Picture this: you’re out and about town, and suddenly severe abdominal pain hits you like an electric shock. Think fast! What do you do? Go to the emergency room and rack up a $1,000 bill for five minutes with an ER doc, an X-ray, and a prescription for industrial-strength ibuprofen? Call 9-1-1 and score a $400 ambulance ride to the ER? Wait . . . what’s your primary care doctor’s name again? What about those new drop-in clinics? Maybe you should just sleep it off . . . but maybe not! Quick—the clock’s ticking!

Now, we here at College Choice aren’t medical professionals, and we can’t tell you what exactly you should do in a situation like this. But this sort of thing could happen to anyone at any time . . . and it does call for some professional help. And with the seismic shifts in the healthcare industry in the United States in recent years, it’s not always clear who to turn to, is it?

These seismic shifts have also created new opportunities, and this is nowhere more apparent than in the field of nursing. Nurses in the United States are in extremely high demand, and they are quickly filling the ever-widening gap between the everyday patient and the MDs. There’s always the Registered Nurse designation, which you can achieve with or without a bachelor’s degree. (We are fans of education around here, so we always encourage the bachelor’s degree route!) But there’s another step beyond the RN that’s still short of the time investment involved in getting a full-fledged MD: the Nurse Practitioner.

Unlike Registered Nurses, Nurse Practitioners are advanced nurses who are qualified to see patients, prescribe medications, order X-rays and lab tests, and diagnose and treat certain maladies without the direct supervision of a doctor. In other words, they’d be a pretty good person to call in the case of unexpected abdominal pain! And for those interested in the nursing profession, the Nurse Practitioner designation is the highest designation you can achieve.

This high designation can bring with it some seriously high rewards. You’ll of course get the reward of knowing you’ve got the authority to do as much as you can to help a given patient short of, say, surgery . . . right here, right now. But as a national nursing shortage churns out higher demand for nursing professionals, you’ll also get the reward of job security for the foreseeable future. And if you’ve got the chops to stay in school for at least the required master’s degree—or even a doctoral degree—you’re also in for a lucrative career option with a 2015 national median salary of $104,740, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The rankings you’re about to read are based on a few important sources. The first source is actual college freshman polled during a nationwide survey published by the Higher Education Research Institute at UCLA. These students rated academic reputation, financial aid offerings, overall cost of school, and the survey also took into account graduate success rates on the post-college job market. These factors were weighed equally alongside data from other publicly available sources, including U.S. News & World Report, the National Center for Education Statistics, and PayScale.com.

Good luck with your career . . . and be sure to get that abdominal pain looked at ASAP!


University of Washington

CC Score: 100

Program Tuition: $31,542

Program Website


The School of Nursing at the University of Washington is renowned for its world-class faculty and its commitment to building APRNs of the future. It is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education and provides some of the best nursing programs in the country.

UW Nursing students who choose to pursue a DNP will find a rigorous program that seeks to challenge them as nurses as well as build on their previous education to mold APRNs who are ready to take on any challenge. Along with the 63 credit hours, they will need to complete for graduation, students will also need to complete 1,000 practice hours in a clinical setting under the supervision of a preceptor. Students will also be expected to take part in simulation courses and research to round out their education.

The DNP takes about three years to complete, but students in certain specializations will be required to take more classes and complete more practice hours. These vary, but in general, the DNP — Nurse-Midwifery track takes the longest, with an additional year needed to complete requirements. Other specializations, such as Perinatal Clinical Nurse Specialist or Adult Gerontology Acute Care, take less time. 


Johns Hopkins University

CC Score: 99.98

Program Tuition: $36,216

Program Website

Johns Hopkins University

John Hopkins University is best known as a medical school, but it is also home to a shining example of nursing excellence. Its SON is one of the top-ranking school programs in the nation and is regularly nationally ranked for its graduate programs. It is accredited by the CCNE.

The DNP — Executive program is the most popular degree that is found at John Hopkins. While there are some set standards for graduation, nurses will find that the degree path they take can be tailored to their needs in mind. This is even true for the DNP capstone project, which is a self-directed project that combines a student’s interests with what they have learned at John Hopkins.

This degree is taught in an executive format and can be finished in two years with full-time study. The program requires 39 credit hours, 1,000 clinical hours and the capstone project for completion of the program. While no specializations currently exist for this program, students can rest assured that the program will open up leadership and administrative roles for them.


University of Pennsylvania

CC Score: 99.65

Program Tuition: $38,060

Program Website


The Penn School of Nursing Science is a hallmark of nursing education excellence. The school is internationally ranked in the top 50 programs for nurses and continues to focus on improving its degrees to provide the healthcare industry with expert nurses. UPenn’s School of Nursing Science is CCNE-accredited with independent accreditations for specialized degrees.

The UPenn DNP differs from other schools in that it only confers the degree for Nurse Anesthetists. This is the first program of its kind to be conferred by an Ivy League University and is set to graduate its first generation of students in 2019.

The degree program requires 38.5 credits hours and is divided into four areas of focus: core curriculum, clinicals, translating research theory into practice and administrative skills. It is also bolstered by the school’s simulation center, which is the focus of most courses required for this degree.

The DNP-NA program takes three years of full-time study to complete and enjoys a 100 percent employment rate at the time of graduation. Students with this degree are often hired at prestigious hospitals and clinicals all over the country and around the world.


University of Maryland Baltimore

CC Score: 99.55

Program Tuition: $30,024

Program Website


The University of Maryland — Baltimore has been providing students of the School of Nursing with an excellent education for over 125 years. It is nationally ranked in the top ten for both its master’s and doctorate degrees in nursing by the U.S. News and World Report. The school is best known for its network of 24 state-of-the-art simulation labs that serve to help students put into practice what they have learned in the classroom.

The School of Nursing requires 80 total credits of didactic and clinical work. There is a minimum of 1,080 clinical hours in total required for students to be considered for graduation. A scholarly project, practicums, and a residency complete the requirements for graduation. Students can reasonably expect to finish a DNP with a specialty within four years of part-time study.

UMB offers a variety of specialties, including Nurse Anesthesia, FNP, AGPCNP, PMHNP and more. These specialties will help nurses specialize in a field, making them more attractive to hospitals and clinics looking for nurses with that type of experience. APRNs who complete the DNP can also expect to be considered for administrative and executive roles within the healthcare industry.


University California San Francisco

CC Score: 99.40

Program Tuition: $39,048

Program Website


The University of California — San Francisco’s School of Nursing is home to a world-renown health sciences campus. It was founded in 1907 as a hospital training school for nurses. It is accredited by the CCNE and is approved by the California Board of Registered Nursing.

At UCSF, the MSN program turns nursing students into APRNs. With fifteen different specialities, ranging from ACPN to PMHNP, students will be free to choose the field of study that interests them. It’s important to note here, however, that MEPN students will not have access to all specialities and will need to check with faculty to see what options are available to them.

