Top 30 Online Colleges with the Best PhD in Nursing

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Best Nursing PhD Program

There are two types of doctorate degrees that a student can pursue in nursing, which are the Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP), and the Doctor of Philosophy in Nursing (PhD in Nursing). The main difference between these two degrees is how you would apply them professionally.

With a DNP, you could work as the chief nursing officer in a hospital or other medical setting; you can choose to specialize in an area of Advanced Nursing Practice. Overall, a Doctor of Nursing Practice is a more practice-focused degree that leads to that end of the nursing career spectrum. On average, someone with a DNP degree earns a salary of $96,807 per year.

As the name would suggest, a Doctor of Philosophy in Nursing takes less of a practical approach and instead focuses on research or education. A PhD in Nursing would allow you to work as a Nurse Scientist, a research director at a university or hospital, various director positions in the field of nursing, or you could even go on to teach nursing at the collegiate level. Those who hold a PhD in Nursing have an average salary of $95,577. Factors such as place of employment, certifications, and experience all contribute to salary, so yours could be higher or lower than average depending on what you choose to work as. For this ranking, we will be focusing on the Doctor of Nursing Practice degree.

Advanced Nursing Career, Nurse Educator, D.H.Sc

Nursing is the largest healthcare profession worldwide and has a projected job growth of 16% according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Every year, there is a higher call for nurses, and every year there is a shortage that spills into the millions all over the world for graduates qualified to fill these roles. As long as the healthcare industry continues to grow, this will continue to happen.

Earning a doctorate in nursing will create a wealth of opportunities regardless of what particular profession calls out to you. It will provide you with extensive knowledge of every aspect of nursing and prepare you for anything you may face on the job, and prepare you to step up into key roles in healthcare. For many different nursing positions, especially in Advanced Practice Nursing, the standards are also shifting. Many of these positions are requiring nurses to hold doctorate degrees rather than the previous standard of Master’s degrees. You may also simply have the aspiration to take your education as far as you can. All of these are incredible reasons to decide to take such a massive leap. However, with the busy schedule that comes with working as a nurse, there can be some setbacks when it comes to making the decision to pursue your education further. We understand.

In this article, we have ranked 30 of the best online colleges with doctoral degrees in nursing. Obtaining your degree online is a more accommodating experience in terms of cost and time. You can work towards the degree you want while remaining at work, and grow your potential without putting your life on hold.


Each school on this list was scored out of a possible 300 points. There is a range of degrees at the doctoral level in the field of nursing but the only ones that we have taken into account are Doctor of Nursing Practice degree programs. We have scored all of the schools in the United States that offer fully-online or hybrid DNP degree programs according to the following:

  • 33.3% Freshman Retention Rate
  • 33.3% Graduation Rate
  • 33.3% Affordability

To gather the information that was required to rank each of these schools, the school’s own websites were used primarily. In the instances where a school did not provide the information that we needed on their website, we used the databases of both U.S. News and World Report and of National Center for Education Statistics. These three factors each produced a score out of 100 points, and the three of them were added together to get the final score for each institution. Finally, they were ranked out of 30 based on this score.

In any instance where two or more schools would have tied for a spot in this Top 30, we used the alphabetical ordering of their names as the designated tie-breaker. We chose these two ranking criteria, freshman retention, and graduation rates because when both rates are taken into account, they capture a good sense of a school’s overall performance. However, due to incomplete data, there are some schools that may not be represented here.

To qualify to be included in this ranking, schools must not be for-profit institutions. Additionally, no school was given any preferential treatment and the methodology stated will allow anyone else to draw the same conclusion.

1. University of Florida

Doctor of Nursing Practice

Score: 269 | Cost of Attendance: $21,131 | More Information

University of Florida

The University of Florida offers an online BSN to DNP program. This means that you don’t have to hold a master’s degree in order to enroll which is a unique offering for a doctoral program. It is accessible for the most part online, but some of the courses will require you to attend the main campus of the university which is located in Gainesville, Florida. All of your required core courses are offered online.

Some of the core courses that you’ll encounter are Theory and Research in Advanced Nursing Practice, Health Systems Leadership, and Nursing Informatics and Information Management. You’ll also study topics like health assessment, health policy, and finance while gaining essential research skills. This program requires you to complete a nursing project, and there are clinical hours you must do. Multiple locations are available but these hours must be completed in the state of Florida.

This program is between 75 and 78 total credits depending on which specialty track you select. The university offers the following specialty tracks: Adult-Gerontology Acute Nurse Practitioner, Family Nurse Practitioner, Pediatric Acute Care Nurse Practitioner, Pediatric Primary Care Nurse Practitioner, and Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner.

2. Indiana University Bloomington

Doctor of Nursing Practice

Score: 263 | Cost of Attendance: $12,488 | More Information

Indiana University-Bloomington

Indiana University Bloomington offers a Doctor of Nursing practice online that is only open to those of you who already hold a masters degree. This program is designed for nurses in an advanced practice role and covers a lot of topics in leadership, decision making, public health policy, and more. The curriculum is designed to prepare you for advanced leadership roles in a variety of settings.

The coursework is described as being up to 99% online. This is a 37-credit DNP program that has just three required in-person intensives. The first intensive will take place the summer before you begin studying and then the remaining two happen in the Spring your first and second years in the program. Each of them lasts two or three days each.

