By pursuing the Doctor of Nursing science programs online, students have the ability to maintain their current work schedule in nursing while expanding their education. Choosing the online format gives students the flexibility to choose programs that fit their personal career goals, especially when local programs may not offer a particular specialization. An online DNP opens up a whole world of career potential for nurses.
Students also find these programs to be convenient, as they can continue their current work schedule and other obligations. Whether they have a family at home or other commitments in their community, it can be hard to pursue an on-campus program. With an online program, students can work at their own pace, working faster for the weeks that they are not as busy at work so that they do not fall behind and stay ahead.
Students also find online programs to work well with their careers, as they are able to incorporate their current work experiences to their learning objectives in the classroom. Many students find this beneficial and use it as a way to thoroughly understand what they are learning. With the collaborative technology of online nursing education, students are able to build upon these digital skills and build proper communication with others in their class, sharing experiences and building off of each other.
Methodology: Ranking the Best DNP Online Programs
To rank the best online DNP programs in the nation, Value Colleges editors focused on criteria important to working nurses who want a return on their educational investment. The ranking is based on 4 factors:
- Salary Potential
- Student Reviews
Data for the ranking comes from College Scorecard, Niche, IPEDS, and U.S. News & World Report.
1. University of Florida
The University of Florida’s Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) tops the list of the best DNP online programs. The program is focused on providing Advanced Registered Nurse Practitioners (ARNPs) with the skills and knowledge they need to succeed in the healthcare environment of the future. The University of Florida offers online DNP programs for nurses at every educational level. There is a BSN to DNP program, an MSN to DNP program, and a post-master’s certificate program for nurses who have a master’s degree and have already obtained ARNP licensure in Florida.
The DNP faculty at the University of Florida is made up of expert clinicians, and the school offers innovative experiences for DNP students. The program has a leadership focus, which empowers graduates to fill leadership and management roles in healthcare. Students must complete clinical hours as part of the program, but the school arranges opportunities for students in their own local areas. The program involves a culminating project that helps students enhance their clinical knowledge and expertise.
2. The Ohio State University
The post-master’s Doctor of Nursing Practice at The Ohio State University is truly one of the best DNP online programs. This is a flexible online program made up of engaging courses and exercises taught by world-renowned faculty members. There are two tracks available. The DNP Clinical Expert track is for certified advanced practice nursing who already hold a master’s degree in nursing and wish to pursue a clinical career path. The DNP Nurse Executive track is for nurses who wish to pursue a leadership role in the nursing field. To be eligible, nurses can hold a master’s degree in any field. While an advanced nursing certification is not required, it is preferred.
The Ohio State University College of Nursing encourages and embraces innovation. The school cultivates partnerships where students and faculty collaborate to transform ideas into healthcare start-ups through University Technology Utilization Companies. There is a focus on transforming healthcare in order to improve the quality of patients’ lives. One of the school’s top priorities is applying and testing new research to develop best practices for real-life clinical application.
3. University of Utah
The University of Utah’s DNP program offers five specialty tracks online to students who live at least 60 miles from campus. The specialty tracks available online are neonatal nurse practitioner, nurse midwifery, primary care nurse practitioner, psychiatric/mental health nurse practitioner, and women’s health nurse practitioner. Online students must visit the University of Utah campus for certain activities, such as orientation and exams.
The University of Utah College of Nursing is part of University of Utah Health. The school is dedicated to preparing students to thrive in the face of change and innovation in nursing. The school’s goal is the ensure that graduates are ready to lead the way in facing whatever challenges the future brings and to embrace any opportunities that come their way. The University of Utah’s College of Nursing was the first school to receive the American Association of Colleges of Nursing’s New Era for Academic Nursing award.
