The Best Online Doctorate in Nurse Practitioner Programs

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A nursing career offers the chance to make a meaningful and lasting impact on patients' lives. If you already have a bachelor's or master's degree in nursing, you may be ready to take the next step in your career. If so, an online nurse practitioner doctorate program may be right for you.

With your doctor of nurse practitioner (DNP) degree, you can work as a registered nurse practitioner, a career the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects will grow an astounding 31% in the coming years. Nurse practitioners typically work with a high degree of independence in providing primary and specialty care to patients. They receive compensation commensurate with expertise and experience, earning a median annual salary of $103,880.

Below, you will find more details about the benefits of earning your DNP nursing degree, information about career opportunities for DNP degree holders, and program rankings to help you choose the right option for your career goals.

Covered in this article:

What can I Expect from an Online Nurse Practitioner Doctorate Program?

You might be wondering what you can expect from online DNP programs. Below, you will find information about a typical DNP curriculum and the amount of time it takes to graduate. Please note that details may vary depending on the school and program chosen.

Curriculum for an Online Nurse Practitioner Doctorate

How Long Does It Take to Get an Online Nurse Practitioner Doctorate?

The amount of time required to earn an online nurse practitioner doctorate depends on several factors, including part- or full-time status, course availability, and whether courses are individually paced or cohort-based. Enrolling in BSN to DNP programs or MSN to DNP programs will also affect the amount of time it takes to earn your DNP.

Some DNP programs require students to go through the program in a cohort of fellow students who all take the same courses together. With this type of program, students have their entire program planned out with a set graduation date. However, sometimes the cohort learning approach takes longer since students can't set their own pace.

On average, students can expect their online nurse practitioner doctorate program to last three to six years.

Accreditation for Online Nurse Practitioner Doctorate Degrees

When selecting your online nurse practitioner doctorate program, be sure the school offering the program is accredited. Accreditation ensures that a school or program meets certain standards of academic quality, which comes in handy when trying to find a job, securing financial aid, or transferring credit between schools.

Regional accreditation is more widely accepted and respected than national accreditation, which tends to apply to for-profit and/or vocational schools. When choosing an online school, look for one of six regional accreditation agencies. Also ensure that your nurse practitioner doctorate program holds accreditation from a field-specific accrediting agency. The two main agencies that accredit DNP programs include the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education and the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing.

In addition to these accrediting bodies, the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) consists of 3,000 degree-granting universities and colleges that promote academic quality by certifying higher education accrediting agencies. CHEA ensures that accrediting agencies maintain high-quality standards. The U.S. Department of Education also maintains a database of accredited postsecondary institutions and programs.

Online Nurse Practitioner Doctoral Programs Looking for You

Employment Outlook for Nurse Practitioner Doctorate Graduates

Nurse Practitioner Doctorate Careers

Graduates of nurse practitioner doctorate programs typically work as advanced practice registered nurses in a variety of settings, including hospitals, clinics, and physicians' offices. They coordinate patient care and provide primary and specialty care to patients. The scope of practice available to nurse practitioners varies from state to state, but many have a great deal of independence and responsibility in their day-to-date duties. Working as a nurse practitioner can be both stressful and rewarding for individuals who want to make a career out of helping others.

  1. Nurse Practitioner: Nurse practitioners provide primary and specialty healthcare to patients. Nurse practitioners assess a patient's health and figure out the best way to approach the diagnosis. They usually specialize in areas such as pediatric health, gerontology, mental health, or women's health. Nurse practitioners need at least a master's degree to practice, but holding a doctorate leads to more job opportunities and higher salaries.
    • Median Annual Salary: $107,460
    • Projected Growth Rate: 31%
  2. Nursing Professor: With a Ph.D. in nursing, you can work as a nursing professor at public and private colleges and universities, professional schools, and community colleges. Nursing professors provide instruction to nursing students, conduct research, and publish scholarly articles. Nursing professors also plan lessons, teach courses, and advise students.
    • Median Annual Salary: $75,430
    • Projected Growth Rate: 15%
  3. Nurse Anesthetist, Nurse Midwife, and Nurse Practitioner: These roles all fall under the category of advanced practice registered nurses (APRN). The scope of care these professionals can legally provide varies from state to state. These APRNs coordinate patient care and deliver primary and specialty healthcare. Earning a nurse practitioner doctorate can help individuals advance to managerial or administrative roles, and many conduct independent research.
    • Median Annual Salary: $107,460
    • Projected Growth Rate: 31%

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Nurse Practitioner Doctorate Salary

Top Five Paying U.S. States for Nurse Practitioners

The lucrative profession of nurse practitioners provides a median annual salary of $103,880. In addition to individual workplaces, the state where nurse practitioners choose to work has an impact on their annual salary. The following table from the BLS highlights expected salaries for nurse practitioners in the top five paying states for nurse practitioners.

Median Annual Salaries
State Hourly Mean Wage Annual Mean Wage
California $60.95 $126,770
Alaska $60.16 $125,140
Hawaii $58.93 $122,580
Massachusetts $57.76 $120,140
Connecticut $56.97 $118,500

Nurse Practitioner Professional Organizations

Professional organizations for nurse practitioners provide a valuable avenue for gaining information about new developments in the field, collaborating with colleagues, and finding scholarship and job opportunities. Current students and recent graduates can benefit from networking events that lead to mentorships and job opportunities, and they may even receive a membership discount for joining.

Paying for Your Online Nurse Practitioner Doctorate

One of the most overwhelming aspects of pursuing your online nurse practitioner doctorate can be the cost. Attending graduate school is rarely inexpensive. Numerous options exist to help doctoral students pay for their education, including student loans, scholarships, grants, tuition reimbursement, and loan forgiveness programs. Every nurse practitioner student should complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The FAFSA determines student eligibility for financial aid. Students who do not fill out the FAFSA will be unable to apply for federal student loans, grants, and many scholarships.

Because nurse practitioners work to improve the public good, many additional scholarships, grants, and other financial aid opportunities exist for nurse practitioner students, especially those committed to working with underserved populations. Nurse practitioner doctoral students may be particularly interested in looking into the student loan forgiveness programs that benefit those in public service careers. Nurse practitioner graduates may qualify for the NURSE Corps Loan Repayment Program, the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) Program, and the Perkins Loan Cancellation Program. Additionally, some workplaces offer tuition reimbursement or will pay down the student loan debt of their employees.

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