Feb 15, 2021
Nurses continue to be in high demand across the country. That demand has soared in the wake of a pandemic that has affected millions of people across the world and shows no signs of ending soon. DNP graduates are needed more than ever to provide care for patients and leadership for other nurses and healthcare support staff. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects 45% expected job growth for nurse practitioners, many of whom hold their DNP, from 2019 to 2029.
With licensed practical nurses and registered nurses pressed into continuous service and many physicians dealing with an unprecedented number of patients, it often falls to the nurse practitioners or advanced practice nurses to serve as both nurse and physician in some areas. This guide will answer some of your most pressing questions about online DNP programs, including:
How long does this program take? Is the online program as good as the one on campus? Where would I get the money to pay for this program? What kind of jobs can I get?
Let’s take a look at what it takes to get the DNP, as well as how choosing to pursue the degree online might be one of the smartest options for hard-working nursing professionals.
Best Online DNP Programs for 2021
When you’re pouring so much time, effort, and money into any educational program, you want to be sure you’re getting a good return on your investment. That’s why you need to narrow down the broad field of online DNP programs to find the one that works for you. Your “short list” will be a great starting point to find the program that suits your career goals and busy schedule. We’ll help you get started by reviewing some of the best online DNP programs out there right now.
Online DNP Program Spotlight: Baylor University
Online students can earn a DNP through the Louise Herrington School of Nursing Online at Baylor University. Students in the doctor of nursing practice program can choose from five specializations: executive nurse leadership, family nurse practitioner, nurse midwifery, neonatal nurse practitioner, and pediatric nurse practitioner. The school boasts a 100% certification pass rate for neonatal, nurse midwifery, and family practitioner graduates and 100% clinical placement rate of graduates within a 125-mile radius of their home. Accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) and the Accreditation Commission for Midwifery Education (ACME), the DNP program online requires no GRE or GMAT and can be completed within two or three years. Some tracks are entirely online, while others require two on-campus immersive experiences.
Online DNP Program Spotlight: Duke University
The Duke University School of Nursing offers the doctor of nursing practice program, designed for those who already hold their bachelor’s or master’s degree. Though the vast majority of coursework can be completed online, students can expect a comprehensive two-day, on-campus orientation, as well as on-campus executive sessions four times per year, lasting for three or four days per session. In addition, students can complete their DNP project at their current place of employment. Accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE), this program prepares graduates not only for their new clinical roles, but also for research into nursing practice and leadership in healthcare programs.
Online DNP Program Spotlight: Georgetown University
Students who enter the doctor of nursing practice programs at Georgetown University can choose one of two paths of entry; the BSN to DNP, which requires 69–74 credits, two on-campus intensives, 1,000 to 1,200 clinical hours, and about 33 months to complete, or the MSN to DNP, which requires 30 credits, two campus intensive sessions, 300 hours of clinical work, and about 20 months to complete. Those in the BSN to DNP track can opt for four specializations, including adult gerontology, family nurse practitioner, dual women’s health and nurse midwifery, and women’s health. The MSN to DNP focuses on leadership roles. The programs are accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.
Benefits of the Online DNP Program
Nurses are busy, especially now that we’re all dealing with the coronavirus. With nurses working so many hours, they are left with little time for pursuing their dreams of higher education. Fortunately, online learning helps by providing nurses with the opportunity to fit their study around their very busy schedule. Here are some of the other benefits of pursuing a doctor of nursing practice online program.
No break in your paycheck cycle.
Going to school full-time on-campus might mean cutting back on hours or stopping work altogether while in school. Many people don’t have the funds to do this or they don’t want to break the momentum they’ve been building as a professional They might also worry that leaving their job for higher education means losing those valuable benefits. Online learning allows them to keep working.
Flexible scheduling makes it easy to juggle responsibilities.
Asynchronous learning is a must for those who work in healthcare. That’s because so many will see their schedules shift from week to week or have to deal with overtime hours during the pandemic. Add in family obligations, and it becomes quite easy to look at education and say, “maybe next year.” Online learning allows you to move into your program right now, at your own pace, and pursue your dream without worry about how the rest of your life might suffer for it.
Doctor of nursing practice online programs have their own scheduling quirks and requirements. It’s up to you to speak to the academic advisor or department heads to ensure that all your questions are answered. It’s also important to look at the needs of your healthcare facility or system and determine where you can make the most impact after graduation.
Types of Online Doctorates in Nursing
The online doctorates in nursing sounds like a dream come true for those who want to work at their own pace and not worry about going into a classroom. However, “online” doesn’t necessarily mean everything about the program is virtual learning.
Like most nursing programs, the DNP requires completion of clinical hours. There might also be some on-campus requirements, usually known as immersive or intensive weekends, where students are expected to meet in a physical location. Let’s take a look at the types of online study you might encounter.
Online BSN to DNP Programs
Students who have earned their bachelor’s degree in nursing and have been working in the field but want to open more career doors can turn to this option, which typically takes about three years to complete. These programs are perfect for nurses who want to specialize in clinical, leadership, or even research and move into a higher level of practice. In many cases, all coursework can be taken online, and any clinical hours required can be completed at an area convenient to your home — perhaps even the clinic or hospital at which you already work.
