The Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) is a terminal degree for nurses who are seeking to advance to the leadership level of nursing and have a say in the administration of health care for patients. The degree is available in different tracks that range from general leadership roles to specializations such as Adult Care, Gerontology, Pediatrics, Psychiatric and Mental Health Care, and more.
Most nursing practice programs are open to nurses who have earned their BSN or MSN and have gained working experience after earning their degrees. The Online Doctor of Nursing Practice degree offers nurses the opportunity to reach positions of authority in the field of nursing in their area of advanced practice, or they can use what they’ve learned from their DNP along with a Nurse Practitioner degree.
Methodology: How We Ranked the Best Online DNP Programs
The College Consensus ranking of the Best Online nursing practice programs 2022 focuses on accredited, reputable institutions. The ranking is calculated from three key points:
- Cost (current IPEDS data)
- Niche Score
- US News Rank
With these factors in place, prospective nursing program students have a better knowledge of how their degree will be seen on the job market. The College Consensus Best Online Nursing Practice programs ranking shows busy nurses a way to earn the highest degree in their field conveniently, without putting their careers on hold.
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The School of Nursing at the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor offers a Doctor of Nursing Practice for students who have a BSN and MSN. The BSN to DNP degree program is one of the few programs in the U.S. that offers a broad range of APRN specialties to students. The program is a web-blended course that requires limited visits to campus and it also finds clinical placements for students. The BSN to DNP is a three-to-four year program and the MSN to DNP is two to three years. UM has one of the best online DNP programs in the US.
The University of Michigan (UMich) is a public research university that was founded in 1817. The school features multiple academic affiliations and has a sea and space grant. It offers degree programs at all levels in over 250 disciplines and has nineteen colleges and nine professional schools. Over 90,000 students enroll in UMich each academic year.
The College of Nursing at the University of Florida offers a highly-ranked DNP that’s the first of its kind in the state of Florida, and is one of the best DNP online programs for students who aren’t looking to focus on research but do want advanced practice knowledge.
The mostly-online program is available for post-BSN and MSN students who are seeking an advanced nursing practice degree. Students are required to visit campus on an occasional basis. UF has one of the best online DNP programs in the US.
The University of Florida (UF) is part of the State University System of Florida and was designated as one of the three “preeminent universities” in the 12 school system. U.S. News& World Report ranked UF as the 5th best public university in the U.S. It features multiple graduate programs in areas such as law, medicine, engineering, and business administration offered through 16 different colleges.
The School of Nursing at the University of Texas at Austin features a DNP in a hybrid online/in-classroom format that prepares students to engage in complex practice and leadership roles. The program is one of the highest-ranked grad schools for DNP programs, making it one of the best hybrid DNP programs in the country.
Students learn how to assume high-level leadership roles in health care in order to provide the best quality patient-centered care and adapt to ever-changing needs in the health care system. UT Austin has one of the best online DNP programs in the US.
The University of Texas–Austin is the flagship public campus of the University of Texas System, and is a major center for academic research. The campus is home to 17 libraries and seven museums that help support students in their specific area of education. Over 51,000 students enroll each academic year, and the school offers over 170 areas of undergraduate study. The school’s athletics teams participate in the Big 12 conference.
The School of Nursing at Duke University offers a nurse leadership DNP via a partially online format with four executive on-campus sessions. It’s open to post-BSN and post-MSN students who are interested in working in the highest levels of nursing administration BSN to DNP or MSN to DNP).
A graduate of the program will possess the skills to use scientific and analytical methods to improve health care systems and improve patient outcomes, as well as work effectively as an administrator. Some of the requirements can be completed at the student’s place of employment. Duke has one of the best online DNP programs in the US.
Duke University is a private research university located in Durham, NC, and is frequently ranked among the top universities in the U.S. and around the world. Many of its alumni have become Rhodes Scholars, Churchill Scholars, Nobel Laureates, and Truman scholars. The university offers 50 majors in arts, sciences, and engineering with students offered the option to pursue a certificate, minor, and major during their undergraduate education.
The School of Nursing at Vanderbilt University offers a top-rated DNP with multiple post-master’s study tracks including patient care and executive leadership. There are multiple ways to enter the program for nurses who hold a BSN and MSN in an advanced field of nursing.
Students learn how to use evidence-based knowledge in various health care settings in order to improve health care outcomes for patients and become highly-qualified nurse educators. Classes are held online, but students are required to attend campus once every semester for a three to four-day intensive session. Vanderbilt has one of the best online DNP programs in the States.
Vanderbilt University (VU) is a private research university that holds a Carnegie Classification of “R1: Doctoral Universities: Very high research activity.” The university features multiple research centers and institutes and 10 schools and colleges serving over 12,000 students. The schools include Divinity, Music, Law, Medicine, Nursing, and more.
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The School of Nursing at University of Wisconsin-Madison offers an online and hybrid DNP taught by doctorally-prepared faculty with real world experience in their field of nursing. The nursing practice program offers seven educational tracks with five hybrid options for APRN preparation and two online options for population health and nursing leadership.
It’s open to students who are post-BSN and post-MSN with some credit hours waived for post-BSN students to eliminate repetition of classes already taken. Wisconsin has one of the most flexible online DNP programs in the US.
