Nursing Degrees & Schools / RN to DNP
Going from a registered nurse to a doctor of nursing practice (the RN to DNP path) means you will be pursuing one of the two highest degrees a nurse can earn. The DNP degree emphasizes direct patient care, unlike the Ph.D. in nursing which focuses on research. Having a DNP degree can also lead to becoming an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN).
The career outlook for nurses with this education is promising. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there is an estimated growth of 40% from 2021 to 2031. 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.
Through the RN to DNP program, the registered nurse can leapfrog the Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) and Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degrees. This route puts a registered nurse in a great position to make a further difference to patients and organizations.
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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 and might direct a team of nurses who provide patient care.
- You can influence people on a broader scale as an APRN. You can also influence policy within a care facility.
- You have the capacity to mentor nurses. This provides an opportunity to give back and establish meaningful relationships with other nurses.
- You learn and continue to work more deeply in your chosen specialty and niche.
- You can increase your earning potential. The median annual wage for RNs was $82,750 but the median wage for APRNs was $123,780 as of May 2021, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Prerequisites for RN to DNP Online Programs
The baseline requirement for entering an RN to DNP program is being a registered nurse. Different programs will have their own criteria, which could include:
- Minimum of 1 or 2 years of practical experience as an RN
- Letters of recommendation
- Your CV or resume
- 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 RN to 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 curricula.
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 you might be awarded 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:
- 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.
- Duke University – A private school in Durham, NC, with an application deadline of Dec. 1 and an application fee of $50 for US residents.
- Rush University – A private school in Chicago, IL, with an application deadline of Jan. 2 and an application fee of $115 for US residents.
- The University of Washington – A public school in Seattle, WA, with an application deadline of Jan. 15 and an application fee of $85 for US residents.
- 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 Rn to DNP program works best for you takes introspection. Below are some things to keep in mind when you are deciding.
- What specialties are you interested in studying?
- Does this specific school match your interests and can cater to your needs?
- What capacity do you want to work in?
- Do you want to pursue clinical-based nursing, nursing education, or management work?
- 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, which is why scholarships and financial aid are readily available. 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.
Are you ready for an RN to DNP degree?
Only you can answer this question. But rest assured there are plenty of great jobs available for qualified nurses who pursue a DNP degree. Check out more resources to help you on your nursing journey today.