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The Best Online RN-to-DNP Programs

June 3, 2020 | Staff Writers

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Online RN-to-DNP programs are ideal for working RNs who want to advance their career opportunities. A DNP degree allows nurses to pursue leadership, academic, and research positions. Many graduates plan to work as nurse practitioners (NPs) and oversee other nursing staff as they take on more senior responsibilities. Others decide to pursue roles as nursing educators in colleges and universities. Like other nurses, DNP-holders can work with any patient population. However, most specialize in serving a particular demographic or focus area.

Before enrolling in an RN-to-DNP online program, prospective students should ensure the program holds proper accreditation. Failing to do so can lead to problems with transferring credits, seeking certification and/or licensure, and competing for jobs. All schools on our list of RN-to DNP programs online are accredited. Review our ranking methodology before checking out the best RN-to-DNP programs online for 2020.

Top 3 RN-to-DNP Programs
School Location
Union University Jackson, TN
University of Michigan-Flint Flint, MI
Delta State University Cleveland, MS
Read about our ranking methodology here.

What to Expect From a RN-to-DNP Program

RN-to-DNP online programs build on licensed RNs’ prior studies to expand both their theoretical knowledge and competencies. Some common classes include quality improvement for the doctor of nursing practice, foundations of evidence-based practice, nursing policy, and informatics for leadership in health and healthcare. Many programs also build niche knowledge by allowing candidates to develop or improve on a specialty area.

RN-to-DNP online programs can last from 3-6 years, depending on the candidate’s educational background. Students who already possess a BSN or MSN usually graduate more quickly than individuals who hold an ADN.

Along with coursework, most DNP curricula include at least 1,000 clinical practice hours, comprehensive examinations, and a culminating final project. Candidates must also meet state licensure requirements, which are based on state nursing boards’ individual mandates. These guidelines typically include examinations and certifications.

Career Outlook for Nurse Practitioners

Online RN-to-DNP program graduates pursue many important, advanced roles in medicine and healthcare. Some choose to become NPs and work in hospitals, community clinics, long-term care facilities, or physicians’ offices. In addition, many RN-to-DNP programs offer specializations in areas like adult-gerontology, family, or pediatric nurse practitioner, which can lead to new career opportunities.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), nurse practitioners earned a median annual wage of $109,820 in 2018, while those in the top 10% of earners receive salaries above and beyond $184,180. NPs who wish to earn the highest salaries typically seek employment from state, local, or private hospitals.

The BLS projects a 26% growth rate for NP jobs between 2018 and 2028. This number represents an increase of approximately 53,300 jobs over the next decade.

The Best RN-to-DNP Programs 2020

  • 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.

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