Program: DNP Online (executive format)
4. University of Minnesota
The University of Minnesota offers DNP programs for both post-baccalaureate and post-master’s students. Most of the requirements for either can be completed online. However, students must attend a 4-day on-campus session once per semester. Post-baccalaureate DNP students can choose from one of 12 specialties: adult/gerontological clinical nurse specialist, family nurse practitioner, integrative health and healing, nurse midwifery, pediatric nurse practitioner primary care, psychiatric/mental health nurse practitioner, adult gerontological primary care nurse practitioner, health innovation and leadership, nurse anesthesia, nursing informatics, pediatric clinical nurse specialist, and women’s health nurse practitioner.
The School of Nursing at the University of Minnesota is ranked second in nursing informatics by U.S. News & World Report. The school has a physiology lab that makes it possible to research the effect of exercise on many different diseases. The school uses its Driven to Discover Research Facility to recruit research participants and complete research projects at the Minnesota State Fair. The school offers over $1.2 million in scholarship funding for its DNP students.
5. University of Iowa
The University of Iowa offers BSN to DNP, MSN to DNP, and post-graduate certificate DNP programs in the following specialties: adult/gerontology acute care nurse practitioner, family nurse practitioner, nurse anesthesia, pediatric nurse practitioner—primary care, adult/gerontology primary care nurse practitioner, health systems/administration, pediatric nurse practitioner—acute care, and psych/mental health nurse practitioner. The DNP programs are available in online or hybridized form and several of the specialties can be combined into dual degrees.
The University of Iowa College of Nursing strives to prepare nurses for leadership in practice, research, and education. The school’s goals include enhancing learning through the use of technology such as simulation and increasing the number and type of student-centered learning opportunities. The College of Nursing is a leader in pain and palliative care as well as gerontological nursing research.
6. Purdue University Global
The online DNP program at Purdue University Global requires 15-18 hours per week of effort and is divided into 10-week terms. The program requires 48-60 credits and at least 1000 post-baccalaureate clinical practice hours. Some of the required courses include Scientific Foundations for Practice Doctorate, Clinical Decision Making for Practice Doctorate, and Epidemiology and Social Determinants of Population Health.
Purdue University Global is part of the well-known Purdue University system. The school’s flexible online programs allow students to study on their own schedule. There is a Career Services team that provides individualized support and mentoring to help students plan their careers, network, and find jobs. 97% of Purdue Nursing faculty members for the online DNP program hold advanced degrees.
7. Duke University
The online Doctor of Nursing Practice at the Duke University School of Nursing offers three pathways to a DNP: BSN to DNP, MSN to DNP, and PhD to DNP. The program is delivered mostly online, with a 2-day orientation and four on-campus sessions each year that last 2-3 days each. The program designed to be flexible in order to accommodate working nurses with busy lives. The final DNP project can be completed right where you already work.
The Duke University School of Nursing has experienced faculty members who actively participate in research. The school’s goal is to train nurses to fill positions as advanced practice nurses and to be able to apply what they learn from research to actual clinical practice. Graduates are able to evaluate and enhance health care practices, communicate and lead effectively, and improve patient outcomes. U.S. News & World Report rated Duke University #2 for DNP programs for 2020.
8. University of Alabama at Birmingham
The University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Nursing has four pathways to the DNP that offer a combination of online courses and real-world clinical practice experiences. The four options are post-MSN to DNP for advanced practice nurses, post-MSN to DNP for nurse executives, post-BSN to DNP for nurse anesthesia, and post-BSN to DNP for nurse practitioners. The online format for classes allows nurses to continue working while they earn their DNP degrees.
The School of Nursing at UAB is an innovative research university that engages with the community to discover and apply cutting-edge research in order to provide the best possible care for its patients. The school’s researchers and nurse scientists have funded studies in pediatrics, international nursing, occupational health, oncology, minority health, HIV/AIDS care, and aging and palliative care. The University of Alabama School of Nursing is ranked fifth worldwide for its clinical work in the areas of nursing, health professions, medicine, public health, optometry, and dentistry.
