10 Top Online DNP Programs


Are you considering taking the next step in your nursing career? Or depending on where you are now, maybe you are thinking of moving two or even three steps forward in your career? Now more than ever there is a true need for competent nursing leadership. In fact, in 2004 The American Association of Colleges of Nursing made a call to change the parameters of nurse leaders, and ensure that those who make big decisions and oversee healthcare administration have a DNP instead of a MSN.

This transformation is still in the works, as DNP candidates are being called to join the front lines of nursing leadership practice. Maybe you were brought here because you have an RN license and are considering a move towards a BSN and got caught up in the research that told you going farther would be even better? Some of you might have a Masters of Science in Nursing already and you are looking at the options to move to the top. Well, you have come to the right place.

Below you will find the best online DNP programs, many of which have specializations that might appeal to your personal and career goals. Achieving your advanced degree online will allow you to stay in the game and continue working while you build your credentials within a flexible learning environment. 

1. University of Minnesota

The University of Minnesota offers a Doctor of Nursing Practice Program Online through their renowned School of Nursing. They offer two different programs, one being for nurses who hold a bachelor’s degree and are ready for the long haul, and the other is for those who hold Master of Science in Nursing Degrees. The post masters program is specifically designed for students who have a specialization in one of the following: clinical nurse, nurse midwife, nurse practitioner, nurse anesthetist, and clinical nurse specialist, or nursing informatics, public health nursing, nursing leadership. The course of study for post masters DNP is extremely flexible, as the coursework is delivered mostly online. The length of the program is three semesters or one year, with one three to four day campus (intensives) per semester. Students have the option of participating in the program on a part time basis, in which case, the duration of the program is two years. 

2. Vanderbilt University

Vanderbilt University’s School of Nursing offers one of the best DNP online programs. The goal of the program is to give students the groundbreaking tools necessary to effectively service diverse populations with evidence based healthcare practices. All of the classes are offered online in order to give students the flexibility to continue working at their full time jobs, and also taking advantage of the clinical opportunities that the program engages. A culminating scholarly project is also required prior to graduation. Students are required to take a total of 74 credit hours in order to graduate. The practice component of the program is designed to cater directly to the interests and career goals of the student. There are many opportunities for faculty mentorship from leaders in the field. Graduates of the program have a 100% employment rate from 2016 to 2018. There is no GRE requirement for admission into the DNP program. 

3. Saint Louis University

Saint Louis University offers an excellent online Doctor of Nursing Practice Program that is geared towards professionals who want to deepen their clinician skills, leadership in health policy and improve overall healthcare delivery in a variety of healthcare settings. The requirement to qualify is that applicants have a masters degree in an avenue of advanced practice. This can include clinical nurse specialist or nurse practitioner. Students can complete the program on a full or part time basis. The coursework is delivered entirely online, and is therefore known for its flexibility, enabling students to continue to work while undergoing the course of study. The faculty are leaders in the field and are each recognized for their scholarly contribution to the discipline. Each student is assigned a faculty advisor that will be with them throughout the duration of the program. Students have access to an online writing center and an online library. 

4. Florida State University

The College of Nursing at Florida State University offers an online Doctor of Nursing Practice Degree program that is geared towards training students for the highest level of clinical practice. There are three disciplines within this program that include: Acute Care Nurse Practitioner (ACNP), Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP), or Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (PMHNP). Prospective Masters degree holding students have the potential eligibility of transferring up to 40 credit hours upon intensive transcript review. All of the required courses are offered via video conference online, broadcasting from the Tallahassee Campus. There are five total visits to campus that are required, which includes an initial orientation and a final project presentation. The guidelines from the American Association of Colleges of Nursing have informed the program content and delivery. Students can accomplish the program at their own pace, however, they must graduate within seven years of matriculation. They have many other exciting degrees in the field of healthcare offered online as well. 

5. University of Connecticut

The University of Connecticut offers an online Doctor of Nursing Practice Program that is geared towards nurses working as clinical nurse leaders, nurse practitioners, clinical nurse specialists, midwives, nurse administrators and nurse anesthetists. Though the classes are delivered almost entirely online, there are some on campus requirements in both August and January of each year. The primary goals of the program surround leadership and practice as well as evidence based nursing practice. Students in the program have the freedom to set their sights on their field of expertise. Students can enter the program path of BS to DNP, and they will achieve their masters along the way. Or there is an additional path of study for applicants that already have a masters of science in nursing. The program has just celebrated its 10 year birthday, and in that time, they have made significant contributions to the discipline by educating nurse executives and leaders that have made an impact. 

