DNP PROGRAM FINDER
Nursingprocess.org 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 Programs for 2021


Written By: Editorial Staff @ NursingProcess.org

The nursing profession is in the midst of a transformation. Over the past five decades, nurses have evolved from physicians’ handmaids into true patient care specialists. As nurses’ roles and responsibilities have changed to meet new quality standards in clinical care, so has their education. In 2004, the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) created a new non-research clinical doctorate for advanced practice nurses, which the AACN dubbed the Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree. As of 2019, there were 357 DNP programs in the U.S. from which 7,944 nurses have graduated.

There are many DNP programs online. The guide below has been designed to inform you about the best online DNP programs for 2021.


What Exactly Is the Goal Behind Offering the Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) Degree Program?


The AACN explicitly intends the DNP degree to become the standard level of educational preparation for advanced practice nurses. Presently, most advanced practice nurses—a category that includes nurse practitioners, clinical nurse specialists, nurse-midwives, and nurse anesthetists—hold master’s degrees. Often, however, these master’s degree programs carry a credit load that is commensurate with those of the doctoral degrees awarded in other health-related professions such as medicine, dentistry, and pharmacology. With a doctorate-level degree, advanced practice nurses will be on a par with the other professionals facing the challenges of America’s complex healthcare system.


8 Reasons Why DNP Programs Online Are Worth It?


DNP online programs have many advantages in terms of flexibility, convenience, and cost. Here’s a closer look at eight of those advantages.

1. Increased access to education: When you enroll in one of the many available online DNP schools, geography need no longer be a determining factor in your choice of school because you can pursue an online degree from anywhere. All you require to do your coursework is an internet connection.
2. More successful learning: Distance learning can actually be more effective than classroom learning. In 2010, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Planning conducted research in which distance educational venues were compared to face-to-face educational venues. Distance educational venues came out on top in most categories.
3. Scheduling flexibility: When you complete your DNP online, you can continue working if you need to because you are not expected to show up in class at a particular time. Your relationships with family members and friends won’t be interrupted.
4. Studying flexibility: You can proceed through materials at your own pace, spending more time on topics that are challenging to you and less time on subjects with which you already have some familiarity.
5. Affordability: The tuition you pay to earn an online degree is probably in the same ballpark as the tuition you pay to earn a campus degree. You won’t have to cover commuting expenses, though, or childcare expenses if you’re a parent, and those types of costs can add up fast.
6. Networking opportunities: An online DNP program is truly a global village. You’ll make virtual connections with classmates, professors and healthcare experts from all over the U.S. and possibly even the world. In contrast, a DNP program that’s tied to a particular campus location will only be able to familiarize you with a much smaller cross-section of new acquaintances.
7. Accelerated learning opportunities: Many Doctor of Nursing Practice online programs can be completed in two years or less.
8. Clinical rotations: As an online DNP student, you’ll have more autonomy in choosing your clinical experiences because you will be doing more of the groundwork in setting them up. You can reach out to the healthcare facilities that interest you the most in the area where you live. You can even petition to do your required clinical hours at the facility where you currently work, possibly paving the way for future professional opportunities.


Who Accredits Online DNP Programs and Why Is Accreditation Important?


Before you enroll in one of the existing online DNP programs, make sure to verify that the program is accredited by either the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN) or the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education. Both these organizations are recognized by the U.S. Department of Education. Nurse Anesthesia DNP programs within the U.S. and Puerto Rico are accredited by the Council on Accreditation of Nurse Anesthesia Educational Programs (COA), while midwifery DNP programs are overseen by the Accreditation Commission for Midwifery Education (ACME).

Think of accreditation as a preemptive quality assurance process: Accreditation ensures that the DNP program you enroll in adheres to the high standards developed by the accrediting agency. This means its curriculum meets rigorous qualifications so that prospective employers can access your suitability for open positions they need to fill. It also means that the program is financially stable so that you will not lose the monetary investment you’ve made in your education.