9. University of Massachusetts Amherst
The College of Nursing at UMass Amherst offers a post-baccalaureate DNP with four concentrations to choose from: adult/gerontology primary care nurse practitioner, family nurse practitioner, public health nurse leader, and psychiatric-mental health nurse practitioner. There is also a post-MS DNP completion program. All of these programs can be completed 100% online. Students are able to gain practical experience through locally-arranged internships.
The UMass Amherst College of nursing is a highly-respected research university with renowned professors who are leaders in their fields. The school values innovation and makes use of the latest state-of-the-art technology. Its mission is to make education in the health care field accessible and affordable in order to enhance healing and health through leadership in nursing. The school’s values are leadership, innovation, excellence, lifelong learning, diversity, and caring and collaborative relationships. The online DNP at UMass Amherst was one of the first offered in the United States.
10. University of Pittsburgh
The University of Pittsburgh School of Nursing offers BSN to DNP and MSN to DNP programs, but only the MSN to DNP programs are available online. Students taking the online MSN to DNP through Pitt Online are required to have a master’s degree with the same or a similar focus to their MSN to DNP program. Faculty members teaching Pitt’s DNP program have strong backgrounds in research, clinical experience, or administration.
The University of Pittsburgh School of Nursing offers a unique educational experience that helps shape the future of nursing. The school provides a strong foundation for students to participate in evidence-based practice and apply their knowledge to improve healthcare treatments, processes, and procedures. The school is dedicated to advancing nursing science and practice through excellence in teaching in order to improve health outcomes for patients and their families. Pitt Online has won the Blackboard Catalyst Award for its online MSN to DNP program four years in a row.
Program: MSN to DNP (Online)
11. Vanderbilt University
Vanderbilt University’s online DNP program is available in several flavors. There is a BSN to DNP that allows students to earn an MSN in nursing on the way to getting their DNP, a BSN to DNP adult-gerontology acute care nurse practitioner (AGACNP) track that requires relocation to the local area, a BSN to DNP executive leadership track that allows student to earn a non-nursing master’s while working toward the DN, and an MSN to DNP with three concentrations to choose from: advanced systems practice, advanced practice track, and executive leadership track.
The Vanderbilt School of Nursing integrates individualized clinical practice experiences to match each student’s interests. The school offers mentorship from practicing faculty members and has partnerships with many healthcare organizations. All online DNP students are required to attend a one-week on-campus session once per semester. Students complete a scholarly project before graduation that demonstrates their knowledge and experience.
12. Johns Hopkins University
The online DNP program at the Johns Hopkins School of Nursing is a BSN to DNP program designed for RNs. Most of the programs are delivered completely online except for required immersion experiences. The specialties available in this format are DNP Adult-Gerontological Health CNS, DNP Pediatric Critical Care CNS, Adult-Gerontological Primary Care Nurse Practitioner, Family Primary Care Nurse Practitioner, Pediatric Primary Care Nurse Practitioner, DNP Adult Gerontological Critical Care CNS, and Adult-Gerontological Acute Care Nurse Practitioner. The Adult-Gerontological Primary Care Nurse Practitioner with HIV and Family Primary Care Nurse Practitioner with HIV tracks are hybrid programs, and the DNP Nurse Anesthesiology program is only available on campus.
The Johns Hopkins School of Nursing takes its role as a leading graduate nursing program seriously. The school values excellence, community, and diversity and offers an unparalleled experience that was designed to encourage collaboration and the sharing of ideas. Students enrolled in the online DNP with immersion are welcome to relocate to Baltimore in order to work more closely with faculty.
13. University of Miami
The University of Miami School of Nursing & Health Studies Doctor of Nursing Practice is a hybrid program that consists mostly of online instruction. Students are required to attend three or four weekend sessions on campus every semester. This is a cohort-based program that is offered with a fall or spring start date. The DNP program prepares leaders in nursing who will be able to integrate knowledge gained from research into nursing practice, demonstrate excellent judgment in clinical settings, and address disparities in healthcare.
