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2022 Best Online Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) Degrees

By OnlineU Staff Writers | Updated 8/1/2022
2022 Best Online Doctoral Degrees in DNP Badge

A Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) is the highest clinical degree a nurse can earn. Online DNP programs are often designed for current nurses who wish to become an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN). Graduates can apply for positions in managerial and administrative roles to manage teams and design health care programs. Students can choose an APRN specialization or a non-APRN specialization, depending on post-graduate career goals. Students with a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) can usually complete the program within one to two years, while students with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) may take up to four years to complete an online DNP program.

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2022 Best Online Doctoral Degrees in DNP Badge
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Online DNP Doctoral Degrees You May Be Interested In

2022 Best Online Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) Degrees

RankSchool Salary Score Median Starting Salary
# 1 #1 Missouri State University 93 93 $168,518
# 2 #2 University of Kansas 91 $160,586
# 3 #3 University of Southern Mississippi 90 $157,573
# 4 #4 Murray State University 88 $154,842
# 5 #5 Drexel University 73 $126,366
# 6 #6 Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center 73 $126,301
# 7 #7 The University of Texas at Arlington 73 $125,276
# 8 #8 The George Washington University 72 $124,241
# 9 #9 Maryville University 71 $122,942
# 10 #10 University of Missouri - Kansas City 69 $120,212

2022 Online Colleges Offering Doctoral Degrees

Ranking Details

#1 Missouri State University

  • Salary Score: 93
  • Median Starting Salary: $168,518
  • Locations: Springfield (MO)
  • Accreditation: HLC

Missouri State University - Springfield (MSU) is a large, public institution that offers two online doctorate programs in nursing: (1) Doctor of Nurse Anesthesia Practice (CRNA to DNAP) and (2) DNP (Post-Masters to DNP). The first program, which takes 26 credit hours to complete, is designed for certified registered nurse anesthetists and requires online students to meet twice each semester. The latter program is entirely online, requiring 29 credit hours and 528 clinic rotation hours to complete.

At MSU, online students complete coursework — both synchronously and asynchronously — on Blackboard. Online student resources include tutoring, IT support, and career services. Both program requirements vary, though a master’s degree and a minimum 2.75 GPA are generally needed for admission.

#2 University of Kansas

  • Salary Score: 91
  • Median Starting Salary: $160,586
  • Locations: Lawrence (KS)
  • Accreditation: HLC

At the University of Kansas (KUMC), a large, public institution, students can pursue an online (1) DNP (Post Master’s), totaling 32 credits hours, or a (2) DNP (Post Bachelor’s), which varies by specialty tracks. The DNP (Post Master’s) program is for nurses within a nursing specialty who want to take their careers to the next level. The DNP (Bachelor’s) program has eight specialty tracks, including Family Nurse Practitioner and Public Health Nursing.

KUMC’s online students complete coursework both synchronously or asynchronously on Blackboard. Online student support includes a student success center and a library. Admission requirements vary between both programs. However, a bachelor’s or master’s degree, nursing license, background check, and a minimum 3.0 GPA are typically required.

#3 University of Southern Mississippi

  • Salary Score: 90
  • Median Starting Salary: $157,573
  • Locations: Hattiesburg (MS)
  • Accreditation: SACS COC

The University of Southern Mississippi (USM) is a public institution with a medium-sized student population. USM offers five online DNP programs based on their area of study interests. The DNP Family Nurse Practitioner (BSN to DNP) program is hybrid, with students completing coursework online and visiting the campus once every semester, plus clinical requirements at a local clinic.

At USM, online students complete coursework asynchronously or synchronously on the platform, Canvas. Online students at USM have access to a writing center, bookstore, student success center, and IT support. Each program has varying requirements, though a bachelor’s or master’s degree, official transcripts, and a nursing license are typically required for a DNP program.