In order to graduate, you will have to complete 27 credits worth of nursing practice core courses, between seven and 11 credits worth of DNP practicum or project courses, three credits worth of electives, and 1000 total clinical hours. You can apply up to 475 hours from prior graduate coursework that you’ve completed. Your classes will be delivered asynchronously with some synchronous elements.
School Profile

3. The Ohio State University

Doctor of Nursing Practice

Score: 257 | Cost of Attendance: $26,947 | More Information

Ohio State University

The Ohio State University offers an online DNP with two different tracks to choose from. You can select the DNP Clinical Expert program or the DNP Nurse Executive program. Your entire program can be completed online with one required on-campus orientation that you’ll attend prior to beginning your studies. The average full-time student can graduate in as little as two years.

In 2018, this program was ranked 5th in the country by U.S. News & World Report. There are common core classes for each of the tracks, and then you will receive more specialized instruction through your electives and clinical immersion experiences. This is an MSN to DNP program; there is a BSN to DNP program available, but more of the components in that program will require you to attend campus.

OSU’s approach to this program allows students to customize a large part of what they learn by selecting appropriate courses with an advisor. Some examples of courses you can choose from are Leadership Throughout Organizations and Systems, Quality Improvement in Doctoral Nursing Practice, and Health Policy for Doctoral Nursing Practice. This DNP is designed for working professionals, but it may offer less flexibility because it is entirely synchronous.

4. University of Iowa

Doctor of Nursing Practice

Score: 250 | Cost of Attendance: $17,936 | More Information

University of Iowa

The University of Iowa has a DNP program that you can choose to take online or on a hybrid basis if you are closer to campus. Online students are eligible for tuition assistance and scholarships and will have the benefits of learning from nationally-recognized faculty as well as taking an individualized approach to their education. This university prides itself on the flexibility it offers to students without compromising quality.

There are a lot of different plans of study to choose from and of course once you are enrolled, you will work with an advisor to tailor the experience to your needs. If you have a bachelors degree and are interested in getting your DNP from the University of Iowa, you’re likely to be able to graduate in roughly three or four years. For those of you who would take the MSN to DNP track, it would take you two or three years to graduate.

There are a variety of concentrations available, and some of them can be combined into a dual certification program. The DNP tracks available at the University of Iowa are Adult/Gerontology Acute Care NP, Adult/Gerontology Primary Care NP, Family Nurse Practitioner, Health Systems/Administration, Nurse Anesthesia, Pediatric Nurse Practitioner – Acute Care, Pediatric Nurse Practitioner – Primary Care, and Psych/Mental Health Nurse Practitioner.

5. University of Pittsburgh

Doctor of Nursing Practice

Score: 250 | Cost of Attendance: $33,250 | More Information

University of Pittsburgh

The University of Pittsburgh offers a selection of Post-Master’s DNP programs. You can choose from Health Systems Executive Leadership, Nurse Anesthesia, Clinical Nurse Specialist in Adult-Gerontology and; Nurse Practitioner tracks in Adult-Gerontology Acute Care, Adult-Gerontology Primary Care, Family (Individual Across the Lifespan), Pediatric Primary Care, Psychiatric Mental Health, and Neonatal.

When you study online a Pitt, you will have the benefit of the university library system, an academic advisor, 24/7 tech support, and more. This is a flexible online DNP too. It is delivered entirely asynchronously so you can keep your job and keep a schedule that works for you. Even though it is asynchronous in nature, it is still very collaborative. You will participate in discussions, groups, and more.

Your core courses will cover subjects like advanced evidence-based practice, informatics, patient care technology, healthcare policy, finance, clinical research, and more. You can complete your clinical experiences somewhere that is local to you, and you will have direct supervision that will help you enhance your competency in the areas you care about. You’ll also complete a DNP project to finish off the program, synthesizing everything you’ve learned.

6. University of Central Florida

Doctor of Nursing Practice

Score: 245 | Cost of Attendance: $22,501 | More Information

University of Central Florida

The University of Central Florida offers one of the most affordable online DNP programs in the country at just $327.32 per credit hour for in-state students; the out-of-state rate is still a competitive $694.82 per credit hour. This Doctor of Nursing Practice is comprised of 42 credit hours, and it is only open to those who have already earned a master’s degree. You can choose from an Executive Track or an Advanced Track.

Both of the programs are available entirely online with no documented on-campus requirements via the program website. The online DNP nurse executive program will prepare you for a variety of leadership roles. You’ll experience courses in nursing management, data management, program development, and more. You can choose to complete a clinical residency, professional practice immersion, or an independent project.

The Advanced DNP track covers healthcare systems, clinical management, and innovative technologies. The curriculum is designed to equip you with all of the skills you need to build upon existing research and practice. You’ll engage in research in your area of specialty and learn how to design and implement new models of care to actively contribute to the evolving landscape of healthcare. Through a combination of experiential learning, engaging coursework, and leadership projects, you can rise up to be an expert in your field.

