop healthcare policies to positively impact healthcare delivery. Graduates of this DNP concentration may work in local or national government or for non-profit organizations.
Healthcare Technology Leadership: These DNP leadership programs focus on managing health information and the implementation of technological advances within the healthcare system.

5 Advantages of Pursuing Online DNP-Leadership Programs

Before making a significant decision about your career and which college or program to attend, you should weigh the pros and cons. By doing so, you can determine whether the advantages outweigh the disadvantages and decide if moving forward is the right option for you.

The following are five main advantages of pursuing DNP-leadership programs like the DNP in Leadership online programs featured in this article.

1. Expand Your Leadership Skills: Perhaps the most apparent benefit of pursuing DNP-Leadership online programs is that you will expand your leadership skills. DNP-Leadership program students are exposed to evidence-based management practices, economics positioning principles, and other skills that prepare them to become influential leaders.
2. Long-term Job Security: DNPs with leadership training are critical in developing healthcare teams who work together to promote positive patient outcomes. As a Doctor of Nursing Practice with a leadership concentration, you will be in a position to leverage your academic and professional experiences to help secure stable employment.
3. You can play a significant role in influencing the development of or changes in healthcare policy. Graduates of DNP in Leadership online programs understand nursing on many levels, giving them insight that can help advocate for change to healthcare policy.
4. Increased Job Opportunities: Because graduates of DNP in Leadership programs understand various facets of nursing practice, they are perfect candidates for many job opportunities within the industry. Graduates can identify emerging healthcare trends, initiate efforts to address issues related to healthcare delivery, and develop effective interdisciplinary teams, which are sought-after skills in nursing leadership.
5. Increased Income: DNPs earn an average of $10,000 more each year than registered nurses with a master’s degree. According to, graduates of online DNP-Leadership programs earn over $115,000 annually. With experience, income can increase significantly for DNP nurse leaders.

3 Disadvantages of Pursuing Online DNP-Leadership Programs

Although there are many benefits to enrolling in DNP-Leadership online programs, it is also worth noting that some factors may be considered a disadvantage. If you can identify possible factors that are not beneficial, you can make a more informed decision about the type of program that is best for you and help you meet your career goals.

Some of the disadvantages associated with even the best DNP in Leadership programs online include the following.

1. There is less interaction with faculty. If you find it easier to learn when you interact with teachers and/or peers, pursuing an online DNP in Leadership program may not be the best fit for you. In these programs, interaction with faculty may be limited to emails or scheduled phone calls which means getting answers to questions or clarifying content, or assignments could be delayed.
2. Staying on task can be challenging. Many adult learners like the idea of distance learning because they feel it offers them more time freedom, which can be true in some cases. However, success in an online DNP-Leadership program requires the ability to be focused and stay on task. If you are easily distracted, it could result in having assignments that are incomplete or turned in late, resulting in poor academic performance.
3. Some online nursing programs lack accreditation. If you plan to invest the time and money it takes to earn an online doctorate in nursing with leadership concentration, you need to seek accredited DNP-Leadership programs online. Accreditation is important because it ensures that programs meet the same minimum standards for education. Additionally, to qualify for state and/or federal financial assistance, a program must be accredited. Be sure to verify what credentialing agency the program is accredited through before enrolling. By doing this, you will save yourself undue stress that can come from earning a degree from a program that is not credentialed.

How Long Are Online DNP in Leadership Programs?

Accredited DNP-Leadership programs online typically take students two to five years to complete, depending on whether they enroll on a part-time or full-time basis. A few examples of program length from some of our featured articles are listed below.

The BSN to DNP program at the University of North Carolina includes sixty-six to seventy-five credit hours, depending on the student’s choice of advanced practice concentration. The credit hours requirement includes 1,000 clinical practice hours, advanced practice coursework, leadership and practice-based inquiry, and the completion of a DNP Project. The program requires full-time enrollment and can be completed in three years.

The University of Pittsburgh offers a Doctor of Nursing Practice with a Health Systems Executive Leadership specialty. The program prepares nurses to take on executive leadership and management roles focused on creating or redesigning healthcare delivery systems that can meet the demands of an ever-changing healthcare market. The DNP with HSEL concentration is designed for master's prepared registered nurses. The program, designed for part-time study, is formatted for completion in as little as three years.
Grand Canyon University, which offers one of our featured online DNP-Leadership programs, is a private Christian university that seeks to guide students to apply Christian worldviews to the learned concepts related to educational nurse leadership. Students must have access to a clinical site where they will complete practice immersion hours and the Direct Practice Improvement project. Clinical practicum hours may not be applied to the DPI project.
At the University of New Mexico, the DNP with Nurse Executive Organizational Leadership focus is a full-time program that can be completed in three years. Although the program is delivered online, students must attend one 4-day session on campus each semester for enhancement programming and advisor meetings.

