Online DNP Programs 2021

Advertisement NurseJournal.org 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.

Are you ready to earn your online nursing degree?

Whether you’re looking to get your pre-licensure degree or taking the next step in your career, the education you need could be more affordable than you think. Find the right nursing program for you.

This guide offers a listing of online doctor of nursing practice (DNP) programs offered in 2021. These degrees lead to lucrative careers with strong projected employment growth rates. Read on to explore potential career paths, common coursework in online DNP programs, application requirements, and financial aid information.

Online DNP Program Overview

We use our data-driven methodology to select online DNP programs, making it easier for you to find a program that aligns with your personal and professional goals. We base our methodology on the metrics that we believe matter most to students, including academic quality, affordability, reputation, program offerings, and online flexibility.

Read About Our Ranking Methodology

Online DNP Programs and Schools

Rank School Location
1 Azusa Pacific University Azusa, CA
2 Bradley University Peoria, IL
3 Brandman University Irvine, CA
4 Chatham University Pittsburgh, PA
5 Clemson University Clemson, SC
6 DeSales University Center Valley, PA
7 Drexel University Philadelphia, PA
8 Duquesne University Pittsburgh, PA
9 Gardner-Webb University Boiling Springs, NC
10 George Washington University Washington, DC

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

Advertisement NurseJournal.org 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.

Featured Online Programs

What Can You Do With a DNP?

DNP program graduates earn the highest clinical degree in nursing and hold positions in advanced practice nursing, research, and nursing administration. Top employers include hospitals, outpatient care centers, physicians’ offices, other healthcare practitioners’ offices, and educational services.

PayScale reports an average annual salary for nurses with DNPs of $103,660. Certain specialty areas pay higher median annual salaries, such as nurse anesthetists ($183,580), nurse practitioners ($111,680), and nurse midwives ($111,130).

Three of the most in-demand roles for DNP graduates include:

msn Required
High Demand

Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist

CRNAs check vital signs, assist with pain management during recovery, and administer and monitor anesthesia for patients undergoing surgery.
Salary $142,920-$178,590*
Job Outlook 45% increase from 2019-2029
Learn More About Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists

msn or dnp Required
High Demand

Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner

PNPs assess and diagnose patients with mental illness and addiction challenges, provide acute and chronic psychiatric treatment, and prescribe medication.
Salary $120,000*
Job Outlook 45% increase from 2019-2029
Learn More About Psychiatric Nurse Practitioners

msn Required
High Demand

Certified Nurse Midwife

CNMs care for patients through pregnancy, labor and delivery, and postpartum; assist physicians with Cesarean procedures; and educate parents on childbearing, infant development, and women’s health issues.
Salary $115,540*
Job Outlook 12% increase from 2019-2029
Learn More About Certified Nurse Midwives

*SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2019 AANP National Nurse Practitioner Sample Survey

What to Look For in an Online DNP Program

Our school listings include information about factors such as admission, clinical hours, accreditation, and distance learning. These elements carry significant importance when choosing an online DNP program.

Admission Requirements
Perusing the admission requirements of your potential programs narrows down your choices, identifies schools that align with your qualifications, and pinpoints which programs will accept your application materials.
Program Curriculum
Each DNP student specializes in a patient population or nursing area, such as research, education, or administration. Always ensure that your prospective schools offer coursework in your concentration.
Clinical Experience
Candidates should consider clinical formats and completion timelines when exploring programs. You’ll need to pay attention to whether you will continue to work during your studies, course load volume, clinical settings and locations, and the time commitment.
Accreditation
Accreditation ensures that a program receives regular evaluation of its academics and preparation of future DNPs. Licensing boards and many employers require applicants to hold degrees from accredited programs.
School Graduation Rate
The graduation rate correlates with faculty effectiveness, along with how successful the curriculum and clinical experiences prepare students for advanced nursing careers.
Online Learning Format and Requirements
Applicants must consider whether they have the technical capabilities, including high-speed internet availability, to learn in an online setting. They should also identify if they prefer synchronous or asynchronous learning. Some programs offer both delivery methods or a blend of the two formats.

Applying to an Online DNP Program

Once you have selected your programs, register to take the GRE (or check that your GRE scores are current), ensure that you have completed any requisite coursework, order your official undergraduate transcripts, and arrange for your letters of recommendation. Make sure to prepare or update your personal statement and resume, as well.

