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10 Best Online MSN-to-DNP ACNP Programs – 2023


Written By: Darby Faubion BSN, RN

Are you a master’s prepared registered nurse considering earning a doctorate in nursing? Do you have an interest in acute care nursing? Does the idea of traveling to campus make you have second thoughts of going back to school to earn your degree? If so, an MSN-to-DNP ACNP program is an excellent option to consider.

Perhaps you have considered online ACNP programs but wonder, “What are the best online MSN-to-DNP ACNP programs?” In this article, I will address that question by sharing the 10 best online MSN-to-DNP ACNP programs in 2023. I will provide information about the top programs, including cost, curriculum, and clinical experiences, to help you decide if this path is one you want to pursue.


RECOMMENDED ONLINE DNP–NP PROGRAMS

WHAT EXACTLY IS THE GOAL OF AN ONLINE MSN-TO-DNP ACNP PROGRAM?


The goal of online MSN-to-DNP ACNP programs is to provide students with the resources and support necessary to become acute care nurse practitioners (ACNP) while providing a flexible learning environment. These programs aim to prepare students with the highest level of nursing education and the ability to integrate doctoral-level nursing knowledge and skills for the clinical care of acutely ill patients.



3 MAIN ADVANTAGES OF ONLINE MSN-TO-DNP ACNP PROGRAMS


There are many advantages to pursuing your degree through the best online MSN-to-DNP ACNP programs. The following three advantages are just a few reasons online MSN-to-DNP ACNP Programs are attractive for prospective students.

1. As an MSN-to-DNP ACNP graduate, you can earn an excellent income.

One of the most significant advantages of online MSN-to-DNP ACNP programs is the earning potential. The average starting salary for program graduates is more than $87,000 annually. With experience, and depending on where you work, your earning potential could increase significantly.

2. Excellent long-term job stability:

There will ways be people with health issues or injuries that require acute care. Because of the knowledge and skills you acquire in online MSN-to-DNP ACNP programs, you will benefit from entering a field with an excellent job outlook. In fact, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects an increase in jobs by more than 45% between 2021 and 2031.

3. You can positively impact patient care and outcomes.

Acute care nurse practitioners play a pivotal role in caring for patients in some of the most critical situations. When you pursue your degree through one of the top online MSN-to-DNP ACNP programs, you develop critical skills necessary to provide high-quality care. As a result, your care will promote positive patient outcomes.



2 MAIN DISADVANTAGES OF ONLINE MSN-TO-DNP ACNP PROGRAMS


As you search programs and make plans for your professional future, it is good to compare advantages and disadvantages to help you choose the path best for you. The following are a few disadvantages of online MSN-to-DNP ACNP programs to consider.

1. The job of an ACNP can be stressful.

As an Acute Care Nurse Practitioner, you will care for people with new conditions and those experiencing exacerbations of chronic health issues. Your role requires you to make urgent care decisions. You must work well under pressure, demonstrating a high level of professionalism even in the most stressful situations.

2. Earning your degree can be expensive.

The cost of online MSN-to-DNP ACNP programs vary, with some costing more than $200,000. While the income potential and long-term return on your investment are promising, if you are unprepared, the financial responsibility can feel overwhelming. Consider your options for programs carefully by comparing the cost of programs that interest you. Also, ask about scholarships and grant opportunities, which could help offset some of the expense of the program.



WHEN DO MSN-TO-DNP ACNP ONLINE PROGRAMS START?


Start dates for online MSN-to-DNP ACNP programs vary, depending on the school. Some programs offer multiple start dates or rolling admission, while others start once each year. As you research programs, be sure to note start times and application deadlines for each program that interests you. The following are examples of the start dates for some of our featured programs.

The University of Iowa admits students to its MSN to DNP Pediatric Nurse Practitioner Acute Care and Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner programs in the fall semester each year.

The University of Maryland offers two MSN to DNP ACNP tracks, the Pediatric Acute Care NP and Adult-Gerontology Acute Care NP/Adult-Gerontology Clinical Nurse Specialist tracks. Both programs begin in the fall semester yearly.

The University of Pittsburgh School of Nursing admits a fall cohort only for the Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner and Pediatric Acute Care Nurse Practitioner MSN to DNP programs.

