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Best Online DNP Programs

Explore 35 of the top schools that offer Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) programs online. Learn about program length, clinical requirements, and costs, as well as what careers you can pursue with a DNP in hand.

Top Online Doctor of Nursing Practice Programs

There are several factors that students should consider when choosing an online DNP program, which include cost, length, degree options, and residency requirements. Listed below are some of the top schools that offer DNP programs primarily or fully online.

1. Nebraska Methodist College of Nursing & Allied Health

Location Tuition & Fees (in-state) 2018-2019
Omaha, NE $12,877

Nebraska Methodist College of Nursing & Allied Health offers three different online and hybrid DNP program tracks in which students will be required to attend campus visits 2 to 3 times total.

  • APRN to DNP: This program is open to nurse practitioners, can be completed entirely online, and takes as little as two years to complete.
  • DNP - Public Health Policy: registered nurses with a BSN and a master's degree in a nursing-related field can enter this track, earning their degree with a focus in public health policy in as few as two years. The program includes 960 hours of clinical practice.
  • BSN to DNP: The BSN to DNP programs at NMC require 57 credits of coursework and 1,080 hours of clinical practice. The program takes as few as 3 years to complete.

2. Winona State University

Location Tuition & Fees (in-state) 2018-2019
Winona, MN $7,998

Students at Winona State University can take one of three hybrid DNP tracks, depending on their previous education and experience.

  • Post BSN: This track can be completed in three or four years, and allows students to choose one of six concentrations.
  • Post MSN: This track is for registered nurses with a master's degree. It can be completed in two or three years, and offers up to five concentration options.
  • Advanced Standing: This track is for those who have earned an MSN. It can be completed in three to four years and offers a concentration in psychiatric-mental health nurse practitioner.

3. Virginia Commonwealth University

Location Tuition & Fees (in-state) 2018-2019
Richmond, VA $14,496

At Virginia Commonwealth University, registered nurses with an MSN can pursue either a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) or a Doctorate in Nurse Anesthesia Practice (DNAP).

  • DNP: The DNP program can be completed in less than two years and consists of 39 credit hours of fully-online coursework with three campus visits per year.
  • DNAP: This 33-credit program can be completed in as little as one year and includes online courses as well as two campus visits each semester.

4. George Washington University

Location Tuition & Fees (in-state) 2018-2019
Washington, DC $30,834

George Washington University offers Doctor of Nursing Practice programs to nurses with a BSN and/or nurses with an MSN. Courses are delivered online and have some on-campus components (such as testing) as well as clinical practice requirements.

  • Post BSN: Students on this track can directly pursue a DNP, earning their degree in as few as four years. These programs consist of 81 credit hours and 1,000 hours of clinical practice. Students can choose one of three concentrations within their program.
  • Post MSN: The post-MSN DNP program includes three concentration options and requires 42 to 43 credit hours. The leadership and nursing practice concentrations also include 500 hours of clinical practice.

5. University of Kansas

Location Tuition & Fees (in-state) 2018-2019
Lawrence, KS $11,027

The University of Kansas offers primarily online DNP programs to registered nurses with a BSN or MSN. Excluding required clinical hours and workshop courses (at least one per program), coursework can be completed entirely online.

  • Post BSN: Nurses with a BSN can earn a DNP with one of eight concentrations. Nurse practitioner and midwife concentrations require clinical practice hours. Credit hour requirements vary by chosen concentration, but students may be required to complete around 75 credits.
  • Post MSN: The post-MSN track at University of Kansas consists of 32 credit hours. Students can choose one of two program concentrations.

Rank School Name Location Tuition & Fees (in-state)
6 East Carolina University Greenville, NC $7,485
7 University of Southern Mississippi Hattiesburg, MS $8,624
8 The University of Tennessee-Knoxville Knoxville, TN $13,120
9 University of Arizona Tucson, AZ $13,044
10 Montana State University Bozeman, MT $6,559
11 University of Toledo Toledo, OH $15,427
12 University of North Dakota Grand Forks, ND $9,697
13 University of Iowa Iowa City, IA $11,336
14 Brandman University Irvine, CA $12,080
15 Stony Brook University Stony Brook, NY $13,007
16 Samford University Birmingham, AL $17,865
17 Illinois State University Normal, IL $9,509
18 East Tennessee State University Johnson City, TN $10,315
19 University of Pittsburgh-Pittsburgh Campus Pittsburgh, PA $23,696
20 West Chester University of Pennsylvania West Chester, PA $15,103
21 Indiana University-Purdue University-Indianapolis Indianapolis, IN $9,662
22 Maryville University of Saint Louis Saint Louis, MO $15,646
23 University of Nevada-Reno Reno, NV $5,575
24 Western Connecticut State University Danbury, CT $12,204
25 University of Missouri-St Louis Saint Louis, MO $11,436
26 Loyola University New Orleans New Orleans, LA $16,190
27 Wichita State University Wichita, KS $6,904
28 The University of Texas at Tyler Tyler, TX $7,126
29 Kent State University at Kent Kent, OH $11,536
30 Catholic University of America Washington, DC $46,800
31 University of Arkansas Fayetteville, AR $8,612
32 Duquesne University Pittsburgh, PA $23,112
33 University of Southern Indiana Evansville, IN $9,820
34 West Virginia University Morgantown, WV $9,990
35 Georgia College & State University Milledgeville, GA $7,206

