Best Online MSN-to-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.

Advanced practice nurses like nurse practitioners (NPs) and nurse anesthetists are among the fastest growing professions in the United States. In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that the number of advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) could increase by 45% through 2029.

Although many nursing professionals go into higher-level roles with a master of nursing practice (MSN), the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) recommends that aspiring advanced practice nurses earn a doctor of nursing practice (DNP). Many colleges and universities have taken note of the increased interest in DNP programs; from 2006-18, the number of DNP programs in the U.S. rose from fewer than 50 to about 350.

MSN-to-DNP programs do not last as long as the typical doctoral program; students usually complete the program in 1-2 years. Many nurses also prefer to pursue an MSN-to-DNP online, which allows distance learners to schedule their studies around their busy work schedules.

If you’re interested in an MSN-to-DNP degree, you can find a list of the best MSN-to-DNP programs below.

Read about our ranking methodology here.
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

Top Online MSN-to-DNP Programs for 2021

Rank School Location
1 Chatham University Pittsburgh, PA
2 Drexel University Philadelphia, PA
3 Gardner-Webb University Boiling Springs, NC
4 Johns Hopkins University Baltimore, MD
5 Nova Southeastern University Fort Lauderdale, FL
6 Ohio State University-Main Campus Columbus, OH
7 Regis College Weston, MA
8 University of Arizona Tucson, AZ
9 University of Colorado Colorado Springs Colorado Springs, CO
10 University of Colorado Denver/Anschutz Medical Campus Denver, CO
  • Chatham University
    Location

    Pittsburgh, PA

    Chatham's MSN-to-DNP features one of the fastest degree plans of its kind, allowing students to graduate in as little as 12 months of full-time study. The curriculum comprises 27 credits of coursework along with 500 practice experience hours. Learners enjoy flexible online courses that last 15 weeks and include one required on-campus residency.

    Enrollees explore evidence-based practice and focus on promoting safe, high quality, patient-centered healthcare across populations and settings. The unique program format enables students to specialize their coursework to align with their particular interests and goals.

    • Program: Doctor of nursing practice
    • Campus: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
    • Type: Private
    • Accreditations: Middle States Commission on Higher Education
    • Tuition: $1,017 per credit
    • Admission Requirements: Master of science in nursing; minimum 3.0 GPA; copy of resume or curriculum vitae; current RN license; two letters of professional recommendation; admissions essay; documentation of 1,000 post-baccalaureate practice experience hours
    • Minimum Time Commitment: 12 months
    • On-Campus Requirements: Yes
    • School Site: Tuition | Financial aid
  • Drexel University
    Location

    Philadelphia, PA

    One of America's 15 largest private universities, Drexel serves nearly 25,000 students. As one of the oldest, most successful sources of online degree programs, Drexel's online college offers a range of both undergraduate and graduate opportunities, including an MSN-to-DNP.

    Designed for nurses interested in a terminal degree focused on alternative research, the DNP program prepares learners for careers in leadership, executive, and practitioner roles. The curriculum features four ten-week quarters, allowing degree-seekers to explore more topics than other calendar structures.

    Along with the required coursework, enrollees must satisfy 500 clinical hours. Students have the option to take part in an in-person global engagement seminar.

    • Program: Doctor of nursing practice
    • Campus: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
    • Type: Private
    • Accreditations: Middle States Commission on Higher Education; Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education
    • Tuition: $1,041 per credit
    • Admission Requirements: Master's degree in nursing, business administration, or a health-related field; current RN license; advanced practice nursing licensure and certification documents; two letters of recommendation; personal statement; curriculum vitae or resume
    • Minimum Time Commitment: 24 months
    • On-Campus Requirements: Yes
    • School NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 96.46%
    • School Site: Tuition | Financial aid
  • Gardner-Webb University
    Location

    Boiling Springs, NC

    Gardner-Webb's MSN-to-DNP online program prepares enrollees for specialty nursing roles focused on evidence-based practice. The DNP offers three specialization options, including paths for leadership, family nurse practitioner, or psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner. The faith-based curriculum exposes learners to patient care leadership through a Christian viewpoint.

    Along with the online coursework, degree-seekers participate in a practicum experience focused on their chosen nursing specialty within their desired setting. Credit requirements vary depending on the specialization. The leadership program comprises 36 credit hours, students in the family nurse practitioner option complete 79 credit hours, and psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner students must satisfy 81 credit hours.

    • Program: Doctor of nursing practice
    • Campus: Boiling Springs, North Carolina
    • Type: Private
    • Accreditations: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges; Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing
    • 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; current RN license; certifications in practice area; current curriculum vitae; goal statement; satisfactory criminal background check
    • On-Campus Requirements: Yes
    • School NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 100%
    • School Site: Tuition | Financial aid
  • Johns Hopkins University
    Location

    Baltimore, MD

    Located in Baltimore, Maryland, Johns Hopkins offers a flexible online MSN-to-DNP executive track designed to allow students to continue working while completing their program requirements.

