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2023 Best Online Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) Degrees

By OnlineU Staff Writers | Updated 7/21/2023
2023 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.

View our methodology for more details about our list or learn more about OnlineU.

2023 Best Online Doctoral Degrees in DNP Badge
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#1 Missouri State University

  • Salary Score: 99
  • 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: 97
  • 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: 96
  • 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: 95
  • 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: 67
  • 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: 67
  • 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: 65
  • 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: 64
  • 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: 62
  • 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: 57
  • 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.

2023 Best Online Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) Degrees

RankSchool Salary Score Median Starting Salary
# 1 #1 Missouri State University 99 99 $168,518
# 2 #2 University of Kansas 97 $160,586
# 3 #3 University of Southern Mississippi 96 $157,573
# 4 #4 Murray State University 95 $154,842
# 5 #5 Drexel University 67 $126,366
# 6 #6 Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center 67 $126,301
# 7 #7 The University of Texas at Arlington 65 $125,276
# 8 #8 The George Washington University 64 $124,241
# 9 #9 Maryville University 62 $122,942
# 10 #10 University of Missouri - Kansas City 57 $120,212
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What Is a DNP?

Earning an online Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) helps you qualify for the most clinically advanced roles in nursing. A DNP is a terminal nursing degree representing the most advanced clinical education a nurse can receive. You might take anywhere between one and four years to complete an online DNP degree depending on your previous education and experience.

As a DNP graduate, you might be eligible to work in both clinical and administrative leadership roles as an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN). Clinical DNP graduates often become nurse practitioners (NP) or other types of APRNs who give advanced care in a specialized area. DNPs in leadership oversee multidisciplinary healthcare teams and programs and try to produce the best possible patient outcomes.

How To Choose an Online DNP Program

There's a lot to consider when deciding what college you should go to for graduate school. The factors below aren't an exhaustive list, but they can help you start your research into doctoral degrees in nursing. 


The first step is to make a list of institutionally accredited schools with programmatically accredited DNP offerings. The respected accrediting authorities in nursing are the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN) and the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE). Both ACEN and CCNE have searchable databases of accredited programs that can help you narrow your search to DNPs that have passed a thorough quality review.

Cost and Financial Aid

Many students filter candidate schools by cost once they find a list of accredited programs. Tuition is the largest portion of a program's cost but you also need to consider mandatory fees, books, and supplies. You can review our financial planning resources to learn about financial aid options, government versus private student loans, GI Bill education benefits, and more.

Read through our list of the most affordable online DNP programs for low-cost options. We also have a list of the most affordable online bachelor's programs in nursing if you're not at the doctoral level yet.

Full Time Vs. Part Time

Most DNP students are full-time nurses looking for programs that accommodate their work schedules. Many online DNP programs offer flexible part-time options. However, others require students to take a full-time course load. 

Most schools offer asynchronous courses in their online programs. This means that classes have no live meetings. But keep in mind that as a clinical doctorate, a DNP requires you to work for hundreds of supervised hours in person at a healthcare facility.


Some DNP programs feature specialty concentrations so students can tailor their studies to the type of nursing they want to practice. See the Online DNP Specialties section for examples of available concentrations. 

Graduate Outcomes

Many colleges provide board certification exam pass rates and post-graduation employment rates for their DNP graduates. Ask an admissions officer at the school if you can't find these statistics on any of the program's web pages. 

BSN to DNP Degree Programs

If you have a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree, you might choose a BSN to DNP program to help earn your doctorate faster. These programs don't skip the master's degree. Instead, you earn your Master of Science in Nursing along the way to your DNP. You may earn a doctorate in as little as three years with a full-time schedule or as many as four or five with a part-time course load.

Like any DNP, a BSN to DNP track focuses on teaching advanced clinical care skills. You'll take courses covering nursing outcomes management, health finance, and systems leadership. You'll also typically complete a capstone project or nursing rotation in an advanced practice area. 

BSN to PhD Degree Programs

BSN to PhD nursing programs are research-focused degrees that require students to write a dissertation. Some programs also require students to complete an administrative, clinical, or nursing education specialty or declare a major and minor. Completing all of these requirements typically requires four to eight years of full-time study. 

PhD-prepared nurses may potentially work as high-level administrators, educators, and researchers. Many of them work in academia but others find positions in healthcare administration or research and development for businesses.