The MSN program is unique at UCSF. It consists of two separate Core Curriculums — one for clinical nurse specialists and one for primary healthcare students. The main difference between these curriculums is that CNS students deal with project and case management and PHC students deal with clinical care management. Specialities also come into play for requirements, with each concentration requiring difference courses and clinical hours.

It is very important for students who are thinking of taking on the MSN to understand that at UCSF, the degree must be completed within two years. Exceptions to this rule are rare. This means that students who are accepted are expected to go to school full-time, so it is not a great fit for working professionals.

Students who finish the MSN often go on to finish their education with the completion of the DNP. Many students may choose to go into the healthcare field as a mid-level administrator, or go into practice on their own. The choices are more abundant when a student receives an MSN, and so it’s no wonder that this degree is fast becoming the most popular that is offered by UCSF SON.


Duke University

CC Score: 99.39

Program Tuition: $37,632

Program Website


Duke University School of Nursing is ranked fourth as the overall best nursing graduate school by U.S. News and World Report. It is a center for advancing innovative research and teaching methods for nurses and is globally recognized as a nursing education institute. It is accredited by CCNE.

The Duke University DNP program was created for APRNs who have an MSN and who have a specialized area of interest. Because these nurses work full-time, Duke has made it possible to fulfill nearly all of this degree’s requirements online and within a student’s place of employment. Courses are generally offered online and there is only one on-campus session every term. The DNP project is also conducted at the student’s place of work.

There is no specialization strictly for the DNP; however, it is a degree that was created for specialization. This means that whatever specialization a student might have will slightly alter — and perhaps lessen the amount — the credit hours required for their graduation. It also means that the clinical hours and DNP project will reflect their specialization, leaving the door open for job opportunities prior to receiving a diploma.


Columbia University

CC Score: 99.18

Program Tuition: $33,792

Program Website


Columbia University School of Nursing is a world leader in nursing education. It has pioneered practice-based teaching methods as well as created an innovative interdisciplinary approach to nursing and health. Columbia’s SON is a designated WHO Collaborating Center. It is accredited by CCNE and approved by the New York Board of Nursing.

Columbia offers the DNP program for APRNs and NPs that hold an MSN. This program focuses on further specializing nurses through six different specializations — AGACNP, AGPCNP, FNP, NA, PPCNP and PMHNP — to create experts that work in private and community practice. It is recommended that if a student wishes to pursue a specialization that they contact an advisor to learn about curriculum plans.

The school does not have strict requirements for the DNP degree. It recognizes that working nurses have full-time careers and often have far more education than just an MSN, so they work with each student to ensure that the program they select is right for them. The planning stage of the degree does not happen until after a student has already been admitted, but it is reasonable to assume the program will not take more than four years of part-time study to complete.

Like with many other nurse practitioner programs, the goal of the DNP at Columbia is to create nurses who can work as experts on the ground or as executives at the administrative level.


New York University

CC Score: 98.85

Program Tuition: $40,024

Program Website


The New York University Rory Meyers College of Nursing has been named an NLN Center of Excellence in Nursing Education for the past four years. It was founded in 1932 and has since become the top nursing education school in the country. The CON and its programs are accredited by the CCNE, with separate accreditations for the DNP and the MSN.

The DNP program at NYU is created for post-bachelor nurses with a license to practice in the state of New York. It has three avenues to completion, with the most popular being the advanced standing option, which was designed for NPs. The degree requires a minimum of 38 credits to be completed in the hybrid executive format and can be completed in three years with part-time study.

This degree program has no specialty tracks and was designed to build nurses into clinical leaders. Communication, critical thinking and teamwork skills are the focus of this degree and graduates are often employed at the administrative level to oversee public health policy and healthcare delivery problems and solutions.


University of Michigan

CC Score: 98.48

Program Tuition: $42,282

Program Website

university of michigan

The School of Nursing at the University of Michigan is a national leader in providing APRNs with terminal degrees. The school is nationally rated as one of the best nursing graduate schools by U.S. News and World Report. The School of Nursing is CCNE-accredited.

The DNP Program at the University of Michigan focuses on advanced practice methods and leadership skills. The core focus of the study is on the translational techniques of evidence-based practice, which is the teaching mode the UM faculty uses. Throughout the three years of full-time study, students will move between classroom-based courses, simulations in a lab setting and independent research to create a final capstone project that will determine if they earn their degree.

Requirements for the DNP at UM are strict — every student must complete a residency, at least 1,000 clinical hours and a scholarly project that puts into practice the knowledge they have learned. Once a student meets these requirements and graduates, they are likely to find a job within three months. These jobs can vary, but former students have gone on to become hospital administrators, educators, or have gone into private or community practice all across the US.


Emory University

CC Score: 98.35

Program Tuition: $42,000

Program Website

Emory University

Emory University is home to the Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing, which houses a comprehensive list of nursing programs. It is notable for having partnerships with more than 500 clinical sites from which students can learn and partake in clinical hours.This school is accredited by CCNE.

There are two specializations within the DNP at Emory: Health Systems Leadership Track and Population Health Track. Both require 65 credit hours and 1,000 clinical hours. Each track also has a required capstone project relating to that specialization.

Students who attend Emory will find that their DNP will help them go far, particularly in public health policy and administrative positions within healthcare organizations. Students will become capable of taking on responsibilities on a large scale, such as in a hospital setting or within a certain population.


Case Western Reserve University

CC Score: 98.02

Program Tuition: $45,384

Program Website


Case Western Reserve University’s Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing is global recognized for being a premier institution of nursing education. It is where the best nursing educators are produced and it hosts a list of alumni who have gone on to head some of the most important nursing associations around the world. It is accredited by CCNE as well as holding independent accreditations for several of its programs.

The DNP program at this SON is intensive. There are 42 required credit hours, 1,000 practicum hours as well as a DNP capstone project. It is also possible to specialize in one of three tracks — Leadership, Educational Leadership and Clinical Leadership.

This DNP degree is taught in an executive and cohort format with intensives being held at the school once per term. Graduates from this program often move into nursing education positions, such as faculty at a SON or within hospital settings. Other graduates choose to become instructors within community-based settings, ensuring that expert nurses can be found in clinical settings around the country.


University of Alabama Birmingham

CC Score: 95.97

Program Tuition: $11,832

Program Website


The University of Alabama at Birmingham, also known as UAB, is home to a nationally recognized School of Nursing. It is also ranked as one of the best graduate schools for nursing by U.S. News and World Report. It is accredited by CCNE.

The UAB DNP program is a terminal degree and is the highest degree that APRNs can earn for their career. At this school, this degree is conferred to RNs who have an MSN in a specialty field and are looking to create more options for themselves with education. The only specialty track that can be held with the DNP at UAB is the Nurse Anesthesia track.

