20 Best Online DNP Degrees with No Dissertation Programs

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Updated: November 19, 2023, Reading time: 19 minutes

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Nursing is one of the most fulfilling careers for professionals who wish to work in the health industry. But there are many kinds of nurses, and some of them are more rewarding options than their counterparts. Essentially, choosing the right nursing program for one’s college education can make a world of difference.

In the United States, nurse practitioners are considered high-level medical providers. They are knowledgeable in assessing, diagnosing, and treating patients of all types. Their primary focus is on disease management. They are also integral to promoting health and wellness as well as preventing diseases.

Many nurse practitioners work in hospitals, specialty officers, home care, and clinics, among others. Apart from providing patient care, they also have ample opportunities to take on leadership roles in the medical field. This can include roles such as hospital executives, medical directors, professors, and more. Nurse practitioners can receive a salary of $125,900 per year.  

To become one, they will need to earn an advanced nurse practitioner degree to equip them with the necessary educational leadership knowledge and skills required for the profession. For those who aim to become innovative leaders who can help transform the healthcare delivery system, a Doctor of Nursing Practice degree program is an ideal choice.

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Earning a Nursing Practice doctorate degree online can help nursing professionals stay at the forefront of patient care. These online doctoral programs will enhance students’ knowledge of policies, procedures, and extensive research methods involved in the nurse practitioner profession. While a traditional doctoral research project in the form of a dissertation is often required in a DNP, other online doctoral programs do not make them mandatory.

Grad School Center is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

Common Courses in Doctor of Nursing Practice Degree

Doctoral degree online programs require students to complete core competencies essential to the nursing practice curriculum.

This often includes the scientific underpinnings of nursing practice, health care policy advocacy, organizational and systems leadership skills, quality and safety, population health, and so much more.

To provide a clearer picture, doctoral students may take a look at the following courses commonly included in online doctoral programs in the nursing practice curriculum.

Foundations and Essentials for the DNP

Online DNP students learn how to apply professional standards in the nursing practice. They will engage in course assessments that are mainly focused on the practical application of skills such as writing and critical thinking skills.

Essentials of Evidence-Based Practice

Sound and tested evidence ensure that the patient care being provided is safe, of high quality, and cost-effective. Students are expected to gain a better understanding of evidence-based practice and how it can be aligned with research and quality improvement.

Theoretical and Scientific Foundations of Nursing

Often offered as one of the core courses, the Theoretical and Scientific Foundations of Nursing emphasizes the importance of integrating scientific, philosophical, and theoretical concepts as the basis of the highest level of nursing practice.

This is where students get to examine the scientific groundwork of nursing practice, which includes interdisciplinary and middle-range nursing theories. They will also learn all about the different models of evidence-based practice, clinical inquiry, and implementation science.

Healthcare Policy and Analysis

There are various factors that influence healthcare delivery. This includes economic, financial, and political factors. In this course, students examine how these factors affect the delivery of healthcare and consider policy reform in a variety of contexts, including legal, ethical, societal, and organizational.

Epidemiology and Population Health

This course provides an overview of the epidemiologic methods in the study of the distribution and etiology of disease and health-related conditions. Students are expected to take a closer look at the select population health issues, often involving chronic and infectious diseases. They must gain a solid understanding of the research designs and methodologies that professionals are using in epidemiologic research and how it is relevant to population-based nursing practice.

Online DNP Degrees with No Dissertation - fact

Common DNP Specialization Areas

Doctor of Nursing Practice programs are often designed with Specialization areas. For post-BSN students, these specializations contain various advanced practice skill sets they can choose from once they specialize as advanced practice nurses (APRNs). Nurses/APRNs who already have certifications or those who have already earned Master’s degree programs in Nursing also have a choice of specialization areas that are often geared toward leadership roles. Let’s look at some of these.

Pediatric Nurse Practitioner

This advanced practice specialization area prepares students with skills that address the unique needs, primarily of infants and children. This is often divided further into Primary Care and Critical Care, which need different responses.

Adult/Gerontology Nurse Practitioner

This specialization deals with the skillsets that address the healthcare needs of adult and old-age patients who often have chronic illnesses. This is usually divided further into Primary Care and Critical Care, which need different responses.

Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner

This area deals with the special needs of mental-health-related conditions, which include depressive disorders, anxiety disorders, and more.

Executive Leadership

This is often a specialization area offered to post-MSN students and prepares them to take administrative or leadership roles in their respective workplaces or in settings that involve setting healthcare policy and overall healthcare quality improvement.

Nurse Anesthesia

This specialization area is focused on the skillsets required to deliver the whole spectrum of anesthetic care. Nurse anesthetists work under the direction of an Anesthesiologist.

Top 10 Online DNP Degrees with No Dissertation Programs

Duke University

Duke University - School of Nursing

Doctor of Nursing Practice

Duke University offers its Doctor of Nursing Practice Degree in a hybrid format, where online coursework is combined with on-campus executive sessions that happen about once per semester. It happens to be the first nursing practice doctorate degree online in the state of North Carolina.

The program has a BSN to DNP entry point that takes around three years of full-time enrollment to complete and a 5-semester long post-master’s degree pathway. There is also an available 9-credit Executive Leadership Specialty (ELS) elective.

The DNP degree follows a cohort model, bringing together students from various backgrounds and advanced practice fields into a collaborative learning space. The program concludes with a DNP Capstone Project, which students can complete at their place of employment.

Georgetown University

Georgetown University - School of Nursing

Doctor of Nursing Practice

Georgetown University offers its Doctor of Nursing Practice degree program online. The CCNE-accredited program integrates advanced nursing science with principles of organizational leadership and ethics and prepares students to meet the goal of improving accessibility and quality of care for underserved populations.

The DNP doctoral program has two entry points: a BSN-to-DNP pathway that contains around 69-74 credit hours and a 30-credit post-master’s pathway that focuses on systems-level leadership. The BSN to DNP pathway has a required 1,000-1,200 clinical hours and a completion time of around 33 months. It is offered both full-time and part-time and has four specialization areas to choose from.

On top of the online coursework, both pathways also require a certain number of on-campus executive sessions, and the program concludes with a Doctoral Scholarly Project. For this, Georgetown University assists students in choosing clinical placement sites that are within a reasonable distance of their communities and meet the university’s facility standards.

University of New Hampshire

University of New Hampshire - Online

Doctor of Nursing Practice

The University of New Hampshire’s Doctor of Nursing Practice degree program is offered as a post-master’s pathway, developed with the aim of producing graduates that are ready to take on leadership roles in multidisciplinary healthcare teams. It is open to nurses who have a Master’s degree in nursing or those who have a master’s degree from other fields and want to bring their own expertise and insights into the program.

Being a post-master’s degree program, it has a relatively shorter completion time of 18-28 months and contains around 21-33 credit hours. The curriculum includes courses on Financial Management, Health Systems Policy, Epidemiology, and Applied Analytics.

As a final requirement, students complete a Doctoral Scholarly Project, which is focused on translating evidence into practice.

University of Massachusetts Amherst

University of Massachusetts Amherst - Elaine Marieb College of Nursing

Doctor of Nursing Practice

The Doctor of Nursing Practice degree program offered by the University of Massachusetts Amherst is one of the first online DNP programs in the country, having been introduced in 2006. While the program’s coursework is offered entirely online, it includes a required clinical internship; however, this will be arranged by the university in students’ respective areas.

The program has a post-MS entry point that leads to completion of their DNP and a post-baccalaureate entry point that has four concentration areas, namely: Family Nurse Practitioner, Adult/Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner, Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner, and Public Health Nurse Leader.

Students on the Post-baccalaureate pathway can choose to follow a four or five-year degree completion plan. Both entryways into the doctoral degree conclude with a doctoral capstone project.

Vanderbilt University

Vanderbilt University - School of Nursing

Doctor of Nursing Practice

Vanderbilt University’s Doctor of Nursing Practice degree aims to prepare students to become leaders in the various fields of advanced nursing practice, guided by evidence-based knowledge in their delivery of complex care and nursing education.