The University of Wisconsin–Madison (UW-Madison) is a public research university and is the flagship campus of the University of Wisconsin System. The school features 20 colleges that offer 136 undergraduate majors, 148 master’s, and 120 doctoral programs. It has almost 100 research centers and programs that include agriculture to engineering and the arts. The school received $1.206 billion in R&D funding in 2018 which made it eighth in the U.S. for research funding.
Emory University’s Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing offers an online post-masters DNP that’s open to nursing practice students across the U.S. who are seeking to enter leadership roles in nursing. It’s ranked as one of the best grad schools for a DNP by U.S. News and World Report, making it one of the best online DNP programs available.
Students engage in dynamic interactive online learning modules that have intensives and practicum experiences, live class sessions, and weekend immersion experiences. They also engage one-on-one with educators to discuss their nursing practice education, development as a leader, and future successes.
Emory University is a private university in Atlanta, GA, that’s affiliated with the United Methodist Church. It’s the second-oldest of its kind in Georgia and was founded in 1836. The school is home to the largest healthcare system in the state and has seven major hospitals, major medical research centers, and disease and vaccine research centers.
The Johns Hopkins School of Nursing offers a DNP for students who have earned a BSN or MSN and a DNP with an earned MSN in a specialty such as CNS, NP, and Management. The Nursing Education school offers six different educational tracks that include Adult-Gerontological Acute Care, Adult-Gerontological Primary Care, Family Primary Care, Pediatric Primary Care, Clinical Nurse Specialist, and Nurse Anesthesiology.
All programs are online with onsite course immersions in the student’s current geographical location. However, students are required to attend seven onsite immersions at Johns Hopkins Baltimore campus as their education progresses. JHU has one of the most prestigious online DNP programs in the US.
Johns Hopkins University (JHU) is a private research university that was founded in 1876 and located in Baltimore, MD. It’s the oldest research university in the U.S. and is divided into 10 divisions for students pursuing a degree in medicine, nursing, business, education, and engineering. It enrolls over 27,000 students each academic year who attend campuses located in Baltimore and Washington, D.C.
The Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation at Arizona State University offers nine different educational tracks in its DNP. The nursing practice specializations are offered in a hybrid format that requires campus attendance for orientation and occasionally during the semester.
The program is designed to teach students how to become effective leaders in a specific area of healthcare and nursing. Students learn how to implement the latest in best practices and leadership in areas that include acute care for pediatrics, adult-gerontology, family medicine, family psychiatric and mental health, innovation leadership, and more. ASU has one of the most flexible online DNP programs in the US.
Arizona State University (ASU) is a public research university and is part of the public university system of Arizona. It enrolls almost 150,000 students each academic year and offers 350 degrees spread throughout 17 colleges. It also has 170 cross-discipline centers and institutes, and over 400 graduate degree and certificate programs. Its athletics teams participate in the NCAA Divison I Pac-12 Conference.
The School of Nursing at the University of Pittsburg has a DNP that features multiple nursing practice educational tracks including Clinical Nurse Specialist, Nurse Practitioner, Nurse Anesthesia, Nurse-Midwife, and Health Systems Executive Leadership.
The nursing practice program accepts students who are in their final year of a BSN or MSN, and MSN-prepared nurses can complete their online courses entirely online. Student learning outcomes include the knowledge to engage in advanced analytics in different areas of nursing and administration roles. Pitt has one of the best online DNP programs in the US.
The University of Pittsburg (Pitt) is a public state-related research university that’s among the oldest colleges in the U.S. It’s a member of the Association of American Universities and has a Carnegie Classification of “R1: Doctoral Universities — Very high research activity.” The school enrolls over 50,000 students each academic year who are following in the footsteps of many prestigious individuals who attended Pitt on their way to a distinguished career.
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The College of Nursing at The Ohio State University prepares students to improve patient outcomes through leadership roles in specific areas of nursing practice. Ohio State offers a BSN to DNP in online formats in the specialties of family medicine, neonatal, and psychiatric mental health.
Students earn their master’s degree while they’re earning their DNP, and are qualified to work in their chosen advanced nursing practice specialties upon graduation. The nursing practice program meets the standards of over 25 states in the U.S. and graduates are allowed to apply for licensure in authorized states. OSU has one of the most prestigious online DNP programs in the US.
The Ohio State University (OSU) is the flagship campus of the University System of Ohio, and frequently ranks as one of the best public universities in the U.S. The university offers students a rich educational experience with a diverse array of student activities and organizations, student government, and multiple athletic teams that participate in the Big Ten conference.
The School of Nursing at the University of Virginia offers one of the most top-rated DNP programs for post-BSN (BSN to DNP) nurses and nurses with a generalist MSN degree who are looking to advance their nursing practice career prospects in leadership or clinical roles.
The program offers seven educational tracks, including Pediatrics, Family Health, Neonatal, Psychiatric-Mental Health, and Adult-Gerontology. Classes are offered online, a monthly meeting in Charlotte or at the beginning and end of the semester, and executive format.
The University of Virginia (UVA) is the public flagship university of the public university system of Virginia and was founded by Thomas Jefferson in 1819. Alumni of UVA have gone on to create and lead major corporations that affect daily life, engage in political careers, and have earned Rhoe scholarships, became NASA astronauts. and won Pulitzer prizes.