The DNP program’s requirements, like many other nurse practitioner schools, depends on the student’s needs and specialty. In very general terms, the degree consists of 36 hours of required credit that can be online or on-campus, 750 clinical hours and a DNP capstone project. Students often finish this degree within four years of part-time study.

Graduate from the DNP program work in a variety of job positions, including clinical research translators, healthcare executives, and faculty in nursing schools. In fact, many alumni have come back to the school to become teachers for new nursing students. Whatever course of employment a nursing student takes here, the school supports them with networking events and alumni access.


University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus

CC Score: 95.05

Program Tuition: $14,040

Program Website

colorado denver

The University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, known as UCAMC, is one of the most recognized and well-respected nursing institutions in the United States. The college was founded in 1898 and is the first CON to institute and confer NP degrees in the country. It currently ranks in the top 25 nursing schools and programs by U.S. News and World Report. UCAMC holds accreditation by the CCNE.

Nursing students at UCAMC are required to complete 41 credit hours, 1,000 clinical hours and a capstone project. The degree has online and on-campus components, with two and three-day intensives on site required every term. The degree can be reasonably obtained, with part-time study, within three years. It can be obtained within two years with full-time study.

UCAMC nurses work in a variety of fields after graduation, most notably as public health experts and analysts, advocating for social justice initiatives at the healthcare and government levels. They also work as APRNs in the clinical setting or as executives in metropolitan areas. It is also possible for graduates to go into private practice in certain states in the US.


University of Texas at Austin

CC Score: 94.94

Program Tuition: $21,155

Program Website


The University of Texas at Austin’s School of Nursing is a leader in NP education, providing nurses with graduate degrees the opportunity to finalize their education with a DNP in a specialization of their choice. The school is well known for having 13 graduate nursing faculty members that are Fellows in the American Academy of Nursing. It is accredited by the CCNE.

The DNP program requires 45 hours of Core Curriculum studies along, 12 hours of which will be clinical specialization courses, 500 clinical hours and a DNP Scholarly Project. It takes three years of full-time study to granted this degree and is taught using a hybrid format that requires on-campus appearances three days a month for the duration of the program.

Nursing students will find that the there are two focuses in this DNP — advanced practice nursing and executive leadership. Concentrations are also available at this school, including PMHP, AGCNS and the unique Leadership in Diverse Settings. The full program is designed to make nursing students leaders, taking on administrative roles in hospitals and clinical facilities, becoming educators at universities and other schools, or going into private practice for themselves.


Rush University

CC Score: 94.88

Program Tuition: $22,728

Program Website


Rush University is one of the most ranked nursing schools on this list, having seven specialty programs at the graduate level ranked in the top ten by U.S. News and World Report. It currently ranks in the top one percent for its Doctor of Nursing Practice and is 11th in best online programs. This comes as no surprise, as Rush University is known as a Health Sciences-focused university.

The DNP program is the most popular at Rush, with ten specialties for NP and CNS students available at the doctorate level. Specialties that may be hard to come by, such as Nursing Leadership — Population Health, Nursing Science, Clinical Nurse Leader for RNs and more can be found here. Each specialty comes with its own requirements.

Most DNP specialty tracks can be earned on the hybrid model with part- and full-time options available. The average length of the program is three years of part-time study, but students can choose a schedule that fits their needs and times best. At least 500 clinical hours are also required and can be set up in the Chicago area.

Depending on a student’s specialty, graduating with a DNP will bring them closer to private practice or community practice in a clinical setting. Other potential jobs are as nurse executives or educators, both jobs that are in demand in the current marketplace. Students will need to check with their advisors to see what employment opportunities go with their specialty.


Vanderbilt University

CC Score: 94.53

Program Tuition: $29,256

Program Website

Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt University School of Nursing provides a graduate pathway to becoming an APRN with a terminal degree. The school confers a Master’s of Science in Nursing as well as a Doctor of Nursing Practice, both of which come with specializations. The School of Nursing at Vanderbilt is a member of the National League for Nursing and is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education. The Nurse-Midwifery program is further accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Midwifery Education.

The MSN program takes one year of full-time study to complete, while the DNP can take an additional three years. Certain specializations, such as Midwifery, will require two extra terms, so nurses who are choosing a concentration will need to be aware of the time requirements.

Students from the Vanderbilt School of Nursing will be excited to hear that the school is excellent at preparing them for the NCLEX-RN and specialty certifications, with a 94 percent first-time pass rate for the licensure and additional certifications across the board. This is very important for students who are looking to move from the MSN program into the DNP program, as students will not be admitted to the doctorate level without becoming licensed first.

There are 14 different APRN specialties at Vanderbilt University. There are two Nurse-Midwifery specializations, two Pediatric NP specializations, Nursing Informatics, Women’s Health, Healthcare Leadership and more. Each specialization comes with a set of requirements unique to that field of study.

Vanderbilt produces APRNs that are motivated and ambitious in their goal to help improve the healthcare system. Graduates from either the MSN or the DNP program will find themselves in private practice, in clinical or hospital settings or working to mold new RNs as educators.


University of Virginia

CC Score: 94.53

Program Tuition: $24,288

Program Website

University of Virginia

The University of Virginia’s School of Nursing is nationally ranked among NP programs for, including being ranked in the top 25 percent for its family nurse practitioner program. It is also home to three presidents of leading nursing associations, each who teach as professors at UVA. This school of nursing is accredited by both the CCNE and the Virginia Board of Nursing.

The UVA MSN and DNP programs were created for nurses with at least one year of experience and who currently hold a bachelor’s or master’s in nursing. Because nursing students work full-time while earning their degree, the programs were created to give students flexibility. The MSN and DNP programs can both be earned part-time, with each program taking up to three years to complete. Certain specializations will add to that time period, but students can create a pathway with their nursing advisor.

UVA requires student participation on school grounds as part of the post bachelor’s NP programs. They will also be required to complete at least 600 hours of clinicals in various sites across Virginia, much of which can be transferred from the MSN to the DNP program. The DNP program has more flexibility than the MSN program, with most courses being taught online or in an executive format.

The school creates APRNs who are capable of becoming researchers, educators, or who can go into private practice for themselves. Many, however, choose to follow their career into clinical health settings or hospitals where they work under the supervision of a medical team.


University of California Los Angeles

CC Score: 94.20

Program Tuition: $33,494

Program Website


The University of California — Los Angeles, known as UCLA, is home to a nationally ranked School of Nursing. It is also the parent institution to three research centers, including the Center for American Indian/Indigenous Research and Education. The doctorally-prepared faculty is recognized for its commitment to educating nurses for a 100 percent graduation rate.

Among the top nurse education programs that are available at UCLA, SON is the Master of Science — Advanced Practice Nurse. This is a two-year program that leads to an MSN and opens the door for a student to become an advance practitioner. This degree requires a specialization in either Adult/Gerontology Acute Care Population, Family Population, Pediatric Population or Adult/Gerontology Primary Care.

