The Best BSN-to-DNP Programs 2021

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With demand for advanced nurse practitioners growing, more nurses are considering bachelor of science in nursing-to-doctor of nursing practice (BSN-to-DNP) programs. This guide will help you find the right BSN-to-DNP program for your career goals and become familiar with the application process. It also covers online BSN-to-DNP programs and advises you on what to consider if you are looking at this terminal nursing program.

BSN-to-DNP Program Overview

We use our data-driven methodology to select BSN-to-DNP programs, making it easier for you to find a program that works for you. Our methodology is based on metrics that we believe matter most to students, including academic quality, affordability, reputation, program offerings, and online flexibility.

Read About Our Ranking Methodology

Keep reading to find out more about job opportunities and information on how to apply to a BSN-to-DNP program, or click here to learn more about BSN-to-DNP programs on our list.

Featured Online Programs

What Can You Do With a DNP?

The DNP is what’s called a terminal degree, that is, it is the highest degree possible in its field. Nurses with DNPs teach at universities; work as nurse practitioners (NPs), nurse anesthetists, clinical nurse specialists, or nurse midwives; conduct research; and oversee nursing in healthcare facilities. Some reasons to enter a BSN-to-DNP program include more professional autonomy and higher levels of responsibility. Candidates with DNPs also have an advantage in applying for the highest-paid jobs in nursing; nurse anesthetists must have a DNP starting in 2025.

msn or dnp Required
High Demand

Nurse Practitioner

NPs act as a primary care provider and can lead nursing and healthcare teams in colleges, clinics, or similar settings.
Salary $92,790-$127,030*
Job Outlook 52% increase from 2019-2029
Learn More About Nurse Practitioners

msn Required
High Demand

Nurse Anesthetist

Nurse anesthetists administer anesthesia independently, work with anesthesiologists during complex procedures, and determine patient anesthesia needs.
Salary $142,920-$178,590*
Job Outlook 45% increase from 2019-2029
Learn More About Nurse Anesthetists

msn, dnp, or ph.d. Required

Nurse Researcher

Nurse researchers design and conduct studies for internal improvements in a healthcare facility, perform public health research, and measure effectiveness of different nursing practices.
Salary $81,500*
Job Outlook 6% increase from 2019-2029
Learn More About Nurse Researchers

*SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What to Look For in a BSN-to-DNP Program

Both on-campus and online BSN-to-DNP programs are a major investment of time and money. In addition to cost, consider the curriculum and how it matches your goals, the graduation rate, and how the course format would work for you.

Admission Requirements
Admission requirements tell you how likely you are to be admitted and the minimum qualifications needed for acceptance, along with how academically rigorous the program is likely to be.
Program Curriculum
The curriculum should match your career goals and interests. While schools use a standardized curriculum to meet accreditation requirements, electives emphasize the school and faculty’s specialities and focus.
Clinical Experience
DNP programs require extensive clinical hours and clinical placements help you build a network. See if the program places students in settings where you would like to work. If you are pursuing your BSN-to-DNP program online, you may want to ask if the school has placed students in your community.
Accreditation
Accreditation is a vital consideration. Many employers, including schools, will not consider hiring graduates from an unaccredited program.
School Graduation Rate
The school graduation rate, especially combined with certification examination pass rates, indicates how likely you will succeed once admitted. A high graduation and certification pass rate might be one of the best indicators.

Applying to a BSN-to-DNP Program

To apply, you will need your BSN transcript and contact information for at least two professional references (teacher or supervisor). You will also need to submit an essay or personal statement on why you are pursuing a DNP.

Admission Requirements
BSN-to-DNP programs require a current and unencumbered registered nurse (RN) license, completed application, and the ability to pass a background criminal/legal check. Many require at least 1-3 years of experience as an RN.
Program Length
Most programs last 3-4 years for full-time students. Part-time students can take 7-8 years.
Clinical Requirements
On-campus and online BSN-to-DNP programs generally require a minimum of 1,000 hours.
GPA Requirement
Most BSN-to-DNP programs require a 3.0 or higher.

Why Is BSN-to-DNP Program Accreditation Important?

Accreditation status can be an important factor in determining a program’s quality. It also can lead to more job opportunities and funding resources. Read on for additional advantages.

  • Accreditation and certification examination pass rates are the best objective measures of a program’s quality.
  • Employers prefer graduates of accredited programs. Many employers will not consider graduates of unaccredited programs.
  • Accreditation ensures that when you graduate, you are prepared to practice nursing safely and effectively.
  • Accredited schools attract the best teachers and have the strongest alumni networks.
  • Because many employers do not accept unaccredited degrees, attending an unaccredited program risks throwing away all the time, money, and energy invested in your BSN-to-DNP program.

Who Accredits BSN-to-DNP Programs?

How Do I Know a BSN-to-DNP Program Is Accredited?

Accreditation is such an important and valuable asset that accredited programs post their accreditation status prominently. Check the schools’ home pages; if the information is difficult to find, that may be a warning indicator. You can also confirm that the program is accredited by visiting the accreditation organization’s website, some of which are listed above. Both on-campus and online BSN-to-DNP programs are held to the same accreditation standards. Please note that all schools listed on this page or elsewhere on NurseJournal.org are accredited.

Paying for BSN-to-DNP Programs

BSN-to-DNP program graduates can expect high salaries but even so, there are financial factors to keep in mind. Consider whether you want to work while attending a program, whether you would relocate if in-state program costs are considerably lower, and any expenses other than tuition and fees, such as travel cost for on-campus requirements or clinical requirements.

Financial aid options can include:

  • Loans or grants from the program you attend. This is often one of the easier options to apply for.
  • Scholarships from foundations, nonprofits, nursing associations, or corporations.
  • Government grants or loans. Some government loans will be forgiven when you graduate, if you work in an underserved area for a certain period.
  • Reimbursement from your current employer.

Some students also pursue loans other than financial aid loans, such as bank or credit union loans.

Learn More About BSN-to-DNP Programs and Schools

  • 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

BSN-to-DNP Program FAQs


How long does it take to go from a BSN to DNP?

A BSN-to-DNP full-time program usually takes 3-4 years, depending on the specialty and program requirements. Generally, two years are at the master’s level and the remaining year or two are at the doctoral level. Part-time students can take seven or eight years, depending on the program.

Can you go straight from a BSN to DNP?

Educationally, students can go directly from a BSN to DNP degree, without earning a master’s first. However, many BSN-to-DNP programs require at least 1-3 years of clinical experience for admission.

Do NPs with a doctorate get paid more than NPs with a master’s?

In general, practitioners with DNPs are paid more than master’s-level NPs, but it depends on the program, responsibilities, other credentials, and workplace. For instance, a master’s-educated NP working in a major medical center in a large metropolitan area may earn more than one with a DNP working in a rural clinic.

Are nurses with DNPs called doctors?

While nurses with a DNP is entitled to be called “doctor,” whether they actually are depends on workplace culture and personal preference. In most workplaces, only physicians are called a doctor. Typically in more academia settings, anyone who has earned a doctoral degree is called a doctor.

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