University of Iowa’s College of Nursing offers a nursing practice degree in multiple educational tracks and offers flexible attendance formats in online, hybrid, and individualized. Tracks include Adult-Gerontology, Family Health, Health Systems/Administration, Nurse Anesthesia, Pediatric Acute and Primary Care, and Psychiatric-Mental Health.
Students are prepared to work as clinicians with the requisite knowledge and skills to provide high standards of care for individuals, families, and communities. U.S. News and World Report ranked the program at #12 on their list of Best Nursing Schools: DNP in 2021, making it one of the best online DNP programs.
The University of Iowa (UI) is the oldest campus in the public university system of Iowa and the second-largest campus in the state. The Master of Fine Arts degree was developed by the campus and the university features arts programs that regularly rank high on the respective lists published by respected journals. Over 5,000 online courses are offered each year, giving students many educational options as they work towards their undergraduate degrees.
The Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing at Case Western Reserve University created the first nursing practice program in 1979, and is the foremost leader in DNP education. The program offers a Nurse Anesthesia DNP, and also offers three elective sequences for its DNP to help students refine their nursing leadership education in practice leadership, educational leadership, and executive leadership. Classes are offered in an executive format with three courses offered online and the remainder taught on campus in five eight-hour intensive classes.
Case Western Reserve University (CWRU) is a private research university located in Cleveland, Ohio. The school is located in the University Circle neighborhood and shares programs with other universities in the area. CWRU frequently ranks in the top third of rankings published by respected journals, and its engineering schools are held in high regard.
Florida State University offers an online nursing practice program through its [email protected] school. Classes are offered online with a requirement of five in-person sessions at the Tallahassee campus. Educational tracks include Family Nurse Practitioner, Acute Care, and Psychiatric Mental Health.
The on-campus sessions include program orientation, an intensive weekend for the APN course, assessments, and a project presentation. Students work with preceptors in their local community to meet learning objectives for the practicum classes. FSU has one of the best online DNP programs in the US.
Florida State University (FSU) is a public research university and a senior member of the State University System of Florida. The school holds a Carnegie Classification of “R1: Doctoral Universities: Very high research activity” and is home to the state’s only national laboratory, the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory. It’s also home to multiple research facilities related to physics, power systems technology, and marine biology.
The University of South Florida’s College of Nursing offers an online nursing practice program with multiple educational tracks including Nurse Leadership, Adult-Gerontology, Family Health, Occupational Health, Oncology, and Pediatric Health. It’s open to post-BSN and post-MSN students with the advanced nursing practice tracks available for post-BSN students and nurse leadership available to post-MSN students (BSN to DNP or MSN to DNP).
The program requires eight practicum credits and a minimum of four project credits, all of which have to be completed in Florida.
The University of South Florida (USF) is a public research university and is part of the State University System of Florida. It features sea and space grant affiliations to further research in both of these areas of study. The school enrolls over 50,000 students each academic year who attend the main campus in Tampa, St. Petersburg, and Sarasota-Manatee. It offers over 180 undergraduate and degree programs at the graduate, doctoral and specialist levels.
The University of Alabama at Birmingham’s College of Continuing Studies offers an online DNP that focuses on teaching students the knowledge and skills they need to assume leadership roles in various health organizations. The core focus of the program is to produce nurse leaders who can advocate for and provide medical care to underserved and diverse populations, create effective healthcare programs, and form partnerships with groups to address shortfalls in community health care. The program has a clinical component with the student bearing the responsibility for identifying a site and an appropriate clinical advisor.
The University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) is a public research university and is part of the University of Alabama System. It offers around 160 degree programs across 12 divisions that lead to bachelor’s, master’s, doctoral, and professional degrees. The school is home to the UAB Health System, which is one of the largest academic medical systems in the U.S. The school has a Carnegie Classification of “R1: Doctoral Universities: Very high research activity.”
The Nicole Wertheim College of Nursing and Health Sciences at Florida International University offers an online DNP that’s open to students who have earned a master’s degree or post-master’s certificate in an advanced practice nursing specialty role. Students learn how to engage in leadership roles for healthcare delivery, certain principles that provide a foundation for leadership, and continuing acquisition of clinical skills and knowledge in a specific area of advanced practice specialization. The program may require up to three on-campus sessions per semester and be scheduled well in advance to accommodate a working student’s schedule. FIU has one of the best online DNP programs in the US.
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s School of Nursing offers a mostly-online MSN to DNP for nurses who are already Advanced Practice Registered Nurses with a master’s degree. The program is also open to BSN-prepared students with an earned master’s in a health-related MHA, MBA, or MPH from a regionally accredited university. Fully online study options are available for both BSN to DNP in leadership and administration and MSN to DNP in one of the available DNP degree options.
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC) is a public research university that’s part of the University of North Carolina system. It’s the flagship university and considered to be a Public Ivy due to its ability to provide an academic experience that’s akin to an Ivy League school. Alumni of UNC include multiple Pulitzer Prize winners, Nobel Laureates, Rhodes Scholars, CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, and even a U.S. President. UNC Chapel Hill has one of the best online DNP programs in the US.
