The Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree prepares licensed RNs to become leaders in advanced clinical nursing practice roles. DNP programs build on traditional Master of Nursing (MSN) programs to prepare students to lead at the highest organizational levels. Online DNP programs help nurses develop the clinical and research skills necessary to improve healthcare delivery systems, measures outcomes, and translate evidence-based care into practice.
If you’re ready to take the next step in your career, it may be time to pursue the Doctor of Nursing Practice degree. On this page you’ll find information about online DNP degree programs offered through colleges and universities across the United States. We’ve also provided some general information below to help you evaluate different online DNP programs.
To learn more about schools offering an online DNP program—including program details, student eligibility and admission requirements—click on a school’s name below. Even after you find a degree program and request more information, be sure to bookmark our resource center and check back often for articles, interviews, infographics, videos and other great resources designed for career-driven nurses like you.
With so many online RN to MSN programs to choose from, how do you know which one is right for you? There are lots of factors you can consider when evaluating different online RN to MSN programs, including accreditation, cost and rankings. Other important factors include:
Program length/time to complete
Credit hours vary by program. Additionally, some online Doctor of Nursing programs may only be offered full time or part time. For example, our partner Simmons College’s online DNP degree program requires students to complete 30 credit hours and can be completed in five semesters as a full-time student. The number of clinical hours required to graduate may also impact the time it takes to complete an online DNP program.
Keep these questions in mind regarding program length and completion time when evaluating online Doctor of Nursing Practice degree programs:
- Is the program available full time, part time, or both?
- As a full-time student, how many credits am I allowed to take?
- As a part-time student, is there a limit on how long I have to complete the program?
- Can I complete the courses out of sequence, or is there an academic calendar to follow?
- Is there a clinical component?
As a practice-focused degree, the Doctor of Nursing Practice requires students to complete a number of clinical hours under the supervision of a clinical preceptor. These residencies are considered a key component of the DNP as they provide students an opportunity to integrate the knowledge they’ve acquired in real-world settings and learn additional skills under the supervision of nursing leaders.
A few important questions to ask when evaluating an online DNP program includes:
- How many clinical hours are required to graduate?
- Does the program offer placement assistance?
- Where can you complete your residency?
Online DNP programs may also include one or more on-campus immersion events. These events are intended to provide students the opportunity to network with their teachers and fellow students, as well as develop hands-on skills through instructor-led exercises and labs.
- Does the program require on-campus immersions? How many?
- How long are the immersions?
- What will I do/learn during the immersion?
- Are accommodations provided?
DNP admission requirements may vary by program. Post-BSN DNP programs, for example, are for licensed RNs who have a Bachelor of Science in Nursing, while post-MSN DNP programs are intended for master’s-prepared nurses. Other admission requirements/criteria may include:
- Current RN license
- Official transcripts
- Letters of recommendation
- Personal statement
- Resume or CV
- Interview (telephone, online, or in-person)
What is a “terminal” nursing degree?
Terminal degrees are granted at the highest level in a particular discipline. In nursing, the two most common terminal degrees are the Doctor of Nursing Practice and Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Nursing.
What’s the difference between a DNP and a PhD in Nursing?
The main difference between a DNP and PhD in Nursing is the focus of the degree. The DNP is a practice doctorate, while the PhD in a research doctorate. Generally, DNP graduates go on to pursue management and leadership positions in clinical settings while PhD in Nursing grads may focus on academia as nursing researchers or educators.
What can I do with a Doctor of Nursing Practice degree?
Although a DNP is not required to move into leadership roles, it may help you take the next step in your nursing career. DNPs work as independent practitioners, nurse managers, policy analysts, researchers, and educators. In other words, there’s no shortage of opportunities for nurses who have reached the top of the education ladder with a doctorate in nursing.
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