#4 Murray State University

  • Salary Score: 88
  • Median Starting Salary: $154,842
  • Locations: Murray (KY)
  • Accreditation: SACS COC

Murray State University (MSU) is a medium-sized, public institution offering several online DNP programs. MSU’s DNP programs, which are all delivered in a hybrid format, include the following: (1) Family Nurse Practitioner-Baccalaureate (BSN) to DNP, (2) Nurse Anesthetist-Baccalaureate (BSN) to DNP, and (3) MSN to DNP. Students can expect to complete the first two semesters (Fall and Spring) online, and complete the rest of the program in a combination of online and in-person classes.

At MSU, online students complete coursework in a hybrid format on Canvas. Online student resources include career services, counseling, and disability support. MSU’s admission requirements include a bachelor’s or master’s degree, nursing license, references, and a minimum 3.0 GPA (or 3.5 for master’s program).

#5 Drexel University

  • Salary Score: 73
  • Median Starting Salary: $126,366
  • Locations: Philadelphia (PA)
  • Accreditation: MSCHE

Drexel University (DU) is a medium-sized, private nonprofit institution offering an online DNP program that totals 45 credit hours. The program is broken into four 10-week quarters per year, with 1,000 clinical hours required before graduation. Sample coursework includes Health Policy and Politics: Nurse Influencing Health, Applied Epidemiology, and Health Law and Clinical Practice/Organizational Ethics.

DU uses Blackboard for online coursework, delivered in an asynchronous and synchronous format. Online student resources include academic advising, career services, a writing center, counseling, and a library. The program’s requirements include a nursing license, official transcripts, two letters of recommendation, a personal statement, and a CV or resume.

#6 Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center

  • Salary Score: 73
  • Median Starting Salary: $126,301
  • Locations: Lubbock (TX)
  • Accreditation: SACS COC

Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center (TTUHSC) is a small, public institution that offers an online DNP (Post Master’s) totaling 45 credit hours. The program prepares licensed nurses to deliver high-level patient care in a health care environment. Sample coursework includes Population Health and Epidemiology, Health Care Economics and Finance, and Health Care Innovations in Chronic Illness.

At TTUHSC, online students complete coursework asynchronously on Canvas. Online student support includes counseling and disability services. Admission requirements include a registered nursing license, an MSN or BSN, official transcripts, and a personal statement.

#7 The University of Texas at Arlington

  • Salary Score: 73
  • Median Starting Salary: $125,276
  • Locations: Arlington (TX)
  • Accreditation: SACS COC

At the University of Texas at Arlington (UTA), students can pursue an online DNP, which totals 36 credit hours. This accelerated program is designed for MSN nurses who want to expand their expertise in the field. Sample coursework includes Health care Policy, Population Health, and Translational Research.

UTA facilitates online coursework in an asynchronous and synchronous format on Canvas. Academic advising, tutoring, and career development are the available online student resources at UTA. UTA’s admission requirements for this program include an active registered nursing license, minimum 3.5 GPA, current NP practice or Nursing Administration practice.

#8 The George Washington University

  • Salary Score: 72
  • Median Starting Salary: $124,241
  • Locations: Washington D.C.
  • Accreditation: MSCHE

The George Washington University (GWU) is a medium-sized, private nonprofit institution that offers six online DNP programs, including a DNP in Adult Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner (Post-BSN), DNP in Executive Leadership (Post-MSN Opportunity), and DNP in Health Policy (Post-MSN opportunity). Each program helps licensed nurses become experts in their desired specialty. DNP graduates can work in a variety of settings, like hospitals, clinics, schools, and private practices, to name a few.

GWU facilitates online learning on Blackboard in an asynchronous and synchronous format. Online students have a wide range of resources available to them, such as tutoring, disability support, and an online library. The program’s admission requirements include a BSN or MSN, minimum 3.3 GPA, official transcripts, two letters of recommendation, resume, and nursing license.

#9 Maryville University

  • Salary Score: 71
  • Median Starting Salary: $122,942
  • Locations: St. Louis (MO)
  • Accreditation: HLC

At Maryville University (MU) — a private nonprofit institution with a medium-sized student population — students can pursue two online DNP programs: (1) a BSN to DNP, ranging from 68 to 77 credit hours, and (2) a DNP. The BSN to DNP program has five concentrations, including Family Nurse Practitioner and Pediatric Nurse Practitioner. Meanwhile, the DNP program offers five specializations, such as DNP-NP Pediatric Nurse Practitioner and DNP-NP Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner.