7. University of Massachusetts Amherst

Doctor of Nursing Practice

Score: 243 | Cost of Attendance: $30,254 | More Information

University of Massachusetts-Amherst

The Doctor of Nursing Practice at the University of Massachusetts Amherst was established over a decade ago, making it one of the first in the country. It has been awarded many times over at the regional and national levels for excellence in online education. Applications are accepted until all of the seats are filled, and cohorts begin in the fall semester.

This DNP program can be completed entirely online. There is a DNP completion program for those of you who hold a masters degree. If you currently hold a Bachelor of Science in Nursing or BSN, you can choose from four different concentrations. Those are Family Nurse Practitioner, Adult/Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner, Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner, and Public Health Nurse Leader.

Clinical internships are a vital component to the program, and you can arrange to complete them locally, perhaps even at your place of employment. There are common core courses between all of the programs and students complete more individualized courses as needed. You will also work with an academic advisor to help you create an individualized plan of study that is tailored to your professional goals.
School Profile

8. University of New Hampshire

Doctor of Nursing Practice

Score: 239 | Cost of Attendance: $33,758 | More Information

University of New Hampshire

The University of New Hampshire has an online Doctor of Nursing Practice program that is designed for working professionals in areas of advanced practice nursing. There are two required visits to campus throughout the duration of the program. Each of them is a two-day intensive with one taking place early in the program and the other taking place during your final term.

This online DNP consists of between 21 and 33 credits. It has been designed to fit into your current lifestyle without causing you to have to abandon any of your obligations. You’ll complete your work in an asynchronous format which means that you can log in and complete assignments and review course materials according to your schedule. Some of the classes you’ll take are Advanced Clinical Epidemiology; Evidence Synthesis; Health Policy and Finance and; Statistical Methods for Quality Improvement and Design.

On top of completing all of your courses, there are a few other requirements. You will have had to complete a cumulative 1,000 documented advanced practice, and you can apply as many as 500 hours from previous graduate study. You’ll also have to write a publishable scholarly paper and complete a DNP project that you’ll present at the culmination of your study.

9. University of Alabama

Doctor of Nursing Practice

Score: 235 | Cost of Attendance: $26,572 | More Information

University of Alabama

The University of Alabama offers a Doctor of Nursing Practice online that is open to students who have already completed their master’s degree. The tuition per hour comes in at just under $400, and there are a total of 40 credit hours that you have to complete in order to graduate. Students are admitting to the program every fall and spring semester.

All of the courses are available at a distance, and you will cover subjects like Clinical Data Management and Analysis, Evidence-Based Practice Strategies, Program Evaluation Methods, and more. While the program is 100% online, the university does require that you attend at least one DNP intensive in the spring as well as your graduation ceremony. You can graduate in as little as two years if you study full-time; if you can only dedicate enough time to study at a part-time pace, you can graduate in four years.

This DNP degree does include a clinical component. It is the responsibility of the student to identify an appropriate site and clinical advisor. You will also have the responsibility of completing a DNP project that focuses either on practice or leadership. You will develop your project under the guidance of a team that includes program faculty, a clinical and academic advisor, and alumni mentors. You may be eligible for enrollment if you hold a BSN and live in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, or Mississippi.

10. Florida International University

Doctor of Nursing Practice

Score: 230 | Cost of Attendance: $23,690 | More Information

Florida International University

Florida International University’s Doctor of Nursing Practice was ranked among the best in the nation for the year 2020 according to U.S. News & World Report. There are post-BSN tracks as well as a Post-Master’s option. The university describes its online degrees as being affordable and easily accessible to the working professional. A unique feature of the program is that there is no GRE requirement. Students are admitted in the fall and spring semesters.

The Post-MSN DNP consists of 36 credits hours. Focus areas of research that you can choose from include Adult-Gerontology, Family, Pediatric, or Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner, or Nurse Anesthetist. You’ll encounter courses like Organizational Dynamics of Health Systems, Patient Safety, and Quality Improvement in Health Care, Healthcare Finance and Economics in Advanced Clinical Practice, and more. You will also complete a Health Policy Practicum and a DNP Project.

The Post-BSN DNP options that you can pursue online consist of between 74 and 78 credits. The four specialty tracks that you can choose from are Adult-Gerontology Primary Care NP, Family Care NP, Child Primary Care NP, and Psychiatric-Mental Health NP. You’ll complete the program over ten semesters. Upon graduation, you will be qualified to apply for national certification in their area of specialty as well as state certification as an APRN.

11. Georgia College and State University

Doctor of Nursing Practice

Score: 230 | Cost of Attendance: $28,120 | More Information

Georgia College and State University

GCSU has an online DNP program that is presented in an executive-style format. This is one of the fastest programs we’ve featured in this ranking. It consists of 37 credits, and it is only open to those who already hold the Master of Science in Nursing or MSN. Students are admitted every fall. The program begins with a four-day immersion experience that takes place on campus.

After that, there are on-site immersion experiences every year that you’re in the program, each lasting for one week. Online classes are delivered both synchronously through interactive lectures, and asynchronously through recorded lectures and online modules, you can access any time. Full-time students can graduate in just five semesters. Part-time students will graduate in eight.

