Online DNP Programs
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 healthcare programs. Students can choose an APRN specialization or a non-APRN specialization, depending on post-graduate career goals. Students with an MSN can usually complete the program within one to two years, while students with a BSN may take up to four years to complete an online DNP program.
Most Popular Accredited Online DNP Programs
|Rank||School||Annual Tuition||Recommend Rate|
|# 1||Purdue University Global||$10,662||70% (389 reviews)|
|# 2||Grand Canyon University||$11,074||52% (501 reviews)|
|# 3||Walden University||Not Provided||52% (662 reviews)|
|# 4||Liberty University||$8,475||58% (315 reviews)|
|# 5||Indiana Wesleyan University Online||$13,156||41% (32 reviews)|
|# 6||Capella University||$15,233||63% (655 reviews)|
|# 7||Spalding University||$12,825||Add Review|
|# 8||Wake Forest University||$39,200||Add Review|
|# 9||Northcentral University||$18,095||49% (253 reviews)|
|# 10||Maryville University||$15,646||36% (36 reviews)|
|# 11||University of Kentucky||$32,564||100% (4 reviews)|
|# 12||Colorado Christian University||$14,029||50% (14 reviews)|
|# 13||University of Southern Indiana||$19,088||Add Review|
|# 14||Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi||$15,488||50% (2 reviews)|
|# 15||Villanova University Online Graduate Programs||$20,606||Add Review|
|# 16||Murray State University||$14,400||Add Review|
|# 17||Michigan State University||$37,056||100% (1 review)|
|# 18||La Salle University||$25,630||Add Review|
|# 19||Marymount University||$19,296||Add Review|
|# 20||Regis College||$38,850||0% (2 reviews)|
|# 21||Ohio University - Main Campus||$17,712||75% (4 reviews)|
|# 22||Seton Hall University||$24,350||Add Review|
|# 23||Eastern Kentucky University||$14,500||25% (4 reviews)|
|# 24||South University Online||$14,919||40% (67 reviews)|
|# 25||California Baptist University||$13,560||80% (5 reviews)|
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.
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.