How Much Do Online DNP in Leadership Programs Cost?

If you are considering pursuing a degree from any one of the top online DNP in Leadership programs, you will want to consider the financial obligations they involve. Tuition rates for these programs range from $25,000 to over $100,000. In addition to tuition costs, students may incur expenses related to books, uniforms, technology fees, and travel.

Ranked #32 in the nation by U.S. News & World Report, the Doctor of Nursing Practice with Executive Health Systems Leadership program at the University of Arizona is one of the best DNP in Leadership programs online. Students enrolled in the program meet graduation requirements by completing fifty credit hours, including 1,000 post-baccalaureate clinical hours. At a rate of $975 per credit hour, the program’s tuition cost is $48,750.
Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis offers a post-master's Doctor of Nursing Practice Executive Leadership program. The program involves thirty-seven to forty-one required credit hours, including 1,000 post-baccalaureate clinical hours. The tuition rate for state residents is $725 per credit hour. Out-of-state residents pay $950 per credit hour. Depending on the number of credit hours each student needs, the cost of tuition for the program ranges from $26,825 to $38,950 for Indiana residents and $35,150 to $38,950 for non-residents.
The University of Illinois at Chicago is home to one of our featured DNP-Leadership online programs. Here you can pursue the BSN to DNP in Health Systems Leadership. The 60-credit-hour program costs $975 for in-state students and $1,440 for out-of-state students. The professional nursing tuition includes base tuition, assessments, and applicable fees. Resident tuition for the program is $58,500 and non-resident tuition is $86,400.
Yale University’s Healthcare Leadership, Systems, and Policy DNP program offers mid-career nurses the opportunity to become “innovative healthcare leaders” with a program that has a unique focus on leadership and policy. The program consists of a thirty-seven-credit hour curriculum, with the first two years of the program focused on coursework. The per-credit tuition rate of $1,820 brings the tuition total for the program to approximately $67,340.
The Health Innovation and Leadership DNP program at the University of Minnesota prepares students to become interprofessional partners capable of creating innovative healing environments. The program can be completed in three years of full-time enrollment. The full-time program consists of 75 total credits at a rate of $973.75 per credit, costing an average of $73,031.25.

What Is the Coursework Like for DNP in Leadership Online Programs?

Although there is some variation in the coursework required by nursing schools that offer online DNP-Leadership programs, the core content is usually similar. A student's degree level at the time of entry into the program will determine how many credits are needed for graduation and the classes they must take. Some courses that are common among the programs are listed below.

Health Equity and Social Determinants: This class reviews how social determinants of health impact individuals. Emphasis is placed on ethical implications in vulnerable communities, especially those disproportionately affected by multiple determinants.
Health Promotion Theories and Population-Focused Interventions: Students learn to translate theories or models of disease prevention and health promotion for individuals, populations, and system-focused nursing practices.
Healthcare Economics: Educates students regarding the impact of economics on healthcare providers, managers, consumers, and the government in driving healthcare cost, access, quality, and health outcomes.
Human Resources and Organizational Behavior: Focuses on developing strategic human resource plans to support the mission of the healthcare organization.

At Duke University, the Doctor of Nursing Practice in Executive Leadership Specialty is designed to meet the needs of working professionals. Students earn thirty-five credits by participating in distance-based classes and on-campus sessions each semester. On-campus intensives include student interaction and visiting lectures. Sample coursework consists of the following classes.

◦ Quantitative Methods for Evaluating Healthcare Practices
◦ Evidence-Based Practice (I: Locating and Appraising, II: Implementation and Evaluation)
◦ Advanced Decision-Making in Healthcare Settings
◦ Advanced Topics in Healthcare Leadership
◦ Transforming the Nation’s Health

Emory University post-master's DNP with Health Systems Leadership concentration can be completed in four semesters of full-time enrollment. Because the nursing school has been recognized as one of the nation’s leading nursing schools, there is no doubt the DNP Health Systems Leadership track is one of the best DNP in Leadership programs online. The thirty-nine-credit hour program involves the following coursework.

