Top 10 Best Online Doctor of Nursing Practice Degrees

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Updated: March 13, 2024, Reading time: 20 minutes

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Nursing is one of the fastest-growing and most sought-after professions. Nurses have evolved from a doctor’s valet to true experts on patient care. The roles and responsibilities of nurses have changed to satisfy new standards for the caliber of clinical treatment.

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DNP is a terminal degree available for RNs with bachelor’s and master’s degrees in nursing. The ultimate goal of the Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) is to develop nursing leaders. These nurses have the highest level of nursing knowledge and, after earning the necessary certifications, either work in a clinical setting or a leadership position.


Registered nurses now have the opportunity to advance their careers and nursing education as they please. RNs can easily access upper-level positions in hospitals and clinics through a Doctor of Nursing Practice program and earn better salaries.

Our top selections of the best online DNP programs were based on these factors:

Get more information on our ranking process! Visit our Methodology page.

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.

The 10 Best Online Doctor of Nursing Practice Programs

Grand Canyon University

Grand Canyon University
Doctor of Nursing Practice

Grand Canyon University offers a Doctor of Nursing Practice available online. The DNP program requires students to complete 39 credits in an 8-week online learning format that can be completed in as early as 12 months. The program examines a holistic approach to coaching people and families through developmental, health-illness, and situational transformations and the construction of clinically excellent programs.

Applicants should be armed with years of work experience as Registered Nurses and hold a Master’s in Nursing. Additionally, they must have at least a 3.4 GPA on a 4.0 scale on their previous education.

Because most students in the online DNP program are working professionals, the coursework focuses on theoretical knowledge mixed with clinical application, which allows students to apply their newfound knowledge to their current positions. Students will receive ample support from the school, including financial aid and academic counseling.

Capella University

Capella University
Doctor of Nursing Practice

Capella University offers an online Doctor of Nursing Practice. The DNP program requires students to complete 33 credit hours of coursework, including 8 core courses, 1 specialization, and a capstone or practicum. This online DNP program is one of the most extensive online degrees that require students to collaborate with motivating mentors within the company; this integrated approach enables you to address real-world problems.

At least a year of RN work experience is required of applicants, as well as a master’s degree in nursing and a 3.0 GPA on a 4.0 scale. Additionally, a background check is necessary after acceptance into the program before participating in classes.

In addition to networking opportunities through required practicums, students will receive full support from the school from enrollment to graduation. Online students are given a chance to choose between a FlexPath and a GuidedPath. FlexPath allows students to take one or two core classes at a time and finish as many as they desire in 12 weeks, while GuidedPath requires students to complete courses following the school’s quarter system; 1-3 courses per 10-week quarter.

Purdue University Global

Purdue Global University
Doctor of Nursing Practice

Purdue University Global offers a Doctor of Nursing Practice that is available online. Students must complete 48–57 credits in a 10-week term that can be completed in 1.5 years of full-time study. The DNP program also requires students to complete a practice-focused project over four terms, serving as their capstone. Practice Experiences combine theory and practice in providing complex healthcare in your specialty.

Applicants should have a master’s degree in nursing, a cumulative GPA of 3.0, and must be able to demonstrate competence as an advanced practice registered nurse. If you have only graduated from a baccalaureate degree program in nursing, you must enroll in the accelerated Master of Science in Nursing—DNP Path and earn a master’s degree to be eligible for the online DNP program.

Purdue University Global offers the best military tuition discounts and has the fastest corporate partner benefits. DNP students will have financial aid upon acceptance into the program. Additionally, students who need 1,000 postbaccalaureate practice hours can enroll in an independent study program.

Walden University

Walden University
Doctor of Nursing Practice

Walden University offers an online Doctor of Nursing Practice. The DNP program requires students to complete 45 quarter credits that can be completed in as early as 12 months of full-time study, including eight credits of field experience.