  • Admission Requirements: While schools and programs vary, most require a master of science in nursing (MSN) from an accredited program, GRE scores, a current registered nurse license, and national certification. Each candidate typically must submit a personal statement, a resume, and 2-3 letters of recommendation. Some DNP programs may seek applicants with 1-2 years of work experience.
  • Program Length: DNP programs typically take 1-2 years for MSN degree-holders and 3-4 years for individuals with bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) degrees.
  • Clinical Requirements: Each enrollee must complete 500-1,000 hours.
  • GPA Requirement: An aspiring DNP must possess a minimum 3.0 GPA.
  • Other Requirements: Some programs may accept applicants with BSN degrees. These candidates complete personal interviews and may have to possess clinical experience.

Why Is Online DNP Program Accreditation Important?

Accreditation has major implications on your educational journey and degree credibility. A few key reasons to ensure your online DNP program holds accreditation include the following:

  • Accreditation ensures high-quality academics based on rigorous curricular review.
  • Unaccredited school credits may not be transferable to accredited programs.
  • Graduate nursing programs may not accept candidates with undergraduate degrees from unaccredited programs.
  • You may not be eligible for federal financial aid if you attend an unaccredited institution.
  • Accredited degrees can lead to more job prospects, career advancement, higher pay, and increased marketability.
  • State licensure boards and national certification organizations may only accept applications from graduates of accredited schools and programs.

Who Accredits Online DNP Programs?

The following agencies accredit nursing programs and institutions:

How Do I Know an Online DNP Program Is Accredited?

Online nursing curricula undergo the same accreditation processes as traditional, on-campus programs. Applicants can check accrediting organizations’ websites to confirm a program’s accreditation status. In addition, the DNP programs in our list have received accreditation from one or more of the above accrediting bodies, along with all nursing programs referenced on NurseJournal.org pages.

Paying for Online DNP Programs

Doctoral studies, including those leading to DNPs, can be expensive, depending on factors like program length, whether you attend a public or private school, in-state versus out-of-state tuition, and if you continue to work while attending school.

Fortunately, you can pursue funding to help pay for online DNP costs, minimizing or avoiding educational debt. Enrollees can pursue school-based and private scholarships and grants, governmental student loans, and work-study programs, along with employer tuition reimbursement and loan repayment programs. The links below lead to different resources for graduate nursing students.

Learn More About Online DNP Programs and Schools

  • Azusa Pacific University
    Location

    Azusa, CA

    APU's DNP online program prepares nurses for the highest level of nursing practice across complex healthcare environments. The curriculum follows an evidence-based clinical approach emphasizing nursing leadership and healthcare systems improvement.

    The DNP offers a low-residency format to accommodate working nurses, requiring students to periodically participate in intensive on-campus experiences lasting 1-2 days. Licensed nurse practitioners interested in focusing on oncology can consider co-enrolling in APU's oncology nurse practitioner certificate. Along with the residency component, degree-seekers must complete 39-54 credits of coursework.

    • Program: Doctor of nursing practice
    • Campus: Azusa, California
    • Type: Private
    • Accreditations: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)
    • Tuition: $1,062 per credit
    • Admission Requirements: Master's degree in nursing from an accredited institution; 3.0 minimum GPA; copy of professional certifications; written statement; curriculum vitae or resume; two letters of recommendation; active RN license
    • On-Campus Requirements: Yes
    • School NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 83.75%
    • School Site: Tuition | Financial aid
  • Bradley University
    Location

    Peoria, IL

    Established in 1897, Bradley offers over 130 undergraduate, graduate, and continuing education programs. The university features a graduate school and five colleges and offers a variety of nursing programs across degree levels, including one of the best online DNP programs in the nation.

    Registered nurses can enroll in the fully online program and earn their degree in nine semesters, or three years. The curriculum does not require any campus residencies, but enrollees must satisfy 1,000 clinical hours. The flexible format allows learners to complete their clinical hours with approved preceptors of their choosing, selecting different preceptors depending on the area of emphasis for their particular set of clinical hours.

    • Program: Doctor of nursing practice - leadership track
    • Campus: Peoria, Illinois
    • Type: Private
    • Accreditations: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)
    • Tuition: $930 per semester hour
    • On-Campus Requirements: No
    • School NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 96%
    • School Site: Tuition | Financial aid
  • Brandman University
    Location

    Irvine, CA

    Designed for registered nurses, the BSN-to-DNP psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner program focuses on managing the care of individuals with psychiatric and mental health disorders, including psychotherapeutic treatments and psychopharmacology. Learners can participate in their required clinical rotations at an area close to their home or work.

    The unique curriculum highlights evidence-based practice, ethics, and leadership across healthcare environments. Graduates are prepared to take the American Nurse Credentialing Center certification examination after graduation. Degree-seekers can satisfy their requirements in as little as 36 months.