As with many other NP schools, requirements for the MSN are based on the speciality that a student choose. As a general rule, 1,000 clinical hours and 42 credits are required for completion, but these are subject to change based on the growing needs of a student’s concentration. A dissertation is not required at UCLA, but in its place is a capstone project which will prove a student has mastery of their field.

Because the MSN program at the SON is based on population specialties, most nurses will find that the degree will move them into more specialized — and in demand — fields. While APRNs with an MSN can go into private practice, nurses will find that it is more practical to complete a DNP and hold a terminal degree. Graduates will return to community-based practice in clinical settings while deciding on whether they should further their education.


University of Texas Health Science Center

CC Score: 94.18

Program Tuition: $22,704

Program Website

University of Texas Medical Branch

The University of Texas Health Science Center is ranked in the top five percent of graduate nursing schools in the country. It is also home to the first DNP program in Texas. All graduate programs are accredited by the CCNE.

The DNP program at UTHSC is the best in the state of Texas and is perfect for working nurses who want to complete their education on a part-time study schedule. Working nurses will find that the courses are offered in a hybrid mode, meaning that students meet for a total of four days on campus every semester. The degree takes three years of part-time study to complete.

The UTHSC DNP program does not currently offer specializations, but students will find that the course load is rigorous and will ensure they are well-educated on all aspects of becoming an NP. All of a student’s work during the program will result in the Clinical Scholarship Portfolio, which is the DNP equivalent to a dissertation, and will include a DNP project and written research papers on nursing.


Rutgers University

CC Score: 94.16

Program Tuition: $26,976

Program Website


Rutgers University is home to one of the largest nursing schools in the nation. This SON is a comprehensive school, comprising of both undergraduate and graduate degrees up to the DNP. There are four campuses across the state of New Jersey as well as courses being offered online. The school is currently ranked in the top 20 for its DNP program by U.S. News and World Report.

The Rutger’s DNP program was designed for RNs who hold an MSN and are licensed in the state. While there are different pathways to earning this practice-focused degree, the most popular is the executive model, where students meet at the Newark campus one long weekend every month for the duration of the term. There are no clinical hours requirement for this degree, and the 38 credits needed for graduation can be completed in as little as two years of full-time study.

The DNP-Practice degree is a general degree. This means no specialties are currently offered at the doctorate, although this may change in the near future. Students who partake in this degree will nevertheless be capable of taking on administrative and executive roles in the healthcare industry by the time they graduate.


Oregon Health and Science University

CC Score: 93.98

Program Tuition: $17,760

Program Website

Oregon Health Science University

The Oregon Health and Science University, known as OHSU, is home to the premier SON in the Northwest. The school is dedicated to building nurses that are prepared to take on leadership responsibilities as well as building the nursing teachers of tomorrow. The school and its programs are accredited by CCNE with the on-campus DNP having received accreditation through NWCCU.

Nursing students who are interested in earning a DNP have four pathways forward, including BSN-DNP and MSN-DNP. It is important to note that only students who are taking the BSN-DNP pathway will be given the chance to choose a specialty such as PNP, PMHNP and more. MSN-DNP program candidates will be able to explore their specialty through coursework, but no track will be listed on their degree.

The degree requirements for the DNP are not listed on OHSU’s website. This is because the degree is tailored to suit a student’s need and previous work and education experience. However, most students do need to meet a minimum 500 clinical hours as well as 36 credit hours in order to graduate.

Because the DNP is general, nursing students may want to also consider a post-terminal certificate in their specialty. However, the degree is perfect for students who do not want to practice, but would rather move into leadership roles. Students can also choose to focus on education electives to become professors of nursing after they graduate.


University of Missouri Kansas City

CC Score: 93.89

Program Tuition: $9,600

Program Website


The University of Missouri — Kansas City, known as UMKC, is home to the School of Nursing and Health Studies. It is accredited by the CCNE and holds independent accreditations for a variety of its specializations. This school is considered a top nursing school in Missouri.

There are a variety of pathways to earning a DNP through SoNHS. The most popular are the APRN MSN-DNP track, which offers APRNs a practice-based program in order to receive their doctorate. This track requires 31 credit hours, a capstone project in a student’s current specialization, advanced practice clinical hours, and practicums.

Most of the coursework can be found online, easing the burden that going to campus might cause some working nurses. Clinicals can also be arranged through the school in the student’s area of residence and the capstone project is tailored to fit a student’s needs. The degree can be completed within three years, or in as little as two years, depending on the student’s needs.

For students who earn the DNP degree, the career possibilities are numerous. Generally, nurses will move into leadership roles, overseeing strategic planning of a hospital or clinic’s nursing programs or into administrative roles, using the education they’ve learned about health policy and patient population to create solutions for current problems. Some nurses even return to private practice or move into practicing in a hospital, creating expert nurses at every level of healthcare.


University of Arizona

CC Score: 93.83

Program Tuition: $19,200

Program Website

University of Arizona

At the University of Arizona, no one college is more consistently ranked or recognized than the College of Nursing. It is a research college of nursing, focusing on patient populations of diverse backgrounds and researching public health policy and how it affects different demographics. It is best known for its research on health and culture, which is bolstered by the school’s close proximity to the US-Mexico border.

The DNP at UA is a vigorous degree program. Most pathways to the DNP take four years of full-time study and only a few of those options allow for part-time study. The DNP with Specialities — which include NA, PMHNP, PNP, FNP, and AGACNP — can often take up to five years to complete, as any specialty will come with its own requirements.

As a rule, the DNP requires 1,000 of clinical hours, a five-day in-residence program, a faculty-mentored and supervised DNP project and at least 36 credit hours. Most courses can be taken online, clinical hours can be completed in a student’s area of residence under the supervision of a preceptor, and DNP projects are usually self-directed.

Students who graduate with a DNP normally do so with a specialty. It is recommended that a nurse chooses one, as many high-level nursing jobs now require them to be considered for positions. It is also helpful for nurses who would like to go into — or remain in — private practice. The added education will make a nurse stronger and help them chose a course of nursing that they are passionate about, in turn making them better leaders.


Arizona State University

CC Score: 93.72

Program Tuition: $20,322

Program Website


Arizona State University houses the College of Nursing and Health Innovation. It is a school that is a model for excellence in nursing education and research. Many programs, such as the executive cohort model and practice-focused learning, were created at ASU. The college and its programs hold accreditation from CCNE.

The DNP program at ASU is one of the most sought-after, particularly because it blends well-established specialties, such as WHCNP and FNP, with executive leadership courses. Theory and practicum courses are normal at this school and vary depending on which of the six supported specialties a student is focusing their education. Most will find that their degree requirements will slightly change based on that decision.

The DNP requires 950 clinical hours as well as 42 credit hours of didactic courses. A DNP capstone project is also required. Most students finish this degree within four years of part-time study and will find that they will be eligible to work as executives and administrators in hospital settings as well as go into private practice as expert nurses.