It is an online program that includes a post-master entry point as well as a BSN-to-DNP entry point. The post-master track has three specialization areas which include Advanced Clinical Practice and Executive Leadership, while the BSN to DNP track has the Adult/Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner and Family Nurse/Emergency Nurse Practitioner specializations.

The program’s coursework is all online and utilizes a mixture of distance learning platforms and techniques, ensuring an enriched learning environment that has minimal disruption to students’ lives and careers. The program culminates in a DNP project, and Vanderbilt University also assists students in selecting and arranging sites for their clinical placement.

Drexel University

Drexel University

Doctor of Nursing Practice

Drexel University offers an online Doctor of Nursing Practice degree that is designed for active advanced nursing practice leaders (i.e., those who already have a Master’s Degree in either Nursing (MSN), an MBA, or a Master’s Degree in a health-related field) who are seeking a nursing practice terminal degree. The program aims to prepare students for leadership roles as practitioners or executives.

The 45-credit hour degree program is accredited by the CCNE and is built upon standards set by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN). The required 1,000 hours of precepted clinical hours are built into the tracks within the curriculum, and the program culminates in a DNP Project.

George Washington University

George Washington University - School of Nursing

Doctor of Nursing Practice

George Washington University offers its Doctor of Nursing Practice degree program in a hybrid format. Online coursework is combined with a set number of on-campus experiences that are primarily meant for student training and testing purposes.

The GWU doctoral degree program is offered with both Post-Baccalaureate and Post Master’s entry points. The Post-BSN to DNP pathway is designed to give a comprehensive preparation of crucial nursing practice skills and does not have a Master’s Degree exit point.

The Post-MSN pathway, meanwhile, prepares students for expert roles in advanced nursing practice and contains specialization areas in nursing practice, executive leadership, and health policy. The post-BSN to DNP pathway has 4 Nurse-Practitioner specialization areas.

Penn State World Campus

Pennsylvania State University

Doctor of Nursing Practice – Leadership

The Doctor of Nursing Practice – Leadership degree program offered by the Pennsylvania State University is designed to prepare highly qualified nurses to take on leadership roles, with the ultimate goal of delivering expert care and improving healthcare and patient outcomes.

The program has both post-BSN to DNP and Post-MSN to DNP entry pathways. The former has a total of 61 credit hours, while the latter ranges between 38-46 credit hours, depending on the specialization area. Students enrolled in the BSN to DNP pathway are considered full-time students and can expect to take at least three courses for each semester in the fall and spring.

The program is primarily online, with a number of required in-person sessions on campus for the purposes of doing clinical intensives, as well as the qualifying and comprehensive examinations and the presentation of the final DNP project. The Penn State DNP degree program is accredited by the CCNE, Pennsylvania State Board of Nursing-approved, and follows the DNP Essentials standards set by the AACN.

University of Arizona

University of Arizona - College of Nursing

Doctor of Nursing Practice

The University of Arizona’s Doctor of Nursing Practice degree program spans a minimum of two and a half years of full-time enrollment. It is offered as a hybrid program, with the curriculum consisting of a blend of online didactic coursework, required on-campus intensives, and clinical placements.

The program has seven specialization areas, which include Nurse Midwifery, Pediatric Nurse, Nurse Anesthesia, Adult-Gerontology Nurse, and Executive Health Systems Leadership. All specialization areas are offered with full-time or part-time options except Nurse Anesthesia, which is a full-time-only program.

Students complete a minimum of 1,000 clinical practice immersion hours, and as part of their final requirements, complete a faculty-monitored DNP project.

University of Texas Arlington

University of Texas Arlington

Doctor of Nursing Practice

The Doctor of Nursing Practice degree program of the University of Texas Arlington is an advanced degree program that is designed for active board-certified advanced practice nurses, nurse practitioners who already hold a Master’s Degree in Nursing, or Nurses who have an MSN in Administration.

The online program has a total of 36 credit hours and is designed with an accelerated curriculum. Aside from providing advanced practice expertise, it prepares students for leadership roles, as well as consultative or policy-related roles.

The program uses online and asynchronous coursework and has a minimum duration of 27 to 32 months. This degree program, however, is also offered as a traditional on-campus program.