The School of Nursing & Health Studies at the University of Miami has a simulation hospital with a 280-seat auditorium, four operating rooms, and a Critical Care area that consists of a Telemetry Unit, a Medical-Surgical Unit, and an Intensive Care Unit. The Helene Fuld Skills Resource Center provides opportunities for DNP students to master clinical procedures and techniques. There is an accelerated one-year program available.
Program: DNP Hybrid
14. University of Texas Health Science Center- Houston
The post-master’s DNP offered by the Cizik School of Nursing at UTHealth is one of the best DNP online programs in Texas. This is a hybrid program that is mostly online but requires three two-day in-person sessions each semester. The program prepares nurses to be clinical scholars and leaders who actively work to improve healthcare systems and create better outcomes for patients. The program takes five semesters for Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists and eight semesters for all other students.
The Cizik School of Nursing is part of The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth). The school prides itself on offering a variety of quality experiences to its students and investing itself in the success and fulfillment of its students. The school’s motto, “Excellence above all,” demonstrates its commitment to be acknowledged as leading the effort to prevent, cure, and treat our most common diseases through collaboration.
Program: DNP Hybrid
15. University of San Diego
The Hann School of Nursing and Health Science at the University of San Diego offers a hybrid MSN to DNP program as well as an on-campus BSN to DNP. The MSN to DNP program has four options to choose from: DNP in nursing informatics and data science, DNP in emergency care, DNP in health systems leadership, and DNP advanced practice. The program is mostly online but requires one weekend of intensive on-campus training each semester.
The Dickinson Nursing Simulation Center at the Hann School of Nursing enables students to practice their clinical skills in a safe, low-stress environment. Faculty at the Dickinson Center make use of care scenarios, simulation dummies, and trained actors to create scenarios to enhance students’ skills. Students can watch video of the scenarios to critique their own performance following the simulation. The Hann School of Nursing is committed to social justice, respect and compassion for individual patients, and ethics in nursing.
Program: MSN to DNP (Online)
16. University of Portland
The DNP at the University of Portland School of Nursing is delivered mostly online with three to four 2-day immersion experiences required per semester. This program prepares nurses to serve as Family Nurse Practitioners (FNPs). Upon completion, students will be qualified to sit for either the Family Nurse Practitioner Certification Examination offered by the American Nurses Credentialing Center or the Family Nurse Practitioner Certification Examination offered by the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners.
The University of Portland School of Nursing has spent the past three years developing a new curriculum to prepare students for the revolutionary changes facing healthcare and nursing today. The school’s mission is to inspire leaders of the future to develop systems that encourage optimum wellness and health. The school values innovation, inspiration, transformation, resilience, social justice, integrity, self-care, compassion, academic excellence, and lifelong learning. The school has a model hospital with six simulation suites and a state-of-the-art acute care unit that is used to help students learn and practice clinical skills.
17. Saint Louis University
The Nursing Practice, DNP (post-master of science) program from the Trudy Busch Valentine School of Nursing at Saint Louis University is an online DNP program for students who already have a master’s degree in an advanced practice area of nursing. Students can attend full- or part-time, and each student is assigned to a faculty advisor for mentorship. Students are required to attend a 2- to 3-day orientation on campus at the beginning of the program. They must also visit campus for a day or two at the end of the program to present their DNP projects.
The Trudy Busch Valentine School of Nursing is a national leader in nursing education. Students are challenged to learn more not only about the human body, but about themselves. In addition to nursing education, students learn to reach inside themselves to draw on their compassion, spirit, and strength as they work to serve the patients in their care. The Trudy Busch Valentine School of Nursing created the first comprehensive online MSN program in the nation.
18. Medical University of South Carolina
The DNP-APRN program at the Medical University of South Carolina’s College of Nursing is an online program that requires a few visits to campus. The program provides the in-depth knowledge required for clinical practice and leadership excellence. Students who complete the program will be able to evaluate and design healthcare systems, apply research findings to patient care, and improve processes to deliver better care to patients.