The DNP program allows students to specialize in one of six specializations, including Family Nurse Practitioner and Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner, among others.

Applicants should have a master’s degree in nursing, an active RN license, and a minimum of 3.0 GPA on a 4.0 scale in postbaccalaureate coursework.

Walden University offers a Practicum Advantage as support to DNP students. This student support online program gives you the guidance, materials, and self-help tools you need to choose a local DNP practicum location and a nursing preceptor who fits your academic and professional objectives.

Phoenix University

Phoenix University
Doctor of Nursing Practice

Phoenix University offers an online Doctor of Nursing degree program. The DNP program requires 31 credit hours that can be completed in as early as 20 months of full-time study. Since most students are advanced nursing practice leaders, the program allows students to start their degree year-round and take one class at a time in addition to 20 hours a day, 5 days a week support system.

Applicants must have a master’s degree in nursing with an average of 3.0 GPA on a 4.0 scale and an active RN license.

Students’ applied projects will start in their first course, and they’ll follow a program-wide milestone schedule after that. This breaks down their job into manageable chunks and aids in identifying any obstacles early on so there aren’t any last-minute surprises or delays. Additionally, Phoenix University offers flat tuition rates for online students, regardless of state residency and application status.

John Hopkins School of Nursing

John Hopkins School of Nursing
Doctor of Nursing Practice

John Hopkins School of Nursing offers a Doctor of Nursing Practice that is available online. All programs are online with on-site course immersions in the student’s current location. However, as their education advances, students must attend seven in-person immersions at the Johns Hopkins Baltimore campus.

Applicants must have a master’s degree in nursing, a minimum of 3.0 GPA on a 4.0 scale, and an active RN license. There’s also a 1,000-hour clinical requirement. Students who do not meet the clinical hour requirement will have to participate in a clinical practicum to gain competence in their particular specialty.

The online nursing practice degree program provides students with plenty of financial aid opportunities, including grants, scholarships, and loans. While this program is specifically designed for students with an earned MSN in a specialty such as CNS, NP, and Management, other students are still welcome to apply.

Duke University

Duke University - School of Nursing
Doctor of Nursing Practice

Duke University offers a Doctor of Nursing Practice focusing on Nurse Anesthetics available in a hybrid learning format. The DNP program requires students to complete 38 credit hours, including 1 specialization and an executive leadership course.

Additionally, students must complete a four-semester-long academic DNP project that addresses a practice issue affecting patient groups, healthcare organizations, or healthcare systems to help improve patient outcomes.

The DNP-Nurse Anesthetist program requires applicants to have a BSN, Basic Life Support, Advanced Cardiac Life Support certification & Pediatric Advanced Life Support certifications.

Upon graduation with the doctoral degree, RNs will have expertise in anesthesia and collaborate with dentists, surgeons, anesthesiologists, and other medical specialists. Graduates will be eligible to work as nurse anesthetists, the highest-paid nursing profession.

Loyola University

Loyola University New Orleans
Doctor of Nursing Practice

Loyola University offers a Doctor of Nursing Practice that is available online. Students in the BSN to DNP are required to complete 78 Credits and 1260 Practicum Hours, while students in the MSN to DNP are required to complete 39+ Credits and 1000 Practicum Hours.

Additionally, the university provides adult gerontology, family nurse practitioner, mental health, and pediatrics concentrations.

Applicants of either of the DNP programs are required to submit the purpose of study essay and 1,800 hours of recent nursing practice. Students with prior learning credits can transfer credit hours to reduce costs.

Loyola offered the first online DNP program in Louisiana. In addition to taking advantage of a convenient, entirely online format, students in the online DNP program gain access to Loyola’s top-notch professors and resources.

University of Texas at Austin

University of Texas at Austin - School of Nursing
Doctor of Nursing Practice

The University of Texas at Austin’s DNP is available as a hybrid program. The DNP program requires students to complete 45 credit hours, including 12 hours of clinical specialization courses.

