BSN to DNP Programs Online: Fast-Track to Success

Before you choose one of the many high-quality BSN to DNP programs online, take time to find the best one for you. Learn the types of online doctor of nursing programs, the specializations you have to choose from, the benefits of pursuing this program online, and what you can expect to be able to do by the time you graduate.

Written by Staff

Last updated

Feb 15, 2021

The healthcare industry is experiencing a nursing deficit right now, and with that comes a shortage of nursing instructors and professors. Colleges are trying to expand their nursing programs to meet the shortage of nurses in healthcare, but without qualified nursing professors, they are struggling to keep up. Online BSN to DNP programs prepare experienced, professional nurses for the crucial role of teaching nursing students at the postsecondary level, conducting research, and taking on the leadership roles that are so necessary in the field.

Is a nursing doctorate degree worth the time and money? Is the BSN to DNP online program a good fit for me? What can I do with a DNP?

Those are two of many questions you may need an answer to before you embark on an online BSN to DNP program, and we want to help. This guide is designed to answer your questions. We want to help you take the first step of this very personal journey.

Best BSN to DNP Programs Online for 2021

Searching through schools and programs is an important part of the process of finding the right BSN to DNP program for you. We did some searching of our own and created spotlights for three of the best online BSN to DNP programs we could find. There are many excellent programs available, but the schools below can be a good place for you to begin your quest in identifying what you want in your online BSN to DNP program.

University of South Alabama

Most colleges offer between two and four specializations in their DNP programs, but the University of South Alabama offers 12 different specialties for its online BSN to DNP students. This variety enables you to tailor your education to your goals and needs. The program does not require a dissertation or thesis, but instead, students are required to complete a major synthesis project during their residency courses. The project should result in a quality improvement change in the clinic they are partnering with and should have a substantial effect on healthcare outcomes.

  • Tuition Per Credit: $594
  • Total Credit Hours: 69–87 (depending on the specialization)
  • Admission Requirements: Completed primary and supplemental applications, unencumbered registered nurse license, BSN degree, two years of nursing experience, and a GPA of 3.0 or higher

Misericordia University

Misericordia University’s online BSN to DNP program has two specialties, including the adult-gerontology primary care nurse practitioner and family nurse practitioner specialties. Either one will grant you an MSN and a DNP by the end of the program. Courses include advanced classes in evidence-based practice, pharmacology, physiology, pathophysiology, and chronic health needs in adults.

  • Tuition Per Credit: $16,155 per semester
  • Total Credit Hours: 45 (adult-gerontology) or 68 (family nurse practitioner)
  • Admission Requirements: BSN with a minimum GPA of 3.25, unencumbered registered nurse license, official transcripts, resume or CV, two letters of reference, personal statement, and online application

Maryville University

Maryville University offers one of the best BSN to DNP programs online. It has five concentrations to choose from and doesn’t require any campus visits, even for student orientation. All clinicals can be completed in your area and you can graduate in as little as 40 months with both your MSN and DNP. Graduates will be able to apply evidence-based research, advocate for patient safety, lead projects, prepare for an executive or policy-setting role, and educate other nursing professionals.

  • Tuition Per Credit: $813–$897
  • Total Credit Hours: 68–77
  • Admission Requirements: BSN degree with a minimum GPA of 3.25, unencumbered RN license, three letters of recommendation, resume or CV, and a three-page essay

Benefits of the Online Doctorate in Nursing

Attending BSN to DNP programs online opens up many opportunities to be a leader in nursing and healthcare, which is one of the reasons colleges are trying to make education as accessible as possible. Two of these possibilities include:

Potential cost savings

Attending an online BSN to DNP program can save you money compared to a more traditional program. First, you’ll most likely be able to keep your job, allowing you to work and learn at the same time. This is much better than paying the opportunity cost of quitting your job and paying tuition to attend school on campus. Second, you’ll save money on gas and other transportation costs since your classes will be available online. Third, there are even some colleges that offer in-state tuition rates for online programs, regardless of the student’s location.


The convenience of pursuing your DNP online cannot be overstated. Your travel time and cost will be cut down and your schoolwork can be scheduled around your job and personal responsibilities. All communication and assignments can be submitted online, while necessary meetings can be done over the phone or video conferencing software. You’ll still have deadlines to adhere to, but you’ll have freedom in how you schedule your time around those deadlines.

The flexibility and cost efficiency of online learning have enabled many students to pursue additional education that may not have otherwise had the chance. Now that you know it’s possible, the next step is learning about the different kinds of programs and deciding if they’re a good fit.

