The Best BSN-to-DNP Programs

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A student with a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) can expedite their time to a doctor of nursing practice (DNP) degree by pursuing a BSN-to-DNP program. These graduate programs help nurses progress in their careers to become nurse practitioners (NPs), or healthcare professionals with responsibilities somewhere in between nurses and doctors. Unlike nurses, NPs can diagnose patients and prescribe medication. They also commonly pursue a specialization, such as adult-gerontology or oncology. Earning a doctorate can also lead to more lucrative positions.

The list below includes the best BSN-to-DNP programs in the country. Make sure to avoid any degree without accreditation. All of the schools listed below possess accreditation, which ensures students receive a quality education. If you already hold a master’s degree, an alternative path to a DNP is an MSN to DNP program which usually requires an RN or advanced practice nursing license.

The Best BSN-to-DNP Programs 2020

Rank School Location
1 Andrews University Berrien Springs, MI
2 Bradley University Peoria, IL
3 Chatham University Pittsburgh, PA
4 Gardner-Webb University Boiling Springs, NC
5 Gonzaga University Spokane, WA
6 Indiana University-Purdue University-Indianapolis Indianapolis, IN
7 Loyola University New Orleans New Orleans, LA
8 Misericordia University Dallas, PA
9 Nebraska Methodist College of Nursing & Allied Health Omaha, NE
10 Ohio State University-Main Campus Columbus, OH
Read about our ranking methodology here.

What to Expect From a BSN-to-DNP Program

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Generally speaking, each BSN-to-DNP includes different requirements and expectations from students. However, these programs share some similarities, especially advanced nursing and biology courses. Doctoral candidates also usually complete cumulative experiences, such as thesis, dissertation, or research projects. A doctorate typically comprises 65-90 credits and may take anywhere from 3-6 years to complete.

Students usually choose an emphasis area, as well. Some common specializations include family nurse, psychiatric mental health, women’s health, and neonatal nurse practitioner. All distance learners must also complete a clinical experience requirement, which usually occurs on location at a hospital or physician’s office.

Each school’s BSN-to-DNP curriculum depends on its state’s requirements for advanced practice nursing licensure. State law affects the types of courses students take and their number of clinical hours, for example. However, each aspiring NP should still research their state’s laws to ensure that their education meets licensure requirements.

Career Outlook for Nurse Practitioners

Many DNP degree-holders become NPs or advanced practice nurses. They work with many different types of patients, depending on their doctoral specialization.

Overall, NPs can anticipate an optimistic career outlook. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that the number of nurse anesthetists, nurse midwives, and NPs will increase by 26% from 2018-28, which is much faster than the average for all occupations. NPs also made a median annual wage of $115,800, as of 2019. In comparison, registered nurses brought home a median salary of $73,300 in the same time.

BLS data does not guarantee exact earnings. Salaries depend on education level, location, specialization, and years of experience. NPs in California, Alaska, and Massachusetts earn the highest salaries, with those in California receiving an annual mean wage of $133,780.

The Best BSN-to-DNP Programs

  • Andrews University
    Location

    Berrien Springs, MI

    Located in Berrien Springs, Michigan, Andrews' history dates back to 1874 when it first enrolled just 12 students. Today, nearly 5,000 students attend the university, which maintains an affiliation with the Seventh-day Adventist Church.

    The school offers a BSN-to-DNP program for aspiring family nurse practitioners. With courses like Christian ethics and advanced practice nursing, the 65-credit program incorporates a biblical worldview into the curriculum. Learners complete most of their courses online but must also participate in one face-to-face experience.

    By the end of the program, each enrollee must pass a comprehensive exam, a scholarly project, and a DNP practicum experience. Students can typically finish the program in 10 semesters or 4.5 years. However, they may follow an accelerated path if they obtain faculty approval.

    Andrews does not require applicants to submit GRE scores, but they should possess a minimum 3.25 undergraduate GPA and an active nursing license. An incoming student may receive a scholarship covering up to 50% of their tuition if they earned over a 320 GRE score and a 600 GMAT score.

    Courses Include:

    • Biostatistics for clinical data management
    • Dnp advanced practice role
    • Information systems and patient care technology for healthcare
    • Clinical health promotion and disease prevention of populations
    • Advanced pathophysiology across the lifespan

    Unique Features:

    • Cost: $1,316/credit
    • Credits Required: 65
    • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission; Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing
  • Bradley University
    Location

    Peoria, IL

    Based in Peoria, Illinois, Bradley began as a school for watchmakers in the late 19th century. Over the next century, the school greatly expanded its academic offerings, and now enrolls about 5,400 students in 180 different programs.

    The university offers a BSN-to-DNP track for registered nurses who want to become family nurse practitioners. Students take the 82 required credits over four years or 12 semesters. Bradley also offers all of its DNP courses online. The family nurse practitioner concentration courses cover acute/chronic care, women's health, and caring for children and aging populations. Each DNP candidate needs to complete 1,050 clinical hours on location, which they participate in throughout the degree.

