The Best Online Doctorate in Nurse Practitioner Programs 2021

| TBS Staff

Are you ready to discover your college program?

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.

The Best Online Doctorate in Nurse Practitioner Programs

Bradley University true View School Profile Peoria, IL 66% 27% Bradley University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

Founded in 1897, Bradley offers an online doctor of nursing practice. Students can choose from three tracks: family (BSN entry), leadership (MSN entry), and psychiatric mental health (BSN entry).

Students take advanced physiology, management in healthcare organizations, and health promotion in populations. Learners then take courses in their chosen concentration and complete internships for hands-on experience.

Applicants for the family and psychiatric mental health tracks need a bachelor's degree, and applicants for the leadership track students need at least a master's degree, both with a minimum GPA of 3.0 for eligibility. Students must also possess a current registered nurse license.

Brandman University true View School Profile Irvine, CA 47% 92% Brandman University is regionally accredited by the WASC Senior Colleges and University Commission (WSCUC).

Founded in 1958, Brandman offers an online BSN-to-DNP program in psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner.

Students complete required courses such as theoretical foundations of evidence-based practice, biostatistics for clinical practice, innovations in technology and information access, and transforming healthcare through outcomes management.

Applicants need a bachelor's degree in nursing with an unencumbered registered nurse license. Students must also submit GRE scores with a minimum analytical score of 4.

Clemson University true View School Profile Clemson, SC 39% 26% Clemson University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

A public research university founded in 1889, Clemson offers an online doctor of nursing practice. Students can choose between two tracks: adult and gerontology nurse practitioner and family nurse practitioner.

Students complete 35 credits online with a 1-2-day residency required each summer. Students take didactic courses online and complete at least 1,000 practicum hours, including a precepted practicum, and finish a research project demonstrating clinical scholarship.

Applicants need a master's degree in nursing with a minimum GPA of 3.25 and a registered nurse license to qualify for admission.

George Washington University true View School Profile Washington, DC 36% 24% The George Washington University is regionally accredited by Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE).

A private university founded in 1821, GW offers an online doctor of nursing practice in adult-gerontology acute care nurse practitioner. Students earn licensure as a nurse practitioner.

Required courses include organizational concepts in nursing, health policy and analysis, and knowledge management and nursing. Students must complete a minimum of 1,000 clinical hours to complete the program.

Applicants need a bachelor's degree in nursing with a minimum GPA of 3.3 and active registered nurse licensure to qualify for admission.

Gonzaga University true View School Profile Spokane, WA 46% 29% Gonzaga University is regionally accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU).

A private Catholic university founded in 1887, Gonzaga offers an online doctor of nursing practice. Students can choose between two tracks: family nurse practitioner or psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner.

Students complete coursework online with required immersions happening every semester between the fifth and twelfth semesters. Required courses for both tracks include theoretical foundations for health improvement, information technology and data management, and the contemporary healthcare environment. Learners must also complete at least 1,000 practicum hours.

Applicants need a bachelor's degree and an unencumbered registered nurse license to qualify for admission. Students outside Washington state should check residency requirements.

Loyola University New Orleans View School Profile New Orleans, LA 62% 33% Loyola University New Orleans is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

A private Jesuit university founded in 1870, Loyno offers an online doctor of nursing practice. Students can choose between three tracks: family nurse practitioner (BSN to DNP), nurse practitioner (MSN to DNP), and executive leader (MSN to DNP).

Students take courses such as philosophy of science, ethics and social justice, and epidemiology before moving on to track-specific courses. Students must also finish a scholarly project and complete practicum hours at an approved location.

BSN-to-DNP students need a bachelor's degree in nursing to qualify for admission. MSN-to-DNP students need a master's degree in nursing. All tracks require students to possess 12 months of employment or 1,800 recent hours of nursing practice.

Maryville University of Saint Louis View School Profile Saint Louis, MO 49% 56% Maryville University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

A private university founded in 1872, Maryville offers an online doctor of nursing practice. Students can choose from two tracks: a standard DNP and a DNP-to-NP track.

Students within the DNP-to-NP track can further specialize in one of five areas: family nurse practitioner, adult-gerontology primary care, adult gerontology acute care, pediatric, and mental health. Students complete the required core, a capstone project, and practicum hours to complete the degree.

Applicants need current registered nurse licensure and a master's degree in nursing to qualify for admission. Students do not need to submit GMAT or GRE scores.

Montana State University View School Profile Bozeman, MT 42% 10% Montana State University is regionally accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU).

A public university founded in 1893, MSU offers an online doctor of nursing practice. Students can choose from two tracks: family nurse practitioner and psychiatric and mental health nurse practitioner. Students complete courses online, including required video conferencing.

Learners take core courses such as advanced health assessment, evidence-based practice, and advanced physio/pathophysiology before moving on to concentration-specific courses. Students complete clinical hours to receive hands-on experience and observation.