Rush University Medical Center offers start dates in the summer and fall for its Adult-Gerontology and Pediatric ACNP programs.

The University of Arizona’s Adult-Gerontology online MSN-to-DNP ACNP program begins once a year in the fall.



HOW MANY CREDITS ARE THERE IN MSN-TO-DNP ACNP ONLINE PROGRAMS?


Each school offering MSN-to-DNP Acute Care Nurse Practitioner (ACNP) online programs establishes the curriculum for its programs. As such, the credits needed may vary from one school to another. Many programs require 50 to 80 credits. However, the actual credits you need may differ, depending on your previous degree and any transferable credits. The following are a few examples of the credit requirements for some of the best online MSN-to-DNP ACNP programs.

Wayne State University's online MSN-to-DNP ACNP programs require non-APRNs to complete 78 credit hours. APRNs pursuing the Pediatric ACNP degree must complete 43 credit hours.

At the University of Pittsburgh, students in the Adult-Gerontology and Pediatric MSN to DNP Acute Care Nurse Practitioner online programs must complete 72 credits, including coursework from their previous master’s program.

All MSN-to-DNP students complete 46 credits of post-MSN to DNP coursework at the University of Louisville. The Adult-Gerontology pathway requires an additional 14 credits, and the Pediatric ACNP path includes an additional 16 specialty-specific credits. So, you will earn 60 credits if you pursue the Adult-Gerontology ACNP program or 62 credits if you choose the Pediatric ACNP pathway.

The Adult-Gerontology ACNP program at the University of Maryland features an 84-credit hour curriculum. The Pediatric ACNP program requires students to complete 81 credits.

Students in both the Pediatric and Adult-Gerontology Acute Care NP programs at the University of Tennessee Health Sciences Center complete 58 credit hours. The curriculum includes 19 credits of DNP core coursework and 39 specialty-specific credits.



HOW LONG ARE MSN-TO-DNP ACNP ONLINE PROGRAMS?


The average length of an MSN-to-DNP ACNP online program can vary depending on the type and number of courses taken and the required clinical experience. Typically, a full-time student can expect to complete their MSN-to-DNP ACNP online program within two years, while part-time students may take up to three years or longer, depending on their course load and other commitments. Additionally, some universities offer accelerated options that allow students to complete their MSN-to-DNP ACNP in as little as 18 months.

The Georgia Baptist College of Nursing of Mercer University MSN-to-DNP Adult-Gerontology ACNP program can be completed in six semesters if you enroll full-time or eight semesters if you pursue the degree part-time.

The University of Iowa offers Pediatric and Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner (ACNP) MSN to DNP programs. Both pathways have three- or four-year study plans.

At the University of Maryland, you can complete the Adult-Gerontology MSN-to-DNP ACNP program in as little as three years. The Pediatric ACNP MSN-to-DNP pathway offers three-, four-, and five-year study options.

Rush University Medical Center offers an Adult-Gerontology MSN-to-DNP ACNP pathway that can be completed in two years full-time or three and a half years part-time. The school also offers a Pediatric ACNP pathway that can be completed in as little as two years. Part-time students typically take three to four years to complete the program.

At the University of Tennessee Health Science Center in Memphis, students in both the Adult-Gerontology and Pediatric ACNP programs can complete the program in two years of full-time study or three years as part-time students.



HOW MUCH DO MSN-TO-DNP ACNP ONLINE PROGRAMS COST?


The cost of completing an online MSN-to-DNP ACNP program can vary depending on the school, program requirements, and other factors such as paying in or out-of-state tuition. Costs range from $20,000 to more than $200,000. In addition to tuition, you need books, supplies, and uniforms. You also need a laptop or other device, webcam, and a good speaker. Below are a few examples of the cost of some of the nation's best MSN-to-DNP ACNP online programs.

At the University of Iowa, you can earn an MSN-to-DNP ACNP degree specializing in Adult-Gerontology or Pediatrics for $35,780 if you are a state resident. Non-resident students pay $54,752 to earn either degree.