You’ll take classes like Addressing Health Needs of Vulnerable Populations; Health Care Policy, Ethics, and Politics; Health Care Finance and Economics for the DNP; Epidemiology; and more. There are a total of 540 clinical hours required as well as a mentored capstone project required. You will benefit from an individualized program of study suited to your needs as well as extensive opportunities for collaboration. Through in-depth courses and innovative research, you’ll develop into an innovative professional that is prepared to lead and influence positive change in your career.

12. University of Arkansas

Doctor of Nursing Practice

Score: 229 | Cost of Attendance: $24,916 | More Information

University of Arkansas

The University of Arkansas offers an incredibly convenient online Doctor of Nursing Practice. The curriculum is designed to train you to effectively solve complex health issues, design and implement quality improvement, deliver effective evidence-based practice, improve patient outcomes, and emerge as a transformative leader in your field. Students are admitted every summer.

There are two entry levels for those nurses with a BSN or an MSN. There are minimal visits to campus required, and one of them is an orientation when you first enter the program. Clinical practicum hours are required, but it is up to you to arrange for you to complete them somewhere local to you. As an online student, you will also be eligible for scholarships and financial aid at this university.

The BSN to DNP program can be completed in as little as three years of full-time study. It includes a total of 1,035 clinical hours. BSN-prepared students can choose from two concentrations which are Family Nurse Practitioner and Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner. The MSN to DNP program can be completed in as little as two years of full-time study and requires a minimum of 500 clinical hours.

13. Vanderbilt University

Doctor of Nursing Practice

Score: 229 | Cost of Attendance: $65,407 | More Information

Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt University School of Nursing has been in operation for over a century and has an established history of academic excellence. Its Doctor of Nursing Practice program was initially established in 2008, placing it among the first few programs of this kind in the nation. Students have the choice of two different tracks in the DNP program, Advanced Practice or Executive Leadership.

Based on the limits of your schedule, you can decide to study either full-time or part-time. One of the perks of the DNP program is that it is presented in a convenient asynchronous format so you can access your course materials 24/7. This can make it easier to study full time if you have a busy work schedule. You also have the choice of completing your clinical hours in a setting that is local to you.

There are three block intensives that will require you to come to the campus which is located in Nashville, Tennessee. These intensives will last no more than five days each time. After you’ve completed all of your coursework and clinical hours, you’ll need to prepare and defend a capstone project based on your professional aspirations. Another unique feature of Vanderbilt’s online DNP is that you can use a two-way interactive video program for defending your project.

14. University of Kansas

Doctor of Nursing Practice

Score: 226 | Cost of Attendance: $25,090 | More Information

University of Kansas

The University of Kansas has a Doctor of Nursing Practice that students can take online that is designed to prepare nurses at the highest level of practice to pursue leadership roles in diverse health care and academic environments as well as actively shape the future of healthcare as a whole. There are Post-BSN and Post-MSN options, making the program more accessible to students from a variety of academic backgrounds.

Nurses that hold a Bachelor of Science in Nursing can earn an online DNP with any of the following areas of focus: Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner, Family Nurse Practitioner, Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner, Nurse Midwife, Health Informatics, Organizational Leadership, and Public Health Nursing. You can also choose a Leadership major instead of an Advanced Practice one, and the university offers Organizational Leadership, Public Health Nursing, or Nursing Informatics.

MSN to DNP students can choose a variety of majors as well. Current offerings are Nurse Practitioner, Clinical Nurse Specialist, Nurse Midwife, Nursing Leadership, Nursing Informatics, and Public Health Nursing. There is only one documented on-campus requirement associated with earning this online DNP and it is a four-day orientation that takes place in June.

15. Virginia Commonwealth University

Doctor of Nursing Practice

Score: 226 | Cost of Attendance: $27,023 | More Information

Virginia Commonwealth University

Virginia Commonwealth University has an online DNP program that consists of a minimum of 39 credit hours. It is designed for MSN-prepared nurses to explore topics in patient safety, quality improvement, leadership, health policy, and organizational systems to help prepare them to take on a variety of advanced roles in administration, direct care, and education.

This is a flexible Doctor of Nursing Practice degree that only requires students to come to campus three times each year at the beginning of each semester. These on-campus visits only last for two to three days each time. The remainder of the lectures, assignments, and other course materials are delivered synchronously via the web. You have the choice of studying part-time or full-time based on the demands of your current schedule.

If you do choose to study full time, you can graduate in as little as two years. The classes you’ll take include Statistical Methods for Quality Improvement, Health Information, and Data Management, Evaluating Evidence to Improve Health Outcomes, Epidemiology and Population Health, and more. You will also have the opportunity to select a few electives in your area of interest. A mentored practicum residency and a DNP project are also mandatory components of the program.

16. Creighton University

Doctor of Nursing Practice

Score: 225 | Cost of Attendance: $54,952 | More Information

Creighton University

Creighton University was the first university in the state of Nebraska to offer a Doctor of Nursing Practice. The university describes the program as being presented in a hybrid format. It is primarily online, but there are some visits to campus required. A few times each semester, you’ll have to attend the campus. While the flexibility of this DNP may seem compromised in that way, it makes up for it in other ways. There is no GRE, no thesis, and the university offers three start dates per year.