Applicants need a bachelor's degree in nursing with a minimum GPA of 3.0 and current registered nurse licensure to qualify for admission. The school prefers applicants to possess at least one year of work experience.

Nebraska Methodist College of Nursing & Allied Health View School Profile Omaha, NE 68% 57% Nebraska Methodist College of Nursing and Allied Health is a regionally accredited Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

A private Methodist college founded in 1891, NMC offers an online doctor of nursing practice. Students complete most courses online with two residency requirements.

Students complete required courses such as advanced health assessment; healthcare policy; and health systems, informatics, and leadership. Capstone requirements allow students to participate in research. Cinical hours happen at the student's current workplace.

Applicants need a bachelor's degree in nursing and a minimum GPA of 3.0 to qualify for admission. The school also requires students to hold current registered nurse licensure. Out-of-state students must meet state authorization requirements.

Samford University View School Profile Birmingham, AL 33% 31% Samford University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

A private university founded in 1841, Samford offers an online doctor of nursing practice. Students can choose between three online tracks: emergency nursing, psychiatric mental health, and nursing administration.

Students complete courses online in both synchronous and asynchronous formats. Learners complete practicum hours at an approved location. Students take courses such as theology and philosophy of nursing practice and biostatistics.

Applicants should follow the requirements for each individual track, but typically the school requires a nursing degree with a minimum GPA of 3.5 and current registered nurse licensure to qualify for admission.

Stony Brook University View School Profile Stony Brook, NY 38% 17% Stony Brook University is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE).

A private university founded in 1957, Stony Brook offers an online doctor of nursing practice. Students can choose from seven different concentrations, including nurse-midwifery, women's health, and neonatal nursing.

Students complete science prerequisites such as theories of applied science and systems theory. Students also study analytics, including biostatistics and large datasets, as well health policy and social justice. Learners also study required courses for their concentration and complete a minimum of 1,000 practicum hours.

Applicants need a bachelor's degree in nursing with a minimum GPA of 3.0 to qualify for admission. Students must also possess current registered nurse licensure and malpractice insurance.

The University of Tennessee Health Science Center View School Profile Memphis, TN 66% 23% The University of Tennessee Health Science Center is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

A public university focused on health science, UTHSC offers an online doctor of nursing practice. Students can choose from 11 different tracks, including three dual-degree tracks.

Students complete most required coursework online with some required residencies. Students choose clinical placements close to their place of residence and participate in research, including observed clinicals and research projects, to complete degree requirements.

Applicants must follow the requirements for their chosen concentration. Typically, students need a bachelor's degree in nursing and a registered nurse license to qualify for admission.

University of Indianapolis View School Profile Indianapolis, IN 61% 21% University of Indianapolis is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

A private methodist university founded in 1902, UIndy offers an online doctor of nursing practice as a BSN-to-DNP track. Students can specialize in one of three areas: family nursing, adult-gerontology nursing, or neonatal nursing. Students complete courses online and meet one day per week on campus.

Students take 15 classes and complete 750 clinical hours at an approved location. Clinical counselors can help students find preceptors to complete requirements.

Applicants need a bachelor's of nursing with a minimum of two years of relevant work experience and current, unencumbered registered nurse licensure to qualify for admission.

Upstate Medical University View School Profile Syracuse, NY 55% 20% SUNY Upstate Medical University is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE).

Founded in 1834, Upstate offers an online doctor of nursing practice. Students complete coursework mostly online with minimal on-campus requirements.

Required courses include public health policy, epidemiology and population health, program development and grant writing, and evidence-based practice for the DNP. Students complete over 500 hours of clinicals at an approved location near them to complete the degree.

Students need a bachelor's degree and current registered nurse licensure in their designated specialty to qualify for admission.

Winona State University View School Profile Winona, MN 60% 26% Winona State University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

A public university founded in 1858, WSU offers an online doctor of nursing practice. Students can choose from three nurse practitioner tracks: adult-gerontology, family practice, and psychiatric-mental health nurse practitioner.

Students complete nursing science core coursework such as advanced clinical pharmacology, health policy and quality healthcare delivery, scientific and ethical foundations, and applied biostatistics. From there, learners complete track-specific courses and over 1,200 clinical hours to complete the degree.

Applicants need a bachelor's in nursing with a minimum GPA of 3.0 and at least one year of clinical experience to qualify for admission.

Best Online Programs

Online Doctorate in Nurse Practitioner Programs Ranking Guidelines

We ranked these degree programs based on quality, curricula, school awards, rankings, and reputation.

The motto of TheBestSchools.org is Finding the best school for you. Here is how we do it:

The value of any ranking list of schools and/or degree programs depends on having a methodologically sound assessment of each school’s/program’s characteristics, especially insofar as these can be objectively measured. A college or university is a complex entity, with numerous factors to consider, and distilling these down to the place where meaningful comparisons can be made to form a defensible ranking list becomes part science and part art.

