2021 Shortest Online DNP Programs [Nursing Guide]
If you want to earn your Doctor of Nursing Practice in less time, then you may be interested in finding the shortest online DNP program that helps you meet your educational and career goals.
A number of factors can influence how long it takes you to earn your DNP. Some factors to consider include the program type, such as BSN to DNP or MSN to DNP, your attendance frequency, and the number of clinical placement hours required, among other features.
All of these components can impact DNP program length.
Online DNP Programs
Online DNP programs are structured to provide you with the skills and expertise required to branch into leadership positions in nursing as well as more advanced or specialized clinical roles.
Depending on the program and your personal career goals, you’ll likely have the opportunity to specialize or select an area of concentration for your DNP studies. The available specialties often include family care, acute care, adult-gerontology, pediatrics, and psychiatric care.
In terms of career paths, DNP online programs can qualify you for a wide variety of positions, both clinical and non-clinical in nature.
Your specialization may qualify you to pursue licensure as an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN). Different types of APRNs include:
- Nurse Practitioner
- Nurse Anesthetist
- Nurse Midwife
- Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS)
A DNP may also make you eligible for positions in education and research. Some graduates go on to teach nursing instruction or health specialties at various universities and community colleges.
Professionals with a DNP also pursue careers in management and leadership. They may become medical and health services managers, chief nursing officers, or nurse managers.
Your doctoral program’s curriculum will typically aim to provide you with advanced clinical skills as well as expertise in leadership and management practices in a healthcare setting.
Here are some examples of courses that could be included in your curriculum:
- Principles of Evidence-Based Practices
- Assessments and Health Promotion
- Economics and Finance in Healthcare
- Nursing Leadership
- Public Policy in Healthcare
- Technology, Data, and Decision Making
- Ethics in Healthcare
In addition to the completion of various courses, DNP programs often require the completion of clinical placement hours in order to graduate. Generally, the requirement is 1,000 clinical placement hours, but specific criteria can vary depending on the school and program you choose to attend.
Nurse Practitioner Careers
The majority of nurse practitioners work in physician offices, but you may also find rewarding positions in different work settings. Nurse practitioners can work in hospitals, outpatient facilities, academic institutions, and community health centers, among other settings.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, accelerated DNP programs can help you qualify for a variety of positions in the field of nursing, leadership, and education.
|Careers||Annual Median Salaries|
|Nurse Practitioners, Outpatient Care Centers||$115,790|
|Nurse Practitioners, General Medical and Surgical Hospitals||$114,980|
|Medical and Health Services Managers, Government Services||$111,520|
|Medical and Health Services Managers, Hospitals||$110,430|
|Nurse Practitioners, All||$109,820|
|Medical and Health Services Managers, Nursing and Residential Care Facilities||$86,820|
|Nursing Instructors and Postsecondary Teachers||$74,600|
The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that careers in advanced nursing practice will grow significantly over the next several years.
This includes positions such as nurse practitioner, nurse anesthetist, and nurse midwife, which are expected to see growth of 52%, 14%, and 12% respectively. Other positions are also expected to benefit from a positive job outlook, including those of postsecondary teacher (9%) and medical and health services manager (32%).
DNP Curriculum & Courses
The course curriculum of an online DNP program can vary from one school to the next, but it’s generally intended to provide you with advanced study options related to clinical practice in nursing, in addition to principles of leadership and management in healthcare.
- Quality and Patient Safety: This course is an overview of different factors that can influence the quality of care and patient safety, including work processes, data management, and outcome measurement.
- Population Health: You’ll review key principles of health promotion and design of community programs.
- Public Policy in Healthcare: You’ll look at the role of public policy in healthcare and the specific impact on nursing and the provision of care.
- Evidence-Based Practice in Healthcare: This course is an overview of the importance of evidence-based decision-making in healthcare and nursing to improve patient care and outcomes.
- Interprofessional Partnerships: This course is an analysis of interprofessional teams in healthcare settings and the use of an interdisciplinary approach for assessment and treatment of patient needs.
- Financial Management in Healthcare: This course takes an in-depth look at accounting, budgeting, and other financial management practices in healthcare organizations.
- Health Informatics in Nursing: This course is an overview of the role of computer technology and data management in nursing to improve patient outcomes and clinical decision-making.
- Biostatistics in Evidence-Based Practice: You’ll review statistical methods used in the collection and analysis of health-related patient data and information.
- Clinical Pharmacology: You’ll look at fundamental principles of pharmacology as it relates to the field of nursing.
