California DNP Programs | Doctorate in Nursing Specialties Degrees

DNP & Doctorate in Nursing Specialties Degree Programs Overview

Doctor of Nursing Practice and Doctorate in Nursing Specialties programs are advanced practice degree programs. These are either direct care specializations such as nurse practitioner, nurse anesthetist, nurse midwife, or clinical nurse specialist (CNS) degrees or indirect care specializations such as nursing administration or nursing informatics.

Nursing Specialties Masters Degree InformationRegistered nurses who aspire to terminal level education in an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) specialty might seek a Doctor of Nursing Practice or Doctor of Nursing (DN) degree. Nurses with a DNP are specially trained to put into practice the science developed by nurse researchers who pursue PhD, DNSC, and other research-focused nursing doctorates. 

FACT: Although a master’s degree is the most common form of entry-level education, many APRNs choose to earn a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) or a Ph.D[i].

DNP vs PhD

In fact, students looking for a doctorate degree as a nurse practitioner usually pursue a doctorate in nursing practice instead of a Ph.D. in nursing. A Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) is a post-master's degree program that provides students with the skills necessary for advanced clinical nursing practice. A Ph.D. in Nursing, on the other hand,  is intended for students who want to pursue upper-level careers in nursing, such as teaching and research. These PhD program usually encourage participants to begin pursuing a research topic during the first year of study.

What is a DNP?

Whereas a PhD in Nursing is a research based degree, the Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) is a practice degree that prepares nurses to lead, deliver and improve patient-centered care by bringing the latest evidence-based knowledge to the clinical practice of nursing and to a chosen nursing specialty.  DNP programs teach students how to provide advanced nursing care as members of interdisciplinary health care teams, and emphasize quality improvement to impact positive patient care outcomes. The DNP curricula build on previous the Master of Nursing program by providing advanced education in evidence-based practice, quality improvement, health care systems, leadership and health care policy to prepare nurses for the highest level of practice in nursing.

DNP programs require the completion of a residency with a local medical facility and an evidence-based research project prior to graduation. Completing a doctoral degree in nursing (DNP) program might take anywhere from three to five years and has the ability to boost you further in your career, as it may move you into nurse leadership roles.

Pathways to a DNP Program

Students may either be a post-BSN applicant interested in advanced nursing practice, a post-master's applicant who works in advanced nursing practice, or desire to have terminal degrees in both practice (DNP) and research (PhD).

Admission to a Doctor of Nursing Practice program usually requires a minimum one-year of experience working in the clinical nursing field, a written goal statement and two letters of reference, as well as GRE scores (no older than five years for some).

Choosing a Doctor of Nursing Practice Program

Nursing students looking to continue the nursing specialty track from a masters program can search for a PhD or DNP program in that area on GradSchools.com. If you are considering a campus program, initiate a location search to find programs by city, state or country. Some nursing schools also offer online DNP programs if distance-learning is more viable for you. Some of the listings might include Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP): Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS), PhD in Nursing, Doctor of Nursing Practice – BSN –DNP, Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) programs.

Potential DNP Curriculum

Nursing students pursuing a Doctorate typically take courses in advanced clinical practices in subjects such as nursing intervention, research and informatics.

In addition, they may find nursing specialty courses that deal with sophisticated decision-making and leadership skills. By making use of advanced clinical training and research, students gain an extensive knowledge base of clinical, biophysical, behavioral, psycho-social and pharmacology sciences.

Some of the possible courses that may be found in the DNP program might include:

  • Nursing theory
  • Advanced leadership and collaboration
  • Health care informatics
  • Health policy
  • Epidemiology
  • Ethical issues

Explore a Doctorate in Nursing Specialties Program: DNP-CNS

A CNS, or Clinical Nurse Specialist, is a type of Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN). Clinical Nurse Specialists focus on one of three main specialty areas: patients and their families, nurse management, and administration. The Clinical Nurse Specialist is responsible for guiding the rest of the nursing staff in their practice and help with efficiency in the workplace. In fact, often a clinical nurse specialist will serve in leadership roles and or educate and advise other nursing staff. CNSs also may conduct research and may advocate for certain policies, and Clinical Nurse Specialist professionals are expert at diagnosing illness and providing direct patient care in their area of expertise, such as psychiatric-mental health or pediatrics.

Career Outlook and Pay for Doctor of Nursing Graduates

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the overall job outlook for APRN professionals is excellent; employment is projected to grow 31 percent from 2014 to 2024, much faster than the average for all occupations. In terms of pay, the median annual wage for nurse anesthetists, nurse midwives, and nurse practitioners was $102,670 in May 2014; the lowest 10 % earned less than $71,240, and the highest 10 %earned more than $168,000.[ii]

Ready to Pursue a Doctorate in Nursing Specialties Degree?

If you are dedicated to nursing and want a clinical doctorate, a Doctorate in Nursing Specialties degree may uniquely position you not only to potentially affect significant changes in the way health care is delivered to patients, but also to open yourself to possible advancement in the workplace. Why not look into programs on GradSchools.com today!


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

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