The DNP program emphasizes mentoring for creating a unique clinical leadership specialty and the public dissemination of scholarly work through publications and presentations.

Also, students can take additional electives in teaching and nursing education.

Applicants must have a bachelor’s and master’s degree in nursing, with an average of 3.0 GPA on a 4.0 scale, GRE scores, and at least 18 months of RN work experience.

UT at Austin is one of the institutions that receive a substantial amount of funding from the NIH. Additionally, the school provides financial aid opportunities to DNP students and allows students to transfer credits earned from other accredited institutions to reduce the cost of their doctoral degree.

University of Wisconsin-Madison

University of Wisconsin-Madison - School of Nursing
Doctor of Nursing Practice

The University of Wisconsin-Madison offers a Doctor of Nursing Practice that is available in a hybrid learning format. The DNP program requires students to complete Post-BS: 68 and Post-MS: 32; 3-credit graduate statistics. Because the students and applicants are working RNs, the schools offer one of the most flexible learning options, including asynchronous online classes and limited face-to-face or in-person classes.

Applicants must have a master’s degree in nursing with an average of 3.5 GPA on a 4.0 scale, an active RN license, and at least one year of RN work experience.

DNP students must complete at least 1,000 practicum hours as part of the program. The School of Nursing plans and manages the practice, utilizing long-standing academic alliances with significant healthcare systems and local community partners throughout Wisconsin.

Common Courses in Doctor of Nursing Practice

Evidence-Based Practice

This course examines nursing knowledge’s philosophical foundations concerning the role of the doctor of nursing practice. Students will look into how nursing knowledge is produced and the types of evidence that guide nursing practice. The students will identify and examine the topics pertinent to their chosen topic.

Informatics for Scholarly Practice

Future academics will need to comprehend the fundamentals of databases and the organization of vocabularies to benefit from electronic data mining. This course gives an overview of informatics, which converts data into knowledge, information, decisions, and actions to enhance results.

This course is mostly found in the DNP program focusing on academic careers. This course also teaches the student to use current technological tools for data presentation, interpretation, and organization.

Statistics in Health Sciences 

An overview of the reasoning and suitable use of the statistical methods that are most frequently found in the research literature for the health professions is provided in this course. Most univariate parametric and nonparametric techniques, including correlational and repeated measures analyses, are covered within the range of topics. 


The primary emphasis of epidemiology is the distribution and causes of illness frequency in human populations. After completing this DNP course, students will be prepared to utilize epidemiological techniques to look at people’s illness or injury patterns. Students will examine the ideas of danger, disease, and health.

The course will also highlight policy ramifications and implications for establishing data-based disease/injury prevention and control initiatives.

Healthcare Economics and Finance

Basic economic theory, healthcare financing and reimbursement, market forces and constraints, cost/benefit analysis, and healthcare entrepreneurship are all topics covered in this course. The course integrates theory and application throughout, with a particular emphasis on the clinical role of the DNP in the modern healthcare system.

Quality Improvement and Patient Safety

This course trains students to plan, carry out, and assess evidence-based, high-quality healthcare practices for patient populations in acute, home, and community settings. Students will evaluate organizational culture, obtain safety data, analyze data, and convert findings into system changes through action learning experiences inside their own organizations, working as partners in interdisciplinary teams.

Management of Organizations and Systems

The Management of Organizations & Systems course integrates organizational concepts with leadership theory. There will be an examination and application of human resource management, change management, strategic planning, and program creation and implementation models.

The student will determine the function of the DNP in complex healthcare organizations based on these ideas and models.

Health Policy

The development, analysis, and economic implications of healthcare policy are discussed in this course in the context of sociopolitical issues. The function of regulation within the American healthcare system is given secondary attention.