- Organization and Systems Leadership: This course is an overview of planning and implementing system changes at an organizational level as well as utilizing effective leadership skills as it relates to the nursing profession.
In addition to a breadth of coursework, even the fastest online DNP program may require you to complete an average of 1,000 clinical placement hours in an in-person setting.
How to Become a DNP
Becoming a Doctor of Nursing Practice requires graduating from a DNP program. A DNP program includes a variety of advanced courses in areas related to nursing practice and clinical care as well as leadership and management.
There are different options or educational tracks to choose from when it comes to enrolling in a DNP program and completing degree requirements:
- MSN to DNP program. The shortest DNP program online option may be the Master of Science in Nursing to a Doctor of Nursing Practice track. This option generally takes between 1 to 2 years to complete with full-time study. It is required that you hold a MSN degree in order to be eligible to enroll in the DNP program.
- BSN to DNP program. With this option, you may be eligible to enroll in a DNP program with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree. The BSN to DNP track allows you to enroll in a doctorate program without previously completing a masters program. This track typically takes 3 to 4 years to complete with full-time study.
In addition to coursework, a DNP program may require you to perform approximately 1,000 clinical placement work hours. The specific number of required clinical hours can vary depending on the school and program. Concentration options may also vary between programs.
Admissions requirements for online DNP programs can vary depending on the academic track you choose to pursue. Academic tracks can include a BSN to DNP program and an MSN to DNP program.
Some common requirements include:
- Bachelor’s degree in nursing. This requirement typically applies to both BSN and MSN to DNP programs.
- Master’s degree in nursing. This requirement would only apply to MSN to DNP study options.
- RN license. A valid registered nursing license and a certain number of years of work experience are additional eligibility requirements for a DNP program.
- Statement of intent. Many programs request a statement of intent or letter of interest detailing why you want to attend the program.
Additional requirements can include a copy of your resume and the completion of an online application. GRE or GMAT scores may also be required, though a number of schools no longer request them.
If you are an RN but have not yet earned a Bachelor of Science in Nursing, it may benefit you to explore the accelerated RN to BSN online degree programs that some universities offer.
Regional accreditation is an important consideration for any academic program, including online DNP programs. Achieving accreditation validates that the programming of an institution meets a certain predetermined level of academic quality.
Earning your degree from an accredited institution can impact your ability to transfer completed credits into another program and to register with various professional associations. It can even impact your ability to secure employment.
For more information about the regional accreditation status of the program you’re interested in attending, you can visit the US Department of Education‘s website. As a DNP student, you may also need to consider additional types of accreditation, such as accreditation from the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing.
Financial Aid for DNP Students
There are a number of financial aid options that may help you fund your Doctor of Nursing Practice degree, including federal and state aid, scholarships, and employer funding programs.
Federal and state aid may be available to you in the form of grants and loans along with scholarships, work-study options, or aid for military families. In some cases, depending on the school you choose to attend, you may be eligible to receive scholarships or funding from the school itself.
An employer training program may be an additional source of funding if one’s available to you. If you are currently employed, your employer might offer financial aid to support your pursuit of a DNP. For more information about financial aid possibilities, you can visit the US Department of Education‘s website.
What Can You Do with a DNP?
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, earning your DNP online can help prepare you for a variety of careers, depending on your specialization.
Common careers include nurse anesthetist, medical and health services manager, nurse practitioner, nurse midwife, and clinical nurse specialists. Some graduates pursue positions in education, such as a teacher at a university or community college.
Careers in the field of advanced nursing may allow you to work in different environments, such as physician’s offices, outpatient centers, or community health centers and clinics.
What Is the Easiest DNP Program?
There are a number of DNP program options, and some can be completed in less time than others.
Accelerated programs, though, often require you to take a heavier course load, stay enrolled continuously throughout the year. Some of the shortest DNP programs only permit you to enroll if you hold a MSN and are an advanced nursing professional.
Accelerated DNP programs and standard-length DNP programs will require you to achieve the same level of expertise through coursework and clinical experience. So, the required course topics and the types of courses available to you will be similar regardless of the program type.
How Long Are BSN to DNP Programs Online?
Generally, BSN to DNP online programs can be completed in 3 to 4 years. How long it takes you to complete your degree can depend on various factors, such as whether you enroll on a part-time or full-time basis. Other factors include how often you’re able to register for courses and how many terms you complete each year.
Enrolling in the shortest online RN to BSN program or taking accelerated BSN to DNP programs may help you complete your education in less time.
