DNP Programs: Requirements & Degree

A Doctor of Nursing Practice degree program prepares students for careers as nurse practitioners, nurse anesthetists and for other nursing leadership roles. These degree programs can take six semesters to complete.

Doctor of Nursing Practice General Admission Requirements

To enter a Doctor of Nursing Practice degree program, students must have an undergraduate grade point average of at least 3.0, a valid RN license, and an undergraduate degree. A student must submit a resume or CV, a personal statement, and letters of recommendation. Often, students must have 1,000 clock hours of practical experience, before or during their DNP studies. Some schools might require scores from the Graduate Record Exam, but not all do.

How to Earn a Doctor of Nursing Practice

Individuals can choose from degree programs that fit their educational backgrounds, whether they have an undergraduate degree or a Master of Science in Nursing. Students will have to choose a specialty within the program, and their chosen specialization may affect course requirements; these programs can take up to six semesters to complete. Specializations might include Family Nurse Practitioner, FNP Adult-Gerontology Acute Care, DNP Clinical Nurse Specialist, and DNP Nurse Anesthesia.

DNP Practical Experience

Students in a DNP practicum course are typically working toward completing other elements of the final DNP program requirements: the scholarly project. In the DNP practicum, students can work in an advanced nursing setting, with patients to learn about the field and put the knowledge gained in the DNP program to work. They also have an opportunity to implement the findings from their DNP scholarly project. Taken together, these pieces require students to think critically about an issue in advanced care nursing or conduct research that adds to a discussion of patient care or policy in advanced care nursing.


Epidemiology courses typically have students looking at data from a variety of sources and areas, including biostatistics, environmental data, and others, to possibly find solutions to existing health issues for a given population. Students explore different models of healthcare delivery and prevention and may be required to complete supervised clinical hours. Individuals learn about conducting risk assessments, and they learn to develop and lead interventions that help members of groups to remain healthy.

Health Informatics

In this course, students will focus on the health information systems and technologies that advance practice nurses use in their daily interactions with patients. It also introduces students to the need to evaluate different elements of the health information system and determine which might work best for their healthcare practices. They learn how to use technology effectively, to design and implement plans for disaster recovery and more.

Evidence-Based Practice

This course introduces nurses to the concepts in evidence-based practice and helps them to determine which new actions to bring into their nursing practice, based on what research has shown to work. Students will explore the theoretical basis of different nursing activities and the knowledge behind it. They also learn about how new findings are incorporated into the treatment of patients, and they'll learn to identify and analyze concepts that they're interested in bringing into their nursing practice.

Physiology and Pathophysiology

From how organ systems work (and why they might not) to symptom management, students in these classes learn about how the body functions when there's a medical issue, whether it is acute, episodic or chronic in occurrence, and how it is supposed to function when there's no issue. This class explores how the body works throughout an individual's lifespan. Courses on physiology and pathophysiology also explore the body's organ systems, immunity, and concepts like acid-base balance

Doctor of Nursing Practice Specialties and Careers

Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP)

A family nurse practitioner works with patients of all ages. A master's degree is often required, although some employers prefer the Doctor of Nursing Practice because it shows that individuals have an understanding of more complex procedures that they might be required to perform and the conditions that might affect an individual at any age. This is an advanced practice nursing position where nurse practitioners examine patients, monitor patient progress, and even help patients, friends and family members to manage one's symptoms.

Nurse Anesthetist

The nurse anesthetist is responsible for providing anesthesia-related care in multiple situations. These individuals prepare the anesthetic before a surgery or procedure, give patients the medication and monitor them during a procedure. Nurse anesthetists must be licensed and a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist and a Master's degree is typically required, although some education programs offer nurse anesthetists as a specialty in the Doctor of Nursing Practice. The knowledge gained in a DNP program can be helpful in this position because of the complexities that come with administering anesthesia.

Neonatal Nurse Practitioner

In this specialty of the nurse practitioner umbrella, a nurse would work with pediatric doctors and healthcare providers to diagnose and treat infants and newborns. These individuals might work in delivery rooms and intensive care units, with infants and newborns who need special care. They may make treatment decisions for infants and newborns who require the use of specialized equipment, like ventilators, for example. The Doctor of Nursing Practice could be an asset in this position because of the complexity of care that these patients require.

Job TitleMedian Salary Job Growth 2018-2028*
Family Nurse Practitioner $107,030*26%*
Nurse Anesthetist $113,930*26%*
Neonatal Nurse Practitioner $113,930* 26%*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Whether you're looking for a position as a nurse practitioner for a specific patient group or you want to work as a nurse giving anesthesia and caring for patients who have been anesthetized, a Doctor of Nursing Practice can prepare you for these positions and higher earning potential.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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