    The 40-credit curriculum includes on-site immersions. Coursework covers a variety of topics, such as analysis and evaluation of individual and population health data, clinical data management and analyses, and health information systems and patient care technologies.

    Enrollees who earn clinical hours during their master's degree program can apply them to the DNP, which requires learners to satisfy a minimum of 1,000 practice hours. Degree-seekers must complete their program within six years of their enrollment date with many learners satisfying their requirements in about six semesters of full-time study.

    • Program: Doctor of nursing practice
    • Campus: Baltimore, Maryland
    • Type: Private
    • Accreditations: Middle States Commission on Higher Education; Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education
    • Tuition: $39,748 per year
    • Admission Requirements: Master's degree in nursing from an accredited institution; minimum 3.0 GPA; current RN license; three letters of recommendation; current resume or curriculum vitae; goal statement; interview with faculty
    • On-Campus Requirements: Yes
    • School NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 97.49%
    • School Site: Tuition | Financial aid
  • Nova Southeastern University
    Location

    Fort Lauderdale, FL

    Advanced practice nurses considering doctoral-level programs can explore a fully online MSN-to-DNP program at NSU. Experienced faculty members within the DNP emphasize collaborative opportunities and expose students to innovative techniques that support evidence-based practice.

    The DNP includes four project courses that allow learners to explore their specific area of interest within advanced nursing practice. These full-immersion experiences require students to summarize an identified healthcare problem and discover and propose viable solutions. The curriculum offers courses in an eight-week format, enabling degree-seekers to complete their requirements within six semesters.

    • Program: Doctor of nursing practice
    • Campus: Fort Lauderdale, Florida
    • Type: Private
    • Accreditations: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
    • Tuition: $750 per credit hour
    • Admission Requirements: Master of science in nursing from a CCNE or CNEA-accredited institution; minimum 3.0 GPA; current RN license; curriculum vitae; writing sample; two reference letters; official documentation of all supervised post-baccalaureate practice hours from a regionally accredited institution
    • Minimum Time Commitment: Twelve months
    • On-Campus Requirements: Yes
    • School NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 91.97%
    • School Site: Tuition | Financial aid
  • Ohio State University-Main Campus
    Location

    Columbus, OH

    Ohio State offers one of the nursing field's most innovative online MSN-to-DNP programs. The DNP allows learners to tailor their degree to their personal interests and career goals by choosing between two track options: the clinical expert track or the nurse executive track.

    Enrollees interested in focusing their nursing practice on the highest level of patient care can enroll in the clinical expert track. The nurse executive track prepares degree-seekers to lead healthcare organizations and influence the field on a large scale.

    The 36-credit curriculum combines convenient online coursework with in-person clinical immersion experiences. Learners in both tracks can finish the program within as little as two years as a full-time student or three years if studying part time.

    • Program: Doctor of nursing practice
    • Campus: Columbus, Ohio
    • Type: Public
    • Accreditations: Higher Learning Commission
    • Tuition: $44,175 total
    • Admission Requirements: Master's degree from an accredited institution; minimum 3.0 GPA; current RN license; active APRN certification; current resume or curriculum vitae; goals statement; recorded online interview; three letters of recommendation; verification of hours form
    • Minimum Time Commitment: 24 months
    • On-Campus Requirements: Yes
    • School Site: Tuition | Financial aid
  • Regis College
    Location

    Weston, MA

    Founded in 1927 as a women's college, Regis became co-educational in 2007. Regis offers a variety of innovative undergraduate and graduate degrees, including some of the top nursing degrees. The online MSN-to-DNP serves advanced practice nurses looking to practice at the highest level of nursing care.

    Learners pursuing their DNP at Regis can tailor their degree to align with their interests and professional goals by choosing a specialization. Enrollees select from five tracks, including pediatric nurse practitioner, family nurse practitioner, psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner, women's health nurse practitioner, adult-gerontology nurse practitioner, and nurse education. Depending on their chosen field of study, students complete between 27-64 credits.

    • Program: Doctor of nursing practice
    • Campus: Weston, Massachusetts
    • Type: Private
    • Accreditations: New England Commission on Higher Education; Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing
    • Tuition: $875 per credit
    • Admission Requirements: Master of science in nursing from a regionally accredited institution; 3.0 minimum GPA; valid RN license; two letters of recommendation; statement of purpose; verification of hours form; APRN certification
    • Minimum Time Commitment: 24 months
    • On-Campus Requirements: Yes
    • School NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 90%
    • School Site: Tuition | Financial aid
  • University of Arizona
    Location

    Tucson, AZ

    Founded in 1895, before Arizona became a state, UofA's first graduating class included three people. Today, the university boasts a vast, diverse student body with a variety of innovative program opportunities, including one of the top online MSN-to-DNP programs in the nation.

