Online MSN-to-DNP Programs for 2023

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Updated December 15, 2022

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A DNP is a valuable degree you can use to become an APRN or to teach nursing. Learn about online MSN-to-DNP programs and find the right one for you.
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Are you ready to earn your online nursing degree?

Man typing on laptop at home Credit: andresr / E+ / Getty Images

A doctor of nursing practice (DNP) is a terminal nursing degree that positions you to work in advanced practice nursing, nurse leadership, or nursing education. Online MSN-to-DNP programs allow working nurses to further their education and increase career prospects on their own schedules.

The following guide highlights MSN-to-DNP programs that you can complete online, and offers useful insights into selecting one, including how to evaluate, apply to, and pay for an advanced degree. You’ll also learn more about what to expect during and after your doctoral program.

We use a data-driven methodology to rank the best online MSN-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, and program offerings.

Keep reading to learn more about the key factors to consider when choosing a program, or, go straight to our ranking of the best Online MSN-to-DNP programs.

Featured Online DNP Programs

Using Our Rankings: What To Look For in an Online MSN-to-DNP Program

Selecting the right MSN-to-DNP means checking a few key data points to determine how well a program matches your goals and interests. The following are some of the most critical points to consider, all of which contribute to our overall ranking of best programs.

Admission Requirements

Reviewing a program’s admission requirements tells you whether you’re qualified to apply or need to meet any additional requirements. For example, you may need more work experience or to complete prerequisite courses.


Specializations

MSN-to-DNP programs require students to select a specialty, which guides the curriculum. Common specialties include nurse leadership, family nursing, or nurse anesthesia. Not all programs offer all specialties.


Program Curriculum

Comparing program curriculums ensures that you take courses and complete clinical experiences that align with your goals.


Clinical Experience

Clinical rotations are a key element of every MSN-to-DNP program. Factors such as the clinical format, the amount of time required for clinicals, the placement process, and whether master's or post-master's program hours are accepted can influence whether a specific program is right for you.


Accreditation

Choosing an accredited program ensures that you receive a quality education as confirmed by an independent review authority. It also ensures that you are eligible for financial aid, can transfer credits if necessary, and meet employer requirements.


Program Length

Before applying to any program, make sure you know how long it will take to complete, whether you can study full or part time, and the number of credits required to graduate.


School Graduation Rate

Knowing how many students graduate from a program indicates how tough the coursework is. Graduation rate also reveals how well the program supports students on their path to a DNP. A higher graduation rate shows the program provides tools and resources to support student success.


Online Learning Format and Requirements

Online learning formats vary, with some programs offering asynchronous coursework that can be completed on your schedule, and others requiring attendance at scheduled lectures and discussions. Depending on your schedule and level of comfort with online learning, one option may be better for you.

Why Is MSN-to-DNP Program Accreditation Important?

Selecting an accredited MSN-to-DNP program is critical. Accreditation means an established, nongovernmental authority has evaluated the program to ensure that it meets professional education standards and prepares nurses for successful practice.

Accreditation signals to prospective students, employers, the public, and financial aid organizations that the program will set students up for career success.

All of the programs in our rankings are accredited. You can be assured that:

  • You will receive a quality education.
  • You can transfer credits between programs if you decide to change schools or your degree path.
  • You will qualify for federal financial aid.
  • You will meet employer qualifications, which typically include a degree from an accredited program.
  • You will be eligible to apply to graduate-level programs. Most will not accept applicants with degrees from unaccredited programs.

Learn More About Online MSN-to-DNP Programs & Schools

See our methodology to learn more about how we create our rankings.

Online MSN-to-DNP Programs for 2023

Georgetown University

  • Washington, DC
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Jesuit-based Georgetown University offers a post-master's doctor of nursing practice (DNP) online with a focus on health equity and global population health. The post-master's DNP is designed for advanced practice registered nurses or master of science in nursing (MSN) degree-holders employed in advanced nursing roles. 

The program's part-time, 30-credit curriculum includes 1-2 on-campus executive sessions, more than 250 clinical practice hours, and the completion of a doctoral project that demonstrates change leadership, outcomes measurement, and practice-related scholarship. 