Vanderbilt University

Vanderbilt University - School of Nursing

Doctor of Nursing Practice

Vanderbilt University offers a Doctor of Nursing Practice program that aims to help future nurse practitioners apply evidence-based knowledge into practice. They are equipped with the necessary theoretical knowledge and research skills to improve health outcomes and strengthen the healthcare systems.

Primarily, students are expected to design innovative and economically feasible programs for healthcare delivery that will have significant impacts on healthcare outcomes.

The doctoral degree program includes post-master’s study tracks, namely Advanced Systems Practice, Advanced Clinical Practice, and Executive Leadership. Some of the courses in the curriculum include Quality Improvement and Patient Safety, Scholarly Writing, and Evidence-Based Practice I: The Nature of Evidence, among others.

University of Pittsburgh

University of Pittsburgh - School of Nursing

Doctor of Nursing Practice

The University of Pittsburgh is among the higher learning institutions in the country that offers a doctoral degree program in nursing practice. The DNP programs have several learning tracks, including Clinical Nurse Specialist, Health Systems Executive Leadership, Nurse Anesthesia, Nurse-Midwife, and Nurse Practitioner.

Its Health Systems Executive Leadership MSN to DNP degree program is designed for students who have earned a master’s degree in nursing or a BSN with a master’s degree in a related field.

This doctoral degree program prepares students to function in executive leadership and management roles with an emphasis on the creation or redesign of healthcare systems to meet the demands of the emerging healthcare market. It is one of the doctorate degrees in nursing practice that does not require a traditional dissertation.

George Washington University

George Washington University - School of Nursing

Doctor of Nursing Practice

Offering a practice-focused doctorate degree, George Washington University’s online Doctor of Nursing Practice is designed to prepare students for advanced nursing practice with an emphasis on crucial nursing competencies and innovation.

There are three specializations that students can choose from, including clinical practice, policy, and leadership. These are delivered in hybrid learning formats, which means students can complete some courses online and attend on-campus experiences for testing and training.

In particular, the Nursing Practice specialization is ideal for nursing professionals whose interests lie in improving patient care, influencing health policy, and being a nurse. They are expected to incorporate evidence-based practice and interdisciplinary organizational concepts into clinical practice and leadership.

East Tennessee State University

East Tennessee State University 

Doctor of Nursing Practice

The Doctor of Nursing Practice offered at East Tennessee State University focuses on rural clinical practice within primary care settings.

It is designed to equip advanced practice nurses and executive nurse leaders with theoretical knowledge and research skills integral to the assessment and evaluation of evidence from rigorous research and the translation of the findings to influence changes in healthcare delivery.

Delivered in an online or blended format, students may complete most of the coursework online, except for the required intensive sessions that occur once or twice every semester. Students may also choose among several concentrations, including:

Instead of a dissertation requirement, the final program outcome is the completion of a DNP project.

Baylor University

Baylor University - Louise Herrington School of Nursing Online

Doctor of Nursing Practice, Executive Nurse Leadership

The Doctor of Nursing Practice from Baylor University is specially designed for nurse leaders.

This fully online program provides students with executive knowledge and competencies that are integral when it comes to influential leadership and transformative care models. The program is centered on the Adams Influence Model, a known framework for nurse leaders.

This doctoral degree program helps nurse practitioners stand out in their organizations by helping them develop advanced business acumen and leadership skills that can transform hospitals and healthcare systems.

Students must have a Master of Science in Nursing or MSN from a regionally accredited school of nursing or related fields. One must have a current, active RN license, too. The program will culminate into a doctoral project component instead of completing a traditional dissertation process and can be completed in one’s local area.

Simmons University

Simmons University

Doctor of Nursing Practice

Simmons University’s Doctor of Nursing Practice is offered online. This DNP program integrates evidence-based practice with analytical and leadership principles to help prepare nurses for the highest level of professional nursing practice. The degree is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.

Students who successfully complete the program are expected to pursue leadership roles in a variety of healthcare settings. They must be key players when it comes to transforming healthcare systems and policies and improving the patients’ and communities’ outcomes.