Rush University Medical Center charges a per-credit tuition rate of $1,286. Students with a current APRN certification enrolled in the Adult-Gerontology ACNP pathway complete 38 credits, making their tuition $48,868. Non-APRNs complete 59 credits and pay an average of $75,874. Advanced Practice Registered Nurses pursuing the Pediatric ACNP program complete 29 credits and pay $37,294. Non-APRNs complete 56 credits and pay $72,016.

At Wayne State University, APRNs pursuing the Adult-Gerontology or Pediatric MSN-to-DNP ACNP complete 43 credits. Non-APRNs complete 78 credits. In-state students pay $557.74 per credit hour, and non-residents pay $1,222.58. Therefore, Advanced Practice Registered Nurses can earn either degree for approximately $23,982.82. Non-APRNs pay an average of $95,361.24.

Tuition at the University of Louisville is $43,610 per academic year for residents and $66,240 for non-residents. Most students complete the program in two to three years of part-time study. Therefore, the cost of earning an MSN-to-DNP ACNP degree costs between $87,220 and $130,830 for state residents and $132,480 to $198,720 for out-of-state students.

The University of Tennessee Health Science Center calculates nursing tuition per academic year. Students typically complete the MSN-to-DNP programs in two years. In-state students can anticipate paying approximately $78,684, while out-of-state students pay an average of $80,484. This rate is calculated with a two-year completion time and includes tuition, fees, room and board, books and supplies, transportation, and miscellaneous expenses.



WHAT ARE THE ADMISSION REQUIREMENTS FOR ONLINE MSN-TO-DNP ACNP PROGRAMS?


Online MSN-to-DNP Acute Care Nurse Practitioner programs are designed to empower nurses with the skills, knowledge, and expertise needed to provide excellent care in acute and critical care settings. Although admission criteria may vary among schools, the general criteria are similar. Candidates are expected to have a Master of Science in Nursing earned at an accredited nursing school, typically one year of relevant nursing experience, and a current, unrestricted license to practice as a registered nurse. Examples of the admission requirements at some of the top MSN-to-DNP online ACNP programs include the following.

To be considered for admission into the University of Pittsburgh MSN-to-DNP program, you must have a Master of Science in Nursing degree and an active, unencumbered license to practice as a registered nurse. You must provide official academic transcripts from all undergraduate and graduate education, official GRE scores, and three letters of professional recommendation. Additionally, candidates must prepare and submit a personal essay discussing their nursing philosophy and professional goals and a current CV or resume.

The University of Tennessee Health Science Center requires applicants to the Adult-Gerontology and Pediatric MSN-to-DNP ACNP programs to have a Master of Science in Nursing earned at an accredited school of nursing and provide proof of an unencumbered RN license. You must submit official academic transcripts reflecting a minimum 3.2 GPA from previous college coursework, three letters of recommendation, and a personal essay. Viable candidates also participate in an admissions interview.

At the University of Iowa, candidates seeking admission to the online MSN-to-DNP Acute Care Nurse Practitioner program must have an MSN earned at an NLNAC- or CCNE-accredited nursing program and a minimum college GPA of 3.0. You should provide a copy of your current, unrestricted RN license and APRN certification and official transcripts from any college or university you attended. Candidates must complete an upper-level statistics course, provide a professional resume, and interview with program faculty.

Wayne State University requires applicants for the MSN-to-DNP ACNP pathways to provide copies of all post-graduate certifications and licenses and a copy of an unencumbered RN license. You must submit official college transcripts and a current resume or curriculum vitae, participate in an admission interview, and complete a college-level Statistics course with at least a “B.”

Prospective students applying to the MSN-to-DNP ACNP programs at Arizona State University must fulfill admission criteria for both the Graduate College and Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation. Candidates must have a master’s in nursing earned at a regionally accredited nursing school and a minimum 3.0 grade point average for the master’s degree program. Applicants must submit official transcripts from all colleges or universities attended, three letters of professional recommendation, a professional resume, a goal statement, and proof of English proficiency.



WHAT KIND OF COURSES WILL YOU TAKE IN ONLINE MSN-TO-DNP ACNP PROGRAMS?