Best Online Doctor pf Nursing Practice - fact

Typical Coursework for a Doctor of Nursing Practice Degree

Before students move on to specific coursework in their field of specialization, the best online DNP programs require them to take a few general courses. These general courses emphasize important topics like the ones listed above. While each online DNP program has its distinct emphasis, all certified programs must follow the AACN’s guidelines for fundamental DNP training.

Your courses will then focus more intently on your particular clinical specialty. Most online DNP programs require the completion of a capstone assignment in a student’s chosen specialty, which can be a research project, a pilot study, or a quality improvement plan, in addition to the required 1,000 hours of clinical nursing study.

As a DNP student, you are often tasked to demonstrate expertise in clinical settings. Thankfully, clinical rotation placement is made easier because most colleges have arrangements with local hospitals for clinical affiliation. You can take advantage of these collaborations if you decide to complete your practice near the university where you’re enrolled.

However, prospective DNP students utilizing distance learning programs might opt to arrange clinical rotations close to their homes. Organizing your clinical rotation will be your job if this applies to you. Your DNP school will be ready to provide you with any follow-up assistance you require, such as checking that any prospective clinical preceptors possess the necessary credentials, but you will likely make the initial contact.

In addition to clinical hours, DNP students are often required to complete a DNP capstone or project. The DNP project or capstone shows that they have mastered the concepts and procedures covered in the curriculum. This project usually covers several practicum courses over several semesters, with around one course per semester.

In many top online DNP programs, campus components are included at least once a semester. Orientations, face-to-face intensives, seminars, and advising sessions are a few examples of these campus gatherings.

Career Pathways for a Doctor of Nursing Practice Degree

The range of practice NPs can engage in varies by state, but many value their daily independence. For those who wish to make a profession of helping others, working as an NP can be both demanding and gratifying.

Here are the most common careers for DNP graduates. 

Certified Nurse Anesthetist

Before, during, and after medical procedures, CNAs give patients anesthetics and other drugs. They may concentrate on various patients or specialize in particular subspecialties like neurosurgery, pediatrics, or obstetrics. CNAs are employed in hospitals, outpatient care facilities, and surgical and medical offices.

Certified Nurse Midwife

CNMs are crucial to women’s health care, especially for pregnant patients. These medical professionals collaborate closely with doctors and other healthcare specialists to provide expectant moms counseling and postpartum care. Hospitals, birthing facilities, private practices, and military hospitals employ CNMs frequently.

Clinical Nurse Educator

Clinical nurse educators, or CNEs, are nurses who have a passion for imparting the knowledge and abilities necessary for delivering the best care possible to other nurses who work in healthcare facilities. A nurse educator is typically a well-respected healthcare professional with excellent leadership and management abilities. Clinical nurse educators are usually hired in hospitals or clinics. 

Certified Nurse Practitioner

Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRNs) with advanced training in primary care, acute care, geriatrics, and women’s health are certified Nurse Practitioners (CNPs). Premier Health values CNPs for their dedication to providing kind, individualized patient care. CNPs frequently work at metropolitan community health clinics, college campuses, and hospitals.

Financing Doctorate in Nursing Practice

Financial aid for students pursuing their Doctor of Nursing Practice is widely available in the form of loans, grants, and scholarships (both merit- and needs-based) (DNP). The federal government, commercial lenders, colleges and universities, nonprofit organizations, nurse groups, and more are funding sources.

The US Department of Education’s Federal Student Aid website should be your first trip after being accepted into nursing school to acquire your DNP. Even if you don’t believe you qualify for financial aid, filling out and submitting a FAFSA for each school year is vital. To be eligible for federal/state grants, federally backed loans, and many scholarships, you must submit a FAFSA.

You might be qualified for either one or both of the Direct Unsubsidized Loan or Grad PLUS Loan as a graduate student.

Grad students will not be qualified for government-backed loans. Graduate students typically pay more origination and interest costs on federal loans than undergraduate students do. You may be able to find private lenders who can provide you with more enticing terms and cheaper fees.

