Online Doctor of Nursing Practice Degree (DNP)


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Much like pharmacists and physical therapists, advanced practice registered nurses will soon be able to add the title of “doctor” to their name. In 2004, the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, an academic advising organization, voted to endorse a new clinical doctorate in nursing program, known as the Doctor of Nursing Practice degree. By 2015, the Doctor of Nursing Practice will become the only option available at some institutions to become an advanced registered practice nurse (i.e., nurse practitioner, clinical nurse specialist, nurse anesthetist and nurse midwife).

An online Doctor of Nursing Practice will prepare nurses to administer clinical care in their chosen specialty and will enhance their finance, organizational and leadership skills. Graduates with a Doctor of Nursing Practice degree will not only be able to become an advanced practice RN, but also become an advocate for nursing through nursing education, policy and administration.

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Course Work

Potential specializations
Nursing education
Nurse anesthetist
Psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner
Health care administration
Clinical nurse specialist
Palliative care nurse practitioner
Health care quality

Most online Doctor of Nursing Practice programs require applicants be an RN with either a Bachelor of Science in nursing or a Master of Science in nursing. The program takes about 40 months to complete for a nurse with a Bachelor of Science in nursing and about 21 months to complete for a nurse with a Master of Science in nursing.

All nurses in a Doctor of Nursing Practice online program will complete course work in health systems, health policy, business principles, financial management, leadership, public health and research in addition to requirements for their chosen specialization. Potential specializations include family nurse practitioner, nurse anesthesia and nursing leadership, among others.

An online Doctor of Nursing Practice program cannot be completed entirely online as students are required to complete a series of short-term, on-campus visits to attend seminars, complete assessments and present a final project. Students must also complete a varying amount of clinical hours based on their chosen specialty.

Job Outlook

Median salaries*
Nurse educator $69,000
Pediatric nurse practitioner $81,000
Nurse administrator $83,000
Clinical nurse specialist $84,000
Family nurse practitioner $86,000
Acute care nurse practitioner $89,000
Psychiatric nurse practitioner $92,000
Nurse anesthetist $137,000


A nationwide physician shortage, particularly of primary care physicians, has led some experts to advocate for nurse practitioners who work in primary care to fill the gap. Primary care nurse practitioners conduct physical exams and diagnose and treat patients for acute and chronic illnesses.

“To me, nurse practitioners could be a huge, huge solution to this problem of primary care shortage,” Dr. Thomas Bodenheimer, a professor of family and community medicine at the School of Medicine at University of California—San Francisco, said in an interview with NBC News.

Employment of all nurse practitioners is on the rise, with an estimated employment growth of 94 percent, according to a study published in Medical Care, a journal of the American Public Health Association. Graduates with a Doctor of Nursing Practice can also obtain employment in other areas such as nursing education and nurse anesthesia. Median salaries range from about $86,000 for family nurse practitioners to more than $137,000 for nurse anesthetists, according to PayScale, an online salary database.

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