Shortest DNP Programs (Accelerate Your Degree, Complete in Less Than 2 Years)

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Earning your DNP (Doctor of Nursing Practice) in the shortest amount of time could help you make a difference in the growing field of healthcare.

Accelerated DNP programs may take two years or less to earn, and they often take place online. Some DNP programs admit nursing students with a BSN. But, candidates who have earned an MSN may be able to earn the degree in less time.

For current nurses interested in improving patient outcomes and making changes within a health organization, earning an accelerated DNP could offer a fast track to new goals. These may include nursing research or advanced practice roles like Nurse Practitioner.

5 Online DNP Programs That May Be Completed in 24 Months or Less

While earning a DNP often takes between two and five years, we’ve found five sponsored programs where you could earn your Doctor of Nursing Practice in two years or less.

  1. Maryville University
  2. Nova Southeastern University
  3. Colorado Technical University
  4. University of Louisiana at Lafayette
  5. Johns Hopkins University

#1: Maryville University

Maryville University is a nationally recognized private institution. Founded in 1872, Maryville continues to push the limits of higher education – including online learning. Maryville offers an online DNP program you could finish in as few as 20 months. The program focuses on leadership, nursing science, and healthcare policy. You could also conduct clinical care research, explore how to improve patient outcomes, and more.

More About the DNP Program:

  • Accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)
  • 24/7 online learning model – no campus visits required
  • Complete clinicals within your community
  • No GRE/GMAT required

Graduate Nursing Programs at Maryville:

  • Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP)
  • BSN to DNP Family Nurse Practitioner
  • BSN to DNP Pediatric (Primary Care) Nurse Practitioner
  • BSN to DNP Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner

#2: Nova Southeastern University

Nova Southeastern University is a research institution founded in 1964. Based in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, Nova is also known for its innovative distance learning programs.

The online DNP program at Nova is designed to be earned in as few as six semesters. This practice-focused degree program focuses on quality improvement, applied research, and other ways to make an impact in patient care. You’ll also complete a capstone project that relates to your area of practice.

More About the DNP Program:

  • 100% online and designed for busy professionals
  • Most courses delivered in an 8-week format
  • Four D.N.P. capstone courses that immerse you in your area of practice

Graduate Nursing Programs at NSU:

  • DNP – Doctor of Nursing Practice
  • MSN – Executive Nurse Leadership
  • MSN – Nursing Education
  • MSN – Nursing Informatics

#3: Colorado Technical University

Colorado Technical University is a private institution known for career-focused higher education. They have two Colorado locations and have been offering online learning since 1995. The online Doctor of Nursing Practice program at CTU is designed to take as few as 18 to 24 months. The curriculum covers areas like systems leadership, administration, and other areas of advanced nursing. You must be a licensed RN with a Master’s in Nursing to pursue the program.

More About the DNP Program:

  • Designed based on American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) criteria
  • Fully online coursework
  • Requires 1,000 hours of post-baccalaureate clinical hours, 500 of which must be completed at CTU

Graduate Nursing Programs at CTU:

  • Doctor of Nursing Practice
  • Master of Science in Nursing – Family Nurse Practitioner
  • Master of Science in Nursing – Nursing Administration

#4: University of Louisiana at Lafayette

The University of Louisiana at Lafayette is a national research university founded in 1898. They are known for their nursing and healthcare programs, among other distinctions.

The online, post-MSN DNP program at UL Lafayette may be earned over six semesters, in as little as two years. The program requires 39 credit hours, 1000 post-baccalaureate clinical hours, and a minimum of 420 residency hours in the student’s area of specialty.

More About the DNP Program:

  • Cohorts admitted in the Fall semesters
  • Online, with the exception of some campus visits and practicum requirements

Graduate Nursing Programs at UL Lafayette:

  • Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP)
  • Master of Science in Nursing

#5: Johns Hopkins University

As America’s first research university, Johns Hopkins University has been at the forefront of teaching and scholarship since 1876. Study online or on campus in Maryland, Washington, Italy, or China. The DNP Executive Track program at JHU may be earned in six semesters of full-time study, or about two years. You’ll work on analytic skills and evidence-based practice, while focusing on your interests and professional focus. Plus, complete an intensive final project to become a Hopkins Nursing clinical scholar.