◦ Analyzing, Evaluating, and Translating Health System Evidence
◦ Analysis of Complex Health Systems for Populations and Organizations
◦ Analytics Tools for Evidence-Based Decision Making
◦ Transforming Healthcare: A Systems Approach to Improve Quality and Safety
◦ Biostatistics for Practice Scholars

Nurses interested in improving healthcare, population health, and community healthcare systems in the United States and worldwide can choose the Population Health and Systems Leadership track of the DNP program at The University of Washington. All DNP programs at the university are designed for full-time study only.

The BSN to DNP program includes 72 credit hours of coursework, including the following classes.

◦ Scientific Inquiry in Nursing
◦ Analytical Foundations for Practice Inquiry
◦ Nursing Education: Curriculum and Accreditation
◦ Healthcare Law, Policy and Analysis
◦ Organizational Systems and Leadership

At the University of San Francisco, registered nurses who wish to pursue a doctoral degree with a leadership focus can choose between the Population Health Leadership DNP program and the Executive Leadership DNP program.

The Population Health Leadership plan involves forty-five to fifty-six credits, including practicum hours. In addition to the sample coursework listed below, the final semester of the program requires a DNP Residency immersion and completion of an evidence-based, comprehensive project.

◦ Healthcare Informatics
◦ Population Health Leadership
◦ Foundations of Leadership in Population Health
◦ Management of Financial Resources

The Executive Leadership pathway, designed for master's prepared nurse executives, emphasizes entrepreneurship, financial management, risk management, and information technology. The program instructs students on applying research methods to clinical nursing practices and how to use ethical decision-making techniques in upper-level administrative positions. The program requires completion of forty-two to fifty-nine units of Executive Leadership courses, including the following.

◦ Data Analysis
◦ Quality and Patient Safety: Executive Leadership
◦ Strategic Leadership and Innovations for Executive Nurse Leaders
◦ Advanced Management Financial Resources

Students enrolled in the DNP Leadership program at East Carolina University work with interprofessional teams and healthcare executives in various settings. The post-master's DNP Leadership curriculum is a thirty-six-semester hour program that includes the following coursework.

◦ Design and Statistical Methods for Advanced Nursing Practice
◦ Analytical Decision-Making in Complex Healthcare
◦ Organizational Behavior in the Healthcare Environment
◦ Legal Aspects of Healthcare Operations
◦ Conceptual Foundations and applications of Translational Science

Clinical Training

The American Association of Colleges of Nursing published the Doctoral Essentials, which specify that any academic nursing program must include clinical practice hours. The Doctoral Essentials also states that DNP programs should provide a minimum of 1,000 post-baccalaureate clinical hours. Many colleges or universities that offer post-master's DNP programs allow students to apply five hundred hours of clinical practice from their master's nursing program toward the one thousand required to meet DNP competencies. When applying to any DNP-Leadership online programs or other nursing programs, it is the student’s responsibility to request an assessment of previous graduate clinical hours for validity and consideration for credit.

Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis requires DNP Executive Leadership students to have a minimum total of 1,000 clinical practice hours. Students may transfer up to five hundred clinical hours from their MSN program to the DNP program. Additionally, variable credit courses may help students meet the clinical requirements. Candidates who seek admission to the program must submit verification of MSN clinical hours with their application using the MSN Clinical Hours Verification Form. The form should be completed by the institution that granted the master's degree.
East Tennessee State University offers a BSN to DNP with Executive Nurse Leadership concentration that requires 1,000 clock hours of clinical practicum. The university also has an MSN to DNP Executive Nurse Leadership option in which students complete a minimum of five hundred post-BSN clinical hours.
The University of New Mexico’s two-year DNP with Nurse Executive Organizational Leadership focus is designed for working students. The program involves the completion of at least thirty-five credits and a total of 1,000 clinical practice hours. Post-master's students may receive credit for five hundred master's program clinical hours if validated and approved by program faculty/directors.
At the University of Kentucky, students enrolled in the Executive Leadership DNP program participate in a curriculum that emphasizes strategic leadership, evidence-based management, quality, safety, information management expertise, and strategies for creating healthcare policies. Like all accredited DNP-Leadership programs online, the clinical portion of the program includes a minimum of 1,000 practice hours with the possibility of credit for up to five hundred master's degree clinical hours being transferred.
The Doctor of Nursing Practice-Executive Health Systems Leadership program at the University of Arizona is designed for professionals who possess a master's degree in nursing or a health-related field. Although anyone with a master's degree may apply, preference is given to applicants with experience in a nursing leadership position recognized by the American Nurses Credentialing Center. Students enrolled in this online program must complete 1,000 in-person clinical practice hours supervised by faculty or on-site preceptors.