The MUSC College of Nursing produces outstanding professional nurses who improve outcomes while providing quality care for patients and their families. The school prides itself on its adaptation of technology. Almost half of its students attend classes online. The school’s online graduate nursing programs have been rated among the top six in the nation by U.S. News & World Report for six years running.
19. Florida State University
Florida State University’s online Doctor of Nursing Practice is one of the best DNP online programs in Florida. This program prepares students for roles as Family Nurse Practitioners, Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioners, or Acute Care Nurse Practitioners. The program makes used of interactive video conferencing for its online courses. Students complete most of their work online, but there are five required on-campus visits over the course of the program. Students work with local instructors to meet the requirements for practical clinical experience.
Research at the Florida State University College of Nursing focuses on health equity. The school’s Culture of Health Action Framework consists of four areas that promote improved health, equity, and well-being throughout the population. Students who hold an MSN may be able to transfer as many as 40 credits.
20. Texas Christian University
The online DNP program at Texas Christian University’s Harris College of Nursing & Health Sciences trains students to demonstrate strong clinical judgment in nursing practice, apply scientific knowledge to create better patient outcomes, fill leadership roles in healthcare, and advocate for policy changes in healthcare systems. There is a nursing administration track and an advanced practice track, both of which require a master’s degree and certification related to the track. Applicants who don’t meet those requirements can complete the post-master’s certificate program, which allows them to enter the DNP program.
The Harris College of Nursing & Health Sciences strives to make improvements in healthcare all over the world through excellence in innovation and education. The school prepares nurses for clinical practice and encourages personal growth through mentorship and career consulting. Advisors and career consultants are available to help students get the most out of their courses, find internships, and prepare for a fulfilling career.
21. University of Kentucky
The online DNP offered by the University of Kentucky College of Nursing blends online learning with on-campus training. There is a post-master’s option as well as a post-baccalaureate option. The program’s faculty is well-known both nationally and internationally, and students work closely with mentors in clinical activities. The program prepares nurses to use technology effectively, analyze and develop policy, provide leadership and consultation, and demonstrate competency in advanced practice specialties.
The University of Kentucky College of Nursing strives to be at the top of the nation in nursing programs. The school seeks to encourage healthy living among the population of Kentucky and throughout the world by working to build relationships that improve nursing education and practice. The University of Kentucky is a public research university. The first DNP program in the United States was offered by the University of Kentucky College of Nursing in 2001.
22. University of Connecticut
The DNP program offered by the University of Connecticut School of Nursing is designed to provide the opportunity for clinical nurse specialists, nurse practitioners, midwives, clinical nurse leaders, administrators, and nurse anesthetists to complete a doctoral program focusing on leadership and clinical practice. Students who enroll in the program have the option of specializing in an area that interests them. There is a BS-DNP option and a post-MS option. The program is mostly online, but requires some on-campus training in August and January.
The University of Connecticut School of Nursing recently added a 15,000-foot wing to its existing space in order to make room for state-of-the-art simulation and laboratory technologies. The school is committed to wellness and to providing top-notch nursing education to help its students succeed. The school’s nursing laboratories provide opportunities for students to practice and apply their knowledge. The University of Connecticut was the first school in Connecticut to offer a DNP program.
23. University of South Carolina
The Doctor of Nursing Practice program at the University of South Carolina College of Nursing prepares student to take on leadership positions in nursing or to become advanced practice nurses. The program is a mixture of online classes and immersive on-campus learning experiences. The school offers both a post-master’s DNP and a BSN to DNP program. The following concentrations are available: Adult Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner (AGACNP), Nurse Executive Leadership, Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (PMHNP), or Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP).
The simulation lab at the University of South Carolina College of Nursing provides immersive training simulations and other teaching tools to help train nursing students and give them hands-on experience in a safe, controlled environment. Students assess patients, review lab results, work together with healthcare providers, and make decisions about patient care. The University of South Carolina has trained more than 10,000 nurses and its graduates have helped shape the quality of healthcare all over the world.
