Best Online DNP Programs

Drexel University's College of Nursing and Health Professions offers an online DNP program that will prepare you to assume leadership roles as an is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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Want to take your nursing career to the next level? An online DNP program could help you do just that.

Best Online Doctor's in Nursing Badge

With an upcoming shortfall in doctors— the American Medical Colleges predicts a deficit of approximately 46,000 to 90,000 doctors—advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) will be in high demand.[footnote][/footnote] From primary care to the many possible specializations, as a DNP credentialed nurse you will never be out of work.

And if you’re already an Advanced Practice Nurse with an MSN degree, you’re probably aware that the American Association of Colleges of Nursing has recommended that the DNP degree become the minimum credential for APRN practice.

If you have a BSN and are thinking of becoming an APRN, it just makes good financial sense to go straight into a DNP degree program.

Top 10 Best Online Doctor's in Nursing Practice

Catholic University of America Washington, DC
Drexel University Philadelphia, PA
Duke University Durham, NC
George Washington University Washington, DC
Gonzaga University Spokane, WA
Indiana University-Purdue University-Indianapolis Indianapolis, IN
Johns Hopkins University Baltimore, MD
Loyola University Chicago Chicago, IL
Loyola University New Orleans New Orleans, LA
Medical University of South Carolina Charleston, SC

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What kind of DNP degree should you get?

With the influx of nurses seeking DNP degrees, schools have been getting in gear to provide quality programs both online and on campus. Both modes of delivery have their advantages, but online programs have come a long way in recent years.

Online programs provide students the opportunity to study without leaving their jobs or other commitments. You can expect the same degree as an on-campus student, sometimes at a lower tuition. For more information, check out our list of the Best Online Colleges and Universities.

All good DNP programs, whether online or on campus, will provide education in evidence-based practice, quality improvement, and leadership, among other key areas. Make sure to look into practicum possibilities (i.e. can you complete it at your place of work?) and any campus visit requirements before you commit.

How much money do people make with a DNP degree?

Becoming an Advanced Practice Registered Nurse in the current healthcare environment pretty much guarantees steady employment for as far as statisticians can see. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts a 31% job growth rate through 2024 - that’s much faster than average growth.

And APRNs can expect not just steady employment, but the potential for pretty lucrative pay. The BLS puts the 2016 median pay for APRNs at $107,460 per year.

What can you do with a DNP degree?

The DNP is a terminal degree in nursing practice that offers an alternative to research-focused doctoral programs. There are so many different kinds of DNP programs, with so many specialties, that the options are almost limitless. No matter what your particular interest, there is probably a niche with your name on it.

Depending on your chosen focus area, a DNP degree can prepare you to work as a:

  • Healthcare Administrator
  • Clinical Nurse Leader
  • Nurse Practitioner
  • Nurse Anaesthetist
  • Nurse Midwife

What are the requirements for a DNP degree?

DNP programs vary widely, but all programs on our ranking will equip you with both the best research and real-world experiences. Unlike the research-intensive DNS degree, the DNP is a practice-focused doctoral program that stresses the application of research findings. That means that a practicum or capstone project is an important part of DNP programs.

There are many pathways to the DNP degree, with some schools offering a BSN-DNP or an MSN-DNP program. All programs will require that you have a BSN degree at a minimum, as well as an up-to-date RN licensure. Some schools require a year or more of practice in your field.

What are the best DNP degrees?

Because of the demand for DNP credentialed APRNs, there are a lot of programs out there. We’ve found the top 25, and laid them out for you in an easily digestible format. Our research methodology takes into consideration institutional reputation, return on investment, and student satisfaction.

We weigh criteria like reputation scores, tuition costs, early career earnings, and peer assessments from a variety of sources to come up with a composite score that reflects academic excellence and the probable return on your tuition dollar.

We hope this College Choice ranking helps you in your search for the best DNP Program!


See our rankings methodology page.

  • Catholic University of America

    Washington, DC




    Founded by US Catholic Bishops in 1887, The Catholic University of America is a private, Catholic University and the national university of the Catholic church. The school has a reputation for being a good value in higher education and students at the highly regarded School of Nursing will find themselves surrounded by faculty who not only teach but who are practicing experts in their fields.

    Program Features

    The Catholic University of America’s School of Nursing offers a post-master’s DNP program that will help you become an expert clinical practitioner or administrator. This practice-based program will deliver the experience and skills you will need to improve your nursing practice and the health care delivery system in America. Courses include:

    • Emerging issues in health care and challenges in nursing
    • Standards of practice and health care ethics
    • Principles of epidemiology


    CUA’s online DNP program is comprised of 32 credits of courses, a residency, and an evidence-based practice project. You’ll complete the DNP project under the close guidance and support of faculty members. And CUA’s DNP program has a stellar reputation, ranking #56 among the top online graduate nursing programs in the country by U.S. News and World Report.