    • Program: BSN-to-DNP psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner
    • Campus: Irvine, California
    • Type: Private
    • Accreditations: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)
    • Tuition: $1,175 per credit
    • Admission Requirements: Bachelor of science in nursing from an accredited program; associate degree in nursing from a regionally accredited institution; goal statement; current resume or curriculum vitae; GRE scores; three letters of recommendation; active RN license
    • Minimum Time Commitment: 36 months
    • On-Campus Requirements: Yes
    • School Site: Tuition | Financial aid
  • Chatham University
    Location

    Pittsburgh, PA

    Professional nurses who hold a master's degree and want to practice at the most advanced level of nursing can enroll in Chatham's DNP online degree. The 27-credit curriculum allows enrollees to focus on patient-centered healthcare across diverse populations. With each course lasting 15 weeks and 500 practice hours, students can earn their degree in three-to-five terms or 12 months of full-time study.

    The flexible format enables learners to individualize their learning activities to best suit their preferred focus areas and clinical interests. In addition to online coursework, enrollees must participate in an on-campus residency that culminates a clinical immersion capstone experience focused on evidence-based practice.

    • Program: Doctor of nursing practice
    • Campus: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
    • Type: Private
    • Accreditations: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)
    • Tuition: $1,017 per credit
    • Admission Requirements: Master of science in nursing; minimum 3.0 GPA; resume or curriculum vitae; valid RN license; two letters of recommendation; admissions essay; documentation of clinical experience
    • Minimum Time Commitment: 12 months
    • On-Campus Requirements: Yes
    • School Site: Tuition | Financial aid
  • Clemson University
    Location

    Clemson, SC

    Founded in 1889, Clemson serves more than 25,000 students across undergraduate and graduate levels as one of the most productive public research universities. With more than 130 graduate degree programs, Clemson students can explore a variety of innovative opportunities, including one of the best online DNP programs in the country.

    Focusing on topics like interprofessional collaboration, healthcare policy and advocacy, and evidence-based practice, the DNP program requires students to complete 35 credits of coursework and spend 1-2 days on campus each year during the summer for immersion experiences.

    • Program: Doctor of nursing practice
    • Campus: Clemson, South Carolina
    • Type: Public
    • Accreditations: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)
    • Tuition: $816 per credit
    • Admission Requirements: Bachelor's degree in nursing from a nationally accredited program; master's degree in nursing from a nationally accredited program; 3.25 minimum GPA; three letters of recommendation; active RN license; current NP/CNS national certification; professional resume or curriculum vitae; personal statement
    • On-Campus Requirements: Yes
    • School NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 97.67%
    • School Site: Tuition | Financial aid
  • DeSales University
    Location

    Center Valley, PA

    DeSales, located in Center Valley, Pennsylvania, offers an online DNP program for registered nurses interested in pursuing advanced, practice-based nursing education. The program prepares graduates for clinical and leadership roles. Enrollees can choose to pursue a concentration in clinical leadership or executive leadership. Students can advance their nursing and business skills simultaneously by enrolling in DeSales' dual DNP/MBA program.

    Degree-seekers focused on clinical leadership must complete 35 credits of coursework and 525 residency hours, while executive leadership students must satisfy between 41-48 credits and 525 residency hours, along with variable practical hours based on individual gap analysis.

    • Program: Doctor of nursing practice
    • Campus: Center Valley, Pennsylvania
    • Type: Private
    • Accreditations: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)
    • Tuition: $1,095 per credit
    • Admission Requirements: Bachelor's degree and master's degree in nursing from an ACEN or CCNE-accredited institution; active RN license; national certification if applicable; evidence of 12 months of full-time nursing practice within the last three years
    • On-Campus Requirements: Yes
    • School NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 94.85%
    • School Site: Tuition | Financial aid
  • Drexel University
    Location

    Philadelphia, PA

    Designed for nurses interested in earning a terminal degree focused on advanced nursing practice, Drexel's DNP online program offers an alternative to commonly research-focused doctoral programs in the discipline. The program includes four ten-week quarters each year, allowing learners to take more courses in a shorter period of time.

    The curriculum covers a variety of advanced topics, including translating evidence into clinical practice, leadership in organizations and systems, and doctoral nursing global perspectives. Enrollees participate in a total of 500 clinical hours and in-person experiential elements, including global engagement opportunities and an orientation.

    • Program: Doctor of nursing practice
    • Campus: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
    • Type: Private
    • Accreditations: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)
    • Tuition: $1,041 per credit
    • Admission Requirements: Master's degree in nursing, a health-related field, or business administration; bachelor's degree in nursing for applicants without a master's degree in nursing; valid RN license; advanced practice nursing licensure and certification documents; two letters of recommendation; personal statement; curriculum vitae or resume
    • On-Campus Requirements: Yes
    • School NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 96.46%
    • School Site: Tuition | Financial aid
  • Duquesne University
    Location

    Pittsburgh, PA

    The best DNP programs prepare enrollees to shape the future of nursing practice through the highest quality of evidence-based care. Duquesne's DNP also allows learners to explore innovative ways to improve health outcomes across diverse populations. Duquesne offers two tracks for online DNP students: clinical leadership or executive nurse leadership and healthcare management.