University of North Carolina

CC Score: 93.52

Program Tuition: $31,354

Program Website

South Building at the University of North Carolina

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has a highly respected school of nursing that focuses on education, research and practice of nursing principles. The school offers a full array of undergraduate and graduate nursing degrees along with fellowships and specializations. It is accredited by the CCNE and NC BON.

The DNP program offered by UNC is a mode of excellence in nursing education. It is a rigorous program that requires the full concentration of its candidates and therefore it is recommended that students do not work full-time while finishing this degree. Between the 42 credit hours, the 500 required clinical hours and the capstone project that is needed for graduation, student nurses will spend the majority of their time studying and will need to consider working part-tim in order to meet their goals.

The DNP can be further specialized for NP or administrative goals. Depending on a student’s career goals, the DNP can be tailored to reflect their specialization and may require extra time. But once a student has graduated, they are fully prepared to take on any nursing or executive role in the healthcare industry, making them valuable candidates for hospital administrative roles and consultants for healthcare organizations.


University of Cincinnati

CC Score: 93.33

Program Tuition: $26,210

Program Website

University of Cincinnati

The University of Cincinnati’s College of Nursing was founded in 1899 and is currently internationally ranked in the top 100 nurse practitioner schools. It is best known for developing partnerships with over 300 healthcare settings within the greater Cincinnati area. It is CCNE accredited with the DNP program receiving approval by the University of Cincinnati Board of Trustees.

The College of Nursing requires 42 credit hours, 1,000 clinical hours and a capstone project for the DNP. There are no specializations for the DNP unless a student takes the BSN-DNP pathway. For MSN-DNP students, the degree can be earned in three years with part-time study. Most courses are found online with little on-campus appearances required, making it great for working nurses.

As the healthcare industry begins to evolve, DNP graduates are becoming more and more valuable. After graduation, many of these nurses find themselves in executive and leadership roles, taking their new communication and critical thinking skills and putting them to work to utilize new healthcare strategies for patient population issues and the changing landscape of the industry. Other nurses move into private practice in rural areas, providing support and much-needed healthcare to poorer and more diverse populations.


University of Iowa

CC Score: 93.29

Program Tuition: $31,608

Program Website


The University of Iowa’s College of Nursing is a leading example of excellence in nursing education. It is nationally ranked in the top 25 percent of nursing educational programs in the country. This nursing school was established in 1898 and is accredited by the CCNE.

UI’s College of Nursing is perfect for the nurse practitioner who is looking to specialize their DNP degree to meet their career goals. The DNP program offers over ten specializations along with the option to earn a dual certification in PMHNP and FNP, PNP or AGNP. Other areas of concentration include FNP, Nurse Anesthesia and Health Systems and Administration

This DNP’s program length depends on a student’s specialization and whether they study part-time or full-time. However, most students with a specialization complete the 72 credit hours and clinical hours within four years with part-time study. It is recommended that students consult with an advisor after being accepted into the program to learn more about the length of their particular program.

Some ARNPs who graduate from UI’s College of Nursing go on to become hospital administrators or executives. Many go into private practice as MHNP or family nurse practitioners. Still others move into healthcare organizations, working public health policy and conducting research on patient population issues.


University of Illinois Chicago

CC Score: 93.22

Program Tuition: $32,360

Program Website

University of Illinois Chicago

The University of Illinois at Chicago is home to a nationally leading College of Nursing. The faculty is world-renown for the fact that one-third is current AAN Fellows and nearly 100 percent of the teaching professors hold a terminal degree in nursing. The nurse practitioner programs are accredited by the CCNE and the school is a member of the American Association of Colleges of Nursing.

The DNP at UIC is different from other programs in that there is no set of requirements for graduation; rather, each specialty within the DNP denotes its own requirements. The only similarity between all the concentrations is that students must show proof of 1,000 hours of supervised clinical hours, either earned while completing their degree or, in most cases, accumulated during their career. All other requirements, such as scholarly work, a capstone project, and credit hour requirements is decided by faculty based on the concentration chosen.

While the requirements differ for the 12 specializations the school has listed, completion of any DNP degree is expected to take less than four years of part-time study. Students who choose a very specialized concentration, like Nurse Midwifery/Women’s Health Practitioner or NNP will find that they may spend more time on their degree than someone who choose FNP or PMHNP as their specialization.

Graduating with a degree from UIC is a great step forward in any nurse’s career. After graduation, students often move into executive or administrative roles, go into private practice in their area, or choose to become nurse educators themselves. A rare path forward, but a welcome one, are nurses who choose to go into research positions at academic institutions.


Yale University

CC Score: 93.17

Program Tuition: $36,828

Program Website

Yale University

The Yale School of Nursing is a graduate school that has one of the top nurse practitioner programs in the country. Nurses who study here become specialized in one aspect of nursing and either moves into private practice or go on to receive a doctorate degree, completing their nurse practitioner education.

Yale School of Nursing accepts registered nurses who have an active Connecticut R.N. license and who are also currently CPR certified for their Master’s in Nursing. There is also an option for Graduate Entry Pre-specialty in Nursing students, a track that sees students who were not previously nurses earn their nurse practitioner degree while educating themselves at the graduate level. Only R.N.s will be given the option to study part-time.

The Master’s in Nursing can take up to four years to complete at Yale with part-time, but it’s possible to graduate within two years. Each student nurse builds a master’s portfolio prior to being granted their degree, and it includes clinical case and time logs, a list of preceptors and clinical sites, a resume, and scholarly writings completed during the course.

Yale Nursing has nine different specializations and concentrations, including Psychiatric-Mental Health Nursing, Pediatric Nurse Practitioner and more. Each specialization comes with its own requirements and certification examinations, ensuring that nurses that enroll in that focus of study have a true mastery of the field before they graduate.


University of Pittsburgh

CC Score: 93.13

Program Tuition: $43,290

Program Website

University of Pittsburgh

The University of Pittsburgh is proud to be home to the Pitt School of Nursing, a school that is nationally ranked in the top 20 by QS World University Rankings. The DNP program is accredited by the CCNE and is recognized for its world-class faculty, 98 percent of whom have terminal degrees in the subjects they teach. The Pitt School of Nursing is also ranked in the top ten best nursing grad schools in the world by U.S. News and World Report.

Nurses who are looking to earn a DNP from Pitt will be happy to know that there are a variety of options for graduation, including part-time and full-time study schedules as well as an option to study online for Pennsylvania students. This degree requires clinical experiences, a capstone project, as well as participation in the required courses.

Students who are looking to specialize their degree will find that Pitt offers six such concentrations under the NP specialization, including Pediatric Primary Care and Neonatal care. Courses are based on evidence-based practice, ensuring that students understand and master skills before moving on to another subject.