What Are the Different Types of Online DNP Degree Specialization Options?


Based on your area of interest you can earn your DNP degree in either one of the following APRN and Non APRN Specialty area:

1. Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner (AGACNP): Adult-gerontology acute care nurse practitioners provide care to adults and senior citizens, most often after these patients have been hospitalized with acute, critical or chronic conditions.
2. Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner (AGPCNP): Adult-gerontology primary care nurse practitioners provide basic healthcare to adults and senior citizens in the general population. They diagnose and treat illnesses, guide prevention efforts and promote wellness.
3. Certified Nurse Midwife (CNM): Certified nurse midwives specialize in childbirth. Many are also primary care providers in the realm of female reproductive health, performing annual exams, writing prescriptions and counseling.
4. Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA): Certified registered nurse anesthetists administer anesthesia to patients during surgical procedures.
5. Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS): Clinical nurse specialists help design and implement healthcare interventions. Frequently, they provide support for institutional nurses who are caring for patients at the bedside.
6. Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP): Family nurse practitioners provide primary and preventative healthcare to children and families, typically in conjunction with a family care practice.
7. Neonatal Nurse Practitioner (NNP): Neonatal nurse practitioners are specialists in the care of premature babies and other infants who have complex health issues. They typically work in neonatal intensive care units.
8. Pediatric Acute Care Nurse Practitioner (PACNP): Pediatric acute care nurse practitioners care for children from infancy to early adulthood, usually in a hospital or pediatric intensive care unit setting.
9. Pediatric Primary Care Nurse Practitioner (PPCNP): Pediatric primary care nurse practitioners manage minor injuries and illnesses in children, generally in a private practice or school setting. Additionally, they provide wellness promotion and preventative services.
10. Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (PMHNP): Psychiatric mental health nurse practitioners assess, diagnose and treat patients with mental health issues.
11. Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner (WHNP): Women’s health nurse practitioners specialize in providing healthcare to women of every age.

Online DNP programs are also open to the following three specialties, which are not classified as advanced practice nursing specialties:

1. Nursing Administrator: Nursing administrators are advanced practice nurses who are trained to oversee the work of other nurses.
2. Nurse Educator: Nurse educators know how to train nurses in the skills nurses need in order to perform their jobs safely and effectively. Nurse educators can teach in universities as well as in hospital-based settings.
3. Nursing Informatics: Nursing informatics specialists help facilitate the identification, integration and management of healthcare-related data.


How Long Are Online DNP Programs?


The best online DNP programs vary in length according to the school you choose, the academic pathway you enroll in and whether you attend on a part-time or full-time basis. The defining factor is typically the number of credits you’re responsible for completing, however, rather than an arbitrary interval of time. Most BSN to DNP programs entail 65 to 95 classroom credits. Assuming that a full-time academic course load is 12 credits a semester and that there are two semesters to a school year, it will take a full-time student three to four years (36 to 48 months) to complete his or her degree. A part-time student may take as long as seven years (84 months.) Duke University’s BSN to DNP program, for example, involves 74 credits, which should take most full-time students three years to finish. Johns Hopkins University’s BSN to DNP programs, on the other hand, are geared to length: the university offers both a three-year and four-year BSN to DNP curriculum.

If you already have an MSN, it will take you a much shorter period of time to earn your DNP. Some “executive” (accelerated) programs may allow you to finish your education in as little as a year (12 months) while others may take as long as four years (48 months.) Shorter MSN to DNP programs may reflect the fact that the classroom component associated with their advanced practice RN training has already been completed during MSN studies. Ohio State University offers a 37-credit post-master’s track that full-time students can complete in two years, including summers. The MSN to DNP program at the Medical University of South Carolina can be completed in four semesters of full-time study or eight semesters of part-time study.

PathwayLength
BSN to DNP36 to 84 Months
MSN to DNP12 to 48 Months


How Much Do Online DNP Programs Cost?