  • Drexel University

    Philadelphia, PA




    Located in in Philadelphia, PA, Drexel University is a highly innovative private technological university. The school was the first to have a completely wireless campus, and its cooperative education program, one of the nation’s largest, means that students graduate with extensive work experience. Drexel‘s online graduate nursing programs rank in the top 50 nationally (U.S. News and World Report).

    Program Features

    Drexel University’s College of Nursing and Health Professions offers an online DNP program that will prepare you to assume leadership roles as an executive or practitioner. You will learn to apply evidence-based practice to improve individual, family, and community health outcomes and be well equipped to apply research to clinical settings. Core courses include:

    • Health Policy and Economics
    • Applied Epidemiology
    • Scientific Foundation of Nursing Knowledge Development


    Drexel’s online DNP program is comprised of 46 credits of core coursework, practica, and a DNP Project. Courses are delivered in four accelerated 10-week quarters for faster completion. A master’s degree is a requirement for admission to the program (if your master’s degree is not in the field of Nursing, you need a BSN as well). You’ll also need to have some experience working as an APRN.

  • Duke University

    Durham, NC




    Founded in 1838 by Quakers and Methodists, it’s never surprising to see Duke University at the top of a ranking. A private research university with a stellar reputation, Duke ranks among the top ten national universities in the country. The School of Nursing continues the tradition of excellence, topping U.S. News and World Report’s 2018 ranking as the best School of Nursing in the country.

    Program Features

    The School of Nursing at Duke University offers a flexible DNP program with three entry points. The program is designed for practicing nurses who wish to extend their practice to improve systems of care. And you’ll learn to assess published evidence from faculty with broad experience in advanced clinical practice, leadership, and patient safety. Program options include;

    • BSN to DNP
    • MSN to DNP
    • PhD to DNP


    Duke’s DNP programs are flexible enough to accommodate nurses working in advanced practice positions as well as BSN students wishing to pursue a DNP. Designed to be as manageable as possible for working students, you can complete the DNP project at your place of employment. Courses are delivered online, with four executive on-campus sessions (two to three days per session).

  • George Washington University

    Washington, DC




    Founded in 1821 in downtown Washington, D.C., George Washington University is a private university which ranks among the top 100 national universities in the United States. The school has a reputation for being a good value in higher education, and their online graduate nursing programs rank at #26 nationally (US News and World Report).

    Program Features

    The School of Nursing at George Washington University offers several DNP program options that allow students to continue their education while taking on an expanded role in clinical practice, policy or leadership. As a student, you’ll benefit from engaging and inspiring faculty that are nationally recognized leaders in nursing. Two entry points are offered:

    • Post-Bachelor’s DNP (with three NP concentrations)
    • Post- Master’s DNP (with three program options)


    GW Nursing’s DNP program aims to be uniquely flexible for students. Most courses are offered completely online, with some on-campus experiences for testing and training—and students have the option of studying full-time or part-time. The school also offers an Advanced Practice Palliative Care Nursing Graduate Certificate that can be taken concurrently with the Family NP specialty.

  • Gonzaga University

    Spokane, WA




    Consistently ranking among the top ten regional universities in the West, Gonzaga University is a private, Catholic, liberal arts university located in Spokane, Washington. The school, which embraces a Jesuit-inspired, liberal arts-based tradition of reflection and action, is known as a “best value” in education (US News and World Report). The school also has several highly ranked online programs, including their Graduate Nursing Program.

    Program Features

    Gonzaga’s Department of Nursing offers an online DNP program that will equip you to serve and change the healthcare industry for the better. The DNP programs offer rigorous training in leadership, health policy, evidence-based practice, and teamwork. Gonzaga offers both a post-master’s option and a post-BSN option with the following specialties:

    • Family Nurse Practitioner
    • Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner


    Gonzaga’s post-master’s DNP program is for APRNs and is comprised of 31 credits of coursework and practicum hours. The Post-Baccalaureate DNP is for students with a bachelor’s degree and an RN licensure (students without a BSN will complete four bridge courses). Both DNP programs require campus visits.

  • Indiana University-Purdue University-Indianapolis

    Indianapolis, IN




    Located in Indianapolis, Indiana, Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) is a member of the university systems of both Indiana University and Purdue University and is Indiana’s premier urban university. IUPUI is home to a highly regarded School of Nursing which offers top-ranking online graduate nursing programs (US News and World Report).

