A Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree is one of the highest degrees a nurse can achieve. Nurses with a DNP degree are eligible to work in leadership roles, taking care of patients hands-on as a chief nursing officer or director of patient care services.
In this article, we will cover:
- What is a DNP degree?
- What does a DNP do?
- NP vs. DNP
- How to get a DNP
- Top DNP programs in the U.S.
- How much does a DNP program cost?
- Is it worth getting DNP degree?
Let’s take a look!
What is a DNP degree?
The Doctor of Nursing Practice is an advanced degree within the nursing field. It is one of the two terminal — or highest — degrees a nurse can achieve.
According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, the Doctor of Nursing Practice is designed for nurses seeking an alternative to research-focused doctoral programs. In other words, the DNP is a practicing degree. A nurse with this designation won’t work in academia or research. Instead, they have skills and training to utilize within the field.
Though a DNP degree is technically on a doctorate level, nurse practitioners with DNPs do not have the same authority as a physician or other kinds of medical doctors. A DNP degree signifies that a nurse has reached the pinnacle of education.
Many nurses with DNP degrees end up in administrative or other leadership positions within the healthcare sector. Others use their degree to pursue nurse practitioner roles.
The DNP degree offers nurses a chance to have a competitive advantage over nurses with NPs applying for the same roles. In the future, nurse practitioners may have to receive their DNP to begin practicing.
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What does a DNP do?
Doctor of Nursing Practice graduates have a variety of jobs they can pursue. The two most common settings where they work include:
- Leadership and administration
- Advanced Practice Registered Nursing (APRN)
DNPs can choose whether they want to work with patients directly or indirectly.
Leadership and Administrative Roles
The DNP degree provides nurses with an opportunity to use their skills to help influence care programs and create nursing initiatives. Additionally, they can help bolster executive nursing leadership roles.
Specifically, DNPs work in:
- Organizational leadership
- Nurse management
- Health policy
- Health informatics systems
Advanced Practice Nursing
DNPs who choose to become advanced practice registered nurses (APRN) have an opportunity to work directly with patients by managing, evaluating, and assessing treatment and care.
The DNPs who choose to become APRNs need to take the APRN certification exam. Additionally, they may have to receive an advanced specialty certification.
- Nurse Practitioner (NP). Nurse practitioners are healthcare professionals who work independently with a doctor’s supervision to prevent illnesses and teach wellness.
- CRNA or nurse anesthetist. These clinicians coordinate with the physicians and nurses to administer anesthesia to patients.
- Nurse Midwife (CNM). Nurse midwives are healthcare professionals who provide reproductive care throughout all phases of the birthing process.
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NP vs. DNP
The main similarity between an NP and a DNP is they are both advanced positions. In other words, they both require a graduate degree.
Additionally, these two positions share a lot of the same job opportunities. Nurses who receive graduate degrees can become many different types of advanced practice registered nurses. Some of these include:
Below is an overview of the differences between the nurse practitioner and DNP roles.
|Overview||The DNP is an advanced nursing degree. With this degree, nurses can pursue many different kinds of nursing specialties.||A nurse practitioner role is an advanced practice role that requires a master's degree to practice.|
|Role or Degree||Degree||Role|
|Curriculum||Nursing leadership, health informatics, evidence-based practice techniques||Clinical practice, healthcare policy, direct patient care|
|Clinical Hours||1,000 hours minimum||500 hours minimum|
|Career Outlook||Nursing leaderships roles such as chief nursing officer, director of patient care services||Primary healthcare provider|
How to get a DNP degree
How do you get a DNP degree? There are multiple ways to receive a DNP. Often, people get their BSN to MSN and then a DNP. However, there are bridge programs to help you achieve your doctorate and save time.
MSN to DNP
This MSN to DNP bridge program is the most common method of getting a DNP degree. Since the nurse will already have a Master of Science in Nursing, they most likely will work in an advanced position. This means they may not have the capacity to go to school full-time.
The MSN to DNP program takes 1-2 years full time or 3-4 years part-time. This nursing program revolves around specialized coursework. Clinical hours from the MSN program may apply toward the clinical hour requirements.
BSN to DNP
The BSN to DNP bridge program brings together the curriculum of an MSN and DNP. A few programs allow you to leave the program once you’ve completed the MSN requirements.
If you choose this program, expect it to take 3-4 years full time or 4-6 years part-time. The program includes MSN and DNP curricula to avoid repetition. It often consists of an early exit before the DNP portion.