Admission Requirements

Admission criteria for accredited DNP in Leadership programs online may have some differences. However, most schools of nursing that offer these programs have common minimum requirements that prospective students must meet. General admission criteria include that the applicant must possess an active, unencumbered license to practice as a registered nurse, submit a resume or curriculum vitae, two or three letters of professional reference, and submit official transcripts of all post-secondary schools attended. Individuals interested in pursuing a Doctor of Nursing Practice with a leadership concentration should verify admissions policies with each school of interest before submitting applications. The following are examples of admission requirements for some of the programs featured in this article.

With 100% certification examination pass rates, the DNP-Leadership program at East Tennessee State University is one of the best online DNP in Leadership programs available. The university offers BSN to DNP and MSN to DNP programs with a concentration in Executive Leadership. The Executive Leadership option prepares advanced practice nurses for leadership in multidimensional roles within the healthcare industry. The coursework, which includes classes on fiscal management, risk management, quality indicators, healthcare policy, and information technology, requires BSN to DNP students complete 77 credits, including 1,000 clock hours of clinical practicum. MSN to DNP students complete thirty-two credits and a minimum of 500 post-master's clinical clock hours. Candidates for admission must meet the following criteria.

◦ Submit transcripts from all previous undergraduate and graduate coursework
◦ Possess a bachelor's degree in nursing or non-nursing master's degree from a nationally-accredited nursing program
◦ Cumulative grade point average of 3.0 on a 4.0 scale for all post-secondary coursework
◦ Applicants with a cumulative GPA less than 3.2 are required to submit GRE scores
◦ At least two full years of full-time work experience in nursing

The University of Pennsylvania offers master’s prepared nurses the opportunity to apply for admission to its DNP in Executive Leadership program. The program is tailored for nurses who already have leadership experience and who possess the skills necessary to lead others in the healthcare industry and promote organizational change. Prospective students should submit the following information and meet any additional requirements before being offered an interview to determine admission status.

◦ Complete two essay questions
◦ BSN and a master’s degree in nursing or a related field (Master’s in Business Administration, Master’s in Public Health, Master’s in Healthcare Administration, etc.)
◦ Two years of financial management and leadership experience; preference is given to applicants with five or more years of experience
◦ Verified completion of a graduate-level Research Methods Course with a minimum grade of “B”
◦ Submit verification of master’s degree clinical or field immersion hours

The Doctor of Nursing Practice Organizational Leadership pathway at the University of Utah prepares nurses to analyze and predict strategies to positively influence health systems outcomes and apply organizational and systems leadership skills to eliminate health disparities. The program, which typically takes four years to complete, has the following admission criteria.

◦ Evidence of an earned or in-process bachelor's degree in nursing from a regionally accredited college or university whose nursing school is accredited by either the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Accreditation (CCNE) or the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN)
◦ Verification of R.N. or APRN licensure in at least one jurisdiction of the National Council of State Boards of Nursing
◦ Complete all prerequisites with a minimum grade of “B”
◦ Completion of an introductory statistics course within the previous five years before the anticipated start date of the program

Rutgers University School of Nursing offers a DNP Leadership program focused on developing nursing leaders who influence healthcare delivery and systems thinking, support solutions for organizational problems and problem-solving opportunities, and build partnerships and relationships through effective communication. The program, which is tailored for BSN-prepared registered nurses, is formatted to be completed in four years of full-time study or five years of part-time study. Prospective students should submit the following in addition to meeting the other admission requirements found here.

◦ Submit Personal Statement
◦ Minimum Bachelor’s degree in nursing from a nationally accredited program
◦ Current license to practice as a registered nurse in New Jersey
◦ Two letters of professional reference from graduate-prepared nurses or faculty

Boise State University’s DNP program is available to nurses in all states except Louisiana, Georgia, West Virginia, and Tennessee. Candidates for admission must meet the following criteria for consideration.

◦ Possess a valid, unencumbered license to practice as a Registered Nurse or APRN within the U.S.
◦ Possess a master's degree in nursing from a program accredited by the CCNE or ACEN; or
◦ Possess a bachelor’s degree in nursing and a master’s degree in a non-nursing field
◦ Written and spoken English proficiency

6 Things You Need to Know Before Starting with Your DNP in Leadership Program

Choosing from the best DNP in Leadership programs online can feel overwhelming if you aren’t sure what questions to ask about the programs or if you are concerned about your readiness for the program. Here are a few things you need to know before starting a DNP in Leadership program.