    Program Features

    IUPUI’s School of Nursing offers an online, post-master’s DNP program that promises to propel nurses into leadership roles. An innovative curriculum provides an organizational and systems leadership program with a nursing lens. Students work together to solve multiple case studies, acquiring the knowledge, skills, and abilities to graduate ready to lead in complex health systems. Courses include:

    • Analytical Thinking for Evidence-Based Practice
    • Relationship-Centered Leadership in Complex Systems
    • Trans-disciplinary Approaches to Influencing Public Health Policy


    IUPUI’s online DNP program is comprised of 37 credits which includes core coursework, leadership immersion experiences, clinical hours, and an integrative project. This is a cohort program in which students start in the fall semester and graduate 20 months later. Courses are available online with intensive campus-based immersion experiences.

  • Johns Hopkins University

    Baltimore, MD




    Located in Baltimore, Maryland, Johns Hopkins University is an elite private research university and a founding member of the prestigious American Association of Universities. The school is known for its top-ranked graduate schools, including the School of Nursing, which the NLN designates a Center of Excellence in Nursing Education.

    Program Features

    The School of Nursing at Johns Hopkins offers an online Clinical Nurse Specialist DNP program with three specialization opportunities. The program promises to build your skills in clinical theory and research-based nursing practice—providing opportunities to deliver direct patient care, organize resources, and educate nurses to improve healthcare. You can choose to specialize in:

    • Adult/Gerontological Health
    • Adult/Gerontological Critical Care
    • Pediatric Critical Care


    On graduation, students in Johns Hopkins’ Clinical Nurse Specialist DNP program will be ready to pass the American Nurses Credentialing Center Clinical Nurse Specialist Exam. For admission, you must have a BSN degree or entry-level nursing master’s degree, and one year of experience as an RN is preferred. You can complete this degree on a three or four-year plan.

  • Loyola University Chicago

    Chicago, IL




    Founded in 1870 by Jesuits, Loyola University Chicago is a private Catholic research university with two Chicago campuses. The nationally ranked school is one of the largest Jesuit institutions in the country and is home to the Niehoff School of Nursing which offers some of the best graduate nursing programs in the country.

    Program Features

    Loyola Chicago’s Niehoff School of Nursing offers an online DNP program that will prepare you for leadership roles in healthcare organizations and community settings. The program has a focus on systems that promote safe and efficient healthcare environments for diverse populations across the nation and globe. Two specializations are available:

    • The Healthcare Quality Using Education in Safety & Technology (H-QUEST)
    • Infection Prevention Track


    Loyola Chicago’s online H-QUEST DNP track is designed as a two year post-MSN cohort program. The Infection Prevention Track, on the other hand, is a post-BSN entry DNP program that is comprised of 71 credit hours. Graduates of the program will have the knowledge and skills to assume system-wide leadership as Infection Preventionists.

  • Loyola University New Orleans

    New Orleans, LA




    Located just minutes from the French Quarter, Loyola University New Orleans is a private Catholic University and a member of the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities. The school ranks among the top ten regional universities in the South and offers online graduate nursing programs that rank in the top 50 nationally (U.S. News and World Report).

    Program Features

    The School of Nursing at Loyola New Orleans offers an online DNP program for post-BSN and post-MSN students. The programs are rooted in the Jesuit tradition of social justice, care for the whole person, and values-based leadership. As a student, you will be prepared to lead teams, organizations, and individuals within the complex health care system. Concentrations include:

    • Family Nurse Practitioner (BSN-DNP)
    • Nurse Practitioner (MSN-DNP)
    • Executive Leader (MSN-DNP)


    Loyola’s online DNP programs feature an active-learning approach that blends the theoretical with practical, hands-on experience. Courses are delivered online, with one visit to New Orleans per year required. BSN-DNP students can complete the degree in three years full-time, and the MSN-DNP can be completed in two years of full-time study.

  • Medical University of South Carolina

    Charleston, SC




    Founded in 1824, the Medical University of South Carolina is one of the oldest continually operating medical schools in the U.S. The school is now a state university and offers some of the best graduate nursing programs in the country. Notably, in U.S. News and World Report’s 2018 ranking, MUSC’s online DNP program ranked at #2.

    Program Features

    The College of Nursing at the Medical University of South Carolina offers an online DNP program in Nurse Executive Leadership and Innovations. You’ll gain expertise in advanced executive nursing practice, clinical scholarship and analytical methods to improve healthcare delivery. The program also covers quality improvement, leadership, collaboration, health care policy and finance. Students may choose from one of two tracks:

    • Post-BSN DNP
    • Post-MSN DNP


    MUSC’s top-ranked online Nurse Executive Leadership and Innovations DNP program includes coursework, mentoring, and interaction with faculty. Students can complete the MSN to DNP program in five semesters full-time or eight semesters of part-time study. Students entering with a BSN will take seven semesters of full-time and ten semesters of part-time study. This program does require campus visits.

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