Online Doctor of Nursing Practice Degree (DNP)

Online Nursing Doctorate Degree: An Overview
A Doctor of Nursing Practice online degree may be a good choice for nurses who want to advance their careers. Graduates from online nursing doctoral degree programs are also entering the health care industry at a time of enormous need.

The combination of an aging population and an industry-wide emphasis on preventive care has created an increased demand for nursing positions. The Doctor of Nursing Practice is the only option for professionals in some institutions to advance in certain specialties, such as nurse practitioner, nurse anesthetist or clinical nurse specialist.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects nurse practitioner jobs alone will increase 36 percent between 2016 and 2026, which is much faster than the national average.

Those with Doctor of Nursing Practice – or DNP – degrees stand at the top of their field, facilitating health care at both the practical and policy levels.


An online nursing doctorate program offers flexibility for students who are also working professionals. Web-based programs typically follow the same rigorous curricula as brick-and-mortar options, leading to similar advancement opportunities for graduates. The online format is also ideal for students who must tackle additional commitments – such as child or family care – on top of their work and class schedules.

How long does it take to earn a DNP online?
The number of credits required in online DNP programs varies based on school, concentration and the student’s education level. Many Bachelor of Science in nursing, or BSN, to DNP programs require 64 to 94 credits, while Master of Science in nursing, or MSN, to DNP programs usually require 31 to 40 credits. Students can earn their degree in two to five years.

How much does an online nursing doctorate program cost?
The cost of online DNP degrees depends on several factors. State residency is an important consideration, since many colleges and universities charge higher tuition for out-of-state students. However, some schools charge flat tuition for online students regardless of state residency.

Per-credit costs for an online nursing doctorate degree typically range from $750 to $1,075. Students should expect to pay between $48,000 and $101,000 in tuition for a BSN to DNP program and $23,000 to $43,000 for an MSN to DNP program.

Online DNP admissions requirementsMost online doctorate in nursing programs either require or recommend some work experience. Applicants must also have a bachelor’s or master’s degree in nursing, which varies from program to program. Some schools also recommend or require GRE or GMAT scores.

Choosing an accredited online nursing degree program
Accreditation status is one of the most important considerations for prospective students. Colleges and universities in the U.S. receive accreditation from agencies recognized by the U.S. Department of Education; the accreditation process involves an extensive review of a school’s educational programs and student services.

A school’s accreditation impacts course credit transferability, as well as student eligibility for federal financial aid, so students should ensure the school offering the program has earned national or regional accreditation.

Online Coursework

Core courses include advanced classes in research and writing methods. These courses are needed because DNP coursework involves complex writing and research not generally found at the BSN or MSN level. DNP students also receive substantial training in biostatistics, epidemiology and leadership.

Doctor of Nursing Practice degree specializations
DNP programs online offer a wide variety of concentrations. Some specializations emphasize patient care for children, families and the elderly, while others focus more on leadership, hospital care or lifelong mental illness.

DNPs who specialize in individual patient care use acute or chronic diagnostics to create treatment plans that promote physical and mental health. They work in direct contact with patients, performing routine checkups and surgeries at health care centers and specialized practices.

Students can also pursue concentrations in leadership and mental health that emphasize systemic or policy-related issues and lifetime mental stability, respectively.


Offline practicum
Most DNP online programs require students to accumulate approximately 500 to 1,000 hours of clinical experience to graduate. Students are monitored and mentored by faculty members to make sure they apply what they’ve learned in their online program. Some schools also require students to complete scholarly and scientific projects.

Professional Associations in Nursing
Online doctorate in nursing graduates may join professional health associations that provide support and resources to nurse leaders nationwide. These organizations host conferences and seminars, provide opportunities for networking and maintain job boards where DNP graduates can find work. They also offer members career guidance and promote the credibility of the profession to governing bodies.

American Nurses Association: ANA promotes high nursing standards in the workplace and advocates for the nation’s 3.6 million registered nurses and health care issues that impact the public. Member benefits include professional liability insurance, long-term care insurance and student loan refinancing.
American Association of Nurse Practitioners: Founded in 1985, AANP is the only full-service professional membership organization for nurse practitioners of all specialties. AANP offers a variety of memberships for students, professionals, nursing organizations and retirees. Members have access to several education and career resources as well as subscriptions to professional journals and magazines.
Doctors of Nursing Practice: This organization was founded in 2005 as a group of nurse practitioner students hoping to better equip students in DNP programs across the country. The organization hosts conferences, offers career opportunities and has an established professional electronic newsletter.

Job Outlook and Salaries for Graduates
Online doctorate degree in nursing graduates typically hold management positions, allowing them to command higher salaries. For example, according to the BLS, the median salary for all nurse practitioners is about $101,000.

What can I do with a doctoral degree in nursing?
DNPs work at hospitals, universities, patient-care facilities and speciality centers. Both BSN to DNP and MSN to DNP programs online prepare students for these positions. Online DNP programs can provide students with clinical experience and the organizational and leadership skills needed to succeed in many positions, including the following.

Acute care nurse practitioner: Acute care nurse practitioners ensure that patients with severe illnesses or injuries receive proper medical attention. These professionals work with patients who have suffered heart attacks, respiratory problems and other types of trauma. ACNPs assess the needs of their patients, monitor their vital signs and provide whatever treatment is necessary to improve their patient’s condition.
Clinical nurse specialist: Instead of working with individuals like most nurses, clinical nurse specialists focus on community-level needs. These nurses are responsible for improving patient outcomes, knowing how to develop and lead projects, and addressing broad concerns within the nursing community.
Family nurse practitioner: Family nurse practitioners focus on the holistic welfare of families at the physical, mental and sociological levels. They are responsible for writing prescriptions, developing treatment plans and evaluating outcomes for both children and parents.
Nurse administrator: Nurse administrators maintain many of the nursing operations in their organizations. They manage employees, plan and direct nursing programs, and ensure that their organization’s processes are optimized to provide patients with high quality care.

Nurse anesthetist: These professionals are responsible for all things related to anesthesia. They administer anesthesia before surgeries, monitor these levels during a procedure and oversee a patient’s postoperative recovery. Nurse anesthetists usually work in hospitals, clinics and private practices.
Nurse educator: Nurse educators work with hospital administrators to create continuing education programs and assist with the creation of policies for patient care. Nurse educators must have a degree, professional licensure, several years of experience and up-to-date training certifications.
Pediatric nurse practitioner: PNPs work with children and their parents to ensure that patients receive holistic health care. They may work as either a primary care provider for children or serve as a main point of contact, functioning in coordination with a physician.
Psychiatric nurse practitioner: Psychiatric nurse practitioners treat patients with a variety of mental health issues. They usually work with psychiatrists and other mental health care professionals to provide a wide spectrum of care to patients. They may also instruct patients or their families about treatments they can use at home.

Licensure and certification
The certification and licensure requirements for nurse practitioners vary from state to state. In most instances, graduates from BSN to DNP online programs are qualified to work in the acute care space and do not need to obtain certification.

How much are salaries for doctorate in nursing graduates?

Median salaries


Job title Salary
Nurse educator


Nurse administrator


Clinical nurse specialist


Pediatric nurse practitioner


Family nurse practitioner


Acute care nurse practitioner


Psychiatric nurse practitioner


Nurse anesthetist


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