Doctorate in Nursing Degrees & DNP Programs

How Long Does It Take to Get a Doctorate in Nursing?

Completion of Doctorate in Nursing Program may take anywhere from 3 to five years. Earning a DNP may help to propel nurses forward towards leadership roles in their careers. Doctorate in Nursing programs offer nurses wishing a terminal degree in nursing the opportunity to advance their education, indicate expertise in an area, and potentially improve their career and salary expectations. A Doctor of Nursing or DNP degree.DNP, or Doctor of Nursing Practice degree is a post-master’s degree. A DNP is geared towards teaching the critical skills needed to bring evidence-based care into clinical practice-oriented care. The DNP is a degree that is designed for nurses who are looking for a terminal degree in nursing practice. A DNP might prepare them to implement the science they have learned.

Doctorate in Nursing

DNP vs PhD

While a PhD in nursing is necessary for teaching and research, a DNP emphasizes the clinical side of nursing. A nurse with a DNP strives to improve health care systems, work with patients, different or specific populations and within the community.

How Do I Choose A DNP program?

There are various DNP programs. At this level of nursing, specialization in not uncommon. GradSchools.com has helpful search tools to make reviewing your options easy. Begin with a location search. Use the city, state or country tabs if you are hoping to study in a particular area. Refine this process by deciding on the program format. Is it more convenient to learn at an accredited nursing school? Or is distance learning more feasible? If so, review the hybrid format that combines on campus and online coursework. Or look into online DNP programs which allow one to study wherever they have access to a computer and the Internet. Some of the listings might include:

  • Various Doctor of Nursing Practice (D.N.P.) programs
  • Nurse Midwifery – MSN and Companion DNP Program
  • Doctor of Anesthesia Practice
  • Doctor of Nursing Practice (MSN to DNP)
  • Doctor of Nursing Practice (BSN to DNP)
  • Doctor of Nursing Practice in Executive Leadership
  • Doctor of Philosophy In Nursing

What is DNP?

The DNP is not a role rather it is a specific degree. There are different types of Nursing Doctorate Practice Degrees, and at this level of education, each one is specific for a certain path in the broad field of nursing.

  • Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) emphasizes clinical, practice oriented leadership training
  • Doctor of Nursing (ND) focuses on developing advanced specialist skills
  • Doctor of Nursing Science (DNSc) focuses on investigative and research-based skills
  • MSN to DNP programs combine a master’s and doctorate in an accelerated program
  • BSN to DNP programs focus on BSN holders who are planning to become teachers of nursing or researchers
  • PhD in Nursing emphasizes a science intensive training
  • PhD in Nursing Education programs emphasize teaching techniques and curriculum development and are geared towards nurses who want to be nurse educators

Within the DNP programs, are also degrees that are geared towards advanced study for those who have already reached the master degree level in one area and want to gain distinction. These are NP (nurse practitioner), Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CNRA), Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS) and Certified Nurse Midwife (CNM).

Potential Curriculum for Doctorate in Nursing Program Students

Doctorate in nursing curriculums typically build on the master’s programs by providing education in evidence-based practice and expose learners to topics that might include:

  • Research methods
  • Statistics and data analysis
  • Evidence based practice
  • History and Philosophy of nursing science
  • Leadership skills
  • Case management
  • Infection prevention and control
  • Nursing education
  • Clinical skills

One might also specialize in nurse midwifery and women’s health, nursing management and organizational leadership, nurse anesthetics, clinical nursing or family nursing practice.

Why Should I Earn A Doctor of Nursing Practice?

Nurse practitioners, nurse midwives, and nurse anesthetists fall into the category of APRNs, or advances practice registered nurses. An APRN must become a licensed registered nurse in their state and pass a national certification exam before pursuing further education in one of these advanced roles. The Master Degree is the common entry-level education. However, many choose to earn a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) or a PhD in order to potentially increase their salaries, learn the skills to make a positive impact on the community, and meet the employment demands through the next decade. With an aging population, there are growing demands for healthcare services, awareness of preventive care, and new healthcare legislation creating more insured people. The Bureau of Labor Statistics has projected that employment of nurse practitioners, nurse anesthetists, and nurse midwives will grow 31% between 2012 and 2022. That is much faster than average for all occupations[i]!

Explore a Career in Advanced Nursing

Nurse Practitioners diagnose and treat acute, episodic, or chronic illness, either independently or as part of a healthcare team. Depending on their specialization or where they are employed may focus on healthcare promotion, and disease prevention. Some of their duties may involve: ordering, performing or interpreting diagnostic tests such as lab work and x rays, prescribing medication. Nurse practitioners must be registered nurses who have specialized graduate school.

The areas with the highest levels of employment of nurse practitioners includes[ii]:

  • Offices of physicians
  • General medical and surgical hospital
  • Outpatient care centers
  • Colleges, universities and professional schools
  • Home health care services

Ready to pursue a DNP?

The Doctor of Nursing Practice – or DNP – is a practice doctorate degree for nurses. It represents the highest level of academic preparation for nursing practice. If you are ready for the commitment, this may be a rewarding and fulfilling path. A DNP may provide the opportunity to boost your career and earning potential. A DNP may also give you new skills and technical knowledge to become excellent leaders in nursing.


Sources:[i] bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/nurse-anesthetists-nurse-midwives-and-nurse-practitioners| [ii] bls.gov/oes/current/oes291171.htm

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