The Best Online RN-to-DNP Programs

Advertisement 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.

Doctor of nursing practice (DNP) degrees prepare the next generation of nurses to meet the demands of a rapidly changing healthcare industry. Employer preference for doctorate-holders extends beyond nursing to pharmacy, psychology, audiology, and dentistry, according to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing.

DNP-holders become advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) in administration, academia, and research. Also called bridge programs, online RN-to-DNP programs allow working nurses who do not have a master’s degree to earn a doctorate in 3-6 years while remaining employed.

After earning a DNP, nurse practitioners and nurse midwives enjoy a median annual wage of $115,800 in a field that has no shortage of jobs. Bureau of Labor Statistics data demonstrates that employment for these occupations should grow by 45% from 2019-29.

Keep reading to see which online RN-to-DNP programs ranked the best and how you can qualify for admission.

Read about our ranking methodology here.
Advertisement 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 RN-to-DNP Programs for 2020

Rank School Location
1 Delta State University Cleveland, MS
2 Union University Jackson, TN
3 University of Michigan-Flint Flint, MI
  • Delta State University

    Cleveland, MS

    Mississippi's Delta State offers an online RN-to-DNP program for registered nurses with ADN, BSN, or MSN credentials who wish to earn a doctorate. The program takes between 18-54 months to complete, depending on the incoming student's prior education level. Candidates may enroll on either a full- and part-time basis.

    The program explores concepts in epidemiology and population health, healthcare policy and economics in clinical practice, advanced statistics for clinical practice, and leadership and role development in advanced nursing practice. Learners must complete 1,020 traditional clinical hours, in addition to 420 clinical hours spent on a scholarly project.

    Admission requirements include minimum ADN qualifications, a GPA of 3.0 or higher, an unencumbered RN license, and at least one year of clinical nursing experience. Learners typically visit the campus 1-3 times each semester, and must complete clinical requirements in Mississippi or Arkansas. The program does not require GRE scores at this time.

  • Union University

    Jackson, TN

    Tennessee-based Union University offers an online RN-to-DNP program with a nurse practitioner track for students interested in healthcare leadership roles. The full-time program is presented in a blended format, meaning learners must visit the Jackson, Germantown, or Hendersonville campuses to complete certain requirements. New students are admitted during the fall semester.

    The 73-credit curriculum addresses topics, such as advanced nursing statistics for the health sciences, collaborative strategies in advanced nursing practice, healthcare policy and economics, and organizational leadership and management. Students must also complete at least 1,220 clinical hours. Individuals who already possess a BSN upon enrollment usually graduate in around 36 months.

    Program applicants must hold an active and unencumbered RN license, an ADN or BSN accredited degree, and a GPA of at least 3.0. Candidates must also complete a graduate admissions interview and provide a statement detailing past clinical or work activities.

  • University of Michigan-Flint

    Flint, MI

    UM-Flint's School of Nursing offers a specialized RN-to-DNP program online for candidates who possess an ADN or diploma alongside a non-nursing bachelor's degree. The program features concentrations in family, acute adult care, adult gerontology, and psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner. The degree is presented in a blended format, and learners must visit the UM-Flint campus to fulfill all graduation requirements.

    Classes offered include transcultural healthcare, integrated case studies in nursing, transition to professional nursing, and community health nursing. Some classes require students to complete volunteer hours in addition to clinical hour requirements.

    Admission requirements include an active and unencumbered RN license, a professional goal statement, three letters of recommendation, a current resume, transcripts from any schools attended, and at least a 3.5 GPA on all coursework taken during the final 60 hours of a previous degree. Learners must also pay a $55 nonrefundable application fee.

Applying to an Online RN-to-DNP Program

RN-to-DNP programs present a unique opportunity for licensed nurses who do not hold a master’s degree. These bridge programs allow nurses with a bachelor’s degree, diploma, or associate degree to attain the highest level of education in nursing.

RN-to-DNP program applicants must hold a valid license and background in nursing. Admissions committees seek candidates with strong work and academic histories. Candidates typically must show proof of at least a 3.0 GPA and may need to complete prerequisite coursework and/or submit GRE scores

Other common application materials include letters of recommendation, official transcripts, and personal statements. In the last stages of admission, candidates need to complete health and immunization forms and undergo criminal background checks, including fingerprinting.

Frequently Asked Questions

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

    RN-to-DNP programs usually take full-time students 3-6 years to complete. However, this ultimately depends on the student’s educational and professional history, and their chosen specialization. Online learners who hold a master’s degree or bachelor’s degree can graduate more quickly than those with an associate degree.

  • What is accreditation and why is it important?

    Students can avoid diploma mills by ensuring that they attend an accredited school and program. The Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education and Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing accredits RN-to-DNP programs. These accrediting bodies ensure that the program’s learning materials, teaching staff, and facilities meet industry standards.

  • What can I do with a DNP?

    A DNP opens the doors to advanced practice registered nursing positions. Graduates become clinical nurse specialists, nurse anesthetists, and nurse practitioners. DNP-holders also influence public policy, conduct clinical nursing research, and shape minds on college campuses. A higher degree can lead to land management positions along with higher pay.

  • Are RN-to-DNP bridge programs hard?

    RN-to-DNP bridge programs challenge prospective students with a competitive admissions process. Before entering the program, DNP students must complete prerequisite courses and, sometimes, volunteer hours. While online programs allow students to work while they study, the rigorous coursework poses a challenge. Additionally, online learners must complete about 1,000 clinical hours to graduate.