6. Johns Hopkins University

Johns Hopkins University offers an online Doctor of Nursing Practice Program through their School of Nursing. The DNP with the most online coursework is with the specialization of Primary Care. Though the majority of the coursework is accomplished through the flexible online portal, there are a few on campus immersions that are required for students to complete the program. Students will have consistent academic support from their dedicated faculty members, which includes mentorship as they choose and undergo their final projects. The final project is an excellent way to gain the experience of working in cross professional teams and allow the student to make a name for themselves as clinical nursing scholars. There is no part time plan of study for this program. Students can complete the program with full time status in 3 or 4 years. There are up to 60 students in the DNP programs at any given time, and many of the online classes will include the entire group. 

7. University of Alabama at Birmingham

The University of Alabama at Birmingham offers a Doctor of Nursing Practice through their School of Nursing. This is specifically a post master’s degree plan for working nurses who have already achieved a masters of science in an advanced nursing practice. This can include the specializations of nurse midwife, nurse aesthetician, clinical nurse specialist, or healthcare systems leadership. The MSN degree is the foundation for this program and advanced leadership skills are built from where the masters left off. Students have the opportunity to undergo clinical immersive experiences in preparation to be leaders in a variety of healthcare spheres and settings. Health system transformation and population health are themes addressed throughout the course of study. Though all of the classes are delivered in an online format, students have face-to-face learning opportunities specifically embedded into their clinical practicum experiences. 

8. Texas Woman’s University

Texas Woman’s University offers a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program that is designed for advanced practice nurses who are interested in improving their practice to expert leadership status. The curriculum ties together health care informatics, enhanced clinical practice, and current scientific nursing advancements to prepare nurses to address aging and complex healthcare systems. The program is delivered in a hybrid format that includes some online coursework meshed with onsite projects and seminars. The entire program includes 46 credit hours to complete, which includes 500 contact hours of clinical work. There is also the requirement of a capstone project for graduation eligibility. The capstone project is intended to be solution oriented in terms of solving a clinical problem. There are two application deadlines and subsequent start dates per year. A letter addressing your personal and professional goals is required in the admission process, along with two professional or academic references. 

9. Indiana State University

Indiana State University offers a Doctor of Nursing Practice Program that is offered via online learning. This is a fully accredited program. It is designed for nurses who have already achieved their masters of science degree in nursing and are interested in a terminal degree in the field. There are 39 credits required for graduation, which are divided between core courses, cognate courses, and guided electives. There are also 15 credit hour requirements for Nursing Scholarship of Practice Courses. There are many opportunities to receive financial aid for this program, including scholarships, loans and other potential offerings. The core courses include: Epidemiology, Health Policy Leadership, Organizational Informatics, Analytical Methods. There is no dissertation required for this program, however, students are required to achieve at least 500 hours of clinical practice with the supervision of a faculty member. Other subjects that are stressed in this course of study include culturally competent care and community health planning. 

10. Texas Christian University

Texas Christian University offers a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree program that is delivered entirely online. There is a heavy focus on innovative evidence based practice in this course of study. They are looking for applicants who have a strong foundation in conducting credible research with outcomes that can or have had an impact on the healthcare sphere. There are three different concentrations which include nursing administration and advanced nursing practice. Applicants are required to have a masters degree that comes from a fully accredited program in specialty nursing or nurse administration with a record of a 3.0 or above. An in-person interview is required as part of the application process. Full time students should be able to complete the program in two years time. There is the option of studying on a part time basis, however, and the timeline will be impacted accordingly. There are additional course offerings for students who are interested in teaching at the academic level. 

Which DNP is best?

The healthcare industry is one that does not standstill. We are on a fast-moving train. This requires trained leaders who are skilled problem solvers and critical thinkers. Those who are working towards this terminal degree might be leading the healthcare lobby or teaching the next generation of nurses at an Ivy League School.

There are many ways to put a Doctorate in Nursing Practice to good use. Not only that, those that advance to the doctorate level will see a high level of pay increase, and immediate career promotion. Most programs that we wrote about showed that 100 percent of graduates were employed by the end of the program. This is good news. It is also projected that this degree will only increase in demand. 

Is the DNP worth it?

As the discipline of nursing evolves so do the skills necessary to remain up to date. You will notice that there are newer disciplines in nursing like nurse informatics that bring together high-level computer skills with health care best practices. Nurses in the informatics field are leaders in STEM, and can even leave their DNP program to work at a software company if they so desire.

As healthcare must be up-to-date with technological trends. There are many places to go from here. We hope that this list will guide you on your journey, and maybe even provide the deciding factor if you want to take your career to the next level.