  • Program: Post-master's DNP
  • Campus: Washington, D.C.
  • Type: Private
  • Accreditations: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)
  • Tuition: $2,358 per credit hour
  • Admission Requirements: MSN; APRN education or experience; current RN license; minimum 3.0 GPA
  • Minimum Time Commitment: 20 months
  • On-Campus Requirements: Yes
  • School NCLEX-RN Pass Rate (2019/2020): 96.88% first-time pass rate
Average Tuition
In-state
$57,384
Out-of-state
$57,384
Retention Rate
94%
Admission Rate
17%
Students Enrolled
19,371
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
100% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Middle States Commission on Higher Education

Online MSN-to-DNP Programs for 2023

University of Central Florida

  • Orlando, FL
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

The online post-master's doctor of nursing practice (DNP) at the University of Central Florida prepares graduates for clinical leadership roles. Completion of UCF's advanced practice track can lead to industry changemaker positions. Students enroll part-time, conduct scholarly research within their existing practice environments, and learn to develop clinical healthcare systems, practice models, and comprehensive care models. 

The program currently accepts applicants from Florida residents and residents of National Council of State Boards of Nursing nurse-licensure compact states.

  • Program: Post-master's DNP - advanced practice track 
  • Campus: Orlando, FL
  • Type: Public
  • Accreditations: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)
  • Tuition: $327 per credit for Florida residents; $1,152 per credit for out-of-state students
  • Admission Requirements: Master of science in nursing (MSN) in an APRN specialty or post-MSN certificate; APRN certification and licensure
  • Minimum Time Commitment: Seven semesters
  • On-Campus Requirements: No
  • School NCLEX-RN Pass Rate (2021): 92.42% first-time pass rate
Average Tuition
In-state
$4,478
Out-of-state
$19,810
Retention Rate
92%
Admission Rate
45%
Students Enrolled
71,881
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
96% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

Online MSN-to-DNP Programs for 2023

University of Virginia-Main Campus

  • Charlottesville, VA
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

The University of Virginia's doctor of nursing practice (DNP) - post-master of science in nursing (MSN) program offers some classes online and others on campus. Enrollees can study full- or part-time and graduate in 2-3 years. The 39-credit curriculum requires completion of a scholarly project and 500 clinical practicum hours.

Competitive applicants hold a 3.5 or higher GPA, have published in a peer-reviewed journal or presented at a national meeting, and have active advanced nursing experience.

  • Program: DNP-post MSN
  • Campus: Charlottesville, VA
  • Type: Public
  • Accreditations: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)
  • Tuition: $509-$799 per credit for Virginia residents; $1,032-$1,304 per credit for out-of-state students
  • Admission Requirements: MSN; current RN license; minimum 3.0 GPA
  • Minimum Time Commitment: 24 months
  • On-Campus Requirements: Yes
  • Median Earnings Two Years After Graduation: $117,572 for doctoral graduates, according to College Scorecard
Average Tuition
In-state
$15,772
Out-of-state
$49,819
Retention Rate
97%
Admission Rate
23%
Students Enrolled
25,628
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
92% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

Online MSN-to-DNP Programs for 2023

Frontier Nursing University

  • Versailles, KY
  • 4 years
  • Online

Frontier Nursing University offers programs for rural and underserved populations with flexible learning options and a nationwide network of clinical sites. FNU's post-master's doctor of nursing practice (DNP) curriculum is geared to nurse practitioners and certified nurse midwives interested in nursing leadership and healthcare improvement. 

Students complete a three-day on-campus orientation, 30 credits of online coursework, and 360 clinical hours in which they collaborate with their clinical sites to lead a rapid cycle quality improvement project. 