You must hold at least a Bachelor of Science in Nursing to be eligible for admission. The university offers the following APRN tracks for you to choose from. Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner, Adult-Gerontology Nurse Practitioner, Family Nurse Practitioner, Neonatal Nurse Practitioner, Pediatric Primary and Acute Care Nurse Practitioner, and Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner. If you’re not interested in direct care, you could also explore the Clinical Systems Administration track.

You have the option to study full- or part-time. The program is structured in such a way that you will take your core courses before completing as much as 2,000 hours of clinical practice that prepare you for your upper-level clinical courses.

17. Johns Hopkins University

Doctor of Nursing Practice

Score: 225 | Cost of Attendance: $70,363 | More Information

Johns Hopkins University

Johns Hopkins University is one of the premier universities in the nation its graduate programs in nursing were ranked among the top online programs nationwide for the year 2020 by U.S. News & World Report. If you’re interested in an evidence-based educational program that will equip you with the skills you need to improve patient outcomes and advance the field of nursing, JHU is a great option. It offers a range of online DNP programs with a few onsite immersions.

The DNP programs offered online at Johns Hopkins include the following concentrations. Adult-Gerontological Primary Care Nurse Practitioner, Family Primary Care Nurse Practitioner, Pediatric Primary Care Nurse Practitioner, Adult-Gerontological Health Clinical Nurse Specialist, Adult-Gerontological Critical Care Clinical Nurse Specialist, and Pediatric Critical Care Clinical Nurse Specialist.

The onsite course immersions occur once every semester for the seven semesters you’ll be enrolled. They give you the opportunity to practice advanced clinical skills in the university’s simulation center as well as work with interprofessional teams and internationally-acclaimed faculty. Online, you will take classes in biostatistics, health policy, systems leadership, pharmacology and more.

18. Samford University

Doctor of Nursing Practice

Score: 223 | Cost of Attendance: $47,913 | More Information

Samford University

Samford University offers a total of six different concentrations in its online DNP program. These are the Doctor of Nursing Practice in Administration; in Advanced Practice and; a Family Nurse Practitioner specialty. The remaining three are the Doctor of Nursing Practice in Health Systems & Administration, and two further specialties: Transformation of Care, and Informatics.

The university has structured the DNP in Administration and the DNP in Advanced Practice programs for nurses that have already earned their MSN. The DNP-FNP program, as well as the Health Systems Administration offerings, are open to nurses holding a BSN. Additionally, the Health Systems options provide an RN to DNP option. Students are admitted once per year in February.

Full-time plans of study allow for graduation in as little as one year; however, the online option is primarily presented at a part-time pace that takes two years. Each of the degree options has been designed to prepare nurses to succeed at any level of nursing practice and administration. Individual plans of study are highly individualized to suit your professional aspirations.

19. Duquesne University

Doctor of Nursing Practice

Score: 221 | Cost of Attendance: $52,108 | More Information

Duquesne University

Duquesne University’s School of Nursing ranked 35th in the country for its online graduate programs in nursing for the year 2019, as reported by U.S. News & World Report. This program is an incredible opportunity for students to solidify themselves as experts in nursing and their respective areas of specialization.

This is an MSN-DNP program that consists of 35 total credits. Apart from a brief orientation on campus at the beginning of the program, the rest of it can be completed 100% online. The university offers students three different start dates to choose from, tuition discounts, and opportunities to study abroad in Rome or Dublin if they’d like. What’s more, the concentrations you can pursue are also unique; the three choices you have are Transcultural Nursing, Forensic Nursing or Nursing Education.

There is no GRE required, and all of the classes you’ll take are self-paced. You can access your course materials 24/7 and graduate in just two years of full-time study. Some students that hold only a Bachelor of Science in Nursing may be admitted. You will have access to specialized professional writing modules, complete a specialized Doctoral Practice Project, and have a dedicated one-on-one faculty mentor to guide you through earning your DNP.

20. Misericordia University

Doctor of Nursing Practice

Score: 221 | Cost of Attendance: $49,450 | More Information

Misericordia University

Misericordia University’s Doctor of Nursing Practice is an online DNP that combines didactic and clinical course work that adheres to the standards set forth by the AACN and their Essentials of Doctoral Education for Advanced Nursing Practice. There is both a BSN-DNP and MSN-DNP option depending on your level of academic experience. There are no residency requirements. All clinical requirements can be fulfilled at a location convenient to you.

The BSN option requires you to take all of your Master of Science in Nursing courses face-to-face, and they happen just once a week on campus. This degree track consists of 64 credits and can be completed over the course of three years. Beyond the master’s level, the program is online. This option requires a total of 1,000 practice hours. Students are admitted to the program in fall, whether they are taking this track or if they’ve already earned an MSN.

The MSN-DNP track is a part-time program that consists of 27 credits. It can typically be completed in two calendar years. You can also opt to include a nine-credit specialization in nursing education if that suits your professional goals. There are 500 hours required in order for you to graduate. On top of classes like Evidence-Based Practice Theory and Role, Leadership in System Management, Advanced Biomedical Ethics and Healthcare Policy, and Transformation of Health Care Through Informatics & Patient Care Technology, you will also complete an individualized capstone project.