The DNP can take up to three years to earn, but the possibilities it brings to a nurse are endless. Graduates can continue to work in clinical settings or move into educator roles. Some nurses move on to private practice or work as consultants to government agencies. With a terminal degree like the DNP, a nurse can work in nearly every capacity within the healthcare industry.


Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis

CC Score: 93.01

Program Tuition: $34,440

Program Website

Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis

Indiana University-Purdue University Indiana, known as IUPUI, is home to a School of Nursing that has been twice recognized by NLN for being a Center of Excellence in Nursing Education. The school also ranks first in the state as a nursing graduate school by U.S. News and World Report. It is accredited by CCNE and approved by the Indiana State Board of Nursing.

The IUSON DNP program is interesting in that the cohort-based curriculum is designed to be followed in a certain sequence for the most impact for nurses. Students will engage in nearly 15 case studies as part of the curriculum as well as take part in on-campus intensives and practicum hours. All of these experiences are rendered into the 39 required credits and the 1,000 practicum hours needed to graduate. The entire program can be completed in less than 20 months.

While there are no specialities awarded at IUSON, the degree is comprehensive and strong. It is a degree that will find any nurse a job, regardless if they would like to continue to practice nursing or move on to an educator or consulting position within a healthcare organization.


University of South Florida

CC Score: 92.90

Program Tuition: $18,528

Program Website

University of South Florida St

At the College of Nursing at the University of South Florida, building expert nurses who can provide excellent healthcare and educate other nursing professionals is essential. It comes as no surprise then that this nursing school is nationally ranked in the top 50 nursing graduate schools in the country. The DNP program, which is growing in popularity with NPs, is accredited by the CCNE.

At USF’s College of Nursing, the MS-DNP track is the program that graduate nursing students often come to. The degree requires clinical and didactics experiences, scholarly writings, and a minimum of 30 credit hours in foundation courses. Specializations can also be granted at USF, and a student will meet with an advisor to discuss which specific field of study they are interested in. On average, this degree can be earned in a year of full-time study.

All DNPs are tailored to suit a student’s professional goals and academic needs, making the nursing degrees at USF a good fit for Florida nurses who know what their career goals are. Some careers nurses might like to explore are the education in a clinical setting, such as in a nursing or medical school; private practice; or as a member of a community-based clinical team.


George Washington University

CC Score: 92.88

Program Tuition: $24,720

Program Website

George Washington University

The George Washington University School of Nursing has a stated mission of transforming healthcare through innovative education and research, which in turn informs policy and practice. It is a school that thrives on pioneering new teaching methods as well as renovating old methods to ensure that nursing students are given the best access to education possible. The school’s programs are accredited by CCNE.

The DNP degree at George Washington University is an online program that is perfect for students who are interested in advancing their degree with a specialization. These specializations include Nursing Practice, Education Concentration, Executive Leadership, FNP, Health Care Quality and Palliative Care Specialty. These specialties were created with NP and APRNs in mind.

The DNP program requires 36 credit hours of work as well as elective courses in their chosen specialty. There are no requirements for clinical hours nor is there a capstone or scholar project that is needed for graduation. The entire program can be completed within three years of part-time study by a working nurse.


Frontier Nursing University

CC Score: 92.67

Program Tuition: $12,840

Program Website

Frontier Nursing University

Frontier Nursing University is one of the only nursing universities that has been in continuous use since its founding. It is a haven of nursing research, especially as it pertains to midwifery, and remains a center for women’s health, family health, and nurse-midwifery. It is accredited by CCNE and is licensed by the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education.

FNU’s DNP program was created especially for working nurses who already hold a bachelor’s and master’s degree. The programs is primarily online, with two on-campus sessions required as well as 360 practicum hours and a capstone project that is self-directed. With full-time study, this program can be completed in 15 months.

Students will also find that there are eight specialities — from ANP to WHCNP — available to serve as an elective track. These tracks are the final step in nurses receiving certification in this specializations, leading them to become experts in that field.

Students will find that this degree will help them in remaining in private or community-based practice. A large group of the alumni from FNU have gone on to open practices in rural and poor areas, offering much-needed healthcare to those populations. Still others have moved into administrative positions that oversee public population healthcare, ensuring that people who need help receive it in a timely manner.


University of Rochester

CC Score: 92.54

Program Tuition: $24,192

Program Website

university of rochester

The School of Nursing at the University of Rochester has dedicated itself to educating nurses to become an integral part of the healthcare landscape. The school’s nursing degrees focus on teamwork in the healthcare setting, research, administrative skills and more to mold nurses into leaders. UR’s School of Nursing is accredited by the CCNE.

The DNP program at UR requires a minimum of 90 credit hours and 1,000 post-bachelor’s clinical hours. Courses span a wide range of disciplines and are taught with an evidence-based practice approach that encourages students to learn through simulation. Clinical practicums and the capstone project are independent projects that are agreed upon by both the student and the faculty and often requires the same level of research and writing as a traditional dissertation in another subject.

The SON DNP program can take up to three years to complete, but it is one of the best programs for nurses who wish to continue their career in clinical practice. By electing for this general DNP, students will re-enter the workforce capable of taking on administrative roles in hospital and clinical settings.


Medical University of South Carolina

CC Score: 92.49

Program Tuition: $28,659

Program Website


The Medical University of South Carolina, known as MUSC, is the nationally ranked as the best nursing online school in the country. It is known for pioneering online education for nurses for the last 15 years as well as creating and renovating teaching methods that reflect the modern age of nursing. It is accredited by CCNE.

The DNP program at MUSC has four concentrations — Adult-Gerontology, Pediatric, Family and Psychiatric Mental Health. There is also an option for post-master APRNs. These specialities are generally chosen at the bachelor and master’s levels, with students bringing their particular area of focus to this terminal degree.

The online DNP program requires a minimum of 1,000 clinical hours under the supervision of a preceptor as well as 36 credit hours and a DNP capstone project. The program can be completed in four years with part-time study and in three years with full-time study. It is recommended that students work with an advisor to properly schedule their program to best fit their needs.


Boston College

CC Score: 92.46

Program Tuition: $29,952

Program Website


Boston College is home to the William F. Connell School of Nursing, a school that is best known as a comprehensive institution where nurses can earn a bachelor’s, masters and doctorate degree. It is also known for teaching in the Catholic tradition. The SON’s programs are accredited by CCNE and approved by the Massachusetts State Board of Nursing.

The MSN program at Connell is a strong degree which has six specialties, including AGPCNP and WHNP. Students must choose a specialty to move through this degree program as requirements change depending on what field of study they choose to focus on. Each specialty is recognized as an area in which nurses are in high demand.

The requirements for the MSN degree will change depending on a student’s specialty. However, in general, a student will be required to take 45 credit hours and partake in 1,000 credit hours. Most students will finish the degree within two years of part-time study, provided they take summer terms.