The University of Central Florida offers an online-only nursing practice program for a DNP in an advanced track format. The program teaches students to become effective clinical leaders in the pursuit of new models of care and gain the necessary skills to design clinical healthcare systems, develop practice models, and be capable of designing and implementing comprehensive care models that change how healthcare is provided for the better. Career opportunities for graduates of the program include nurse practitioner, clinical nurse specialist, and APN. UCF has one of the most flexible online DNP programs in the US.
The University of Central Florida is part of the State University System of Florida and is a public research university with connections to Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral Space Force Station. It has its main campus near Orlando, Florida, and features multiple satellite campuses in the region. Over 70,000 students enrolled at the school for the Fall 2021 semester, giving the school the second-largest student body at any American public university.
The Rory Myers College of Nursing at New York University offers Post BSN to DNP for students who are registered nurses with a BSN. The program offers multiple educational tracks that include Adult-Gerontology Acute Care, Adult-Gerontology Primary Care, Family Health, Psychiatric-Mental Health, and Pediatrics. Students who enter the program take a combination of advanced practice nursing courses and core courses for DNP. All DNP programs are hybrid attendance with online classes and on-campus meetings once a month.
New York University (NYU) is a private research university and is one of the largest of its kind in the U.S. It offers students the opportunity to earn a degree from a highly respected school and study alongside other students from around the world. The school features 10 undergraduate schools ranging from the arts, sciences, business, engineering, and more. Many graduates of NYU have gone on to become Nobel Laureates, Turing Award winners, Pulitzer Prize winners, Grammy Award winners, and more.
The University of Connecticut’s School of Nursing offers an online DNP program that’s designed for nurses in advanced roles who are looking for a degree with a focus in nursing leadership. The program has won multiple awards for quality and program delivery, making it one of the best DNP programs online. Students are required to attend on-campus intensive format courses once or twice a year. Nurses who are post-bachelors and post-masters are eligible to apply for the program. UConn has one of the best online DNP programs in the US.
The University of Connecticut (UConn) is a public research university that is part of the public university system and is ranked as the best university in New England. It also belongs to an alliance known as New England’s Knowledge Corridor to promote economic and cultural activities in the region. The school is also home to a highly regarded hospital and its sports teams participate in the NCAA Division I Big East Conference.
The College of Nursing at Rush University offers a Family Nurse Practitioner DNP to prepare students to provide comprehensive health care to individuals at all stages of life. U.S. News and World Report ranked the program as #3 in the nation, making it one of the best hybrid DNP programs available. The program is offered in a hybrid format that combines online classes and on campus. Clinical practice sites are in the Chicago area, and all students have to live in the area to attend the program for successful completion.
Rush University is a private research university that’s part of Rush University Medical Center. The university is one of the oldest in the state and is recognized for its excellent academic programs in the medical field. The university has four colleges that include the Medical College, College of Nursing, College of Health Sciences, and the Graduate College.
Michigan State University offers an online DNP program through its MSU Online school. It offers three program tracks, including Family Nurse Practitioner, Adult-Gerontology Primary Care, and Nurse Practitioner Psychiatric Mental Health. All tracks prepare students to enter leadership roles and use existing data to provide a higher quality of care to the relevant population. Graduates are also eligible to become certified as nurse practitioners in their particular area of nursing.
Michigan State University (MSU) is a public research university and is part of the state’s university system. Originally founded as an agricultural college in 1862, the university has stayed true to its mission of providing research to improve people’s lives. It offers over 280 degree programs in 14 colleges and schools to provide a wide range of options for students to choose from.
The School of Nursing & Health Studies at the University of Miami offers an MSN-to-DNP program for nurses who are seeking to enter leadership roles in nursing. Graduates will be able to evaluate various types of information to help improve health outcomes for a given population. Students can earn their DNP in one year or two, depending on their preference. Courses are completed in a hybrid format with most of the classes delivered online and three to four weekends spent on campus each semester.
The University of Miami (UM) is a private research university that has a Carnegie Classification of “R1: Doctoral Universities: Very high research activity” and features space- and sea-grant affiliations. The university has multiple campuses in and around Coral Gables, FL, that are comprised of residential halls, colleges where academic programs are held, and multiple research facilities for biosciences.
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The University of Maryland Baltimore’s School of Nursing offers a multiple-track DNP program for post-bachelors or post-masters nurses who want to gain advanced nursing or leadership skills. The program does not require post-master nurses to retake classes and enables them to graduate with their DNP in less time. Classes are offered in a blended format, including online classes, synchronous web conferencing with teachers, and face-to-face classes. U.S. News and World Report rank the DNP program as one of the best of its kind in the U.S., making it one of the best online DNP programs available for post-master’s nurses.
The University of Maryland Baltimore (UMB) is a public university and is part of the University System of Maryland. The university is focused on improving the lives of people and serving the public good through health care, service, research, and education. It’s home to some of the oldest professional schools in the U.S., including the schools of Medicine, Pharmacy, Social Work, Nursing, Law, and Dentistry. About 7,100 students enroll each academic year to earn their undergraduate and graduate degrees.
The Harris College of Nursing at Texas Christian University features a DNP for post-master’s students that’s delivered online through an interactive learning platform. The program offers six educational tracks, including Adult-Gerontology Acute Care, Clinical Nurse Specialist, Family Nurse Practitioner, Health Sciences, Nurse Anesthesia, and Psychiatric Mental Health. Students can attend full or part-time, with full-time students given the opportunity to complete the coursework in two years.