21. Bradley University

Doctor of Nursing Practice

Score: 219 | Cost of Attendance: $46,806 | More Information

Bradley University

Bradley University was rated as one of the best universities in the midwest by U.S. News & World Report. It offers a Doctor of Nursing Practice in two forms. If you’re a BSN-prepared nurse, you can take the DNP-FNP program. If you’ve already earned a Master of Science in Nursing, the DNP Leadership track is for you.

The BSN to DNP-FNP track is 100% online with no on-campus residencies required. It requires a total of 1,050 clinical hours and can be completed in four years of full-time study. The curriculum is designed to be innovative and thoroughly prepare you for the highest level of practice. You will take classes like Advanced Pathophysiology, Data Management, Advanced Health Assessment, Professional Aspects of Advanced Nursing Practice, and more.

The MSN to DNP is a Leadership-focused program. This option requires a total of 1,000 clinical hours and takes place over nine semesters, which is three years. You will take a Doctoral Practice Seminar as well as complete DNP Clinical Practice. In addition to that, you will take in-depth courses in Management in Healthcare Organizations, Advanced Health Informatics, Healthcare Policy, and more.

22. Saint Louis University

Doctor of Nursing Practice

Score: 217 | Cost of Attendance: $57,214 | More Information

Saint Louis University

Saint Louis University offers a Post-BSN Doctor of Nursing Practice. It is available almost entirely online with the exception of four short visits to campus. They all last for just a few days each and include an orientation, an assessment, a doctoral-level orientation, and the presentation of your DNP project that you have to complete.

There are five different concentrations that you can choose from which are Adult/Gerontological Acute Care Nurse Practitioner, Adult/Gerontological Primary Care Nurse Practitioner, Family Nurse Practitioner, Pediatric Primary Care Nurse Practitioner, or Family Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner. Online students at the university will have access to an online library, an online writing center, and an individualized faculty advisor.

The program consists of a total of 68 credits beyond your bachelor’s degree. You can choose to study full-time or part-time which will lead you to graduate in four or five years respectively. You will complete the program with between 1,050 clinical hours or 1,125 depending on the specialty track that you choose.

23. Maryville University of Saint Louis

Doctor of Nursing Practice

Score: 215 | Cost of Attendance: $45,536 | More Information

Maryville University of Saint Louis

The Maryville University of Saint Louis offers an online Doctor of Nursing Practice that is truly designed for flexibility. It is indeed 100% online with no visits to campus required. You don’t need to include GMAT or GRE scores in your application, and there is no waiting list once you’re accepted. You can complete your clinicals locally in the setting you prefer, and you could graduate in as little as 20 months depending on the track that you choose.

Both of the tracks available are only open to MSN-prepared nurses. You can choose the DNP, which is for those of you who want to enter high-level leadership roles. There is also the DNP-NP for those of you who want to work in direct care and need to earn your NP credentials. The specializations offered include Adult-Gerontology Acute Care, Adult-Gerontology Primary Care, Family Nurse Practitioner, Pediatric Nurse Practitioner, and Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner.

The core curriculum for both options will be the same and explores essential topics in the field. Some courses you’ll take include Principles of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Advanced Health Care Policy, Organizations Theory, and Systems Leadership, and Quality and Patient Safety in Advanced Nursing Practice. The DNP program takes 20 months to complete. The DNP-NP has additional courses in Professional Role Development, Advanced Pathophysiology, and more; it takes a total of three years to complete.

24. Endicott College

Doctor of Philosophy in Nursing

Score: 214 | Cost of Attendance: $51,674 | More Information

Endicott College

Endicott College offers a PhD in Nursing that combines logical, critical, and scientific thinking with ethical integrity. The program is accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing and is presented in a blended format. The on-campus requirements are not detailed on the program website.

This PhD program is made up of 45 credit hours and covers subjects like Philosophy of Science, Design and Methods for Clinical Nursing Research, and more. A dissertation is required to graduate. Online students will have access to the career resources provided by the Van Loan School at Endicott even after graduating. Services include resume support and continued advising.

This a rare PhD in Nursing because you can enter it with a BSN. You will take classes like Knowledge Development in Nursing Science; Emerging Roles: Nurse Scientist, Scholar and Leader and; Knowledge Development in Nursing Science. You will also have to take a myriad of research classes and some electives.

25. Indiana University-Purdue University-Indianapolis

Doctor of Nursing Practice

Score: 210 | Cost of Attendance: $19,195 | More Information

Indiana University-Purdue University-Indianapolis

Indiana University-Purdue University-Indianapolis offers a Doctor of Nursing Practice through IU Online. The university describes the course delivery as being between 80 and 90 percent available online. There are a total of 37 credits to complete with a tuition rate of $1000 per credit. In-state and out-of-state students pay the same price, and online students are also eligible for the same scholarships and financial aid as traditional students.

There are three visits to campus required. There is one held over summer prior to entry, and the other two take place in the spring semesters and will last no more than three days. You can apply up to 475 clinical hours from prior graduate study to help you meet the total of 1,000 clinical hours required for graduation. You will also have access to a lot of academic and other support services as an online DNP student.

The program consists of nursing practice core courses, DNP practicum/DNP project courses, and electives. You will have to complete a DNP project along with taking classes like Trans-disciplinary Approaches to Influencing Public Health Policy, Health Outcomes & Decision Making, Relationship-Centered Leadership in Complex Systems, Strategic Resource Management in Nursing & Health Systems, and more.