Loyola University Chicago

CC Score: 92.21

Program Tuition: $25,440

Program Website


The Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing at Loyola University Chicago has a strong reputation for providing transformative education from a Catholic perspective. It is best known for having 95 percent of its faculty holding terminal degrees in their field of study. The school and its programs are accredited by the CCCNE.

Loyola’s DNP program was created as a two-year, full-time cohort degree that is taught in a practice-focused teaching method. While most of the courses can be found online, there are some that require attendance at the school’s University Health Sciences Campus. The degree requires 39 semester hours of work as well as 1,000 supervised clinical hours.

There are two specialty tracks at Loyola University Chicago. The first is Healthcare Quality Using Education in Safety and Technology, or H-Quest. This specialty focuses on leadership roles that focus on quality and safety within the healthcare industry. Further concentration in this track can be found in Outcomes Performance Management or Healthcare Informatics.

The second specialty track is the Infection Prevention track. It requires 71 semester hours of work and is based on prevention of infectious diseases. It is also population-focused. Nurses who complete this track will assume the title of Infection Preventionists.


University of San Diego

CC Score: 92.02

Program Tuition: $33,360

Program Website


The University of San Diego’s School of Nursing was created to confer undergraduate and graduate level degrees in nursing. It is currently accredited by the CCNE and is approved by the California Board of Registered Nursing as well as the School Nursing Commission on Teacher Credentialing. Because of its reputation for producing some of the best nursing educators, this school is a good fit for nurses who are looking to move into teaching roles.

The MSN program at USD is created for working nurses in mind. It can be completed with full-time or part-time study and requires a minimum of 36 credits in order to graduate. Clinicals are also required for completion, but the number of required hours fluctuates depending on the student’s concentration.

There are five concentrations nurses can choose from, including Advanced Practicing Nursing of Adults and Elderly, Nursing Leadership in Healthcare Systems, and Women’s Health and Midwifery. There are further specializations within the concentrations, and students will want to contact an advisor to learn the requirements for further specialization in order to graduate on time

The MSN requires a lot from its students, but it also gives a great deal in return. Students from this program will be able to advance into nursing administrative roles, work as clinical nurse specialists or NPs, or even become nurse educators. And the MSN program is a great stepping stone to the DNP, the terminal degree for nurses.


Ohio State University

CC Score: 92.00

Program Tuition: $46,560

Program Website


Ohio State University’s College of Nursing is a well-respected and top-rated school that offers various pioneering programs that have changed the way nursing is taught. Students at OSU are often at the forefront of innovation in nursing education and it is one of the best schools for nurses who wish to become educators. The college and its programs are accredited by CCNE.

OSU is different from many other top nurse practitioner programs in that it offers just two tracks for the DNP — the Clinical Expert track and the Nurse Executive track. Both tracks require three years of part-time study and can be completed wholly online. There are no clinical hours required for the duration of the program, although 500 hours at the master’s level is required to apply. There is also no capstone project or scholarly project, ensuring that students can focus on their track while working full-time.

Students who enter the DNP Clinical Expert track will graduate with the highest level of patient care education possible. These students pursue private or community practice and continue to serve as nurses.

Students who pursue the DNP Nurse Executive track usually go on to taking a leadership position in a healthcare organization. These students work as administrators and executives, implementing new health policies and dealing with healthcare issues on a macro level.


University of Utah

CC Score: 91.91

Program Tuition: $34,479

Program Website

university of utah

The University of Utah is home to a CCNE-accredited College of Nursing. It is best known for pioneering the Gerontology Interdisciplinary Program as well as being the home to the Hartford Center of Geriatric Nursing Excellence. The school offers both on-campus and online nurse practitioner education for nurses from a wide variety of fields, including neonatal, midwifery, family practice, and women’s health.

The DNP degree offers six separate tracks for this program, including the ones listed above. Some tracks, such as Certified Nurse Midwife, FNP, PMHNP, WHNP, and AGPCNP can be learned online with clinicals in a student’s area of residence. Courses can take up to three years of full-time study in order to graduate.

Students will be interested to know that this degree program offers them the chance to work with a diverse group of patient populations during clinicals, as well as the option to complete dual tracks for further specialization. The DNP degree at this university currently has a 100 percent graduation rate as well as a first-time pass rate for the AMCB of 100 percent.

Students who take on the DNP program have a variety of options available to them as they advance their career. They can go into private practice or work together as part of a team in a clinical setting, working in hospitals to assist doctors in their specialized field. Some APRNs even go into teaching, becoming clinical preceptors or taking a position at a university.


Pennsylvania State University

CC Score: 91.85

Program Tuition: $29,001

Program Website


Penn State College of Nursing is one of the most popular nursing education destinations in the country. It is best known for the study and internship abroad opportunities that it offers its students. This CON is accredit by CCNE and ACEN as well as being approved by the Pennsylvania State Board of Nursing.

The DNP program at Penn State is an online degree that is taught on the practice-focused model. It was designed for APRNs and RNs with undergraduate degrees in nursing. The coursework revolves around the translation of research into practice as well as leadership and advanced expert nursing practice. A total of 46 credits, three on-campus intensives, 1,000 clinical hours and an oral presentation of a student’s capstone project are required for graduation.

Working nurses will be interested in Penn State for their DNP because this degree is mainly conducted online. The degree program takes up to four years to complete with part-time study and nurses will graduate with the knowledge and critical thinking skills needed to become active participants in the nursing field. Whether they are leaders and executives or expert nurses in community-based practice, this degree will complete any nurse’s education and give them career freedom.


Georgetown University

CC Score: 91.48

Program Tuition: $44,712

Program Website


Georgetown University is home to SoNHS, which is a part of Georgetown University Medical Center. It is well known for its research efforts in the field of nursing and in medicine in general. It is accredited by CCNE.

The DNP program at Georgetown University is a practice-based program that was designed for nurses with an MSN with a specialty and who have a minimum of five years of experience in a clinical setting. The program, which is made up of 38 credit hours and the DNP Translational Research Project, is offered part-time over seven semesters. It is this flexible schedule that makes it so attractive to working nurses.

This is a non-specialized terminal degree, but nurses who are looking for post-master’s certification in their specialty will be able to find that certification apart from the DNP. This degree is perfect for nurses who wish to move into executive roles in NGOs, government agencies and other organizations with a healthcare focus. Some graduates will also want to look into the possibility of teaching after graduating.


Washington State University

CC Score: 91.47

Program Tuition: $32,814

Program Website

Washington State University

Washington State University houses a College of Nursing that has an acute focus on conferring terminal degrees for a Family Nurse Practitioner. The most popular of all programs are the DNP programs with specializations as an FNP and PMHNP. A DNP in Population Health Nurse is also available.

WSU College of Nursing offers the DNP programs at WSU Spokane, WSU Tri-Cities, and WSU Vancouver, with many of the courses offered online. The programs are flexible, allowing student nurses to continue to work while going to school. There is a residency requirement of seven days on campus for each program, but students are welcome to do their clinicals in a hospital near their home. The entire program can take up to five years with part-time study.