Table tuition information provided by the National Center for Education Statistics (2018-2019)

Learn.org's school ranking methodology categorizes and assesses data from schools and other reliable sources, such as the U.S. Department of Education, and weighs the information based on quality, cost, value and other factors critical to students' academic decisions.

What to Expect from an Online DNP Program

Online DNP programs usually require students to complete coursework online as well as complete clinical practice hours in healthcare settings. Doctor of Nursing Practice programs that are offered online can be available in a few different formats. The most common DNP programs offered online are BSN to DNP and MSN to DNP. Depending on the previous education of students, they may be eligible for one program or the other. Key differences of the two program formats are noted in the table below (note that values represent many programs but some programs may differ).

Program Prior Education Required Length Clinical Hours Credit Hours
BSN to DNP Bachelor's Degree 3 to 4 years 700 to 1,000 60 to 80
MSN to DNP Master's Degree 1 to 3 years 350 to 1,000 30 to 45

Some MSN to DNP programs may accept registered nurses with a non-nursing master's degree but require some bridge coursework. Additionally, some schools may offer an RN bridge to students with an associate's degree or diploma in nursing that allows nurses to begin graduate coursework for a DNP program upon completing bridge courses.

Online Learning Environment

Online DNP coursework may be fully asynchronous or have some degree of synchronous learning. Courses that are asynchronous allow students to log in and complete their assignments at their convenience, as long as they are submitted by their due date. These types of courses may enable lectures to be accessed 24/7 as well as tests, forums, and other class components. On the other hand, some courses may have some synchronous (scheduled) items such as lectures, exams, and class or group meetings.

At the beginning of programs, students often complete an introductory online tutorial or course that involves navigating and reviewing how the learning portal works. Students should become familiar with their online course format prior to beginning their coursework to ensure that they can access and submit assignments as well as connect with instructors and peers as needed.

Clinical Requirements

Most DNP programs include some number of clinical hours within the curriculum. These hours can usually be completed near students' locations and may be available in the workplace. Clinical hours involve working in healthcare settings and applying what students have learned in their program. Clinical practice hours will vary by program, but may range between 300 and over 1,000. Some online DNP programs with concentrations such as leadership or administration, typically MSN-entry programs, do not require clinical practice hours.

Concentration Options

Most online DNP programs allow student to select a concentration within their program. By doing so, students are able to take more courses focused on that concentration and (when available) complete practice hours in settings that are relevant to the concentration. Common online DNP program concentrations include:

  • Adult Gerontology Nurse Practitioner
  • Family Nurse Practitioner
  • Nurse Education
  • Nursing Leadership/Administration
  • Pediatric Nurse Practitioner
  • Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner

Common Courses

Online DNP programs often consist of core advanced nursing courses and courses that are specific to DNP concentrations. Some of the common courses found in online DNP programs are:

  • Evidence-Based Practice - Students learn how to effectively conduct and apply research to healthcare practices to improve quality and procedures.
  • Population Health - Students further explore healthcare practices and concepts applicable to various population groups including vulnerable and diverse populations.
  • Quality Improvement - This class reviews healthcare quality and management and teaches students principles and methods for improving the quality of patient care.
  • Epidemiology - Students explore topics in disease and risk associated with public health and nursing practice, including methods for disease prevention.
  • Biostatistics - This course teaches students methods of biostatistics and how to apply them in nursing, including topics such as probability and sampling distribution as well as statistics analysis.
  • Healthcare Policy - Students learn about various healthcare policy issues and implications such as political and economic factors as well as health disparities in healthcare access.
  • Healthcare Economics - This class explores healthcare finance and economic processes including insurance, reimbursement and the cost of healthcare services.
  • Leadership - In this class, students explore strategies of leadership in healthcare, strategic planning, organizational changes, and teamwork.

How to Choose an Online DNP Program

While deciding on a school and program for an online Doctor of Nursing Practice, there are several important factors that you should keep in mind such as cost, program options, flexibility and accreditation.