Types of Online Doctorates in Nursing

Just because a program is advertised as being online doesn’t necessarily mean that all of it is online. Since you’re in the healthcare profession, it’s reasonable to expect the required clinical hours to take place outside of your home. But that doesn’t account for potential campus visits throughout your education process. Below are the three kinds of online BSN to DNP programs you are likely to find.

Online classes with periodic on-campus residencies

These programs have most if not all course material available online but require periodic visits to the main campus each semester. For example, the University of Mary requires students to attend a week-long intensive in the online BSN to DNP program.

Online classes with on-campus orientation and finals

Programs such as the online BSN to DNP program at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette offer all their classes completely online. However, campus visits are required at the start of the program for orientation and during finals to present your synthesis project. Residency classes or clinicals can be completed locally.

Online classes with local clinicals

The most flexible option is the BSN to DNP program that has everything available online and requires no on-campus visits — for anything. These programs, like the one at Maryville University, also give the students the option to complete their clinicals locally.

Timeline: Online Nursing Doctorate

Online BSN to DNP programs can vary in length depending on the amount of coursework and graduate work you have completed, the total credits your program of choice requires, and the number of clinical hours that need to be fulfilled. Also, as you might imagine, someone studying full-time will be able to accomplish their education faster than someone who’s studying part-time.

We’ve studied many of the online BSN to DNP programs and have provided a sample timeline you might encounter in each year of your program.


The first year of an online BSN to DNP program typically consists of the advanced versions of what we would consider nursing basics. Classes may include advanced pathophysiology, biomedical ethics, healthcare policy, health promotion, nursing informatics, statistics, and epidemiology.


During the second year, students will start to take classes that cover specific demographics like older adults, children, or women. They also usually move into primary care or family nurse practitioner courses. Additional advanced classes continue such as advanced pharmacology and health assessment. The second year is typically when students will develop plans for their scholarly projects.


The final semesters will have students finishing up demographic-specific courses, working hard on their capstone projects, attending residencies or clinicals, and often taking business management and leadership courses. If students are attending a program that includes an MSN, they will need to take the required tests to receive their master’s degree at this point. The final semester will require students to submit and present their projects, whether it’s a project in collaboration with a local clinic or a more traditional dissertation.

Evaluate the learning outcomes and timelines that will best fit your needs and desires, then choose a program that meshes with that. Any questions about a program’s specific timeline can be relayed to a program representative or an academic advisor.

BSN to DNP Program Learning Outcomes

It’s important to know what a program’s learning outcomes are since they are the backbone of the whole curriculum. The classes you will take will be focused on helping you achieve these learning outcomes, and your teachers and professors will integrate them into their teaching style.

Learning outcomes tell you exactly what things you’ll learn and should be able to do by the time you graduate. If there’s a particular skill or ability you’re looking to learn, and it’s not in the program’s learning outcomes, you might want to get in touch with the program director to find out if your desired outcome will be covered during the course. Below are several learning outcomes you may find in BSN to DNP programs online:


Prepare for policy making and implementation
Advanced practice graduates will need to be prepared to step into an executive or policy-setting role. As a high-level decision-maker, they will be expected to advocate, influence, and evaluate health care policymaking and implementation to improve business practices and health outcomes. These decisions may influence health care and ethical policies, financing, practice regulation, and access to care.


Take on leadership roles.
Due to the graduate’s experience and education, they will take on leadership roles and apply leadership skills to lead health care systems. They will create and lead projects that transform health care and design and evaluate strategies that improve care delivery and outcomes for all populations. They will also lead interprofessional teams and partnerships to analyze and improve health outcomes for individuals, families, and communities.


Use evidence-based practice and research
This comes in the form of primary research unique to the student and the computer science field, ideally in a manner that advances scholarship in their chosen specialty. In practical degree programs, this could be a specific project or portfolio of work that breaks new ground in the field.


Graduates will be able to evaluate information and communication technologies to provide leadership, improve patient care, analyze scientific data, and evaluate necessary interventions that address health promotion and disease prevention.


Use specialty knowledge to improve care
Graduates will use their advanced knowledge, clinical judgment, and specialty-focused competencies and theories from nursing or other related disciplines to solve complex health issues for a variety of populations and systems.

Specialization in Nursing: Create Your Career Focus

Specialization enables you to customize your abilities and interests. You can take classes and pursue learning that follows your individual focus. You may want to specialize due to a specific interest you have in a certain population, such as pediatrics or geriatrics, or you may want to specialize because there is a greater career opportunity for those with a given specialty. Regardless of your reason, take advantage of the opportunity and create your own unique nursing career. Below are some of the most common DNP specializations you may encounter.