Online DNP schools vary in cost, depending upon their location, the pathway you select, and whether the school you choose is a private or state-subsidized institution. UMass, Amherst—a state school—charges $750 per credit in addition to a $47 non-refundable registration fee every semester. Private Georgetown University, on the other hand, charges $2,065 per credit hour with a non-refundable Student Activities fee of $16.

The cost of an MSN to DNP program can range anywhere from $17,660 to $169,510 while the cost of a (longer) BSN to DNP program can range anywhere between $26,490 - $254,260. One year’s tuition at Johns Hopkins University will set you back nearly $50,000. Ohio State University gives state residents a significant discount: Ohio residents will pay approximately $25,000 tuition during a single year while out-of-state residents will pay closer to $60,000. Sound steep? It is. Remember, though, that a DNP is a significant investment in your future that will result in far higher earnings throughout your professional career.

PathwayTuition Cost
BSN to DNP>$26,490 - $254,260
MSN to DNP$17,660 - $169,510


Coursework


The best DNP programs online require certain general courses before students move on to specialized classes in their specialty area. These general courses emphasize key areas like health policy and advocacy, healthcare economics, biostatistics, epidemiology, healthcare informatics, and bioethics. Every online DNP program has its own unique priorities, but all accredited programs must adhere to the AACN’s standards for basic DNP education.

Thereafter, your courses will delve more deeply into your individual clinical specialty. In addition to the prerequisite 1,000 hours of clinical study, most online DNP programs also entail the completion of a capstone assignment in a student’s chosen specialty, which can be a research project, a pilot study, or a quality improvement plan. Many of the best online DNP programs also involve campus components at least once every semester. These campus meetups can include orientations, face-to-face intensives, seminars, and advisory sessions.


Clinical Training Requirements


As noted above, 1,000 post-BSN clinical practicum hours are required in order to graduate from a DNP program. If you’ve already completed an MSN before you apply to one of the best online DNP programs, those hours can be counted toward your DNP requirement.

Most universities have clinical affiliation agreements with medical facilities in their general location, which facilitate the placement of clinical rotations. Should you choose to do your practicums close to the educational institution where you’re enrolled, you can take advantage of these partnerships.

Prospective DNP students who are taking advantage of distance learning programs, however, may prefer to schedule clinical rotations closer to where they live. If this is the case for you, basically it will be your responsibility to set up your clinical rotation. Your DNP program will be prepared to offer you whatever support you need in terms of follow-up such as making sure all potential clinical preceptors have the right professional qualifications, but in all likelihood, you will be the one initially reaching out.


Admission Requirements


Online DNP programs are highly competitive. If you are applying to a BSN to DNP program, you must have a bachelor’s degree in nursing from an accredited program. Post-master’s DNP candidates must have a master’s degree in nursing from an accredited MSN program, but many programs such as Duke and Johns Hopkins will accept you into the MSN to DNP track even if your undergraduate degree is not in nursing.

Many online DNP programs will require you to have at least one year of professional experience. Make sure the resume or curriculum vitae you submit with your application form is well crafted. Ohio State University and the University of Pittsburgh both require a cumulative grade point average of at least 3.0 or higher. Most online DNP schools require three letters of recommendation: two professional and one academic. You will also need to have official transcripts sent from all your post-secondary schools, and you will need to draft a personal statement that specifically addresses your professional commitment to the field of nursing. Some online DNP programs may require more than one personal essay.


How to Pay for Online DNP Programs?


There’s no getting around it: A DNP education is pricey. It will increase both the salary and satisfaction you earn from your future jobs, however. Still, you need to make sure you have a plan in place before you start to help you deal with all the costs of your DNP education.

Distance learning will help you save money right off the bat by eliminating commuting and relocation costs. Filling out a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) may make you eligible for grants, loans, and other types of financial aid from federal and state governments. You may also be eligible for graduate student loans from private financial institutions although keep in mind that the interest rates on these are typically higher than interest rates on federal- and state-backed student loans.