  • Program: Post-master's DNP
  • Campus: Versailles, KY
  • Type: Private
  • Accreditations: Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN)
  • Tuition: $646 per credit 
  • Admission Requirements: Master of science in nursing or a related master's degree; advanced practice certification; current RN license; minimum 3.0 GPA
  • Minimum Time Commitment: 15 months
  • On-Campus Requirements: Yes
  • Median Earnings Two Years After Graduation: $107,674 for doctoral graduates, according to College Scorecard
Average Tuition
In-state
Not provided
Out-of-state
Not provided
Retention Rate
Not provided
Admission Rate
Not provided
Students Enrolled
2,436
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
Not provided
Accreditation
Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

Online MSN-to-DNP Programs for 2023

Michigan State University

  • East Lansing, MI
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Michigan State University's doctor of nursing practice (DNP) program is open to nurses with a master's degree in any specialty area of MSU's College of Nursing, including adult-gerontology, psychiatric-mental health, or family nurse practitioner. 

The 28-credit DNP curriculum is offered in a hybrid format and focuses on clinical innovation, evidence evaluation, and research-based decision-making. Coursework includes clinical epidemiology for healthcare practice, healthcare informatics, leadership in complex health systems, and a DNP project. 

  • Program: Post-master's DNP
  • Campus: East Lansing, MI
  • Type: Public
  • Accreditations: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)
  • Tuition: $22,883 for Michigan residents; $44,961 for out-of-state students
  • Admission Requirements: Master of science in nursing or bachelor's in nursing and certified registered nurse anesthesiologist certification; current RN license; minimum 3.0 GPA
  • Minimum Time Commitment: 24 months
  • On-Campus Requirements: Yes
Average Tuition
In-state
$15,555
Out-of-state
$40,384
Retention Rate
91%
Admission Rate
76%
Students Enrolled
49,695
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
92% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Higher Learning Commission

Online MSN-to-DNP Programs for 2023

Saint Francis Medical Center College of Nursing

  • Peoria, IL
  • 4 years
  • Online

Focus areas in Saint Francis Medical Center College of Nursing's online post-master's doctor of nursing practice (DNP) include clinical scholarship and analytical methods for evidence-based practice, policy and advocacy for rural healthcare, and organizational and systems leadership. Students can concentrate on clinical or leadership tracks, and both options include a project and clinical residency.

Online study combines asynchronous coursework and virtual discussions with faculty and classmates. SFMCCON cannot accept applications from residents of certain states.

  • Program: Post-master's DNP
  • Campus: Peoria, IL
  • Type: Private
  • Accreditations: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)
  • Tuition: $733 per credit 
  • Admission Requirements: Master of science in nursing and advanced specialty certification for clinical concentration or BSN and approved master's for leadership concentration; current RN license; minimum 3.2 GPA
  • Minimum Time Commitment: Eight semesters
  • On-Campus Requirements: No
Average Tuition
In-state
$21,287
Out-of-state
$21,287
Retention Rate
Not provided
Admission Rate
Not provided
Students Enrolled
466
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
42% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Higher Learning Commission

Online MSN-to-DNP Programs for 2023

DePaul University

  • Chicago, IL
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Enrollees in the doctor of nursing practice (DNP) program at DePaul University can focus on adult-gerontological or family nurse practitioner tracks or on nurse anesthetist, clinical nurse specialist, or nurse midwife tracks. The curriculum includes 40 hours of doctoral core courses, additional track requirements, and a DNP project. Classes are offered online or at DePaul's Lincoln Park campus.

DePaul's program is not available for those completing their clinical practicums in certain states.

  • Program: DNP
  • Campus: Chicago, IL
  • Type: Private
  • Accreditations: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)
  • Tuition: $765 per credit 
  • Admission Requirements: Master of science in nursing; advanced practice certification; current RN license; minimum 3.0 GPA
  • Minimum Time Commitment: Depends on concentration
  • On-Campus Requirements: Depends on concentration
Average Tuition
In-state
$40,551
Out-of-state
$40,551
Retention Rate
83%
Admission Rate
70%
Students Enrolled
21,922
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
99% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Higher Learning Commission

Online MSN-to-DNP Programs for 2023

Sacred Heart University

  • Fairfield, CT
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

The post-master's doctor of nursing practice (DNP) at Sacred Heart University features self-paced entirely online coursework and a practice-focused curriculum. Students can transfer their master of science in nursing (MSN) clinical hours toward their DNP requirements.