Consider well-known student loan lenders or look into private student loan possibilities through your bank or credit union.

You can also receive financial aid from the School of Nursing’s fellowship programs, which are the most sought-after seats in any DNP class. Colleges and institutions collaborate with clinical facilities to provide students with doctorate fellowship possibilities. These organized and closely monitored experiences will align with the clinical focus of your DNP.

Doctoral fellowships typically include a full tuition award and offer exceptional options to enhance your professional skills while furthering your studies.

Professional Organizations in Nursing Practice

Nursing associations and organizations are groups committed to members’ professional and personal growth and the profession’s overall advancement. DNP students are expected to have a membership in a respected nursing organization or association. If you have not yet, here are some of the best professional nursing organizations.

Skills Required for DNP

Attention to Detail

A small error on your part could endanger the lives of unwitting patients. Medical errors cause a startling 250,000 deaths each year in the United States. As a result, attention to detail is essential for a DNP. More so if, after earning your degree, you want to work as a nurse practitioner.

Being attentive generally entails choosing the proper dosages, noting each symptom, tracking development, and other things. You may occasionally encounter patients whose requirements cannot be expressed verbally on your professional path. However, you must recognize the nonverbal indications and heed their requests.

Problem-Solving Skills

The medical industry is undergoing numerous changes right now on many different levels. The healthcare industry extensively consults DNP professionals for advice on research, academia, administration, etc. DNPs, generally speaking, are in the vanguard of those who must foresee possible problems and eliminate them before they negatively impact society.

Communication Skills

You can become qualified to instruct medical students with a DNP degree. Communication abilities will come into play in this situation. They will assist you in simplifying complex medical topics so students can understand them. Using fewer technical phrases is one technique to enhance communication abilities. 


You can assume executive nursing leader duties after completing a DNP program. You might hold the positions of chief nursing officer, director of the nursing department, director of patient care services, and head of the nursing administration department, depending on your own interests.

All nursing professionals must have leadership skills to do their job well. You should be quick on your feet since hospitals face different difficulties daily.

Additionally, learning time management techniques are essential for all industry leadership positions. And the provision of healthcare is no exception.

What is the CCNE?

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the CCNE?

The Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) draws attention to programs that use successful educational techniques by rating and classifying them. Students also qualify for financial aid if they meet a nationally recognized accrediting level.

How much does an online DNP degree program cost?

An online DNP program’s cost relies heavily on several factors, such as fees and residency status. However, accredited online DNP programs typically cost $27,000. The cost can be reduced by availing of financial aid. 

How hard is an online DNP program?

DNP degree is a terminal, or the highest degree, in nursing; therefore, it’s exceptionally difficult. The degree will prepare RNs for e executive roles or advanced practice nursing. You’ll be required to apply your knowledge and skills from your BSN and MSN degrees to your professional work experience.

DNPs are also necessary to improve family, individual, and group health outcomes through evidence-based practice, which allows students to study and analyze data at a higher level.

Will employers trust online nursing programs?

The accreditation status of online DNP programs is one of the more important topics to ask. If your clinical ducks are all in a row, so to speak, employers won’t be as concerned about your online courses. Of course, this assumes that your program is completely accredited. 

Do I need an MSN to get into a DNP program online?

Not necessarily. RNs without MSN degrees can enroll in BSN to DNP degree programs, where they also receive their master’s degrees. Some programs will also accept applicants with bachelor’s degrees who simultaneously hold master’s degrees in other subjects.

Can a DNP be called a doctor?

Yes, a DNP graduate may use the title “doctor,” although certain jurisdictions have laws prohibiting this. For instance, nurses, pharmacists, and other professionals are prohibited from using the title “doctor” in Arizona and Delaware unless they immediately define their position.

Can I work while getting my DNP?

Most of the time, you can finish your DNP internship at your current job, provided it’s a practice setting that permits you to accrue hours in your chosen role and patient population concentration.

Key Takeaways

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