1. You need to know how to prioritize and use practical time management skills. Being an online student means you must shoulder the responsibility of prioritizing your work and managing your time. The curriculum is in-depth, and you need to be prepared to tackle it...
2. What are the clinical requirements, and who arranges them? Many online DNP in Leadership programs give students the option of fulfilling their clinical practice hours at their current workplace or at another facility close to where they live. If this is an option, you may be required to submit information about the sites you prefer to use and who you want to be your preceptor. It is essential to submit your information to your advisors as soon as possible so you can find replacement sites/preceptors if needed.
3. You need to know how to be an effective communicator. A career in leadership means you must communicate with people from various backgrounds with diverse education levels. Successful DNP in Leadership students have a solid foundation of effective communication skills. If your leadership/management experience is somewhat lacking, or if you find communicating with others a struggle, you should learn to develop these skills before enrolling in a DNP-Leadership program.
4. What kind of work do you want to do after graduation? There are several concentration options for online DNP-Leadership programs. Knowing the type of leadership role you want and the setting you prefer to work in will help you choose the right leadership concentration.
5. How will you meet the financial obligations of the program? Doctorate degrees are not cheap. It is essential to plan for tuition and other school-related expenses. If you plan to apply for grants or loans, do it beforehand, so you know how much, if any, out-of-pocket costs you will have.
6. Last but certainly not least, know your "Why." There will be days when you feel like there isn’t enough time to get your schoolwork complete or when you don’t score as well on a test as you had hoped. Times like that can be discouraging for anyone. It’s important to remind yourself why you have chosen this career path and what you expect to gain from it. On days that are harder than others, think about the things you will be able to accomplish after graduating and keep pressing forward!