Online MSN to DNP Programs
Students who already hold their master’s degree in nursing have several career options open to them in their clinic or healthcare system, but the DNP can help them move into the highest levels of policy-making and leadership. The MSN to DNP programs often take a bit less time to complete and don’t require as many clinical hours, given that those with the MSN should already have many hours under their belt. Since this program focuses strongly on leadership, all courses might be online, with some intensives required to work with the cohort and spend time with professors.
Timeline: Online Nursing Doctorate Program
Earning the doctor of nursing practice can take between two and three years, depending on where you started out. Those who are on the BSN to DNP track will take longer to complete the work than those who have already earned their master’s in nursing; however, the MSN to DNP might be fast-tracked to even less than two years. Let’s take a look at the typical timeline.
Each DNP program will have a curriculum with courses that reflect what you need to know; however, each might present those in a different order or add in additional elements. Check with your academic advisor to make sure the program you choose is the right one for your flexibility needs and career goals.
Online DNP Learning Outcomes
The doctor of nursing practice is the pinnacle of nursing degrees, offering graduates the opportunity to take their work in an entirely different direction. They can choose to remain with clinical work, opt to move into research-oriented practice, or look toward post-secondary teaching. Though each program will create its own curriculum, each will focus on the basic learning outcomes that allow each graduate to meet their full potential, no matter their choice of career path after that degree is in hand. Here’s what you can expect to learn during your time in the online DNP program.
Learn to lead other healthcare professionals
You’ll learn management, finance, business, human resources, and other similar skills that will serve you well as you move into an executive role.
Use critical thinking for the good of patients and staff
Knowing evidence-based practices is important, but knowing how to apply them to various situations, especially emergencies or critical choices in either leadership or clinical care, is crucial to be a leader in the field.
Gain a solid understanding of clinical practice
Your clinical practice should improve as you move through the DNP program and you’re exposed to higher-level practices that prepare you for a different kind of patient care.
Understand and implement emerging research
The medical field is rife with research papers and journals. Some of it is quite pertinent today, while some of it hints at what might come in the future. You’ll learn what you can and should implement and what you should reconsider, while continuing to learn about your field with a critical, engaged mindset.
Help form and implement policy and change in healthcare systems.
You might work directly with patients in a clinical setting, or you could end up working in administration, where you can discuss the issues pressing on the healthcare system today, create and implement policy, follow up on new ideas, and find ways to balance the needs of a healthcare system with the needs of the community it serves.
Specialization in Advanced Nursing: Where Do You Belong?
DNP specialization can mean the difference between working in a clinic or hospital or working in a research institution. It can allow you to choose work with certain populations, from pediatric patients to the elderly, or it can open doors to teaching fellow nurses. Here are a few of the common specializations you’ll encounter as you begin looking at potential programs.
Accreditation & Online Doctorates in Nursing
Earning accreditation means a school or program must voluntarily provide a wealth of information to an independent accrediting body, which then researches and evaluates the school or program to ensure it meets the requirements of a rigorous education.
There are two types of accreditation: regional and programmatic. Regional accreditation goes to the school as a whole and serves to prove that the school can prepare graduates appropriately for their future career. Check out a school’s accreditation status at the Council for Higher Education Accreditation or the Database of Accredited Postsecondary Institutions and Programs.
Programmatic accreditation is the same process as regional accreditation, only this focuses on the program itself. Accredited online doctor of nursing programs are accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) or the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN). Depending upon the specialty, you might also see accreditation from other reputable places, such as the Accreditation Commission for Midwifery Education (ACME).
Applying to a Doctorate of Nursing Program Online
Doctoral programs are usually quite competitive, and the DNP is no exception. That means your application must stand out among all those others who are vying for a limited number of positions. Of course, there will be standard information required, such as an essay, a minimum GPA in previous college work, letters of recommendation, and the like. But what else can make your work stand out above the rest?
Tuition & Fees
Online learning has become popular for many reasons, and one of those is the possibility of saving money. Some of the ways to save are quite obvious, such as the lack of a commute. You save on parking, gas, wear and tear on your vehicle, and more. Plus, you might not have to pay the fees a student could expect to pay when going to campus, such as a fee to use the gym or other campus facilities.
Another point to consider is tuition itself. Some schools give online students a special tuition rate which might be lower than the typical rates; others might allow online students to attend at the in-state rate, which is much more affordable than the out-of-state rate.
Let’s take a look at a few of the schools offering the DNP and how much it might cost. Keep in mind that this is tuition only; it does not include any other expenses, such as travel for in-person intensives, assuming the school requires them.
NOTE: This might be an eye-popping chart for those who want to pursue the DNP, but it’s important to remember that tuition is not necessarily the bottom line. Tuition assistance, grants, scholarships, and employer reimbursement programs, can drive down that cost. Tuition might also be lower if you have a certain background. For instance, those who are active or former military might get a special tuition rate. Always contact a financial aid advisor at the college of your choice to determine what the options might be and how you can make the financial bottom line more comfortable. In the meantime, read through our guide to scholarships and grants to see what’s available and how to apply.
Salaries for Online DNPs
There’s little doubt that the more education you have, the higher your potential pay could be and the greater job security you could have. This trend holds true with those who earn the DNP. According to Payscale.com, nurses with a master’s in nursing earn an average of around $94,000 per year, while nurses with a DNP earn an average of approximately $104, per year. We’ve listed some salary figures from Payscale for three job titles common to nursing doctorate holders. These figures don’t include additional income sources such as bonuses and profit-sharing plans.