MU’s online students complete coursework in an asynchronous and synchronous format on the platform Canvas. They also have digital access to advising, the college library, IT support, counseling, life coaching, and more. Prospective students must contact MU to get information on each program’s admission requirements.

#10 University of Missouri - Kansas City

  • Salary Score: 69
  • Median Starting Salary: $120,212
  • Locations: Kansas City (MO)
  • Accreditation: HLC

The University of Missouri - Kansas City (UMKC) is a medium-sized, public institution offering an online DNP. The program provides the foundation needed for licensed nurses to take on higher-level roles in the nursing field. Prospective students can choose from five specializations for their program.

At UMKC, online students complete coursework both asynchronously and synchronously on the platform, Canvas. These students have access to online tutoring, disability support, IT help, and a digital library. The program’s admission requirements include a bachelor’s or master’s degree in nursing, nursing license, personal statement, and official transcripts.

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What is a DNP?

Earning an online Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) enables graduates to become qualified for the most clinically advanced positions in nursing. Depending on an applicant’s current level of education and practice, an online DNP degree can take anywhere between one and four years to complete. By understanding the DNP degree, students can determine the best program and specialty area for them, as well as what is required. It is essential the aspiring DNPs appreciate the admission process, schooling, and responsibilities of a DNP.

An online DNP is a clinical doctorate that can be earned after completing a bachelor’s or master’s degree in nursing. The DNP is a terminal nursing degree, or the most advanced clinical education a nurse can receive. DNP programs are designed for Nurse Practitioners (NPs) and Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRNs). Graduates of a DNP program are qualified to work in both clinical and administrative roles, typically in leadership positions. Clinically, DNPs function as advanced providers for patients, while DNPs in leadership oversee multidisciplinary healthcare teams and programs in order to produce the best possible patient outcomes.

How to Choose an Online DNP Program

Choosing the best DNP program for a student's career goals is essential, as it is the foundation of one's career. Applicants should only consider programs that are accredited by either the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN) or the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE), two reliable authorities in nursing education. Tuition is also an important factor for applicants who are comparing DNP programs. Financing options should be reviewed to ensure the program is financially feasible.

Many DNP students are full-time nurses and enroll in programs that accommodate their working schedules. For instance, some DNP programs offer flexible part-time options, while others require full-time attendance. Classes may also be offered in person or online, which may not be suited to every student’s learning style. DNP specializations should also be considered, particularly if an applicant has a specific career goals in mind.

DNP candidates can also review the program’s board certification exam pass rates and post-graduation employment rates, if available.

BSN to PhD and BSN to DNP

BSN to PhD and BSN to DNP nursing programs provide a fast track for nurses who already have a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) to earn a doctorate degree by skipping the master's degree. Note that by enrolling in one of these programs, you may earn a master's degree; you simply don't need to go through a separate a master's program as is traditionally required to enter a graduate level program.

While each program is different, the majority of BSN to PhD nursing programs require students to take core courses and electives, as well as complete a dissertation. Some programs also require students to complete an administrative, clinical, or nursing education specialty or declare a major and minor. Completion of all of these requirements typically requires four years of full-time study. The career opportunities for PhD-level nurses are quite broad; options include working as a high-level administrator, educator, researcher, clinician, or specialist. Employers include private and public organizations such as hospitals, research companies, universities, and health clinics.

The BSN to DNP is more focused on advanced clinical care skills and methods for increasing the levels of care. Students take courses in topics like nursing outcomes management, health finance, and systems leadership. Students may complete a capstone project or nursing rotation in an advanced practice area. DNP graduates generally use the degree to apply for leadership positions in clinical care, such as healthcare administrator or policymaker, in settings that require the highest level of training.

Online DNP Specialties

Students may choose between APRN and non-APRN DNP specializations, which will vary depending on the chosen program. Here is a brief overview of common APRN options.