24. University of Missouri – Columbia
The Doctor of Nursing Practice degree from the Sinclair School of Nursing at the University of Missouri Health is an online program that involves a minimum number of on-campus visits—usually just one per year. This program is great for working nurses and can be taken part-time or full-time. Nurses who complete the online DNP program will be prepared to serve in leadership roles in healthcare, evaluate the use of nursing technologies, and find ways to improve healthcare outcomes for their patients.
The MU Sinclair School of Nursing is part of the University of Missouri Health System. The school is a national leader in both scholarship and research and is committed to the continuing professional development of nurses. The Sinclair School of Nursing has a 100% employment rate among graduates within 12 months of graduation. The school awards several scholarships ranging from $1000-4000 to nursing students each year.
25. Loyola University Chicago
The Doctor of Nursing Practice from Loyola University Chicago’s Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing was created to enable nurses to learn the skills and knowledge they need to improve the health of the people they work with. This is an online program that requires 2-3 days of on-campus work each semester. Students complete a capstone project at the end of the program.
In accordance with the Jesuit tradition, the Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing strives to seek Good in all areas. The school’s diverse community emphasizes faith, learning, justice, and excellence in teaching and practice. Graduates are highly sought after, and most are employed as professional nurses within two months of graduation. More than 85% of the full-time faculty members at the Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing have doctoral degrees.
Are DNP Specialties Available Online?
One of the major concerns for students that want to pursue their Doctor of Nursing Practice online is whether the specializations they want are available online. There are DNP specialties that are available for students who are pursuing an online DNP include leadership and administration, family nurse practitioner, and gerontology for adult care. For the students who are pursuing a specialization such as administration, leadership, or even health policy, they are working to build upon one of the DNP specialties that do not require clinical hours and can comfortably pursue in the online format.
Other DNP specialties such as Midwifery or Nurse Anesthesia often require on-campus clinical rotations. In order to gain certification in these DNP specialties, students are required to obtain so many hours working in the field and gaining the skills and experience based upon the program curriculum and the accreditation requirements that are accompanied with most of these institutions. Students may even pursue hybrid DNP programs where they are able to take these required courses on campus, and take other parts of the curriculum online to assist with flexibility and convenience.
How Long Will an Online DNP Take?
For students who are looking to pursue their DNP online, they have different time frames when they can expect to complete the degree. For students who are current BSN graduates pursuing BSN to DNP programs online, they can expect at a minimum to complete the program within a two-year completion rate (like the time to complete an MSN). This would require that the student remain full-time year-round, and stay current with their courses at all times. For those who want to take a break, or pursue the program at a part-time rate, they can expect the online BSN to DNP programs to last approximately three years.
For students who currently hold a Master degree and are looking to pursue their DNP online, they can expect to receive their MSN to DNP program to be completed in as little as a year. 12 month online DNP programs often require students to have that achieved Master level degree and be enrolled full-time for the duration of the program to meet this time frame. 12 month online DNP programs give these students the ability to fast track their career and achieve the skills necessary for a new position or promotion.
Do I Have to Take the GRE?
Students who are concerned about taking the GRE test before applying to these programs can feel relieved, as most of the BSN to DNP programs online no GRE requirement. This test is designed for students to show that they have skills, knowledge, and conceptual understanding of their program and what they will be studying. For most institutions that offer BSN to DNP programs online, they do not require the GRE because they are aware that the student body has the experience necessary to meet the requirements of the program curriculum.
Because students bypass a Master’s program with this degree, they are often concerned about this requirement, as it is required by numerous other programs when students complete their Bachelor degree in their field.
What students need to be aware of when applying to admissions for online BSN to DNP programs is the need to ensure that students have reputable degrees that are accredited, showcasing the skills and ability to purse the online BSN to DNP Programs. Students who have earned their degree and have experience working as a nurse in their field, will not be required to take this test at most institutions offering BSN to DNP programs online no GRE required.