    Each applicant must have earned a minimum 3.0 GPA in their undergraduate degree and possess an active nursing license.

    Courses Include:

    • Health promotion in populations
    • Advanced pharmacology
    • Ethics in advanced practice nursing
    • Advanced health informatics
    • Professional aspects of advanced nursing practice

    Unique Features:

    • Cost: $930/credit
    • Credits Required: 82
    • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission; Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education
  • Chatham University
    Location

    Pittsburgh, PA

    Located in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, Chatham offers undergraduate and graduate programs in sustainability and health, business and communications, and the arts and sciences. Its BSN-to-DNP executive track suits nurses looking to work in leadership positions.

    Students may earn the 53-credit degree in 7-9 semesters, depending on how many credits they take per term. Courses focus on nursing ethics, making decisions at the executive level, leading during transition or change, and grant writing. Each doctoral candidate must also participate in 1,000 hours of clinical work experience during the program.

    Each degree-seeker completes a DNP capstone project, which counts for 250 clinical hours. The project should include evidence-based change goals, and students must deliver an academic product evaluating their experience. While enrollees study from a distance, they visit campus for a two-day residency to present their culminating project.

    Each prospective student should possess a bachelor's degree with a 3.0 GPA and an active, unencumbered RN license.

    Courses Include:

    • Scientific underpinnings for practice
    • Health assessment and promotion throughout the lifespan
    • Information technology and data-driven decision making
    • Structure and app of contemporary nursing knowledge
    • Communication and collaboration for healthcare leadership

    Unique Features:

    • Cost: $798-$1017/credit
    • Credits Required: 53
    • Accreditation: Middle States Commission on Higher Education; Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education
  • Gardner-Webb University
    Location

    Boiling Springs, NC

    Gardner-Webb began as a Baptist high school in 1905, later becoming a junior college, a college, and finally, a university in 1993. The university maintains its Baptist affiliation and enrolls about 3,500 students in 80 academic programs.

    The post-baccalaureate DNP with a family nurse practitioner emphasis allows students to earn their doctorates in eight semesters or just under three years with summer terms. Each learner must complete at least 1,000 clinical hours, including 640 hours of direct patient care, and take part in a DNP project over their last four semesters. Students may also opt for a concentration in psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner.

    A candidate must have worked as a registered nurse for two years, completing at least 1,100 hours each year. Students should also possess minimum 3.0 undergraduate GPAs, but Gardner-Webb does it request GRE scores for admission.

    Courses Include:

    • Pathophysiology
    • Evidence-based care
    • Health economics, policy, and ethics
    • Human flourishing and health promotion
    • Informatics

    Unique Features:

    • Cost: $695/credit
    • Credits Required: 79
    • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges; Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education
  • Gonzaga University
    Location

    Spokane, WA

    Gonzaga, a private, Catholic liberal arts school in Spokane, Washington, offers an online BSN-to-DNP program with two different tracks: family nurse practitioner and psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner.

    Students pursuing both concentrations must complete 78 credits of coursework, which takes five years of full-time enrollment or seven years if enrolled part time. Courses last either eight or 16 weeks. Along with advanced courses in nursing, assessment, diagnosis, and pharmacology, each degree-seeker must take part in 1,000 practicum hours in a clinical setting.

    Distance learners must visit campus for 7-8 immersion experiences throughout their fifth and 12th semesters. In these immersions, students take part in structured scenarios in which they diagnose model patients. Each doctoral candidate also completes a DNP project, in which they research ways to provide care for a particular population. This project also involves an oral defense.

    Each applicant must provide a bachelor's degree with a minimum 3.3 GPA, current RN license, and statement of purpose.

    Courses Include:

    • Evidence-based practice for quality and safety
    • Clinical prevention for diverse populations
    • Advanced pathophysiology
    • Advanced pharmacology
    • Translational research in advanced practice

    Unique Features:

    • Cost: $1055/credit
    • Credits Required: 78
    • Accreditation: Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities; Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education
  • Indiana University-Purdue University-Indianapolis
    Location

    Indianapolis, IN

    IUPUI was born out of a merger between Indiana University and Purdue in 1969, creating a much larger institution that now offers 450 undergraduate, graduate, and professional programs. Nurses with bachelor's degrees who want to dive straight into a Ph.D. program can do so through the university's BSN-to-Ph.D. in nursing science.

    This degree prepares students for careers in nursing education and research, rather than roles in advanced practice nursing. The program follows a distance learning format, with Ph.D. candidates logging on for synchronous videoconferencing class meetings and discussions. Distance learners must also attend two four-day campus intensives in June in the first two years of the program to meet with their professors and peers.

    Students can either focus on clinical nursing science or health systems. Toward the end of the program, they dedicate 16 credits of coursework focusing on a dissertation. Full-time students can graduate in four years, while part-time students typically take up to six years to complete the program.

    Each candidate must possess a minimum 3.0 undergraduate GPA. IUPUI does not require GRE scores for admissions consideration.