The 39-credit curriculum includes a scholarly project and courses in evidence-based practice, healthcare policy, and population health. Electives cover topics in nursing education and leadership. Graduates can qualify for roles, such as director of nursing or executive vice president in healthcare. 

  • Program: Post-master's DNP
  • Campus: Fairfield, CT
  • Type: Private
  • Accreditations: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)
  • Tuition: $995 per credit 
  • Admission Requirements: MSN; current RN license; minimum 3.2 GPA
  • Minimum Time Commitment: 36 months
  • On-Campus Requirements: No
  • School NCLEX-RN Pass Rate (2022): 95% first-time pass rate
Average Tuition
In-state
$44,080
Out-of-state
$44,080
Retention Rate
87%
Admission Rate
66%
Students Enrolled
9,313
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
68% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes New England Commission on Higher Education

Online MSN-to-DNP Programs for 2023

University of Arkansas

  • Fayetteville, AR
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Master of science in nursing (MSN) degree-holders can earn their doctor of nursing practice (DNP) online at the University of Arkansas. Attendees learn to solve complex issues, improve patient care, and transform healthcare organizations. Coursework takes place entirely online, and students arrange to complete the required 500 clinical practicum hours in their home areas. The program is offered on a full- or part-time basis and requires an on-campus orientation.

U of A's DNP program is not available to applicants residing in certain states.

  • Program: MSN-to-DNP
  • Campus: Fayetteville, AR
  • Type: Public
  • Accreditations: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)
  • Tuition: $583 per credit 
  • Admission Requirements: MSN; advanced practice certification; current RN license; minimum 3.0 GPA
  • Minimum Time Commitment: 24 months
  • On-Campus Requirements: Yes
  • School NCLEX-RN Pass Rate (2022): 83.1% first-time pass rate
Average Tuition
In-state
$7,568
Out-of-state
$24,056
Retention Rate
85%
Admission Rate
78%
Students Enrolled
27,562
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
97% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Higher Learning Commission

Online MSN-to-DNP Programs for 2023

The Catholic University of America

  • Washington, DC
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

The Catholic University of America's Conway School of Nursing offers a post-master's doctor of nursing practice (DNP) program with a practice focus and online coursework. Graduates complete 37-40 credits that include courses in epidemiology, advanced population health, informatics, finance, and healthcare biostatistics. The program also requires an advanced practice clinical residency and an evidence-based DNP project. Students can select 2-3 cognate courses that support and enhance the focus area of their project.

  • Program: Post-master's DNP
  • Campus: Washington, D.C.
  • Type: Private
  • Accreditations: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)
  • Tuition: $1,440 per credit for residents
  • Admission Requirements: Master of science in nursing; advanced practice certification; current RN license; minimum 3.2 GPA
  • Minimum Time Commitment: 24 months, not including an evidence-based project
  • On-Campus Requirements: No
  • School NCLEX-RN Pass Rate (2019/2020): 98.46% first-time pass rate
Average Tuition
In-state
$48,600
Out-of-state
$48,600
Retention Rate
86%
Admission Rate
82%
Students Enrolled
5,366
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
98% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Middle States Commission on Higher Education

How Online MSN-to-DNP Programs Work

Online MSN-to-DNP programs are often hybrid programs in which students complete online coursework and in-person clinical experience. Some programs also require candidates to complete short-term on-campus residencies at various points. Your selected specialty track determines the in-person course and clinical requirements.

You complete your clinical rotations in person at hospitals, clinics, long-term care facilities, and other healthcare settings.

Online students can often arrange clinical rotations at a facility near their home or with their current employer. Many programs also require candidates to execute a final project to present in person.

Applying to an Online MSN-to-DNP Program

Doctoral programs are competitive, and the admission requirements are rigorous. Applicants must demonstrate a commitment to excellence in their academics and career. They can prove this commitment with their practice history, graduate GPA, and other admissions materials.