Don’t hesitate to approach your current employer to explore any educational perks they may offer. Many workplaces will contribute to an employee’s tuition in exchange for the employee’s promise to work there for a period of time after he or she obtains their degree. Online schools also employ teaching assistants, and you may qualify for a fellowship that involves teaching BSN or MSN students. A number of private and public organizations offer merit-based and needs-based scholarships, and the schools you’re applying to may as well. Finally, you may be able to take the American Opportunity Tax Credit, which will put you in line for a credit on your 1040 of up to $2,500.


8 Things You Need to Do to Get Accepted into Top Online DNP Schools


Interest in online DNP programs is high, but DNP programs only accept a handful of students every admissions cycle. Here are some tips on making the cut.

1. Select your clinical specialty carefully: Think about the patient populations you’ve worked with as a nurse and the type of work setting that you enjoy the most. This information will provide important clues about which of the 14 DNP specialties you should choose to pursue in conjunction with your degree.
2. Research DNP online programs: There may be many online DNP programs that can provide you with a quality education in your specialty area, but you’re likely to have other criteria for your choice as well such as cost, course schedules and the program’s overall reputation. Do your homework. Only apply to schools that stand up to your vetting process.
3. Apply to your favorite schools as early as possible: DNP classes are small. Once a class of candidates has been chosen, the admissions process is over no matter what the dates on the admissions application may read. Begin the application process as soon as possible, and make sure you’re able to fulfill all application requirements.
4. Review the status of your prerequisites: Typically, the basic classes needed for admission into a DNP program must be taken within the five-year period before the program begins. If you took that organic chemistry class six years ago, you may have to retake it. Review the guidelines for prerequisites before you apply.
5. Choose your references wisely: Your letters of recommendation can make you or break you. Make sure your references are from people who you know well and whom you can trust to speak to your strengths.
6. If your application requires the GRE, prepare for it: Many DNP programs do not require the Graduate Record Exam (GRE), but for those that do, it’s an important factor in the admissions decision. If you need to take the GRE, consider taking a prep course.
7. Spend time crafting your personal statement: Your personal statement is your chance to showcase your strengths and stand out from other applicants. Make sure to write about what contributions you hope to make to the field of nursing with your DNP degree as well as why you’re interested in the field.
8. Practice interview techniques: Many schools require an interview, either over the phone or through tele-conferencing. Make sure you’re prepared to communicate your strengths confidently and proactively.



FOLLOWING ARE THE 11 BEST ONLINE DNP PROGRAMS IN THE NATION FOR 2021


1) University of Arizona - Tucson, AZ


Programs Offered:DNP

DNP Concentrations: Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner, Executive Health Systems Leadership, Family Nurse Practitioner, Nurse Anesthesia, Pediatric Nurse Practitioner, Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner, Nursing Informatics, and Nursing Practice



2) Ohio State University - Columbus, OH


Programs Offered: BSN to DNP and MSN to DNP

BSN to DNP Concentrations: Family Nurse Practitioner, Neonatal Nurse Practitioner, and Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner

MSN to DNP Concentrations: Clinical Expert Doctorate and Nurse Executive Doctorate



3) Duke University - Durham, NC


Programs Offered: BSN to DNP and MSN to DNP

BSN to DNP Concentrations: Adult-Gerontology Nurse Practitioner-Acute Care, Adult-Gerontology Nurse Practitioner-Primary Care, Family Nurse Practitioner, Neonatal Nurse Practitioner, Pediatric Nurse Practitioner-Acute Care, Pediatric Nurse Practitioner-Primary Care, Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner, Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner, Nursing & Health Care Leadership, Nursing Education, and Health Informatics

MSN to DNP:



4) Johns Hopkins University - Baltimore, MD


Programs Offered: Advanced Practice Track and Executive Track

Advanced Practice Concentrations: Adult-Gerontological Acute Care NP, Adult-Gerontological Primary Care NP, Family Primary Care NP, Pediatric Primary Care NP, Pediatric Dual Primary/Acute Care Nurse Practitioner, Nurse Anesthesiology, Adult-Gerontological Health CNS, Adult-Gerontological Critical Care CNS and Pediatric Critical Care CNS

Executive Track:



5) University of Utah - Salt Lake City, UT


Programs Offered: DNP

DNP Concentrations: Neonatal Nurse Practitioner, Nurse Midwifery, Primary Care Nurse Practitioner, Psychiatric/Mental Health Nurse Practitioner, and Women's Health Nurse Practitioner



6) University of Massachusetts - Amherst, MA


Programs Offered: BSN to DNP and MSN to DNP

BSN to DNP Concentrations: Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP), Adult/Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner (AGPCNP), Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (PMHNP), and Public Health Nurse Leader (PHNL)

MSN to DNP:



7) Drexel University - Philadelphia, PA


Programs Offered: DNP



8) University of Pittsburgh - Pittsburgh, PA


Programs Offered: MSN to DNP Adult-Gerontology Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS), MSN to DNP Nurse Practitioner, CRNA MSN to DNP Nurse Anesthesia, and Health Systems Executive Leadership

MSN to DNP Adult-Gerontology Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS):

MSN to DNP Nurse Practitioner Concentrations: Adult-Gerontology Acute Care, Adult-Gerontology Primary Care, Family (individual Across the Lifespan), Neonatal, Pediatric Primary Care, and Psychiatric Mental Health

CRNA MSN to DNP Nurse Anesthesia:

Health Systems Executive Leadership:



9) Medical University of South Carolina - Charleston, SC


Programs Offered: BSN to DNP and MSN to DNP

BSN to DNP Concentrations: Adult-Gerontology, Pediatric, Family, and Psychiatric Mental Health

MSN to DNP Concentrations: Adult-Gerontology, Pediatric, Family, and Psychiatric Mental Health



10) Georgetown University - Washington, DC


Programs Offered: DNP (BSN to DNP and MSN to DNP)

BSN to DNP Concentrations: Adult Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner (AG-ACNP), Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP), Dual Nurse-Midwifery/Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner (NM/WHNP), and Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner (WHNP)

MSN to DNP:



11) Yale University - New Haven, CT


Programs Offered: DNP

Concentrations: Health Care Leadership, Systems, & Policy and Clinical DNP



View Ranking Methodology



What Kind of Career Opportunities Exist for DNP Graduates?


Nursing is one of the most in-demand jobs in the U.S., and as a DNP, you will be at the top of the nursing ladder. Many DNP-prepared nurses go on to leadership positions either as healthcare administrators or as clinical specialists. As a healthcare administrator, you will be well-qualified to become a top executive at a hospital, a private practice, or a long-term care facility. As a patient care specialist, you will oversee the provision of high-quality patient care in those same settings.

Many DNP-prepared RNs join nursing school faculties where they oversee the educational experiences of future generations of nurses. Others join the faculties of universities as clinical researchers, intent upon generating findings that will improve health outcomes both inside and outside the hospital setting. Still others find work with federal, state or local governments, or as lobbyists working on behalf of insurance companies, pharmaceutical corporations, and other private sector businesses that want to change the state of healthcare laws and regulations.


Average Earnings For DNP-Trained Nurses


The earnings of DNP-trained nurses vary by specialty. The most highly paid DNP specialist is the certified registered nurse anesthetist; on average, these professionals make $172,727 a year. Psychiatric mental health nurse practitioners and pediatric primary care nurse practitioners are the second-highest earners with average wages that top $113,000 a year. Neonatal nurse practitioners bring home salaries of nearly $112,000 a year.

Pediatric acute care nurse practitioners make $103,297 annually while their adult-gerontology acute care nurse practitioner counterparts make $105,902. Adult-gerontology primary care nurse practitioners make $110,605 a year.