1. Duke University - Durham, NC

Programs Offered: DNP

Concentrations Offered: Executive Leadership

2. Emory University - Atlanta, GA

Programs Offered: BSN to DNP and MSN to DNP

Concentrations Offered: Health Systems Leadership

3. University of Washington - Seattle, WA

Programs Offered: DNP

Concentrations Offered: Population Health & Systems Leadership

4. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill - Chapel Hill, NC

Programs Offered: BSN to DNP

Concentrations Offered: Health Care Leadership & Administration

5. University of Pittsburgh - Pittsburgh, PA

Programs Offered: DNP

Concentrations Offered: Health Systems Executive Leadership

6. University of Arizona - Tucson, AZ

Programs Offered: DNP

Concentrations Offered: Executive Health Systems Leadership

7. University of San Francisco - San Francisco, CA

Programs Offered: DNP

Concentrations Offered: Executive Leadership and Population Health Leadership

8. Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis - Indianapolis, IN

Programs Offered: DNP

Concentrations Offered: Executive Leadership

9. University of Illinois at Chicago - Chicago, IL

Programs Offered: DNP

Concentrations Offered: Health Systems Leadership

10. Yale University - West Haven, CT

Programs Offered: MSN to DNP

Concentrations Offered: Health Care Leadership, Systems, & Policy

11. University of Michigan - Flint, MI

Programs Offered: DNP

Concentrations Offered: Executive Leadership

12. University of Minnesota - Minneapolis, MN

Programs Offered: DNP

Concentrations Offered: Health Innovation and Leadership

13. East Tennessee State University - Johnson City, TN

Programs Offered: BSN to DNP and MSN to DNP

Concentrations Offered: Executive Leadership

14. University of Pennsylvania - Philadelphia, PA

Programs Offered: MSN to DNP

Concentrations Offered: Executive Leadership

15. University of Utah - Salt Lake City, UT

Programs Offered: MSN to DNP

Concentrations Offered: Organizational Leadership

16. Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey - Newark, NJ

Programs Offered: BSN to DNP and MSN to DNP

Concentrations Offered: Leadership

17. East Carolina University - Greenville, NC

Programs Offered: MSN to DNP

Concentrations Offered: Leadership

18. Boise State University - Boise, ID

Programs Offered: DNP

Concentrations Offered: Leadership

19. University of Oklahoma - Oklahoma City, OK

Programs Offered: BSN to DNP

Concentrations Offered: Executive Leadership

20. DeSales University - Center Valley, PA

Programs Offered: DNP

Concentrations Offered: Clinical Leadership and Executive Leadership

21. Wilmington University - New Castle, DE

Programs Offered: DNP

Concentrations Offered: Leadership

22. University of New Mexico - Albuquerque, NM

Programs Offered: MSN to DNP

Concentrations Offered: Nurse Executive Organizational Leadership

23. University of Kentucky - Lexington, KY

Programs Offered:BSN-DNP and MSN-DNP

Concentrations Offered: Executive Leadership in Health Care

24. Grand Canyon University - Phoenix, AZ

Programs Offered: DNP

Concentrations Offered: Educational Leadership

25. Messiah College - Mechanicsburg, PA

Programs Offered: Post-Master’s DNP

Concentrations Offered: Nursing Leadership

View Ranking Methodology

Career Opportunities After Graduating with This Degree

Graduates of online DNP-Leadership programs can serve in a broad range of executive roles. The list below highlights only a few of the career opportunities available after graduating with this degree.

Patient Care Director: Supervises initiatives related to patient welfare, including policies, budgeting, and staff recruitment. The primary goal of patient care directors is to ensure safe, quality healthcare by leading interprofessional teams in the delivery of care.
Nursing Faculty: DNP in Leadership graduates are excellent candidates to fill positions created by the shortage of nursing faculty. Whether you work in the administrative part of a nursing program, teach in a classroom, or work as a clinical preceptor with a DNP in Leadership degree, you can significantly impact the future of nursing.
Chief Nursing Officer: Uses decision-making and leadership skills to effectively lower healthcare costs, manage patient outcomes, and meet regulatory standards.
Executive Nurse Leader: Designs and Manages patient care processes, creates facility budgets, collaborates with other healthcare professionals to resolve organizational issues

Earning Potential for Graduates of This Degree

After graduating from one of the accredited DNP in Leadership programs online, the average income, as reported by, is $115,944 annually, the equivalent of $55.74 hourly or $9,660 monthly. The amount of previous work experience, especially in leadership roles, job title, and responsibilities, are factors that may contribute to even more generous salary offers. Benefits packages may include insurance (life, medical, vision, and/or dental), paid vacation time, paid sick time, and stipends for continuing education. They are often worth several thousand dollars, making the overall earning potential an even more appealing reason to pursue a degree as a DNP in Leadership.

Hourly $55.74
Monthly $9,660
Annual $115,944

Job Outlook for Graduates of This Degree

Although the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics does not offer specific projections for DNP-Leadership positions, it does predict an eighteen percent increase in job openings for DNPs in general from 2018-2028. Other sources suggest the outlook for DNP-prepared nurses in leadership roles is expected to increase by twenty percent through 2026. The demand for nurses to fill DNP-leadership positions can be attributed to several factors. One significant reason, jobs for DNPs with leadership skills is necessary is people today are living longer lives and with them comes a broad range of acute and chronic illnesses. Having nurses who are Doctorally-prepared who can lead teams of healthcare professionals ensures patients have quality healthcare. Additionally, the lack of nursing faculty nationwide has resulted in potential nursing students being turned away rather than admitted to nursing programs. DNP nurse leaders can fill these roles and help prepare the next generation of nurses. The previously mentioned projections coupled with the need for qualified nurses to fill leadership roles, it appears there is a favorable outlook for job opportunities for graduates of the best online DNP-Leadership programs.

The Bottomline

If you are considering a career in nurse leadership, the best online DNP-Leadership programs for 2021 featured in this article are excellent resources to get started. With a Doctor of Nursing Practice-Leadership degree, you can impact healthcare delivery on many levels in diverse settings. If you have found the information in this article helpful, I encourage you to take the next step and begin applying to programs today and make your dream of becoming a nurse leader come true!


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

The amount of experience you may need before enrolling in any DNP program varies. Some programs, especially DNP-Leadership programs online, prefer candidates who have a few years of management/leadership experience. Each school determines its admission criteria, so be sure to confirm with the admissions faculty how much experience you need and what supporting documentation you need to verify it.

Do I need current licensure as an advanced practice registered nurse to enroll in an online DNP-Leadership program?

Admission criteria are at the discretion of the school offering a program. However, according to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, the Doctoral Essentials was written to assume that many DNP programs offer BSN to DNP options, which means an applicant who is not an APRN is allowed to apply for admission.

Is it better to enroll in an online DNP-Leadership program part-time if I need to continue working?

The decision to continue working is personal and can be influenced by many factors. If you feel the need to continue working while enrolled in the program, talk with academic advisors at the schools that interest you. Their experience with the program’s curriculum and expected student obligations will be helpful to you as you decide whether part-time or full-time enrollment is best for you.

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.