Ohio State University

Ohio State University

Doctor of Nursing Practice

Those who have already earned their master’s degree in nursing or related fields may want to consider pursuing a Doctor of Nursing Practice offered by the Ohio State University. It is a good foundation for nurses who wish to prepare for a rewarding career in direct clinical nursing or nurse executive roles.

The Clinical Expect track requires a national-level advanced practice nursing certification. The Nurse Executive track, on the other hand, only requires a master’s degree in nursing or related fields, including Business Administration and Public health.

Drexel University

Drexel University - College of Nursing and Health Professions

Doctor of Nursing Practice

Drexel University has a Doctor of Nursing Practice degree program designed for advanced nursing practice leaders who seek a terminal degree in the field. It offers an alternative to research-focused online doctorate programs.

In this program, students are taught to prepare for leadership roles and apply evidence-based practice to improve health outcomes at the individual, family, and community levels.

Those who complete the program are expected to propose policy initiatives that are important to the promotion of social justice and health and wellness.

University of North Dakota

University of North Dakota

Doctor of Nursing Practice

The online Doctor of Nursing Practice-DNP program at the University of North Dakota helps students develop leadership strategies with a significant impact on the future of health care. The program curriculum is designed for nurses who wish to achieve better outcomes for individuals, families, and underserved populations.

Students are equipped with skills that help them lead systems and organizational transformations. This can be done through becoming a nurse educator or pursuing critical roles in the creation of health care policy.

Georgetown University

Georgetown University - School of Nursing

Doctor of Nursing Practice

Georgetown University’s School of Nursing offers Doctor of Nursing Practice degree programs that are available online. These doctorate degrees integrate advanced nursing science with organizational leadership and ethics that aim to improve patient care delivery. There are two entry points to the online doctoral programs: BSN to DNP and Post-Master’s DNP.

The latter is ideal for DNP hopefuls seeking to build their clinical nursing experience and pursue advanced nursing roles. It is offered in a part-time program of study, composed of five 15-week terms, practice hours, and a few on-campus executive sessions. The program culminates into a doctoral scholarly project.

What are the employment projections for DNP graduates?

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the employment projections for DNP graduates?

Considered the pinnacle of most nursing careers, nursing practice plays an integral role within the healthcare system. It will help nurses advance their careers in the rapidly growing healthcare industry. It is an in-demand career that is projected to grow by a whopping 38% in the period between 2022 to 2032, which is much faster than average.

What are Clinical Intensives?

Online doctoral degree programs in nursing practice always include some on-campus appearances.

These are most often devoted to clinical intensives, multi-day sessions where students get to brush up on their skills and receive the crucial hands-on training that comes with the skillsets introduced in advanced-practice specializations. Nurses primarily learn by doing, and nothing can substitute for hands-on training.

Aside from getting hands-on training, these intensives are also opportunities for students to personally connect with their university, their faculty, and members of their cohort, giving them the opportunity to build partnerships in the process.

What is BSN to DNP and MSN to DNP programs?

Most online doctoral programs in nursing practice are often offered with two entry points: BSN to DNP (or a post-baccalaureate pathway) and MSN to DNP (or post-masters).

As the name suggests, the BSN to DNP is for students fresh off their bachelor’s degree in nursing, while the MSN to DNP is for those who already have Master’s Degrees. Both sets of students have different learning needs, and these two entry pathways are designed accordingly.

How much does a DNP degree typically cost?

A wide variance exists, but using a per-credit hour cost as a guide, DNP online programs can range between $600 – $1,000 per credit hour. BSN to DNP pathways cost more, as they typically contain around 60 credit hours.

MSN to DNP pathways have around half that, as these students are typically already advanced practice nurses, and BSN to DNP online programs include advanced practice training.

Key Takeaways

Online DNP doctorate degrees incorporate required on-campus intensives on top of the required clinical placement/immersion hours.

Instead of traditional dissertations, DNP degrees conclude with capstone projects, where students put their learnings into a research-driven practice-based output.

Online doctoral programs in nursing practice typically have Specialization areas for advanced nursing practice disciplines that students can choose from.

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