DNP - Doctor of Nursing Practice

  • Degree program
  • Practice-based
  • Cost varies


In Person


In 2004, the American Academy of Colleges of Nursing (AACN), in conjunction with member schools and leading healthcare organizations, determined the need for terminal doctoral practice education for nursing as a discipline. The National Academy of Sciences noted that the increased complexity of patient care requires advances in nursing practice and specialization.This includes the need for doctorally prepared nurses to serve as faculty leading clinical practice education.

There are now well over 400 DNP programs enrolling and educating participants or actively developing their curriculum. There are programs in every state with the overall growth of the DNP practice-based programs outpacing the development of the research-based PhD programs.

The following focuses on the information needed to decide if attaining a DNP is an attractive professional pathway for you. The discussion also touches on certification as it applies to those who are DNP candidates and scholars.

DNP Advantages

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the need for these APRNs will increase 45% by 2030: 

  • Nurse Practitioner (NP) 

  • Certified Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA

  • Certified Nurse Midwife (CNM)

The median pay of these in 2020 was close to $118,000. The projected number of APRN nurses needed by 2030 is over 121,000.

One of the advantages of pursuing the DNP is that Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRN) can build on their professional experience and certification. Doing so leads to expanded practice leadership as a consultant, educator, healthcare leader, and ultimately may lead to private practice. Another advantage is that more APRN nurses are attaining the DNP as nursing’s terminal practice degree. Doing so promotes nursing practice through leadership, national policy-making, and the provision of expert input within healthcare systems. 

APRNs who are seeking or hold a DPN are required to maintain their advanced practice certification, just as would be the case were they to end their educational pathway at the Master’s degree level. The National Organization of Nurse Practitioner Faculties (NONFP) is committed to moving entry-level nurse practitioner education to the DNP by 2025. 

DNP-prepared nurses have the advantage of working in a preferred setting, meaning where they live as well as where they work. They must qualify for, and maintain, state licensing and its requirements, including any associated with certification as an APRN.

Course Format

About This Degree    

The DNP is available as both residential and online programs. It is highly recommended that you seek a program that is accredited by the Commission of Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE). It’s worthwhile to take time to review the DNP Programs and CCNE Accreditation FAQs as these provide guidance for program selection.

DNP programs vary in credit hour and clinical/practicum load, with the range typically being 30 to 40 credits and 700 to 1000 practicum hours, with those being held to a minimum of 500. Some consideration may be given for applying graduate credits and/or clinical hours toward the DPN if you are an APRN. This option varies by program.

The overall cost of a post-master’s DNP program is in the range of $28,000 to $40,000, exclusive of living and travel expenses. BSN to DNP programs range from $40,000 to over $70,000. Tuition and fees can vary widely between public and private institutions.

As you can see, the cost of the DNP requires you to consider the overall advantages of the DNP for your future. 

APRN Certifications Associated with the DPN

Examples of an Advanced Practice Nurse (APN) or Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN) pursuing DNP education are those with one of these practice roles:

  • Nurse Practitioner (NP) such as the Pediatric Nurse Practitioner (PNP), Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP), and Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (PMHNP), among others

  • Certified Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA

  • Certified Nurse Midwife (CNM)

  • Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS)

As DNP programs grow, some are providing terminal nursing degree DNP options for those with executive level practices, including:

  • DNP Executive

  • DNP Executive with a dual track of MBA or MPH, depending on the nurse’s focus.

These DNP candidates and others are eligible for DNP Specialist Certificates. They are at the forefront of leading nursing practice from a perspective of education, policy, management, and public health practices.  


Information on Obtaining the DNP

DNP program structure and eligibility requirements are becoming more varied as interest in the DNP grows, along with the need for more terminal degree practice nurses in a wide range of settings. These educational options include:

  • The BSN to DNP program for a nurse with a Bachelor’s degree

  • Accelerated MSN to DNP for those seeking a fast-track education

  • Accelerated BSN and/or MSN to DNP for those with a Bachelor’s degree in another discipline. Eligibility and structure vary by program.

Eligibility requirements are determined by your educational entry point and the programs that interest you. The application process can take weeks to months to complete and be well in advance of when new students matriculate. Given that, you’ll want to select your preferred programs and make an accounting of what each requires for the application process. Fortunately, you’ll find some duplication, such as:

  • A minimum GPA and transcript for prior studies

  • Taking the GRE or MAT for entry to an MSN program (though not necessarily)

  • A minimum number of professional practice hours for DNP acceptance

It’s a wise move to ask any and all questions you have of the programs you’re considering. Along with getting answers, you’ll learn about the program’s responsiveness and cooperation, something good to know before you proceed.

Please be sure to examine tuition, fees, and opportunities for financial support. It’s also wise to look up or inquire about admission rates and waiting lists.

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Frequently asked questions

What are some certifications I can pursue after obtaining DNP degree?

You can pursue Certified Urologic Nurse Practitioner (CUNP), Neonatal Nurse Practitioner (NNP-BC) or Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS), among others.

Is there a difference between a DNP and an NP?

Yes, while both require advanced training and degrees, they have differences. An NP or Nurse Practitioner is an advanced practice clinician providing clinical expertise in diagnosis, treatment, and illness prevention. In addition to numerous clinic hours, a master's degree is required for an NP. A DNP is a doctorate focused on science, research, and leadership. 

Are part-time options available?

Yes, depending on the specific program, part-time options are offered for DNP.

Does a DNP make me a physician?

No, the training provided for a DNP degree is very different from that of a physician. A DNP educates nurses to assume nursing leadership roles in the highest level.

How is a DNP different from a Ph.D.?

DNP programs focus on supporting the management and leadership of evidence-based practice. DNP programs spend a considerable amount of time concentrating on how to obtain data on population groups, using data for decision making, and evaluating a program's success. On the other hand, a Ph.D. degree is heavily focused on research. Ph.D. programs also center on developing new methods of research methodology.