26. George Washington University

Doctor of Nursing Practice

Score: 207 | Cost of Attendance: $70,443

George Washington University

George Washington University’s School of Nursing provides students with a Doctor of Nursing Practice degree program that is tailored to meet the needs of the working professional while simultaneously providing an education that lives up to the name and history of the school. You can enter the program with either a Bachelor of Science in Nursing or a Master of Science in Nursing.

There are minimal on-campus visits associated with the BSN-DNP option, which offers three different concentration options. You can choose from the Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner program, the Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner program, or the Family Nurse Practitioner program.

The Post-Master’s DNP options for specialization provide more depth to the skills of students through programs in Executive Leadership, Health Care Quality, and Nursing Practice. The MSN-DNP program only requires two face-to-face meetings apart from the standard new student orientation. Depending on your chosen track, you can pursue your degree at a full-time or part-time pace.

27. Regis University

Doctor of Nursing Practice

Score: 206 | Cost of Attendance: $50,170 | More Information

Regis University

Regis University has a Post-BSN to DNP program that you can complete online. You will be able to earn your MSN with a focus in either Family Nurse Practitioner or Neonatal Nurse Practitioner while you’re obtaining the highest clinical nursing degree available, the DNP. The average student finishes the program in four to five years.

There are start dates in the summer and fall semesters; FNP students will start in the summer, and NNP students begin in the fall. Your MSN courses are pursued at a full-time pace, but there is a part-time option for the DNP portion of the program. There is a total of 1000 clinical hours required for the program. If you choose the FNP focus, you will complete 79 credits, and the NNP focus is just 74 credits.

There are core courses for the MSN portion that are shared, like Ethics for Nurse Leaders, Foundations of Financial Management for Nursing Leaders, and more. You will then complete your specialization courses and advance to the DNP level. The DNP courses build on everything you’ve learned while covering additional topics in leadership and research. You will also complete a DNP project prior to graduation.

28. Simmons University

Doctor of Nursing Practice

Score: 205 | Cost of Attendance: $59,830 | More Information

Simmons University offers an online Doctor of Nursing Practice. The degree consists of 33 total credits, and you can complete them either at a full- or part-time pace. Core courses include a lot of relevant topics in nursing such as epidemiology, biostatistics, health policy, health care economics, and more. You’ll also take classes that advance your understanding of ethics and legal issues, leadership, and research.

This DNP is presented in a hybrid or blended format that is still flexible. Onsite classes are held two weekends per semester in an intensive residency format, and the rest of the program can be completed online at your convenience. There are some synchronous elements to the program, but you’ll have 24/7 access to your assignments and other course materials.

You will learn in a very intimate environment, with no more than 15 students per class. This allows you to get the one-on-one faculty interaction that is key in helping you to fully learn all that you can as you work towards your degree. This program is only open to those students who already hold an MSN and are board-certified APRNs.

29. Seton Hall University

Doctor of Nursing Practice

Score: 202 | Cost of Attendance: $59,062 | More Information

Seton Hall University

Seton Hall University has a Doctor of Nursing Practice that was ranked among the best programs of its kind by U.S. News & World Report for the year 2019 and 2020. There are entry options for BSN-prepared, and MSN-prepared nurses and all of the classes are available online. If you hold a BSN, you will complete between 73 and 79 credits; if you enter with an MSN, you will complete a minimum of 31.

Courses that students of either track will take include Population Health in Advanced Nursing Practice, Quality and Information Management Systems, Leadership in Healthcare Business, and more. Seton Hall offered some of the first nursing programs in New Jersey and the graduate level programs are globally recognized for their excellence.

The curriculum is designed to push students to perform at their highest ability, which helps shape the future of healthcare by cultivating dedication among its students. Graduates of this program will be fully-equipped to step into leadership roles or continue on the path of advanced practice. You will be required to complete a DNP Scholarly Project in order to graduate.

30. Drexel University

Doctor of Nursing Practice

Score: 200 | Cost of Attendance: $69,392 | More Information

Drexel University

Drexel University’s College of Nursing and Health Professions first opened in 2002. The online Doctor of Nursing Practice was designed to prepare students for advanced practice or leadership roles, but the research-intensive curriculum also covers the science developed by nurse researchers who hold research-focused degrees. This helps students to synthesize theory and practice effectively, and it is all delivered in a flexible asynchronous format.

There are three in-person requirements throughout the program, which consists of a total of 46 credits. Students will need to attend an orientation during their first year, a global immersion held in Canada during their third year, and a residency during the week of their graduation in order to present the capstone project they’ve completed. Each of these mandatory face-to-face visits will last one week.

This program is organized into four 10-week quarters per year, which leads to you taking more classes in a shorter time period. You’ll encounter classes like Health Policy and Economics, Applied Epidemiology, Leadership in Organizations and Systems, and Translating Evidence into Clinical Practice. You will also learn about information systems, research, and global perspectives in nursing.

Is a DNP the Same as a Nurse Practitioner?

No, they are not the same thing. It is easy to confuse the two as they are abbreviated as DNP and NP, but they’re not even close to the same thing. DNP stands for Doctor of Nursing Practice whereas NP stands for Nurse Practitioner.