To meet this challenge—and thereby provide you with the most useful and insightful educational rankings on the Internet — TheBestSchools.org formulates our rankings based on five informational categories (six, when considering online schools). The major metrics and qualities for which we rank are these (with expanded, detailed considerations and weights listed):

1. Academic excellence based on a school’s curriculum generally or within the selected discipline [weight = 25%]

  • Weighs school against known leading schools in that discipline
  • Weighs number of core curricula listed as advanced courses within that discipline and compares against introductory courses
  • Weighs school’s curriculum against known knowledge needs of major employers in that discipline
  • Considers number and types of specializations offered within that discipline
  • Considers faculty expertise in that discipline
  • Considers range of electives within that discipline
  • Considers quality of online environment offered to students (if applicable), particularly within that discipline

2. Strength of faculty scholarship [weight = 25%]

  • Considers education background of the faculty
  • Considers years of faculty experience both inside and outside of academia.
  • Considers faculty membership and leadership within relevant, prominent associations
  • Considers academic papers published by faculty in relevant, prominent periodicals
  • Considers awards and recognitions given to faculty members from prominent organizations and from other sources

3. Reputation [weight = 20%]

  • Considers a school’s reputation among academic peers and employers regarding the following:
    • Faculty
    • Curriculum
    • “Freshness” of academic knowledge
    • Adaptability to changes in employment sectors
    • Suitability of graduates for the workplace

4. Financial aid [weight = 10%]

  • Mandatory: Requires full accreditation from an agency endorsed by the U.S. Department of Education and listed on the federal register to accept student federal financial aid
  • Considers range of school-sponsored financial aid such as scholarships and grants

5. Range of degree programs [weight = 20%]

  • Considers range of degree levels: associate’s, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral and professional
  • Considers range of degree subjects offered, such as art & design, computers & technology, education & teaching, criminal justice, and business

6. Strength of online instruction methodology (if applicable) [weight = 25%; subtract 5% from each of the above for online schools/programs]

  • Considers the following of the online classes:
    • Types of online technology used to deliver content
    • Pedagogy style: asynchronous, synchronous, or both (depending on the degree)
    • Extent and quality of the online, community learning environment, including options for communication, interactivity, and collaboration between students and also between students and instructors
    • Variety, breadth, and depth of coursework, and its support, including project options and online tutoring
  • Considers the following of instructors:
    • Extent of training for teaching within an online learning environment
    • Amount of timely, consistent feedback to students
    • Extent of collaboration with prospective employers to ensure suitability of instructional materials for achieving desired skills
    • Ratio to number of students in a class
  • Number and quality of internships in a student’s geographical area for applicable degrees

Because students tend to review a variety of information when choosing a school, the weight a student gives any one criterion will vary. For instance, it’s not enough to offer a carefully constructed ranking of great schools if many are too expensive or too difficult to get into.

To better serve the needs of prospective students, we are therefore increasingly offering filters that help you better use our rankings to find the schools that match your specific needs. These supplement our ranking criteria and include:

  • Accreditation
  • Public or private status
  • Acceptance rate
  • Retention rate
  • Graduation rate
  • ACT/SAT requirements
  • Cost in-state / out of state
  • Undergrad, grad, or both offered
  • Region
  • State
  • City

Get the best rankings here AND get them to suit your personal needs. That’s TheBestSchools.org advantage!

If you have any questions about our ranking methodology, please contact us.

Citations: For a broader account of our ranking methodology, especially as it relates to TheBestSchools.org's underlying educational philosophy and, in other ranking articles, looks beyond academic excellence (as here) to such factors as return on investment or incidental benefit, see our article "Ranking Methodology: How We Rank Schools at TBS." Reputation of schools and degree programs can at least in part be gauged through the school or department's publishing activity, citations, and desirability. At TheBestSchools.org, we keep track of such social and peer validation: "Making Sense of College Rankings." For nuts-and-bolts information about colleges and universities, we look to the National Center for Education Statistics and especially its College Navigator. Insofar as salary and inflation data are relevant to a ranking, we look to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Finally, nothing beats contacting schools and degree programs directly, which our researchers often do, with the result that all the entries in this article should be considered as belonging to this citation!

Featured Online Doctorate in Nurse Practitioner Programs

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.

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.

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.

true Nurse Practitioner $107,460 31%

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.

true Nursing Professor $75,430 15%

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.

true Nurse Anesthetist, Nurse Midwife, and Nurse Practitioner $107,460 31%

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.

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.

The largest professional organization for nurse practitioners in the United States, the AANP advocates for more than 248,000 nurse practitioners who provide comprehensive, patient-centered healthcare. NPWH, a professional membership organization for nurse practitioners working in women's health across the country, promotes women's health issues at a national level. The group's mission includes advocating for the right of women to make their own choices about their bodies and healthcare. DNP is a group of advanced practice nurses advocating for the profession in order to improve healthcare. DNP maintains a list of relevant university programs, offers grants and scholarships, and organizes conferences.

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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