    Building on the experience and knowledge gained during a master's program, the DNP explores quality improvement, evidence-based practice, and healthcare policy. The program serves learners who hold prior certification as a nurse midwife, nurse anesthetist, clinical nurse specialist, or nurse practitioner.

    The 35-credit curriculum focuses on advanced topics, such as interprofessional collaboration in healthcare teams, theories of leadership and organizational management, and healthcare informatics theory and practice. Students must participate in at least one on-campus resident intensive summer experience and complete a DNP project.

    • Program: Doctor of nursing practice
    • Campus: Tucson, Arizona
    • Type: Public
    • Accreditations: Higher Learning Commission
    • Tuition: $1,200 per credit
    • Admission Requirements: Master of science in nursing from a regionally accredited institution; 3.5 minimum GPA; APRN license
    • On-Campus Requirements: Yes
    • School NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 98.15%
    • School Site: Tuition | Financial aid
  • University of Colorado Colorado Springs
    Location

    Colorado Springs, CO

    Designed to train highly-prepared professionals in nursing practice, the online MSN-to-DNP at UCCS builds upon the foundations of a master of science in nursing and emphasizes evidence-based practice. The 33-credit curriculum typically takes degree-seekers about three years to complete and explores topics in population-based healthcare for improving the nation's health; theoretical foundations of reflective practice; and advanced healthcare policy, ethics, and law.

    Throughout the innovative program, enrollees enjoy the chance to collaborate with faculty and other students on inter-professional teams to create effective and safe healthcare systems and promote healthcare to improve population outcomes.

    • Program: Doctor of nursing practice
    • Campus: Colorado Springs, Colorado
    • Type: Public
    • Accreditations: Higher Learning Commision; Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)
    • Tuition: $816 per credit
    • Admission Requirements: Master of science in nursing from an accredited program; 3.0 minimum GPA; active RN license; national certification as NP or CNS
    • On-Campus Requirements: Yes
    • School NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 93.66%
    • School Site: Tuition | Financial aid
  • University of Colorado Denver/Anschutz Medical Campus
    Location

    Denver, CO

    CU Denver's MSN-to-DNP online program emphasizes both leadership skills and evidence-based clinical practice. In addition to online coursework, the program includes one-to-two day intensive on-campus sessions, limited to three times per year.

    DNP students can explore five different program pathways: an advanced practice registered nurse track, a DNP public community health option, a master's degree in public health/DNP dual degree, a post-graduate DNP focused on health systems leadership, or a veteran and military healthcare leadership path. Learners complete clinical hours in their chosen setting.

    • Program: Doctor of nursing practice
    • Campus: Denver, Colorado
    • Type: Public
    • Accreditations: Higher Learning Commission
    • Tuition: $690 per credit hour for residents; $1,115 for non-residents
    • Admission Requirements: Master of science in nursing; minimum 3.0 GPA; personal essay; curriculum vitae or resume; current RN license; three letters of recommendation; applicant interview
    • On-Campus Requirements: Yes
    • School Site: Tuition | Financial aid

Applying to an Online MSN-to-DNP Program

Incoming MSN-to-DNP program students need a master’s degree to qualify for admission. Applicants usually need an RN or advanced practice nursing license, as well. Beyond those two requirements, the admissions process for MSN-to-DNP programs varies depending on the school.

Doctoral degrees can prove challenging, which means schools usually set admissions standards high. Applicants should possess an undergraduate and master’s GPA above 3.0 and may need to achieve high scores on the GRE or MAT tests, as well.

DNP programs often look at candidates’ past work experience and may require references or recommendation letters. The admissions process at the doctoral level often involves an interview with faculty members.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How long does it take to complete an MSN-to-DNP program?

    For incoming DNP students who already possess an MSN, this doctorate can take 1-2 years to complete. Of course, that timeline varies depending on the school. Additionally, part-time students may need an extra semester or year to graduate.

  • What is accreditation and why is it important?

    Nobody wants to invest in an advanced degree only to realize their program doesn’t offer a quality education. That’s why students should pay attention to a program’s accreditation status. Accreditation indicates that students will obtain a valuable education. A degree’s accreditation status matters after students graduate, too; nursing professionals need an accredited degree to apply for licensure, and employers look for job candidates with accredited degrees. Keep an eye out for programs accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) and the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN).

  • What can I do with a DNP?

    Along with a Ph.D. in nursing, a DNP is the highest level of education that nursing professionals can receive. As a result, DNP-holders often find themselves in high-paid nurse practitioner or advanced nursing roles or go into nursing leadership. Sometimes, DNP graduates stick to academia and research, working as faculty members at colleges and universities.

  • What's the difference between a DNP and a Ph.D. in nursing?

    The main difference between a DNP and Ph.D. in nursing is the programs’ focus. DNP programs concentrate more on practice, while Ph.D. programs focus on research. Many DNP graduates go on to work as advanced practice nurses, nursing leaders, or nursing consultants. In contrast, Ph.D. graduates tend to go into research or teaching in higher education.