A Doctor of Nursing Practice is a graduate-level degree in the field of nursing. It is one of the two terminal degrees in the field with the other being the Doctor of Philosophy. The DNP is practice-oriented and is designed for those of you who want to work in direct patient care or leadership or administration in a clinical setting. You can take a general track in a DNP program, or you can focus on an area of advanced nursing practice.

Advanced nursing practice is a broad term that covers a multitude of types of nursing. Nurse Practitioners or NPs are a type of Advanced Practice Registered Nurse or APRN. An NP is a licensed clinician that is trained in providing patient care, and typically a nurse practitioner will specialize in a particular patient population. The responsibilities of an NP are greatly varied, but they fill a similar role as physicians do.

Is a DNP a Doctor?

The shortest answer to this question is yes, a Doctor of Nursing Practice is a doctor. Someone who has earned a doctorate is technically a doctor, but there is actually a lot of controversy and even some legislation surrounding this issue. See, any time someone is referred to as “doctor” in a medical setting, the automatic conclusion that people draw is that they’re dealing with a medical doctor and obviously, that isn’t always the case.

In support of using the term “doctor” to refer to the people who have earned a DNP, we understand that they truly have earned the distinction. But, there is an easily discernible ethical dilemma that it poses in a medical setting such as a hospital. In places like Arizona and Delaware pharmacists, nurses, and other medical professionals are prohibited from using the term doctor unless it is followed by immediate clarification of their role. So, someone with a DNP would be required to explain that they are a doctoral-prepared nurse practitioner rather than a medical doctor.

The most important thing to consider in this sort of situation is that any time you’re in a clinical setting, the concern, and the focus should be entirely on the patients. Preventing confusion through the explanation and reiteration of your role as a nurse that holds a DNP will help keep your patients informed and save your organization from any potential legal problems that could arise from their confusion.

Can DNP Write Prescriptions?

One thing that we would like to clarify is that DNP is not a position that one can hold. DNP is an abbreviation for Doctor of Nursing Practice, which is one of the two terminal degrees in the field of nursing; the other is the Doctor of Philosophy or PhD. However, most of those who have earned a DNP are nurse practitioners. Nurse practitioners can write prescriptions in all 50 US states as well as in Washington DC. However, their practice authority varies by state.

Practice authority is the scope of practice that an NP can have in a given state, and a significant component of that authority is the power to write prescriptions for medication, medical devices, or other treatments. In this regard, states fall into three categories.

  • Restricted: In some states, NPs have restricted practice authority. This means that these nurses must have a collaborative agreement with a physician in order to be able to write prescriptions
  • Reduced: In places where an NP has reduced practice authority, they may be able to prescribe some things but perhaps be unable to prescribe certain treatments or highly regulated drugs like controlled substances.
  • Full Practice Authority: In states that grant NPs full practice authority, they can write prescriptions at their own discretion without the oversight of a physician, regardless of the drug.

Some states will have a probationary period of restricted or reduced practice authority for a period of a few years after which they grant full practice authority. It all depends on the regulations in the state an NP practices in.

What Jobs Can You Get With a DNP?

There are actually a lot of jobs that you can get with a Doctor of Nursing Practice or DNP degree. The American Association of Colleges of Nursing has long asserted the idea that a DNP should be the educational minimum when it comes to APRN roles. These are a nurse practitioner, nurse anesthetist, nurse midwife, and clinical nurse specialist. So, if you wanted to work in direct clinical care, those are some career paths that you could have.

If you’re interested in working in direct care, you could choose to focus on a specific clinical area, a particular patient population, or a combination of the two. Some of your options for a clinical area to specialize in include cardiology, community health, emergency care, endocrinology, forensics, nephrology, oncology, orthopedics, pain management, palliative care, or radiology.

There are population-specific programs of study out there as well, where you can choose to get additional education and certification in the care of types of patients. Current options include Adult-Gerontology, Family/Individual Across the Lifespan, Neonatal, Pediatrics, Psychiatric/Mental Health, and Women’s Health.

Of course, there are a lot of jobs that a DNP prepares you for that are not direct care positions. You could work in health policy, education, public health programs, and more. You could also work in hospital systems and governmental agencies in leadership or administrative positions. You’re not limited to a direct care career in nursing and with a DNP degree, you can carve out the professional path that’s right for you because you will have earned the highest level of education one can receive in the field.

How Much Does a DNP Make an Hour?

As you read above, there are a lot of different jobs that one can do when they have a Doctor of Nursing Practice or DNP degree. When considering salary, you also have to think about the fact that there are a lot of different factors that can affect annual pay. Things like the level of experience, geographical location, additional certifications, and so on can all play a role in determining what your salary could be.

With that said, the most common career held by DNP-prepared nurses is that of a nurse practitioner. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average salary for a nurse practitioner with a DNP nationwide is $135,830. It is easier to think in terms of annual salary versus hourly rate.

Here is a list of common careers you can hold with a DNP and the average annual salary for that position.

  • Nurse Anesthetist: $178,300
  • Palliative Care NP: $119,520
  • Nursing Instructor: $81,400
  • Nurse Director: $101,550
  • Chief Nursing Officer: $154,620

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