How long does it take to get a DNP? (Roles, Length, Programs)

How long does it take to get a DNP

DNP stands for Doctor of Nursing Practice which is an advanced degree within nursing. It is one of the highest levels a nurse can attain.

As stated by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, the Doctor of Nursing Practice is meant for nurses who seek other ways to doctoral programs that are not research-based.

In addition, the DNP is a practicing degree, and a nurse with this rank will possess adequate proficiency and competence, not necessarily for research and academics. 

Though a DNP degree is technically the same level as a doctorate, practicing nurses with DNPs do not have the same authority as physicians or other medical doctors.

A nurse has attained the highest or terminal level of education once having earned the Doctor of Nursing Practice designation.

Moreover, most nurses with a DNP degree end up in leadership or administrative positions, usually within the healthcare industry.

This Doctor of Nursing Practice designation provides nurses an edge over other nurses with NPS when seeking out jobs. A time will come when nurses will have to earn a DNP degree to begin practicing.

Roles of Practicing Nurses with a DNP degree

Graduates with a degree in Doctor of Nursing Practice have a list of several jobs they can perform. However, for this article, we will be discussing the two most common roles. They include:

Leadership and Administrative Positions: 

The Doctor of Nursing practice offers nurses an opportunity to use their abilities and skills to help make policies, decisions and influence healthcare programs. In addition, these nurses can help improve the leadership roles in this field.

Available positions for DNPs in this role include:

  • Health Informatics System (HIS)
  • Organizational leadership
  • Health Policy
  • Nurse management

Advanced Practice Nursing: 

DNPs who make decisions to become advanced practice registered nurses (APRN) have the opportunity of working directly with patients by assessing, managing, and evaluating care and treatment.

DNPs who desire to become APRNs must undertake the APRN certification exam. In addition, they may also be awarded another specialty certification though, advanced.

Available positions for DNPs in this role include:

  • Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA): These are clinicians who work hand in hand with nurses and physicians to help administer anesthesia to patients.
  • Nurse Midwife (CNM): These are professionals who help provide reproductive care from the period of conception to the delivery period.
  • Nurse Practitioner (NP): These are health care professionals who work independently to prevent diseases and promote health with the supervision of a doctor.

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How long does it take to get a DNP?

How long a DNP program lasts depends on the path a student undertakes to earn their doctorate and the field of specialization that interests them.

The length of time it will take to acquire a DNP will to an extent, depend on the level of education one has before being accepted for the program. 

Top five (5) DNP schools

Based on information derived from US News, the top five universities to earn a DNP program include:

1. Rush University: 

Rush university is a private school located in Chicago. Their deadline for application is usually on the 2nd of January, and their application fee costs $115 for students based in the United States.

2. Johns Hopkins University: 

This is also a private school located in Baltimore. Their application deadline is usually on the 1st of January, with an application fee of $75 for US-based residents only.

3. The University of Washington: 

Unlike Rush and John Hopkins University, this is a public school in Seattle. Application deadline is January 15; application fee is $85 for people who reside in the US.

4. Duke University: 

This is a private school in Durham. Their deadline for application extends till December 1, and an application fee costs $50 for US residents.

5. Columbia University: 

This is also a private school located in New York. Application deadline is 20th of January and an application fee of $75 for US-based residents only.

Benefits of Getting a DNP degree

Earning a DNP degree produces numerous benefits for nursing students irrespective of the stage one is, during education. Let’s look at some of them below:

Advancements in the Nursing Profession: 

A significant benefit of DNP degrees is that they can make it easier for one to elevate his/her nursing rank. Earning a degree shows employers that one has the capacity and skills to provide great health care and better outcomes in patients.

It enlarges one’s career scope: 

DNP programs offer graduates the opportunity of having a wider range of career options. Some of the positions available include high-level administration, managing a whole clinic etc.

These kinds of positions can allow graduates to forge ahead paths that will lead to better outcomes in patients, outcomes that may positively influence the health care future.

Earn an increased Salary: 

In the health care Industry, advanced degrees such as a DNP can attract increased salaries more than undergraduate degrees. This is because a higher level of position comes with loads of responsibilities.

However, DNP salaries differ based on occupation, experience, and expertise.

DNP enables sharpening of skills within a particular specialization: 

Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) to Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) and Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) to DNP programs usually involve specializations such as women’s health, pediatrics, adult-gerontology, family medicine, and psychiatric mental health.

This enables students to choose to go in-depth and have an area to specialize in.

In turn, skills are developed to excel in a particular area which fortifies one while taking on a professional path that interests them.

With a DNP, making a vital difference is guaranteed: 

Completing a DNP program does more than just prepare graduates for an Industry that has an increasing demand for well-trained nurses with advanced degrees. 

It can provide students the capacity to thrive in the health care industry, as there are lots of development in the sector.

In addition, regardless of what the future holds for the industry, the next generation of nurses are being trained to promote positive patient outcomes.


In line with the benefits listed above, the experiences, knowledge, and skills offered during the program till completion gives one a sense of fulfillment. 

Recently, the demand for nurses with advanced degrees in the healthcare sector has increased. However, looking at this field from the perspective of job employment, nursing is undoubtedly an attractive profession.

On the other hand, the Doctor of Nursing Practice program is an awesome opportunity for nurses to boost their skills and scale up their nursing ranks.

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