Nurses who complete their education at the terminal level will find themselves eligible, depending on the state and their specialization, for private practice. Other employment pathways for APRNs with a DNP include inpatient at hospitals and clinics as well as providing holistic support in community-based counseling services.


University of Tennessee

CC Score: 90.77

Program Tuition: $39,840

Program Website

University of Tennessee Knoxville

The University of Tennessee at Knoxville has one of the premier NP schools in the state. It is accredited by the CCNE and is approved by the Tennessee Board of Nursing to confer DNP degrees to qualified candidates. Students who hold a BSN or MSN in nursing, have an RN or APRN license in the state of Tennessee are welcome to apply.

The UT Nursing program at DNP does not have any specializations and is a generalized DNP. It is a part-time curriculum, designed with working nurses in mind, and can take up to three years to complete, though many graduates finish in just two and a half years. Clinical hours and the DNP portfolio is planned out with an advisor to help nursing students meet their specific goals.

This nursing program focuses a student’s education on leadership, education, and providing excellent care in a variety of settings. At the end of the program, students often move on to education or leadership roles, both in the academic and professional settings, while some continue in private practice or as part of a team in a hospital or clinic.


University of Miami

CC Score: 90.68

Program Tuition: $40,700

Program Website

University of Miami

The University of Miami is home to the School of Nursing and Health Sciences, one of the top destination nurse schools in the state. It is accredited by the CCNE and is currently nationally ranked as the top school for nursing. It is also one of the top 25 nursing schools in the country.

Unlike many other DNP programs on this list, UM does not require a GRE score for admission. However, it does not widely accept non-MSN candidates for the DNP — these are done on a case-by-case basis. Students are also not required to craft a dissertation for completion of the degree.

This DNP program is based on a cohort-model, which is available on a part-time or full-time schedule, depending on the student’s needs. Students are required to appear on campus for three weekends each term, but the majority of coursework is done alone. In total, students must complete 560 clinical hours in total, 24 credit hours, pass the final exam and complete a two-term capstone project. The DNP program can take up to three years of part-time study to complete.

Students who complete the DNP will be eligible for leadership and administrative roles. They will be able to move into private or community practice, work in executive roles in healthcare organizations or even become educators.


SUNY Stonybrook

CC Score: 87.03

Program Tuition: $22,210

Program Website

Stony Brook University

SUNY Stonybrook’s School of Nursing is a part of the Health Sciences Tower at Stonybrook. It is a full school of nursing, providing undergraduate, graduate, and postgraduate degrees in nursing. It is accredited by CCNE.

The DNP degree program at Stonybrook SON was designed for use as an executive, cohort program that accepts students in the summer. Students will be expected to complete 42 credit hours and 500 clinical hours as part of the curriculum for this degree. The program can be completed within two years.

Most of the curriculum focuses on the fostering of teamwork and research. While students are free to choose a specialty to enhance this degree, they will still be required to work in groups in order to analyze, set and implement health policy, create solutions for patient outcomes and healthcare delivery systems and more. DNP capstone projects are also a requirement, with teamwork also being an aspect of this final project.

Students who complete the DNP will be terminal-degree holders in their field. They will become healthcare administrators and executives that are capable of analyzing new research in their specialty and implementing new findings into the patient delivery systems in their workplace. They will also be eligible to become educators themselves, helping to support the new wave of nurses that are so desperately need in the state.


University of Nevada Reno

CC Score: 86.43

Program Tuition: $13,272

Program Website

Nevada Reno

The Orvis School of Nursing, which is housed at the University of Nevada, is the state’s oldest school of nursing and the premier university for nurses who are looking to complete their nursing education. It is also one of the first schools to offer nursing degrees at the graduate level primarily online. This will no doubt make this program attractive to working nurses who do not have the time to study on campus.

Students who choose to earn their DNP through Orvis must select a specialization. For those who have a master’s, the tracks are Advanced Practice Nurse or Nurse Executive. For students in the BSN-DNP program, the tracks are FNP, PMHNP or AGACNP.

Orvis degrees require students appear on campus for immersion days, orientation, and defense days of their capstone project. Most courses can be completed online, however. This frees up a student’s time to focus on clinical hours and finishing the required 76 credits in order to graduate.

This DNP program takes at least four years to complete with full-time study, but it is one of the most comprehensive programs on this list. Students who graduate with this degree often move immediately into administrative roles or senior APRN roles within hospital settings. More often than not, Orvis graduates have a job offer before graduation.


Loyola University New Orleans

CC Score: 85.89

Program Tuition: $19,632

Program Website


Loyola University New Orleans School of Nursing was established in 1979. It introduced the DNP degree in 2010 and it has since become one of the most sought-after degree programs in the school’s history. This SON is accredited by the CCNE and is approved by the Louisiana State Board of Nursing.

At Loyola, the DNP program consists of two concentrations — NP and EL. Students are required to pick one or the other, as it will fundamentally change the courses that are required of them. It should be noted that the same number of credits and clinical hours are required for each track.

Student nurses who are interested in learning with a cohort will find Loyola New Orleans to be a great fit. The 45 required credits are taught with the same group of students, ensuring debate and discussion in an intimate setting online is present for all students. There is a required 500 clinical hour minimum that will also need to be met.

Students will choose a track that speaks to their career goals. Nurses who want to practice in a community setting will choose NP and focus on providing the best care possible for their patients. Nurses who would like to move up to administrative and leadership positions will choose EL, ensuring that the courses they choose will strengthen them as leaders and administrators.


Texas A&M University

CC Score: 84.46

Program Tuition: $33,960

Program Website

Texas A&M University College Station

At Texas A&M Health Science Center, also known as TAMHSC, all focus is on providing the best nurses possible to address the nursing shortage that is becoming a critical issue in the state of Texas. The center is dedicated to not only producing great nurses, but also to giving them the best access to research, innovative teaching methods, and world-class staff. The center is accredited by CCNE.

The MSN-FNP program is the FNP-specialty track that is provided at TAMHSC. It is one of the best nurse practitioner programs in the state and is delivered in a hybrid format. Students are only expected to travel to the Bryan campus for simulation lab classes once or twice during a term. All other major course instruction, as well as clinical hours, can be done at the student’s convenience.

This MSN-FNP degree can be earned in as little as 18 months with full-time study. Part-time study is also available, ensuring students finish in three years. All students will be required to take part in clinical practicums and take a total of 48 credits in courses ranging from Advanced Pathophysiology to Primary Care of Families.

MSN-FNP students often find work in community-based settings, where they can deliver much-needed healthcare to families. Because TAMHSC is so well-regarded in Texas, nurses who have a degree from this center will have no trouble finding work within the state. In fact, 80 percent of nursing students graduate with an employment offer.

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