Texas Christian University is a private Christian research university and is affiliated with the Disciples of Christ, but not governed by the organization. The school has a Carnegie Classification of “R2: Doctoral Universities: High research activity”. Women make up almost 60% of the student body with most attracted to the schools of Nursing, Advertising-Public Relations, and Education. Other schools at the university include Fine Arts, Liberal Arts, Science and Engineering, Business, and Medicine.
The School of Nursing at the University of Rochester offers a hybrid DNP program for post-BSN and post-master’s students. The program prepares students to work as clinical scholars, practice leaders, and agents of change in the medical field. Classes are offered on a part-time basis to accommodate a student’s work schedule, and are provided in an online/on-campus format.
The University of Rochester (U of R) is a private research university that has produced alumni who have gone on to receive Nobel Prizes, Guggenheim Fellowships, Rhodes Scholars, Pulitzer Prizes, Grammy Awards, and more. The school features multiple campuses that are home to the gravesites of famous individuals, study halls that were donated by famous corporations and individuals, and research facilities.
The School of Nursing at University at Buffalo offers multiple DNP programs that include post-BS-to-DNP and post-MS-to-DNP, and an Early Assurance program that allows undergraduate nurses to secure a slot to become a DNP. The MS-to-DNP program is entirely online and takes about 5 to 7 semesters for completion when attending part-time. Students can select educational tracks that include Adult-Gerontology, Child Health, Family Health, Nurse Anesthetist, Psychiatric/Mental Health, and Women’s Health.
The University at Buffalo (UB) is a public research university that’s part of the State University of New York system. Originally founded as a private medical college, the school joined the public university system in 1962, and is a flagship campus. The university is home to the largest state-operated schools in the areas of dentistry, medical, business, engineering, and pharmaceutical studies. It’s also home to the only law school in the system. The school offers over 500 areas of study at all degree levels.
The Sinclair School of Nursing at the University of Missouri Health offers an online DNP program with minimal on-campus visits and the option to engage in full or part-time study. Upon completion of the program, students will possess the knowledge and skills needed to lead, integrate, deliver, evaluate and analyze scientific data. The program focuses on educating students about the medical needs of a rural population along with increasing access to medical care for improved health outcomes. Nurses who hold a BSN or MSN are eligible to apply for the program.
The University of Missouri (MU) is part of the University of Missouri System and is the flagship campus for the four-campus public university system. The school offers over 300 degree programs, operates an NBC affiliate TV station, and is home to the first school of journalism in the U.S. MU has earned a Carnegie Classification of “R1: Doctoral Universities — Very high research activity”, but also offers educational opportunities in areas ranging from the arts, business, agriculture, and veterinary medicine.
Washington State University’s College of Nursing features a hybrid DNP program that prepares students for a career in one of three tracks. The Family Nurse Practitioner track prepares students to work as a nurse practitioner in states that allow a Family Nurse Practitioner to operate an independent practice. The other tracks include Psychiatric Mental Health and Population Health. A post-master’s DNP is offered for nurses who have earned their master’s degree and are looking to further their medical specialty or add a new one.
Washington State University (WSU) is a public research university and is the flagship campus for the state’s public university system. The school is known for its excellence in academic research, but also offers students the opportunity to experience life on campus with its extensive Greek system, athletic facilities, and a large recreational facility for indoor and outdoor activities.
The University of Minnesota – Twin Cities offers a DNP program for students who have earned a BSN or MSN at the entry-level and are interested in expanding their knowledge base and responsibility levels. The program offers 12 specialty areas that include Nursing Informatics, Family Nurse Practitioner, Health Innovation and Leadership, and Women’s Health/Gender-Related to name a few. The program is mostly online, but requires all students to come to the campus for one four-day session each semester.
The University of Minnesota-Twin Cities is a public university and is part of the University of Minnesota system. The school has a Carnegie Classification of “R1: Doctoral Universities — Very high research activity” with its alumni going on to earn prestigious fellowships, Nobel Laureates, Rhodes Scholars, and Fulbright recipients. The university has 19 colleges and schools including Law, Biological Sciences, Pharmacy. and Veterinary Medicine.
The University of Cincinnati College of Nursing offers an online DNP program that’s meant for nurses who have a MSN and are interested in entering a leadership role in nursing. The DNP offers multiple educational tracks including Advanced Practice Nurse, Family Nurse Practitioner, Adult-Gerontology, Pediatrics, and more. The program is open to BSN to DNP and Post-MSN to DNP nurses. Classes are offered online, but students are required to attend campus at various points during their education.
The University of Cincinnati (UC) is a public research university and is part of the University System of Ohio. The university itself is made up of four different campuses located in and around Cincinnati. It has 14 colleges and schools, including Business, Allied Health Sciences, Nursing, and Music to name a few.
The School of Nursing at Purdue University offers multiple entry points and learning formats for students who are interested in entering a nursing leadership role. Students who are post-BSN, post-master’s APRNs, and post-master’s non-APRN are eligible to apply to the program. Upon graduation, students will be able to integrate advanced knowledge of nursing theories, evaluate systems responses to health and illness, and translate research into evidence-based practice. The program features a hybrid format with online courses and on-campus attendance required.