    Courses Include:

    • Theoretical perspectives of nursing science
    • Advanced leadership in complex systems
    • Nursing inquiry and scholarship
    • Biostatistics for public health
    • Comparative effectiveness research and patient-centered outcomes research

    Unique Features:

    • Cost: $578/credit for in-state students; $1,553/credit for out-of-state students
    • Credits Required: 90
    • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission; Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education
  • Loyola University New Orleans
    Location

    New Orleans, LA

    Founded in 1904 by Jesuit priests, Loyno now enrolls over 4,000 students in Catholic and secular programs. Among those programs, the university offers an online DNP for nurses with bachelor's degrees.

    This program prepares students for careers as family nurse practitioners. Distance learners may finish the 78-credit degree in 3-4 years. In addition to coursework, each degree candidate should complete 1,260 contact hours of clinical practicum work. The university offers unique courses, like ethics and social justice, which focus on how healthcare systems affect certain populations. Each student must also complete a DNP scholarly project to qualify for graduation.

    An individual can apply if they possess a registered nursing license and at least 1,800 hours of recent nursing practice. The university does not set a minimum GPA or require GRE scores for this program.

    Courses Include:

    • Primary care of pediatrics
    • Gerontology in primary care
    • Leadership of systems change and innovation
    • Advanced pathophysiology
    • Advanced health assessment

    Unique Features:

    • Cost: $818/credit
    • Credits Required: 78
    • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges; Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education
  • Misericordia University
    Location

    Dallas, PA

    Misericordia, a Catholic university in northeast Pennsylvania, offers a DNP pathway for registered nurses with bachelor's degrees. The family nurse practitioner concentration requires 68 credits, while the adult-gerontology primary care focus area comprises 45 credits of coursework.

    The program follows an online format, except for the supervised practicum hours that students complete at healthcare facilities. The family nurse practitioner track requires more credits, partially because the program includes 1,130 practicum hours in all. However, learners in the adult-gerontology track only need to complete 1,040 hours.

    The curriculum follows educational standards set by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing. Students earn two degrees: a master's in nursing after their eighth semester and a DNP after their ninth semester.

    To qualify for this program, each prospective student needs a minimum undergraduate GPA of 3.25 and an active, unencumbered nursing license.

    Courses Include:

    • Advanced physical EX and DX reasoning
    • Advanced biomedical ethics and healthcare policy
    • Epidemiology, health promotion and illness prevention for diverse populations
    • Introduction to clinical management of health promotion and disease prevention in advanced practice nursing
    • Transformation of health care through informatics and patient care technology

    Unique Features:

    • Cost: $800/credit
    • Credits Required: 45-68
    • Accreditation: Middle States Commission on Higher Education; Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education
  • Nebraska Methodist College of Nursing & Allied Health
    Location

    Omaha, NE

    A private university located in Omaha, NMC offers several on-campus and distance learning programs. One of these online programs includes the BSN-to-DNP with a family nurse practitioner concentration.

    The full program comprises 75 credits, with each enrollee taking 57 credits of coursework online, and 18 credits -- or 1,080 clinical hours -- at a healthcare facility for their supervised practicum work. Full-time degree-seekers may graduate in three years, while part-time students generally take 4-5 years.

    Instructors conduct classes through asynchronous and synchronous methods, which require learners to log on at specific times for some courses. Although students can take most classes through distance learning, they also begin their education with a one-credit summer orientation on campus. All degree-seekers must also complete a scholarly capstone research project over four terms.

    Each candidate should hold a registered nursing license and an undergraduate degree with a minimum 3.0 GPA. NMC prefers but does not require applicants with work experience.

    Courses Include:

    • Health systems, informatics, and leadership
    • Maternal and children nursing theory
    • Population-based capstone
    • Rural nursing
    • Lifestyle medicine and health behavior theories

    Unique Features:

    • Cost: $793/credit
    • Credits Required: 75
    • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission; Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education
  • Ohio State University-Main Campus
    Location

    Columbus, OH

    Consistently ranked among the largest three universities in the U.S., Columbus-based Ohio State educates nearly 62,000 students in its undergraduate and graduate programs.

    Students can pursue the BSN-to-DNP degree with a family nurse practitioner emphasis either online or on campus. Full-time learners may complete the program within four years. Each degree-seeker must complete at least 1,000 clinical hours, which they can participate in through clinical preceptorships during their final three semesters.

    Each DNP candidate takes a comprehensive exam, a professional exam, and an advanced practice certification exam during their second-to-last year. Students' final year consists solely of clinical hours and DNP project work.

    Each applicant should possess a bachelor's degree with a minimum 3.0 GPA and an active nursing license.

    Courses Include:

    • Innovation and leadership development for the DNP nurse
    • Health promotion in the age of personalized health and healthcare
    • Nursing policy for doctoral nursing practice
    • Quality improvement for the doctor of nursing practice
    • Informatics for leadership in health and healthcare

    Unique Features:

    • Cost: $1,245/credit for in-state students; $2,719/credit for out-of-state students
    • Credits Required: 86-87
    • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission; Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education