Adult-gerontological acute care nurse practitioner

Students pursuing this specialty will learn to focus on treating adult, older adult, and elderly patients with acute, chronic, and critical conditions.

Family nurse practitioner

This specialty focuses on providing care for both the individual and for families across all ages, genders, body systems, and diseases.

Pediatric primary care nurse practitioner

A PPCNP cares for patients from birth up to 18 years old. Their primary care includes wellness visits, immunizations, and treatments for mild and moderate conditions.

Psychiatric (family) mental health nurse practitioner

The primary role of this specialty is to diagnose, assess, and treat the mental health conditions of patients across the lifespan.

Nurse educator

Nurse educators design and implement programs to teach nursing students. They may teach general courses or specialized ones.

Accreditation & Online Doctorates in Nursing

Pursuing an accredited online doctorate in nursing is very important. Accreditation shows that the program meets certain industry standards and that the education is of a certain caliber.

There are two different types of accreditations. The first is institutional, meaning the entire school receives accreditation from a regional accrediting agency. The second is programmatic, meaning specific programs within a school receive approval from agencies based on the quality of its teachers and curriculum, regardless of whether it’s on-campus or online.

You should pursue one of the online BSN to DNP programs that are accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN), the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN), or the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE). Online-specific programs may also be accredited by the Distance Education Accrediting Commission (DEAC).

Applying to a Nursing Doctorate Online Program

Standard application requirements for BSN to DNP programs online include items like letters of recommendation from past teachers and colleagues, a personal essay or written statement to showcase your desires and personality, and past school transcripts that show how hard you’ve worked in the past. Submitting these items help acceptance committees know who you are. Higher education admissions often require more than that, though. Below you’ll find several items that are specific to graduate nursing programs.

Nursing License

Every BSN to DNP program you apply to will ask for an unencumbered nursing license. This means that you have had no restrictions placed on you by a licensing board. This is important because you will be required to attend clinicals and residencies where you will perform all sorts of nursing work. Anyone with restrictions won’t be able to fulfill the requirements.

Resume or CV

It’s common that a certain amount of work experience is required before higher education can be pursued. Submitting your resume or CV will show the breadth of your experience as well as the timeline during which it was completed. Certain foundational skills are necessary so they can be built upon in advanced courses.

Bachelor of Science in Nursing

This program requires students to have already completed their BSN. This shows that a certain foundation has been set and that students have reached a necessary level of competency to pursue the advanced coursework throughout the curriculum.

Tuition & Fees

The costs associated with BSN to DNP programs online include tuition, which can be billed per credit or per term, and fees, which may include an application fee, billing fees, exam fees, etc. In addition to the assumed expenses, attending a program that’s entirely online will also require you to have your own computer and internet services. That being said, some money can be saved because you won’t have to pay for travel or parking expenses. Below are some BSN to DNP programs online and their actual tuition figures:

SchoolCost per CreditTotal CreditsSubtotal
Duke University$1,83874$136,012
Maryville University$89768-77$60,996-$69,069
University of Arkansas$573.9978$44,771.22
Andrews University$1,35265$87,880

NOTE: Most colleges offer tuition assistance through scholarships and grants specifically for graduate students. This can significantly lower the cost of your program. While it’s good to know the base tuition rate for a program before you apply, remember that there are several avenues that can bring that overall number down. It’s wise to contact a financial aid representative or advisor at the college you are considering — they’ll know what options you have available. You can also read through our scholarships and grants guide to see what’s available and how to get started.

Salaries for Nursing Doctorate Graduates

Now for the question you’ve probably been dying to ask. What can you expect to get paid for having a DNP? According to, the median salary for someone with a DNP is approximately $103K per year, but remember that your salary greatly depends on your specialization. Some DNPs who choose to specialize in anesthesia can make up to $164K per year, for example, while someone who chooses to become a pediatric nurse practitioner may see a salary closer to $90K. The difference in salary between getting your MSN and your DNP is at least $8,000–$10,000 per year. Those with an MSN earn an average annual salary of approximately $95,000 per year, according to PayScale.

The table below shows salaries for DNP graduates holding specific job titles as reported by PayScale.

Job TitleMedian EarningsMedian Earnings
Director of Nursing$89,000$131,000
Chief Nursing Officer$130,000$201,000
Assistant Professor$69,000$106,000