Purdue University is a public university and the flagship campus for the Purdue University system. It offers over 200 undergraduate majors, 69 masters’ and doctorates, and professional degrees. The school has a Carnegie Classification of “R1: Doctoral Universities: Very high research activity.” School alumni have gone on to earn Nobel Laureates, National Medal of Science recipients, become astronauts, and Rhodes Scholars.
The College of Nursing at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville offers a hybrid MSN to DNP program for post-MSN students who are interested in pursuing a leadership role in nursing. The total amount of credit hours required to earn the DNP depends on the number of clinical hours a student obtained during their MSN studies. Classes are offered in a hybrid format with some classes provided entirely online and on-site attendance required for certain aspects of the curriculum.
The University of Tennessee (UT) is a public research university and is part of the University of Tennessee system of public universities. It has ties to the nearby Oak Ridge National Laboratory, a famous scientific research facility. The school has an agricultural campus with 21 departments, a newer facility studying nanotechnology, environmental science, and biomedical science, and a space institute for aerospace engineering and related fields.
George Washington University’s School of Nursing offers a hybrid DNP program that combines online courses and on-campus attendance for testing and training. The program offers multiple educational tracks, including areas in Clinical Practice, Health Policy, and Executive Leadership. The program is open to post-BSN and post-MSN students with the post-BSN track providing entry-level preparation for a nurse practitioner role.
The George Washington University (GWU) is a private research university with a federal charter, and was chartered by the U.S. Congress in 1821. The university has a Carnegie Classification of “R1: Doctoral Universities: Very high research activity”. It offers 71 majors for undergraduate and graduate students, and enrolls about 27,000 students each academic semester. Its athletics teams participate in the NCAA Division 1 – A-10 Conference.
The Hahn School of Nursing and Health Science at the University of San Diego offers a hybrid MSN to DNP program that provides a flexible online education with face-to-face learning. Students attend campus two weekends each semester and complete the remaining coursework online. The educational tracks for the DNP include Advanced Practice Registered Nurses, Emergency Care for Family Nurse Practitioners, Health Systems Leadership, and Nursing Informatics and Data Science.
The University of San Diego (USD) is a private Roman Catholic research university and features a space-grant affiliation. The school offers over 80 majors in undergraduate, graduate, and professional studies, including Law, Leadership and Education, Engineering, Business, Nursing and Health Science, and Arts and Sciences. The school’s athletics teams participate in the NCAA Division I – WCC and Pioneer Football League.
The M. Louise Fitzpatrick College of Nursing at Villanova University offers a DNP that prepares advanced practice registers nurses and nurse executives with the knowledge needed to provide evidence-based practice, financial acumen, and organizational leadership in nursing and health care. The program is open to post-MSN students and is fully online. Graduates of the program will have acquired advanced skills and knowledge that enables them to provide strong leadership in the development of patient-driven healthcare at all levels between institutional and federal levels.
Villanova University is a private Catholic university founded by the Augustinians, and is the oldest Catholic university in Pennsylvania. The school’s historic campus is home to six colleges that include Liberal Arts and Sciences, Business, Engineering, Nursing, Professional Studies, and Law. Around 11,000 students attend the university each academic year, and the school is considered a highly selective school when it comes to accepting applicants.
The School of Nursing at Virginia Commonwealth University offers an online DNP degree program with three nurse practitioner roles and one nurse executive role. They include Nursing Leadership and Organizational Science, Adult-Gerontology Acute Care, Psychiatric Mental Health, and Family Nurse. The program offers two points of entry for prospective students, which include a post-B.S. to DNP and a post-master’s to DNP. Classes are led by instructors who have earned doctoral degrees and are nationally recognized for their contributions to nursing education and advanced practice.
Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) is a public research university and is part of the state university system. Around 30,000 students enroll at VCU each academic year to earn one of the 217 degrees offered by the school. Students have the opportunity to earn a highly-regarded education and degree while attending a school with a historical campus and follow in the footsteps of many successful alumni.
The University of Massachusetts-Amherst’s Elaine Marieb College of Nursing offers a DNP program that’s one of the first online DNP programs in the U.S. and ranked #30 in the nation by U.S. News and World Report in 2019. The College of Nursing is staffed by faculty who are renowned professors with widely published research and impart their specialized knowledge to their students, making it one of the best online DNP programs in the U.S. The DNP program has multiple educational tracks and accepts students with a BSN and MSN who are seeking to earn their DNP.
The University of Massachusetts–Amherst is part of the public university system and is the flagship and largest campus in the system. It offers 109 graduate degrees, 77 masters’, and 48 doctoral degrees through nine colleges and schools. The school regularly receives high academic rankings in various national and global journals for its excellence in education.
The School of Nursing at Indiana University-Purdue University-Indianapolis offers multiple educational tracks that include an MSN-DNP dual degree, MBA or MHA to DNP, executive leadership, and more. The online program provides students access to educators who are leaders in national and global healthcare fields through distance-accessible coursework and video conference classes. Students are required to attend two on-campus intensives while attending the program, and complete at least 1,000 clinical practice hours where they apply their education to projects that seek to improve outcomes for patients.
Indiana University–Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) is a collaboration of the two public schools with most of the administrative work being done by Indiana University as a core campus, and Purdue as a regional campus. It offers over 550 degree programs and is home to one of the two law schools in the public university system. The school’s sports team participates in the NCAA Division 1 – Horizon League.