MSN to DNP, How Long Does It Take?
On average, it takes between 1 to 2 years to complete MSN to DNP programs online. Entering a DNP program with a masters allows you to benefit from an accelerated course of study.
Factors that may impact the specific length of time required for you to complete your MSN to DNP degree program may include whether you attend on a full-time or part-time basis and the number of terms you complete each year.
The number of clinical hours you completed during or after your master’s program can also impact your DNP timeline.
What Is the Difference Between a DNP vs. NP?
The main difference between DNP and NP is that Doctor of Nursing Practice is a course of study that you complete by enrolling in a DNP program. NP, on the other hand, is the occupation title for a nurse practitioner.
Other key differences include the following:
- NP: A master’s degree is the entry-level requirement for a nurse practitioner (NP) position.
- DNP: A Doctor of Nursing Practice is a terminal degree program that can be taken by practicing NPs and other nursing professionals.
NPs may hold a masters degree or may hold a doctorate, such as a DNP degree.
What Is the Difference Between a DNP vs. PhD in Nursing?
While both DNP and PhD in Nursing degrees are terminal degrees in the field of nursing, they differ in relation to the specific careers they may lead to.
- DNP: Doctor of Nursing Practice programs are focused on clinical nursing education as well as leadership and management practices in healthcare.
- PhD in Nursing: Doctor of Philosophy in Nursing programs prioritize research and education.
Those who are interested in performing research or teaching in a postsecondary setting, as opposed to performing clinical work, may be more suited for a PhD in Nursing.
Is a DNP Worth It?
Yes, a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) is worth it for many nursing students. Advanced clinical nursing practice is at the heart of a DNP program. Common career specializations include nurse anesthetist, nurse practitioner, nurse midwife, and clinical nurse specialist.
Graduates may also pursue management or leadership roles, such as medical and health services manager.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the positions of nurse anesthetist, nurse practitioner, and nurse midwife are predicted to grow by 45% through 2029, which is a significant increase. Healthcare occupations in general are projected to grow 15%.
Universities Offering Fastest Online Doctor of Nursing Practice Degree Programs
Methodology: The following school list is in alphabetical order. To be included, a college or university must be regionally accredited, offer degree programs online or in a hybrid format, and have accelerated classes that are 8 weeks or less in duration.
Chatham University offers an online Doctorate of Nursing Practice program. Each course lasts for 15 weeks. To graduate, students only have to obtain 27 credits and 500 practice experience hours. The program can usually be completed in 12 months. To be eligible, applicants must have a Master of Science in Nursing with a GPA of 3.0 or higher.
Chatham University is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.
Delta State University offers an online Doctorate of Nursing Practice. The program only requires 31 credit hours and can usually be completed in as little as 3 semesters. Students must also complete 420 clinical hours by completing a scholarly project and maintain a GPA of 3.0 to graduate.
Delta State University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Emory University offers an online Doctorate of Nursing Program. To graduate, students only need to complete 39 credit hours. The program can typically be completed in a year.
To apply, students must submit an official transcript, a resume, a personal statement, and a letter of recommendation. Applicants must have a master’s in nursing and experience working in the field.
Emory University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Francis Marion University offers an online Doctorate of Nursing program. Students only need to complete 30 credit hours and 500 clinical hours. Full-time students can typically complete the program in 3 semesters.
Upon being accepted into the program, students must supply a criminal background check, a drug test, CPR certification for healthcare providers, and a current nursing license.
Francis Marion University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Frontier Nursing University’s online Doctorate of Nursing program can be completed in 30 credit hours. When applying to the program, students may choose to take either the 5 term or 6 term path. Students must complete a small project, which occurs over an 8 week period. To graduate, students must also have 360 hours of practicum experience.
FNU is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Earning Your DNP Online
If you’re passionate about patient care, quality outcomes in healthcare, and clinical nursing work, then earning a doctorate in nursing practice may be a strategic path for you to consider.
An accelerated, online DNP program can help prepare you for a variety of careers in the field of nursing, ranging from nurse practitioner to health services manager or chief nursing officer. A growing number of universities are even offering BSN to DNP programs online with no GRE requirement, saving you the time it takes to prepare for and take this exam.
DNP programs may be an option for you whether you currently hold a bachelors or masters degree in nursing.
If you find that being a nurse is worth it and you’re interested in advancing your career in today’s growing healthcare field, you can start by searching for accredited online DNP programs that match your professional goals and your preferred graduation timeline.