The Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) is a terminal degree within the nursing field. It’s one of the two highest degrees that a nurse can earn. The DNP degree emphasizes direct patient care, while the Ph.D. in Nursing focuses on research.
Having a DNP degree grants you the opportunity to become an Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN). The career outlook for APRNs is promising. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there is a 45% estimated growth rate in employment from 2019 to 2029.
Some educational programs have created opportunities for registered nurses without an advanced degree to earn a doctorate in one comprehensive program to match this growing demand.
This route puts a registered nurse in a great position to become an APRN.
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Why Should I Pursue an RN to DNP Degree?
There are several benefits to pursuing the RN to DNP degree path.
- You have the unique opportunity to become a nurse leader. This allows you to direct a team of nurses who provide patient care. Or, you can influence policy within a care facility. Either way, as an APRN, you can influence people on a broader scale.
- Nurses can increase their earning potential. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for APRNs was $117,670 as of May 2020.
- You have the capacity to mentor nurses. This provides an opportunity to give back and establish meaningful relationships with other nurses.
Prerequisites for RN to DNP Online Programs
The baseline requirement for entering a DNP program is being a registered nurse. Additional requirements might include:
- Letters of recommendation
- An in-person or telephone interview
- A 3.0 grade point average
- A declaration of professional goals
- A specific minimum score on the Graduate Record Exam (GRE)
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What Kinds of Classes Does a DNP Student Take?
Though each student will take different classes depending on their chosen specialty, each DNP program requires at least 500 clinical hours. Students have the option of choosing degree tracks within their program. For example, you can take a more clinical-based program or an executive-level program. Each program will have different classes and curriculum.
In general, it takes about 3-6 years full-time or 6+ years part-time to complete the program. There’s also the potential to earn an MSN degree before taking DNP courses or provide the option to award an MSN and DNP after graduation.
What Are Some of the Top RN to DNP Programs?
According to US News, the top five universities are:
1. Rush University – A private school in Chicago, IL, with an application deadline of Jan. 2 and an application fee of $115 for US residents.
2. Johns Hopkins University – A private school in Baltimore, MD, with an application deadline of Jan. 1 and an application fee of $75 for US residents.
3. The University of Washington – A public school in Seattle, WA, that has an application deadline of Jan. 15 and an application fee of $85 for US residents
4. Duke University – A private school in Durham, NC, with an application deadline of Dec. 1 and an application fee of $50 for US residents.
5. Columbia University – A private school in New York, NY, with an application deadline of Jan. 20 and an application fee of $75 for US residents.
How Do I Choose the Right RN to DNP Program?
Figuring out what type of program works best for you takes some introspection. Below are some things to keep in mind when you are deciding on a program.
- Research Interests: What specialties are you interested in studying? Once you determine this, you can match your interests to a specific school that caters to your needs.
- Long-term Goals: What capacity do you want to work in? Do you want to pursue clinical-based nursing, nursing education, or management work? Understanding this will help you decide what type of school you should attend.
- Preferred setting: Does the program offer an online component? Are you able to attend a hybrid class (online/in person) if necessary?
How Do I Pay for an RN to DNP Program?
Once you figure out what school to attend, it’s time to decide how to pay for school. Doctoral programs are expensive, and most people can’t pay without scholarships or financial aid.
The first step is taking an inventory of your finances. Do you need government assistance? To determine eligibility, you can fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).
Schools use this tool to determine eligibility for need-based grants, scholarships, and student loans
If you’re nervous about taking out student loans, some programs offer student loan forgiveness following graduation