Online DNP Specialties

Most DNP programs allow students to specialize in a focused practice area. We've listed some of the most common DNP concentrations for clinical APRNs below:

And here are some non-APRN DNP specializations that you might choose:

Admission Requirements and Online DNP Prerequisites

Admission requirements differ by school, but most programs have similar standards. BSN to DNP candidates need a BSN with a sufficient GPA, which is usually 3.0 or higher. Applicants for other DNP programs usually need an MSN with a similar GPA threshold. 

Each DNP program has certain prerequisite course requirements to ensure that doctoral students are prepared for the program. You might need to take some courses before beginning a DNP if your nursing degree didn't satisfy the requirements.

Beyond degrees, each applicant needs a current registered nurse (RN) credential. An RN designation ensures that the nurse has demonstrated their ability by passing the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX). Most applicants have at least a few years of experience as an RN before pursuing their DNP.

Candidates typically submit reference letters from professors or managers who can discuss their academic, professional, and personal qualities. Most colleges also ask for a personal statement about the candidate's career goals. Some schools conduct interviews with prospective students. 

If it's too early to think about doctoral programs, you can review our guide to becoming a nurse.

What Can You Do with an Online DNP?

Most DNP graduates pursue specialty nursing occupations based on their interests and experience. Some people continue to work directly with patients as APRNs while others use their clinical experience to inform a career in administration. Work settings include private practice, hospitals, clinics, public health sites, research organizations, extended care residences, and government facilities.

Below we've listed a few career possibilities for DNP graduates. All salary and 2021-2031 job outlook data come from the Bureau of Labor Statistics

Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist

Median Annual Salary: $195,610
Job Growth: 12%

A certified registered nurse anesthetist (CRNA) is an APRN who's highly trained in giving and monitoring anesthesia. Becoming a CRNA requires a DNP, years of clinical experience, and a passing score on a national certification exam. These well paid professionals are also highly sought after because many parts of the country lack physicians who are trained in administering anesthesia.

Clinical Nurse Specialist

Median Annual Salary: $81,220
Job Growth: 4-7%

Clinical nurse specialists are APRNs with expertise in a specialty. Specialties can be based on a patient's age or medical condition. For example, gerontology specialists work with older adults, while cardiac care nurses focus on patients of any age who have heart conditions. Most clinical nurse specialists earn advanced certifications in their areas of expertise. 

Nurse Practitioner

Median Annual Salary: $120,680
Job Growth: 46%

Nurse practitioners make up the fastest growing category of nurse and one of the fastest-growing occupations nationwide. Many NPs work as primary care providers in areas with physician shortages. Others focus on certain patient populations in the same way that clinical nurse specialists do. 

If you're intrigued by the NP role, see our list of the best online nurse practitioner degree programs. You can also consider a career change if you feel burnt out on nursing and a DNP doesn't feel like the answer. 

DNP Salary

A DNP's salary is typically higher than that of nurses with less advanced degrees. Working in a large practice or hospital will likely yield higher pay than in smaller clinics or practices.

Keep in mind that salary depends heavily on location. For example, urban salaries tend to be higher than suburban or rural income.

Frequently Asked Questions About Online DNP Degrees

Is a DNP a Doctor?

The DNP is a clinical doctoral degree, but DNPs are not physicians and typically don't call themselves 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 PhD?

It can be tough to understand the difference between types of doctorates in any field. In nursing, a DNP is the patient-focused clinical doctorate that emphasizes giving direct care. A PhD is a research doctorate focused on asking questions and gathering data that clinical practice nurses can use in the field.

How Long Are Online BSN to DNP Programs?

The typical BSN to DNP program is between three and four years for full-time students. This is less time than doctoral students in other fields tend to take. Full-time students who already have MSNs might only need a year or two to graduate. Part-time BSN to DNP students can take as long as six to seven years.

How Long Is Online Nursing School?

The answer depends on what degree you're trying to get. Online Associate Degrees in Nursing (ADNs) can take as little as two years, while BSNs can take about four. As discussed, MSNs and DNPs usually take less time to finish if you opt for a BSN to MSN or BSN to DNP path.

Can a DNP Prescribe Medication or Write Prescriptions?

Some DNPs can prescribe pharmaceutical and non-pharmaceutical treatments. It's accurate to say that NPs can write prescriptions in all 50 states. But not all DNP graduates are NPs, who must pass a comprehensive exam. Even NPs may have restrictions on the types of substances they can prescribe in some states. They may also need to arrange with a physician to oversee their prescription authority in some states. 

What Is the Highest Nursing Degree?

The highest clinical nursing degree is the DNP. The PhD in nursing is the terminal degree in nursing research.

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