RN to DNP
The RN to DNP bridge program is less common. However, it allows someone without a bachelor’s degree to pursue a DNP.
An RN to DNP program usually takes 4-6 years full time or 6+ years part-time. Some programs require prerequisites to take undergraduate coursework before taking graduate courses. You also have the potential to earn an MSN degree before taking DNP courses. Other programs provide the option to award an MSN and DNP after graduation.
The Direct-entry DNP program is a good option for students who have a bachelor’s degree in an area outside of nursing. The program takes 4-6 years full time. Part-time options are generally not available. Students have to become registered nurses before taking graduate coursework
Choosing the right DNP program depends on your circumstances and how much time you want to devote to a given program.
Top DNP programs in the U.S.
Looking for the best DNP program available? You may need to travel. But the good news is there are several universities in the United States that offer top-tier DNP degree programs. Here are the top five according to U.S. News.
John Hopkins University
Johns Hopkins University, a private school in Baltimore, Maryland, is well-known for its nursing programs. The school’s DNP degree is no different. The application deadline is January 1st and there is an application fee of $75 for U.S. residents.
Rush University is a private school located in Chicago, Illinois. If you’re interested in pursuing a DNP degree at this school, the application deadline is January 2nd. Prospective students who are U.S. residents must pay an application fee of $115.
A public school in Seattle, Washington, the University of Washington has an impressive School of Nursing. The application deadline is January 15th. U.S. residents must pay an application fee of $85.
Duke University is a private school in Durham, North Carolina. If you decide to get your DNP degree here, apply by December 1st. The application fee is $50 for US residents.
Columbia University in New York, New York is a private school with strong nursing programs. This school has an application deadline of January 20th and an application fee of $75 for U.S. residents.
How much does a DNP program cost?
You can expect to pay between $21,318 and $38,912 for an MSN-DNP program. A BSN-DNP will cost between $40,953 and $74,752 for your tuition.
These numbers might seem intimidating, but don’t let them scare you off. Every nursing program is different. And there are several steps you can take to get help paying for school.
Paying for a DNP program
Once you’ve selected the best program for you, you’ll need to decide how you want to pay for your DNP degree.
Take inventory of your financial situation and see if you qualify for government funding. To find out if you’re eligible, fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Schools use this tool to determine eligibility for providing need-based grants, scholarships, and student loans. If you’re worried about taking loans out, some programs offer student loan forgiveness following graduation.
Is it worth getting a DNP degree?
A DNP program is an excellent opportunity for nurses to enhance their skills. By getting a DNP degree, you can move up within the nursing ranks and advance your career. You can have a greater impact on policies, initiatives, and patient care at your hospital or workplace as you take on more responsibility.
You will also be paid more than when you were an RN. Nurses with DNP degrees earn an average of $117,412 per year or $56 per hour, according to ZipRecruiter. Meanwhile, RNs earn an average of $82,750, according to the BLS.
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Neither a DNP or a Ph.D. is necessarily “higher” than the other. The Doctor of Nursing Practice focuses on nursing practice, while a Ph.D. in nursing focuses on nursing research. While both degrees are doctoral level, graduates will be working in different capacities after graduation, with different roles and responsibilities.
No. DNPs and NPs are different. The DNP is an advanced nursing degree that qualifies graduates to work in a variety of nursing specialties. NPs earn a master’s degree and can work as primary care provider.
However, these are both advanced nursing positions. Nurses who are qualified to work as DNPs or NPs may be eligible for the same types of roles. And if a DNP becomes an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN), they will be able to work as a nurse practitioner.
If you receive a Doctorate of Nursing Practice, you will be eligible for several advanced nursing roles. You will be able to work in nursing leadership positions including chief nursing officer or director of patient care services.
Nurses with DNP degrees earn an average of $117,412 per year or $56 per hour.
- “DNP Fact Sheet.” aacnnursing.org. Accessed June 22, 2022.
- “2023 Best Nursing Schools: Doctor of Nursing Practice.” usnews.com. Accessed June 22, 2022.
- jhu.edu. Accessed June 22, 2022.
- rushuu.rush.edu. Accessed June 22, 2022.
- washington.edu. Accessed June 22, 2022.
- duke.edu. Accessed June 22, 2022.
- columbia.edu. Accessed June 22, 2022.
- “Complete the FAFSA Form.” studentaid.gov. Accessed June 22, 2022.
- “DNP – PhD Comparison.” nursing.duke.edu. Accessed June 22, 2022.