Certified nurse-midwives and women’s health nurse practitioners, trained in the two specialties that focus on female health, earn yearly salaries in the general range of $101,000.

DNP-prepared nurses who do not train in the advanced practice clinical specialties tend to earn significantly less. Nursing administrators earn slightly more than $79,000 a year while nurse educators earn $88,000 and nursing informatics specialists earn slightly more than $90,000. It would be tempting to attribute this pay differential to the fact that more of these professionals work in institutionalized healthcare settings except for the fact that clinical nurse specialists also work primarily in a hospital setting, and these specialists earn more than $106,000 a year. Of course, clinical nurse specialists are also advanced practice nurses.

APRN Specializations Per Hour Per Year
1 Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner (AGACNP) $50.91 $105,902
2 Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner (AGPCNP) $53.18 $110,605
3 Certified Nurse Midwife (CNM) $48.19 $100,244
4 Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA) $83.04 $172,727
5 Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS) $51.05 $106,183
6 Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) $52.12 $108,412
7 Neonatal Nurse Practitioner (NNP) $53.84 $111,994
8 Pediatric Acute Care Nurse Practitioner (PACNP) $49.66 $103,297
9 Pediatric Primary Care Nurse Practitioner (PPCNP) $54.53 $113,417
10 Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (PMHNP) $54.35 $113,038
11 Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner (WHNP) $48.98 $101,885
Non-APRN Specializations Per Hour Per Year
1 Nursing Administrator $38.07 $79,193
2 Nurse Educator $42.33 $88,051
3 Nursing Informatics $43.38 $90,232
(Source: ziprecruiter.com)


Job Market For DNP-Trained Nurses


The job market for DNP-trained nurses is very strong. In 2018, the National Organization of Nurse Practitioner Faculties announced that the standard educational requirement for all entry-level nurse practitioner programs would shift from the Master of Science in Nursing to the Doctor of Nursing Practice by the year 2025. While current nurse practitioners who hold MSNs are likely to be grandfathered in, all nurses who are new to advanced practice nursing and interested in enhancing their skills will have to pursue the DNP degree.

Nurse practitioners, nurse anesthetists, and nurse midwives are among the most sought-after medical professionals. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, demand for their services is likely to go up by nearly 50 percent by the year 2030. As numerous studies have pointed out, nurse practitioners provide primary healthcare whose quality is equal to that provided by physicians but at a far lower cost. In the very near future, you will need a DNP if you wish to become a nurse practitioner.


Useful Organizations & Associations


DNP-prepared nurses can enhance their professional standing and networking opportunities through affiliations with the following organizations:

American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP): The American Association of Critical-Care Nurses is an organization for nurses who specialize in the treatment of patients with life-threatening illnesses and injuries. Its membership is not restricted to advanced practice nurses.
American College of Nurse-Midwives (ACNM): Certified midwives and certified nurse-midwives in the U.S. are represented by the American College of Nurse-Midwives. The ACNM sets professional standards for the practice of midwifery in the U.S.
American Nurses Association: The American Nurses Association is the premier professional organization for nurses. It works to uphold quality in individual nurse practice and to promote the health, safety and wellness of nurses in all practice environments.
American Society of PeriAnesthesia Nurses (ASPAN): The American Society of PeriAnesthesia Nurses represents nurses who work in all phases of pre-anesthesia and post-anesthesia care, ambulatory surgery, and pain management.
Emergency Nurses Association (ENA): The Emergency Nurses Association is a resource for nurses who work in emergency rooms.
American Nursing Informatics Association (ANIA): The American Nursing Informatics Association is a resource for nursing informatics specialists that provides educational and networking opportunities. Membership is open to individuals and corporations.
American Psychiatric Nurses Association: The American Psychiatric Nurses Association represents more than 14,500 RNS and advanced practice nurses who specialize in providing care to patients with mental health-related issues.
American Nephrology Nurses Association (ANNA): The American Nephrology Nurses Association is a resource for RNs and advanced practice nurses who work in peritoneal dialysis, hemodialysis, continuous renal replacement therapies and other sectors that impact the lives of patients with kidney disease.
Gerontological Advanced Practice Nurses Association (GAPNA): The Gerontological Advanced Practice Nurses Association represents the professional interests of nurse practitioners and other advanced practice nurses who care for the elderly.