Although every program has its own standards and requirements may vary, you can expect some variation of the following:

  • Admission Requirements: MSN degrees from an accredited program, a current valid registered nurse (RN) license from the state where the program is located (or a Nurse Licensure Compact state,) minimum of one year of nursing experience
  • Admission Materials: Transcripts, letters of recommendation, required test scores (may include GRE, NCLEX, or school-specific exams), writing sample, personal statement, CV or resume, school-specific forms (such as background check authorizations, and proof of residency)
  • GPA Requirement: Most programs require an MSN GPA of 3.0 or higher

Paying for Online MSN-to-DNP Programs

Earning a DNP is an investment in yourself and your career. However, paying for your degree and graduating with as little debt as possible is likely a priority.

Tuition, which may be determined by whether you are an in-state or out-of-state student, is only one factor. Other costs to include in your budget include fees, books, and costs for any residency requirements.

There are financial aid options to help cover the cost of your MSN-to-DNP program. In addition to federal and private student loan programs, you may qualify for scholarships and grants.

If you continue working while you study, your employer may offer tuition assistance or reimbursement to reduce your out-of-pocket expenses. Depending on your post-graduation plans, you could also qualify for loan forgiveness programs that can significantly reduce or eliminate debt.

What Can You Do After a MSN-to-DNP?

A DNP is a terminal degree in nursing. Because it is a practice-based degree (in contrast to a Ph.D., which is a research-based degree) DNPs receive the highest levels of clinical knowledge and expertise.

In addition to positioning nurses for advanced practice nursing, the health policy and leadership focus of the DNP program puts nurses on track for high-paying leadership roles.

Although an MSN is the current requirement for advanced practice nursing certification, the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) has voted to recommend a DNP as the minimum requirement for nurse practitioners and other advanced practice nurses.

Doctoral-level nurses also play an important role in improving the quality of nursing care via roles in leadership and nursing education.

Check out some of the common DNP roles in responsibilities in different settings.

Nurse Educator

Nurse educators train nursing students and support professional development of nursing staff. They commonly work in hospital settings, colleges, and universities. Nurse educators often need a DNP to teach at the master's level and above, or to pursue tenure as a professor.

Median Salary
$77,440

Job Outlook (2021-2031)
+22%

Learn More About Nurse Educators

Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner

Psychiatric NPs provide care for patients with psychiatric or mental health needs in hospitals, outpatient clinics, psychiatric facilities, rehabilitation centers, and private practice. They diagnose and prescribe treatment in collaboration with physicians and other providers.

Median Salary
$120,680

Job Outlook (2021-2031)
+46%

Learn More About Psychiatric NPs

Certified Nurse Midwife

CNMs are healthcare providers who primarily work with pregnant people throughout all stages of pregnancy and childbirth. However, they also provide routine gynecological care to patients throughout their lives, from adolescence through menopause.

Median Salary
$112,830

Job Outlook (2021-2031)
+7%

Learn More About CNMs

Nurse Anesthetist

Certified registered nurse anesthetists (CRNA) administer anesthesia during surgical procedures. This includes performing physical assessments and monitoring patient condition throughout the procedure. Beginning in 2025, nurse anesthetists will be required to hold a DNP.

Median Salary
$195,610

Job Outlook (2021-2031)
+12%

Learn More About CRNAs

Frequently Asked Questions About Online MSN-to-DNP Degrees

What percentage of nurses have a DNP?

According to the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP), 17.8% of nurse practitioners report holding a doctoral degree as their highest level of education. There is an increased push to make the DNP the minimum for NPs.

Can you earn a DNP online?

Some programs offer a 100% online option to earn a DNP. However, most also require in-person clinical rotations, campus residency periods, or projects that require in-person work. The amount of online vs. in-person work varies by specialty.

How long does it take to go from MSN to DNP?

Program lengths vary, but the average full-time student can earn a DNP in 1-2 years. Part-time students can earn the degree in about three years.

How hard is it to get a DNP?

Doctoral programs are challenging, and require rigorous study. Course content is evidence-based, goes much deeper than what nurses experienced in their previous studies, and requires drawing on their experience and existing knowledge. However, experienced nurses committed to furthering their studies often find the work interesting, and there is plenty of support to help them succeed.


Related MSN-to-DNP Resources


Page last reviewed on October 15, 2022. The ranking list and school descriptions on this page were created and reviewed independently by our Rankings Team.

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