    With three start dates each year and fully online coursework, the program emphasizes flexibility. Master's-educated DNP students in both concentrations must satisfy 35 hours of coursework, which equates to about two years to complete the degree. Post-bachelor's executive nurse leadership students can complete their required 62 credit hours within about four years of full-time study.

    • Program: Doctor of nursing practice
    • Campus: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
    • Type: Public
    • Accreditations: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)
    • Tuition: $1,509
    • Admission Requirements: Bachelor of science in nursing from an accredited institution; master's degree from an accredited institution; 3.0 minimum GPA; active RN license; curriculum vitae or resume; goal statement; three letters of recommendation
    • On-Campus Requirements: No
    • School NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 94.38%
    • School Site: Tuition | Financial aid
  • Gardner-Webb University
    Location

    Boiling Springs, NC

    Located in Boiling Springs, North Carolina, Gardner-Webb began as a high school in 1905. Today, the regionally accredited university serves more than 3,500 students across top-ranked online, undergraduate, graduate, and degree completion programs. Gardner-Webb boasts a variety of innovative program opportunities, including one of the best online DNP programs in the nation.

    DNP students can consider several program options: the post-baccalaureate family nurse practitioner program, the post-baccalaureate psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner option, and the post-master's leadership track. All programs emphasize a faith-based curriculum that presents healthcare concepts to students through a Christian lens.

    • Program: Doctor of nursing practice
    • Campus: Boiling Springs, North Carolina
    • Type: Private
    • Accreditations: Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN)
    • Tuition: $795 per credit hour
    • Admission Requirements: Master of science in nursing from a regionally accredited institution with a nationally accredited program; minimum 3.2 GPA; certifications in practice area; active RN license; three letters of recommendation; current curriculum vitae; goals statement
    • On-Campus Requirements: Yes
    • School NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 100%
    • School Site: Tuition | Financial aid
  • George Washington University
    Location

    Washington, DC

    Based in Washington, D.C., GW provides registered nurses with several opportunities to advance their nursing care by offering some of the best DNP programs in the United States. Learners who hold a bachelor's degree in nursing can consider post-BSN options focused on areas of adult-gerontology acute care nurse practitioner, adult-gerontology primary care nurse practitioner, and family nurse practitioner.

    DNP enrollees who hold an MSN degree can explore programs focused on executive leadership, nursing practice in health policy, or nursing practice. Learners enjoy flexible online coursework and must satisfy on-campus and clinical requirements depending on the DNP program they enroll in.

    • Program: DNP in adult-gerontology acute care nurse practitioner (post-BSN); DNP in adult-gerontology primary care nurse practitioner (post-BSN); DNP in executive leadership (post-MSN); DNP in family nurse practitioner (post-BSN); DNP in health policy (post-MSN); DNP in nursing practice (post-MSN)
    • Campus: Washington, D.C.
    • Type: Private
    • Accreditations: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)
    • Tuition: $1,395 per credit hour
    • Admission Requirements: Bachelor's degree in nursing from a regionally accredited institution; master's degree in nursing from a regionally accredited institution; 3.3 minimum GPA; two letters of recommendation; current resume; statement of purpose; active RN license
    • On-Campus Requirements: Yes
    • School Site: Tuition | Financial aid

Online DNP Program FAQs


Can you earn a DNP online?

DNP students can choose from many online programs, including the DNP programs listed on this page. Distance learning offers the same level of quality instruction, clinical opportunities, and career preparation as traditional programs. Your DNP degree will carry the same weight, regardless of whether you attend class online or on campus.

Do DNPs get paid more than nurse practitioners with a master’s?

DNP program graduates typically earn more than advanced practice nurses with MSNs. For example, a 2019 American Association of Nurse Practitioners compensation report found that nurse practitioners with MSNs earned an annual median base salary of $108,000, while those with DNPs made $113,000 per year.

How long is an online DNP program?

You can expect to spend 3-6 years earning your DNP, although graduation timelines vary. Education level, specialty area, enrollment status, and accelerated pathway availability all contribute to degree timelines.

Is it worth earning a DNP degree?

Nurses spend considerable time, effort, and money pursuing their DNPs. Most find the pursuit worthwhile due to the possible salaries, career opportunities, and marketability a DNP delivers. Additionally, the American Association of Colleges of Nursing endorses a shift from the MSN to the DNP as the minimum educational level for advanced practice nursing.

Related Rankings