The Doctorate of Nursing Practice (DNP) is a professional degree intended to prepare a registered nurse (RN) for independent practice. DNP curriculum builds on a conventional master’s program by providing education in evidence-based practice, quality improvement, and systems leadership. It is designed for nurses pursuing a terminal degree in nursing, while providing an alternative to research-focused doctoral programs. In 2004, the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) voted to change the level of preparation in nursing from the master’s to the doctorate level by 2015. Part of the reason for this transition is that many of these master’s level programs in nursing carry a level of credits equal to the doctorate level in other medical professions. A DNP is different from a PhD as a PhD is primarily concerned with research only, and a DNP graduate works their research into practice.

Requirements for Earning a DNP

A DNP can be earned in one or two years with an MSN, or three to four years with a BSN. Many DNP programs offer part-time options for nurses who wish to continue to work in the field while studying. Schools that have this option online include Kaplan, Case Western Reserve University, American Sentinel, and Grand Canyon University. Courses in a DNP program may include enhanced clinical roles, leadership roles, management and teaching, health policy, and areas of specialization such as integrative health and healing. Possible prerequisites one may need to apply to a DNP program include:

  • a BSN or MSN from an accredited NLN or CCNE School of Nursing
  • GPA 3.0 or above on a 4.0 scale
  • current licensure as a registered nurse in the state in which practice will occur
  • telephone or in-person interview
  • letters of recommendation
  • official transcripts
  • resume
  • specific courses relating to statistics and research methodology

Average Salary and Career Data for DNPs

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, general “employment of nurse anesthetists, nurse midwives, and nurse practitioners is expected to grow 31 percent from 2012 to 2022.” The BLS also notes that in 2013, workers with a doctoral degree earned a median weekly income of $1,623, while those with only a master’s earned $1329. Note that this is a general statistic and does not apply to the profession of nursing specifically.

Job Duties for a DNP

A DNP will continue with their work in previous chosen fields that were attained with a BSN or MNS such as certified registered nurse anesthetists, nurse practitioners, clinical nurse specialists, or nurse midwives. Attaining a DNP will mean you can apply research to build upon your current practice. The biggest change will be more responsibility, along with a larger income.

DNP Degree Programs

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