The coursework for online MSN-to-DNP ACNP programs varies, depending on your population focus. Coursework typically includes DNP core classes and specialty-specific courses. The following are examples of classes you will take in some of this article’s featured programs.

At the University of Iowa, students in the MSN-to-DNP ACNP program take classes, including Advanced Physiology/Pathophysiology Across the Lifespan, Advanced Diagnostic & Therapeutic Procedures for Acute Care, Health & Health Disparities, and Health Economics & Policy Evaluation of Nursing Care for Vulnerable Populations. The Adult-Gerontology pathway includes classes such as Management of Neurological, Endocrine, & Musculoskeletal Problems and Management of Cardiopulmonary & Renal Problems. Pediatric ACNP students take Advanced Pediatric Pharmacology, Pathophysiology, Clinical Care & Management of Pediatric Patients.

The Adult-Gerontology ACNP program offered at the University of Pittsburgh includes Applied Statistics for Evidence-Based Practice, Human Genetics & Clinical Applications, Organizational & Systems Management for Healthcare, and Ethics in Healthcare. The Pediatric ACNP pathway offers a curriculum with classes including Family Theory for Nurse Practitioners: Principles, Implications & Application Across the Lifespan, Clinical Diagnostics, and Financial, Business, & Economics Drivers in Healthcare Management.

The University of Arizona offers a 67-credit Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner program. In this program, you will take classes such as Adult-Gerontology: Diagnosis & Management of Chronic & Acute Illness, Adult-Gerontology Traumatic Injury & Emergent Illness, Advanced Practice Nursing Issues in the Care of Older Adults, Health Informatics: Theory & Practice, Advanced Pharmacotherapeutics, and Pharmacology in Acute Care.

The University of Maryland offers Adult-Gerontology and Pediatric ACNP MSN-to-DNP options. The Adult-Gerontology pathway includes the classes Diagnosis & Management: Acute & Chronic Complex Conditions, Integration of Multiple Health Problems & Complex Clinical Syndromes, and Biostatistics for Evidence-Based Practice. The Pediatric ACNP MSN-to-DNP program features classes, including Advanced Pediatric Pathophysiology, Developmental Assessment & Health Promotion, and Diagnostic Reasoning.

At Rush University, students in the Adult-Gerontology ACNP MSN-to-DNP program study Quality & Safety for the Aging Adult, Pharmacotherapeutics in Acute Care, and Healthcare Economics, Policy & Finance. The Pediatric ACNP pathway includes the classes Advanced Primary Care of the Child, Applied Pharmacology in Pediatric Care, and Diagnostics for the Advanced Practice Registered Nurse.



WHAT KIND OF PRACTICAL TRAINING WILL YOU UNDERGO IN ONLINE MSN-TO-DNP ACNP PROGRAMS?


All accredited nursing programs include a clinical component. Per guidelines established by the American Association of Colleges of Nurses and outlined in the Essentials of Doctoral Education for Advanced Practice Nursing, all DNP students must complete at least 1,000 post-baccalaureate clinical hours. Most schools perform a GAP analysis to determine how many clinical hours from your previous degree are transferable and establish a clinical practice plan. The following are some examples of the clinical requirements for some featured MSN-to-DNP ACNP online programs.

At Arizona State University, students in the MSN-to-DNP Adul-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner program complete 1,125 clinical and residency hours. 585 hours are earned through clinical practicum work, and 540 hours are completed in the clinical residency course. Program administrators work with you to arrange clinical sites and locate appropriate preceptors as close to your geographical area as possible.

Students at the University of Iowa pursuing the Pediatric or Adult-Gerontology ACNP MSN-to-DNP program complete a minimum of 1,090 clinical hours relevant to their chosen specialty. The university offers clinical placement assistance to students to secure clinical sites and preceptors.

The University of Pittsburgh offers students the opportunity to gain clinical experience in some of the country’s most renowned healthcare facilities. Students in both the Adult-Gerontology and Pediatric ACNP MSN-to-DNP programs complete more than 1,200 preceptor-supervised clinical hours. You may identify clinical sites and preceptors and submit approval requests to the university’s clinical coordinator.