The School of Nursing at George Mason University offers a Doctor of Nursing Practice program for post-BSN to DNP and post-MSN to DNP. The program offers the opportunity for nurses to become nurse administrators and nurse practitioners. The DNP program offers concentrations in Adult-Gerontology, Nursing Administration, Family Psychiatric Mental Health, and Family Health. The mission of the program is to prepare DNP graduates for leadership roles in clinical practice and nursing administration. Classes are offered in different formats, including executive format on the Prince William or Fairfax Campuses, online core courses, and traditional format.
George Mason University (GMU) is a public research university and has a Carnegie Classification of “R1: Doctoral Universities: Very high research activity”. The school has multiple campuses in the Fairfax area, with each campus focusing on a specific educational concentration, including Conservation and Science and Technology.
The School of Nursing at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro offers a hybrid Doctor of Nursing Practice program for post-BSN and post-MSN nurses who are looking to advance nursing through clinical practice and leadership. Students learn how to evaluate a variety of data sets to improve health care outcomes for a given population and increase an organization’s sensitivity to its surrounding community.
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG) is a public research university that’s part of the University of North Carolina system. It’s a stand-alone university that awards its own degrees and offers over 100 undergraduate degrees along with 61 masters’ and 26 doctoral degree programs. The university has multiple schools that range from Arts and Sciences to Nanoscience and Nanoengineering.
The College of Nursing at the University of Utah offers a distance learning Doctor of Nursing Practice program that combines online classes, on-campus visits, and clinical practicums in a student’s home community. The program has five educational tracks, including Neonatal, Nurse-Midwifery, Primary Care, Psychiatric/Mental Health, and Women’s Health. The distance option is available to students who are living 60 or more miles from the school campus, but students must attend campus at specific points to participate in orientation, intensive classes, exams, and defend their synthesis or scholarly project.
The University of Utah (U of U) is a public research university and the flagship institution for the Utah System of Higher Education, as well as being the oldest school in the state. The school has produced numerous Rhodes Scholars, Turing Award Winners, MacArthur Fellows, and Pulitzer Prize winners to name a few. U of U features 17 colleges and schools with 150 academic departments combined.
The Nancy Atmospera-Walch School of Nursing at the University of Hawaii-Manoa offers a Doctor of Nursing Practice program with entry routes for post-bachelor and post-master’s students. It offers three DNP tracks, including Adult-Gerontology Primary Care, Family Nurse Practitioner, and Post-Master’s in Organizational Leadership. The program features a competency-based curriculum that focuses on primary and specialty care that’s available across the Hawaiian Islands, along with education in leadership and health policy. Classes are offered in formats that include online, face-to-face sessions, and/or blended delivery.
The University of Hawaii at Manoa (UH) is a public research university and is the flagship campus of the University of Hawaii system. It offers over 200 degree programs from 17 colleges and schools, and features a Carnegie Classification of “R1: Doctoral Universities: Very high research activity”. The school participates in the space-grant, sea-grant, and sun-grant research consortium, and is one of four universities in the U.S. that have all three grants.
The Marion Peckham Egan School of Nursing & Health Studies at Fairfield University offers a post-master’s Doctor of Nursing Practice in a hybrid format and in two educational tracks. The school offers an E-DNP program that takes place online and requires on-campus attendance for immersion coursework. The E-DNP is aimed towards nurse executives/administrators who want to improve their leadership skills, and the Advanced Practice Online DNP Program is for nurses who want to earn their certification as a Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner. Major publications give the program high rankings, which make the program one of the best DNP program online.
Fairfield University is a private university run by the Jesuit Brotherhood. It offers 43 majors and 19 minors for undergraduates and 41 graduate programs. It has five schools that offer education in Arts and Sciences, Education, Nursing and Health Studies, Business, and Engineering. The average class size is around 22 students and the school features a 12:1 faculty to student ratio.
The Louise Herrington School of Nursing Online at Baylor University offers a Doctor of Nursing Practice online for students who are registered nurses with a BSN or MSN and are looking to prepare for the highest level of nursing practice. The program offers six educational tracks that include Executive Nurse Leadership, Family Nurse Practitioner, Neonatal Nurse Practitioner, Nurse-Midwifery, Pediatric Nurse, and Adult-Gerontology Acute Care. U.S. News and World Report rank Baylor’s Online DNP program in the top 10% of all U.S. schools, making it one of the best DNP programs online.
Baylor University is a private research university and is affiliated with the Baptist General Convention of Texas. It’s also the largest Baptist university in the world, enrolling around 21,000 undergraduates and graduate students. The school offers students degree programs from 12 colleges and includes Arts & Sciences, Education, Business, Social Work, Engineering & Computer Science, and more.
The College of Nursing at Augusta University offers a Doctor of Nursing Practice program with seven degree tracks for post-BSN and post-MSN students. The programs include Adult-Gerontology Acute Care, Family Nurse Practitioner, Pediatrics, Psychiatric Mental Health, Nursing Anesthesia, Nurse Executive, and Post-Master’s Online DNP program. Program attendance is hybrid with online and on-campus classes, but students do have to live in Georgia or South Carolina due to clinical requirements and the need for instructors to visit with students, their preceptors, and clinical sites.