Bottomline


Nurse practitioners who hold Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degrees are driving the transformation of the nursing profession. They are demonstrating on a daily basis that higher quality care can be delivered in a far more cost-effective fashion than is currently done. Once you graduate from one of the best online DNP programs, you, too, will be able to champion improvements in clinical care, healthcare technologies and wellness promotion, joining the ranks of leaders of the next generation of nurses.


Frequently Asked Questions Answered by Our Expert


Is DNP School Hard?

DNP programs are challenging. The DNP is a terminal degree after all, analogous to a Ph.D. only from a clinical rather than a research-oriented perspective. However, if you were able to pass the NCLEX exam to earn your RN, you’re more than capable of earning a DNP. The process will call upon all your determination, discipline, and organizational skills, though.

Do All Online DNP Degree Programs Have Clinicals?

Clinical rotations are an essential part of any online DNP program. The number of hours you will need to devote to clinical rotations during your online DNP program will depend upon whether or not you’re enrolled in the BSN to DNP or the MSN to DNP option. As discussed above, the American Academy of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) recommends that DNP students complete a minimum of 1,000 post-baccalaureate clinical practice hours. (A few schools even require more than that.) Most MSN to DNP programs will allow you to apply the hours you spent in MSN-related clinicals to your DNP clinical requirements.

As an online student, you’ll have more options to fulfill your clinical requirements at a hospital or medical facility that’s close to your home. Remember, however, that your online DNP program will have to approve the site as well as the qualifications of the professional you choose as preceptor.

Which is the Better Degree: A DNP or a Ph.D. in Nursing?

DNP and nursing Ph.D. programs have different goals. The former has been designed for professionals who are chiefly concerned with excellence in the clinical workplace while the latter has been designed for nurses who are interested in more theoretical research. It’s not a question of which is the better degree, in other words. It’s a matter of which particular academic path will support your unique learning objectives and career goals.

Are Online DNP Degree Programs Respected?

The best online DNP programs, such as the ones described in this article, are on a par with the best campus-based DNP programs in terms of the quality of their education, the prestige of their names, and the usefulness of their networking opportunities. That said, there can be a great deal of variability in the quality of online DNP schools.

How Can I Determine Whether an Online DNP Program Is Worthwhile?

Before you enroll in an online DNP program, make sure you perform all the necessary due diligence. It goes without saying that the school will need to be accredited. Take a look at your professors’ qualifications, too, especially their LinkedIn profiles. Check out the certification pass rates and employment numbers. If possible, try to speak with an alumnus of the school to try to ascertain how satisfied he or she was with the education provided. Attrition rates are another factor to keep an eye on; anything higher than 10 percent may be a red flag. If far fewer people graduate than initially enrolled, this may be an online DNP program that has serious issues with its teaching process.

How Many Online DNP-Nurse Practitioner Programs Are Currently Offered in the U.S.?

As of 2019, 239 online DNP-NP programs were enrolling students across the nation with many more online DNP-NP programs in the planning stages. One hundred and twenty-four of these programs utilize the BSN to DNP pathway; the remaining 115 utilize the MSN to DNP pathway. Fifty-six of the programs are completely online; the remaining 183 programs integrate campus elements with distance learning but offer more than 50 percent of their educational offerings online.

BSN to DNP MSN to DNP
Programs Offering 100% Online Education 22 34
Programs Offering 51% to 99% Online Education 102 81
Total 124 115
(Source: aanp.org)