At the University of Maryland, MSN-to-DNP ACNP students complete a minimum of 1,000 post-baccalaureate clinical hours. Clinical faculty use a GAP analysis to determine the number of credits each student needs. Although you may forward clinical site and preceptor requests to your clinical coordinator, you are not required to locate your own sites or preceptors.

Wayne State University offers Adult-Gerontology and Pediatric Acute Care Nurse Practitioner MSN-to-DNP programs. Both programs include at least 1,000 clinical practice hours. The university offers the assistance of clinical faculty to determine appropriate clinical sites and preceptors relevant to your chosen specialty.



WHAT ARE THE BEST ONLINE MSN-TO-DNP ACNP PROGRAMS IN THE NATION?


(The following are the 10 Best Online MSN-to-DNP ACNP Programs in the nation for the year 2023.)


1. University of Iowa - Iowa City, IA


Specialties Offered:

Adult/Gerontology Nurse Practitioner (Acute Care) and Pediatric Nurse Practitioner (Acute Care)


2. University of Maryland - Baltimore, MD


Specialties Offered:

Pediatric Acute Care Nurse Practitioner and Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner / Adult-Gerontology Clinical Nurse Specialist


3. University of Pittsburgh - Pittsburgh, PA


Specialties Offered:

Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner and Pediatric Acute Care Nurse Practitioner


4. Rush University Medical Center - Chicago, IL


Specialties Offered:

Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner and Acute Care Pediatric Nurse Practitioner


5. University of Tennessee Health Science Center - Memphis, TN


Specialties Offered:

Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner and Pediatric Acute Care Nurse Practitioner


6. University of Arizona - Tucson, AZ


Specialties Offered:

Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner and Pediatric Nurse Practitioner - Acute Care


7. Wayne State University - Detroit, MI


Specialties Offered:

Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner and Pediatric Nurse Practitioner - Acute Care


8. Arizona State University - Phoenix, AZ


Specialties Offered:

Acute Care Pediatric Nurse Practitioner


9. University of Louisville - Louisville, KY


Specialties Offered:

Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner and Pediatric Acute Care Nurse Practitioner


10. Georgia Baptist College of Nursing of Mercer University - Atlanta, GA


Specialties Offered:

Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner


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WHAT STARTING SALARY CAN NEW GRADUATES OF THIS PROGRAM EXPECT?


New graduates of MSN-to-DNP ACNP online programs earn an average of $87,510. This pay equals $42.07 per hour, $7,290 per month, or $1,683 per week.

Hourly$42.07
Weekly$1,683
Monthly$7,290
Annual$87,510



WHAT AVERAGE SALARY CAN GRADUATES OF MSN-TO-DNP ACNP ONLINE PROGRAMS EXPECT?


The average annual salary for ACNP’s who have graduated from online MSN-to-DNP Acute Care Nurse Practitioner programs is $129,980. The yearly pay equals $62.49 hourly, $2,500 weekly, or $10,830 monthly.

Hourly$62.49
Weekly$2,500
Monthly$10,830
Annual$129,980



10-YEAR JOB OUTLOOK FOR GRADUATES OF MSN-TO-DNP ACNP ONLINE PROGRAMS


The job outlook for acute care nurse practitioners (ACNPs) over the next 10 years is extremely positive. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment in this field is expected to grow by 45.68% from 2021-2031, much faster than the average for all occupations. This means when you graduate from online MSN-to-DNP ACNP programs, you should find employment easily.

2021-31
+45.68%
(Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics)



MY FINAL THOUGHTS


Becoming an Acute Care Nurse Practitioner is both rewarding and challenging. It is an excellent way for RNs to progress in their career and become leaders in acute care. If you are a master’s prepared registered nurse considering earning a doctorate and specializing as an acute care nurse practitioner, it is natural to wonder, “What are the best online MSN-to-DNP ACNP programs?” Once you weigh the pros and cons of earning a DNP and becoming an ACNP, the next step is to find the right school or program. The 10 best online MSN-to-DNP ACNP programs for 2023 featured in this article offer excellent learning opportunities to help you achieve your academic and professional goals. So, if you have been considering enrolling in an online MSN-to-DNP ACNP program - now is the time! Great opportunities await you with this advanced degree, so start exploring them today.


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).