Augusta University is a public research university and is part of the University System of Georgia, and operates the Augusta University Medical Center. The university is comprised of 10 schools and colleges with a majority of them focused on medicine-related majors along with science, mathematics, business, and education.
The University of Nevada, Las Vegas, features an online Doctor of Nursing Practice program that prepares students to work in leadership roles and advanced clinical positions that focus on providing community-focused medical care in Nevada and the U.S. at large. Students have multiple educational tracks to choose from that include nurse executive, family nurse practitioner, advanced practice, academic leadership, and psychiatric mental health. Upon graduation, students will be able to take on leadership roles in clinical practice, become clinical teachers, and engage in healthcare analysis.
The University of Las Vegas is a public research university and is part of the Nevada System of Higher Education. The school offers a combined total of 350 degree programs at the bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degree levels from 19 schools. Students can pursue a degree in Fine Arts, Music, Social Work, Communication, Architecture, and more. Five professional schools offer education in Business, Dentistry, Medicine, Nursing, and Law.
The College of Nursing at the University of Alabama at Huntsville offers an online-only CCNE accredited Doctor of Nursing Practice program. The program focuses on teaching students how to enter into roles that include administrative, systems leadership, and organizational. Students learn how to evaluate existing nursing and healthcare systems for redesign and improvement, along with how to guide a healthcare system towards providing better care for patients living in the community.
The University of Alabama at Huntsville (UAH) is part of the University of Alabama system and has a Carnegie Classification of “R1: Doctoral Universities: Very High Research Activity. Over 20,000 students enroll each academic year in pursuit of degrees in the humanities, arts, sciences, business, and more. The school is one of three schools in the University of Alabama System, and offers students a robust educational experience with multiple student organizations and a healthy Greek life.
Recommended Online DNP Degree Programs
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Nursing Education 101
As you can see from the Online DNP programs listed above, a busy professional has many options as far as achieving a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree while studying online. There are a variety of formats that engage online learning, and many of the programs we ranked above have a hybrid component. The purpose of coming to campus, in some cases, is to ensure students will be able to collaborate with their colleagues and faculty members while working through some of the most challenging components of nursing leadership.
Every single one of these Online DNP programs has many clinical or practicum hours associated with completion, some of which can be accomplished at the student’s current place of work. Every program, however, offers this opportunity a little differently, as do sites of employment, so these are good questions to be asking as you get closer to finding the perfect fit.
The time it takes to earn a doctoral degree depends on various factors including current degree level, clinical hours earned, and attendance. A student who’s on a BSN to DNP path can expect to spend three to four years in school on a full-time basis, and four to seven years attending part-time. Whereas an MSN to BSN student can expect to attend one to two years full-time and two to three years part-time.
Some online nursing programs waive class and credit requirements if the student has already taken the class, or has earned enough clinical hours from their employment.
Attendance options vary from school to school. Some nursing professionals programs offer online-only formats, while others feature a hybrid format that requires a minimal amount of on-campus attendance. Other nursing programs offer what’s known as an executive format doctoral degree that requires visiting the campus for a few days of intensive classwork each semester.
A majority of DNP programs are designed to accommodate working students by offering classes at times that are convenient and considerate of a typical nursing schedule. The fact that most DNP programs require on-campus attendance as part of their curriculum means that students are best off attending a university in their geographic area for ease of access and completion of the program.
Will Employers Trust Online Nursing Programs?
One of the more pertinent questions to ask are if the DNP programs online are accredited. Employers will be less concerned about your online coursework, especially if all of your clinical ducks are in a row, so to speak. This is of course if your program is fully accredited.
CCNE accredited online DNP programs make up the majority (if not all) of the programs we have listed, as they are all well respected by employers nationally and even in the global sphere. It is crucial that you choose from the accredited DNP online programs if you want to be sure that your credentials will be honored and respected. There are many Doctor of Nursing Science Programs online that bring DNP students to campus occasionally for extra support and even seminars that are harder to attend virtually. This is to say that online often has a hybrid element.
Do I Need an MSN to Get into a DNP Program?
This is a great question and the answer is mostly no. As you can see, we have written about many programs that are strictly MSN to DSN programs, however, there are also many BSN to DNP programs, bridge programs included, that are expressly for DNP students who want to go all the way from their bachelor’s. Many of the programs we’ve discussed here offer both options, MSN to DNP and online BSN to DNP programs.
Nursing Career: What Can a DNP Do?
We hope that this question is answered at least in part by reviewing some of the program offerings we’ve selected, however, this big degree has big offerings as far as careers are concerned. BSN to DNP programs take DNP students from a place of basic nursing practice to the arena of specialized experts. In other words, a DNP has a job description that can take on many forms in the realm of leadership.
Many of the programs listed above offer specialized tracks that can lead graduates to play roles in changing the course of nurse-midwifery or psychiatric and mental health medicine. What can you do with a Doctor of Nursing Practice in nursing? Think of healthcare administrators, faculty in elite nursing programs (many of which are discussed above).
These graduates are the change-makers we are counting on for the future of healthcare and nursing as a discipline. Is this you? Maybe you are not yet sure, and that is ok. Maybe you want to go all the way in nursing, and a PhD is a better fit? This is a degree path that is demanding, take your time, and feel free to contact any of these programs for additional information. We wish you luck.
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