  • Adult-Gerontology Acute Care or Primary Care Nurse Practitioner: Provides care for adults, with a specialized understanding of elderly patient needs
  • Neonatal Nurse Practitioner: Provides care for newborns and infants; also attends premature and at-risk births
  • Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist: Administers and oversees anesthesia in a broad range of healthcare settings
  • Family Nurse PractitionerManages health and wellness across all age groups, often in primary care settings
  • Psychiatric or Mental Health Nurse Practitioner: Assesses, diagnoses, and treats mental health disorders
  • Nurse-midwifery: Specializes in women’s health, obstetric care, pre/postpartum care

Non-APRN DNP specializations include the following areas:

  • Nursing Administrator: Oversees quality initiatives and healthcare delivery systems within the clinical environment
  • Nurse Educator: Trains active nurses and students in evidence-based practice and designs nursing education
  • Nursing Informatics: Utilizes technology and information systems to support multidisciplinary care

How Long Is Online Nursing School?

The timeline to complete a DNP program depends on whether a full-time or part-time program is chosen and current qualifications. Full-time students with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) can expect to spend three or four years obtaining a DNP. Those who hold a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) must typically complete an additional one to two years of full-time study to become a DNP.

Admission Requirements and Online DNP Prerequisites

DNP prerequisites vary depending on school, but most programs have similar standards for applicants. DNP candidates need a BSN and a sufficient GPA. A current registered nurse license in is also required, and nursing experience is considered.

Applicants typically submit reference letters, which can include recommendations based on academic, professional, and personal qualities. Schools often dictate who qualifies as a valid reference, such as past professors, supervisors, and colleagues. A personal statement is often required, and in some cases an interview as well. Applicants should review the DNP prerequisites specific to the programs in which they are interested.

What Can You Do with an Online DNP?

DNP jobs are diverse, allowing graduates to choose a specialty based on interests and experience. Work as a DNP may involve either direct patient care or administration. As DNPs are considered clinical experts, many choose to continue to work directly with patients, managing care as advanced practitioners.Others use their clinical experience to inform a career in administration, where they can effect change on a systems level and participate in quality improvement. Work settings include private practice, hospitals, clinics, public health sites, research organizations, extended care residences, government facilities, or DNP independent practice.

DNP Salary

A DNP's salary is typically higher than that of nurses with less advanced degrees. Working in a large practice or hospital likely yields a higher pay compared to graduates who choose to open their own independent practice.

According to PayScale, hourly employees with a DNP earn a median of $51 per hour. For salaried employees with a DNP, the median pay is $101,000 annually. Salary is very state and location dependent; urban salaries tend to be higher than suburban or rural income, for example.

Frequently Asked Questions About Online DNP Degrees

Is a DNP a Doctor?

The DNP is a clinical doctoral degree, but DNPs do not typically refer to themselves as doctors. Some states have legislation prohibiting any medical professional who is not a medical doctor from referring to themselves as "doctor," regardless of their education level. This is meant to add transparency for patients, who may not understand the difference between a doctoral-prepared nurse and a medical doctor.

What Is the Difference Between a DNP and a Ph.D.?

The difference between a DNP and a Ph.D. is the nature of study and the focus of the programs. A DNP is a clinical doctorate focused on working directly with patients, while a Ph.D. is a research doctorate focused on conducting inquiry that can inform clinical practice.

How Long Are Online BSN to DNP Programs?

The length of a BSN to DNP program varies, and mainly depends on whether a student attends part time or full time. The typical program length is between three and four years for full-time students. Part-time students can take as long as six to seven years to earn a DNP.

Can a DNP Prescribe Medication or Write Prescriptions?

Yes, a DNP can prescribe both pharmaceutical and non-pharmaceutical treatments. This authority is not specific to DNPs but is true of all nurse practitioners. In accordance with state laws, most nurse practitioners do not require physician supervision to prescribe.

What Is the Highest Nursing Degree?

The highest clinical nursing degree is the DNP, while the Ph.D. is the terminal degree in nursing research.

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