More About the DNP Executive Track Program:

  • Online, with five days of onsite classes in the first year
  • Designed for nurses working full-time in a clinical setting
  • GRE scores not required

Graduate Nursing Programs at JHU:

  • Doctor of Nursing Practice: Clinical Nurse Specialist Specialization
  • Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) Entry into Nursing

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Potential Benefits of Earning Your DNP in Less Than 2 Years

Finding online MSN to DNP programs that can be earned in the shortest amount of time may have benefits like:

  1. A Faster Track to Advanced Patient Care. Earning a DNP may be a path for nurses who want to launch or enhance an APRN career. APRNs (advanced practice registered nurses) provide a broader scope of patient care. For example, in most states they can perform tasks like prescribing medications and ordering tests. APRN roles are projected to grow 38% by 2032 according to – much faster than average. Finding the fastest online DNP program might mean you can get a jumpstart on making a difference in this growing field.
  2. Potential Career Enhancement, in Less Time. APRNs who earn doctoral degrees may be able to pursue career paths that other APRNs don’t have access to. For example, they could conduct independent research or serve in an inter professional research team. Clinical Nurse Specialists who want to conduct research usually need to earn a doctorate, too. If you’re interested in pursuing a new direction in your career, earning a DNP in two years or less could be the perfect next step.
  3. A Program Structure That Maximizes Your Time. The shortest online DNP programs are often designed with working nurses in mind. They may deliver courses in eight-week terms instead of traditional, 16-week terms. And, they may limit campus visits to just the essentials. In a field where every second counts, it’s ideal to find a DNP program that values your time!
  • Earn your degree from a university with a “Whole Human Education” approach that focuses on assisting you in all aspects of your education: academic, emotional, career, financial, and family.
  • Choose from 75+ programs: Whether you’re starting fresh or seeking advancement, our career-focused programs are designed to help you make an impact in your chosen field.
  • National University is regionally accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC).

When Evaluating Online DNP Programs, Don’t Forget to Consider:

  • Accreditation. Accredited DNP online programs must meet important quality standards. For example, the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) evaluates teaching practices, program mission, assessment, and much more. Each DNP program must go through a rigorous accreditation process.
  • How Fast is Too Fast? 12 month online DNP programs do exist. That said, it’s important to consider more than program length. Ask yourself how each prospective program fits into your schedule. Some DNP programs are designed for working nurses, which may be ideal even if it ends up taking a bit longer to earn the degree.
  • DNP Specializations. Some DNP programs offer tracks for nurses interested in specific career paths – like Pediatric Nurse Practitioner or Health Systems Leadership. Choosing a specialization may affect program length.
Top Salary Metro Areas in the United States: Registered Nurses
Metro AreaAnnual Mean SalaryEmployment
San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA$139,01015,990
Santa Cruz-Watsonville, CA$133,6701,520
San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA$129,27035,480
Vallejo-Fairfield, CA$121,9303,170
Sacramento--Roseville--Arden-Arcade, CA$120,51018,240

Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Are the Requirements for Earning an Accelerated DNP?

Let’s look at admissions requirements and graduation requirements for earning an accelerated DNP. These vary by school and program.

Admissions Requirements for Earning a DNP May Include:

  • A Master’s in Nursing. Some programs offer a BSN-to-DNP track, as well. That said, earning a DNP tends to require fewer credits if you enter with an MSN.
  • Current, active RN licensure. Generally, this must be in the state where you plan to do any practicums or clinical hours. Some programs require APRN licensure, too.
  • Supervised post-baccalaureate practice hours. Students may need to submit documentation of all supervised clinical hours they completed.
  • A minimum GPA – often, at least 3.0 on a 4.0 scale
  • Official transcripts from all postsecondary institutions you attended
  • References or letters of recommendation
  • Statement of purpose and/or writing sample
  • Resume or CV
  • GRE or GMAT scores
  • Interview with program director and/or faculty

Graduation Requirements for Earning a DNP May Include:

  • Coursework. Online MSN-to-DNP programs may require around 31 to 40 credits of coursework.
  • GPA. You may need to earn a minimum cumulative GPA for the DNP coursework. You may also need to earn a minimum grade in each course.
  • Clinical experience. Online DNP programs tend to include in-person practicums (at your location). Expect to complete around 500 to 1,000 hours of clinical experience.
  • A final project. Most DNP programs wrap up with a scholarly project. You may need to conduct research, gather evidence, and solve real problems. Usually, the goal is to synthesize what you have learned while preparing to make an impact in your area of nursing practice.

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written by Shannon Fandler

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