Cost

Online DNP program costs can vary depending on the school and student education background. Students who have already earned an MSN will be required to complete significantly less credit hours, resulting in a lower total program cost than students with a BSN or lower degree. Some schools may charge $400 per credit hour while others may charge $1,400 per credit in tuition. Also, in addition to tuition most schools will have various other fees required for programs. These fees might include technology fees, registration fees, and other miscellaneous fees that can add thousands to the total cost of a program. When reviewing your school choices, ask for the full list of tuition and fees so that you can determine a total program cost. Keep in mind that although cost is important, there are a multitude of financial aid options for DNP students, and cost may not be the most important factor in choosing a program.

Program Options

You first need to determine what DNP format is the right fit based on your qualifications. If you have a master's degree then you should look for a master's degree entry program. If you have an associate's degree or diploma in nursing then first look for an RN bridge; you'll likely need to complete a bridge program at the same school that you want to attend for your DNP. Not all schools with DNP programs offer all program-entry options. Ask your schools if they have the program that fits your needs.

Flexibility

Another important consideration in choosing a DNP program is the format or flexibility that is offered. Some programs allow students to complete most or all of their coursework asynchronously, or at their convenience, while other programs require students to log in at specific times for synchronous components (such as lectures or exams). While asynchronous options are more flexible, they also require more self-discipline.

Residency Requirements

The majority of online DNP programs require students to complete clinical practice hours. Many schools work with students so that those hours can be completed within a reasonable distance to the student's location. In addition, students may need to attend one or more on-campus learning sessions. Check with your schools to see where clinical hours can be completed and if there are any on-campus requirements.

Accreditation

DNP programs should be accredited by the Commission of Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) or the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN). Programs in nursing anesthesia can also be accredited by the Council on Accreditation of Nurse Anesthesia Educational Programs (COA) and midwifery programs are accredited by the American College of Nurse-Midwives Division of Accreditation (ACNM). Accreditation shows that the DNP program has been reviewed to meet specific criteria such as clinical practice components and learning objectives. Completing a properly accredited program can increase your financial aid options as well as your ability to obtain nurse practitioner certification.

License Requirements for Nurses

There are several types of certifications available for advanced practice nurses. Certification typically requires nurses to have completed an accredited program and take an exam. Nurses are certified by different agencies depending on their area of practice. For example, a pediatric nurse practitioner can be certified by the Pediatric Nursing Certification Board and a nurse midwife should be certified by the American Midwifery Certification Board.

What Can You Do with an Online DNP?

DNP graduates can pursue various careers in practice, academia and administration. Several careers available to those who have completed an online DNP program are discussed below.

Medical and Health Services Managers

Medical and health services managers oversee and direct healthcare services, departments, and facilities. They had a median salary of $99,730 in 2018, with the highest paid managers working in government or hospital settings.

Nurse Anesthetists

Nurse anesthetists administer anesthesia and provide related services to patients undergoing surgical procedures. They had a median salary of $167,950 in 2018.

Nurse Midwives

Nurse midwives provide reproductive counseling, surgical assistance, and gynecological services including labor and delivery. Nurse-midwives' median salary in 2018 was $103,770.

Nurse Practitioners

Nurse practitioners provide collaborative and/or primary care to patients, often working with specific populations (such as pediatrics). The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics expects the field to grow 28% between 2018 and 2028, making it one of the fastest-growing fields in nursing.

Postsecondary Nursing Teachers

Postsecondary nursing teachers work in colleges and universities, teaching and advising students in the field of nursing. In 2018 they had a median annual salary of $73,490.

Job Title Median Annual Salary (2018) Estimated Job Growth (2018-2028)
Medical and Health Services Managers $99,730 18%
Nurse Anesthetists $167,950 17%
Nurse Midwives $103,770 16%
Nurse Practitioners $107,030 28%
Postsecondary Nursing Teachers $73,490 20%

Career information provided by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Professional Nursing Organizations

There are a variety of professional organizations for nurses that enable them to network, advance their knowledge, and access various resources. Some of the largest organizations are discussed below.

American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP)

AANP provides nurse practitioners and students with educational courses, networking and nursing discounts. AANP offers different levels of membership and has over 92,000 members.

Gerontological Advanced Practice Nurses Associations (GAPNA)

GAPNA connects nurses working with adult and aged populations and offers applicable resources, conferences and educational opportunities. The organization has just over 3,700 members.

National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners (NAPNAP)

NAPNAP provides pediatric nurse practitioners with educational resources and networking opportunities that enable them to stay up-to-date with children's healthcare. The group has over 9,000 members and offers various chapters and interest groups.

American Psychiatric Nurses Association (APNA)

Nurses who work in psychiatric-mental health practices can join APNA to access the latest developments and news related to their field. APNA has over 11,000 nurses including nurse practitioners and registered nurses.