DNP/PhD in Nursing

A Doctor of Nursing program, more commonly called a DNP, is a field of study that BSN graduates can pursue in order to earn their graduate-level nursing degree to become eligible for higher-end nursing certifications above Registered Nurse, such as Nurse Practitioner, Clinical Nurse Specialist, and Nurse Midwife. Many universities and colleges that offer a BSN program also offer a DNP, and while each school has its own curriculum, they’re based around the same standards and classes.

Pursuing a DNP will increase your career prospects and earning potential, and provide many benefits over holding a BSN or Master of Science in Nursing degree. There is a lot of controversy in the medical field regarding the value of DNP degrees, however, with many nurses and doctors stating that a master’s degree offers all the knowledge and skills necessary to work as an APN. For this reason, it is important to evaluate whether or not a DNP will further your career in a way that makes the extra cost and time investment worth it.


The AACN (American Association of Colleges of Nursing) are trying to get the minimum requirements to become an advanced practicing nurse raised from a master’s degree to a Doctor of Nursing degree by 2015. Over 30 states already require a nurse to possess a master’s degree before pursuing an advanced nursing certification, such as a nurse practitioner or clinical nurse specialist. By earning a DNP, you will be prepared to meet any increased requirements that arise if or when the minimum requirements are raised in the future.

In addition to meeting any future requirement changes, earning a DNP will allow you to progress your career from RN to any advanced nursing position, such as a CNS or NP. With this increase in qualifications and certification, you’ll receive a higher salary – in some instances, a much higher salary – as well as increased job opportunities and less job competition.

Those who earn a DNP will have more academic knowledge in the area of nursing than individuals who only hold a master’s or BSN. Although a master’s may be the only requirement to progress into the career field you’re seeking, such as nurse practitioner, the knowledge gained by earning a Doctor of Nursing will help you every day in your career, especially if you choose to use your licensing and skills in a non-typical setting, such as in a remote medical care facility in a poor nation.

Education Requirements

In most cases, before earning a Doctor of Nursing degree, you must have a Master of Science degree in Nursing from an accredited university or college. Once you earn your master’s degree, you can enroll in a DNP program, which will have requirements tailored to work around your existing degree. Depending on the school, you may be able to enroll in a DNP program after earning a BSN (Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree); in this case, the DNP program is more extensive than it is for students with a master’s degree, and often takes longer to complete.

Typical Coursework

Although coursework varies based on the university and the type of DNP program in which you enroll, every program involves the same basic curriculum, which is based on industry standards and requirements for the issuance of the graduate degree as needed in order to pursue advanced nursing certifications. Credit hour requirements are often divided into difference categories, which is dictated by the university offering the program, with one category of credit hours serving a prerequisite for the next division of credit hours.

Common classes taken in a DNP course include:

  • Immersion Clinical
  • Disease Treatment
  • Condition Diagnosis
  • Health Informatics
  • Managing Clinical Systems
  • Policy and Management
  • Related Fields of Study

The Doctor of Nursing is currently the highest nursing degree available, and is related to a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) and Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degrees. Once achieve, it can be used to pursue advance practicing nurse certifications.

Career Prospects

Nurses who possess a DNP degree have nearly limitless earning and career potential, and can use it to become a nurse anesthetist, an APN, or even a professor at a university. As the medical field continues to grow and expand, and as nursing homes and in-care home facilities shift to seeking those with nursing degrees rather than individuals with basic certificates, the number of jobs in the nursing field will continue to growth, making it a relatively stable career.


A nurse with a Doctor of Nursing degree that pursues an APN field, such as Nurse Practitioner, can expect a starting salary of about $75,000 per year, depending on many factors, including geographical location, years of experience, references, and job history. Many DNP graduates working as an APN earn six-figures per year, sometimes in excess of $125,000 per year.


A DNP degree is a controversial nursing degree that some view as the inevitable progression of the nursing field, and that others regard as an unnecessary program that provides information already covered in a master’s program, and that blurs the lines between nurse and doctor. Whether a DNP is worth it for you depends on your goals, both professional and academic, and whether you feel the extra knowledge gained by pursuing a doctorate is worth the time and cost.