Best Online DNP Programs

by Timon Kaple

Updated October 14, 2022

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Are you ready to discover your college program?

If you already have a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) or master of science in nursing (MSN) degree, you may be ready to take the next step in your career and start an online DNP program.

With a doctor of nursing practice (DNP) degree, you can work as a nurse practitioner (NP). The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects employment for NPs to grow by an astounding 45% from 2019-209.

NPs typically work with a high degree of independence to provide primary and specialty care to patients. They receive compensation commensurate with their expertise and experience, earning a median annual salary of $111,680 as of May 2020.

The Best Online Doctorate in Nurse Practitioner Programs

#1 Best Online DNP Programs

Bradley University

  • Peoria, IL
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Bradley University offers a top-ranked online DNP program. The private university helps degree-seekers complete a doctorate in a flexible format. Doctoral students receive support services like career advising and research support.

The online nursing program requires at least 39 credits of doctoral coursework. After passing comprehensive examinations, doctoral candidates propose a dissertation topic and conduct research in their specialty area. As the highest degree in nursing, the doctorate meets requirements for research, academic, and leadership roles.

Doctoral students who enroll online at the accredited institution qualify for fellowships, scholarships, and other forms of financial aid. Prospective applicants can contact the program to learn more about financial aid opportunities and the admissions process.

Bradley University at a Glance:

Online Student Enrollment: 1,836

Online Master's Programs: 4

Online Doctoral Programs: 1

Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 12-to-1

Graduate Tuition Rate: $16,380

Accepts Transfer Credits: Accepted

Average Tuition
In-state
$34,200
Out-of-state
$34,200
Retention Rate
85%
Admission Rate
70%
Students Enrolled
5,929
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
31% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Higher Learning Commission

#2 Best Online DNP Programs

University of Massachusetts Global

  • Irvine, CA
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Brandman University offers a top-ranked online post-master's-to-DNP program. At the private university, degree-seekers engage in online classes to earn a doctorate. Doctoral students strengthen their research skills and present in academic conferences.

During the online DNP program, learners complete advanced coursework. After passing comprehensive examinations, doctoral candidates complete a dissertation that contributes original research to the field. A doctorate in nursing trains graduates for roles in research, academia, and leadership.

Doctoral students qualify for several forms of financial aid at the accredited institution. Reach out to the DNP program to learn more about admission requirements.

Brandman University at a Glance:

Online Student Enrollment: 9,772

Online Master's Programs: 13

Online Doctoral Programs: 6

Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 19-to-1

Graduate Tuition Rate: $11,880

Average Tuition
In-state
$12,000
Out-of-state
$12,000
Retention Rate
Not provided
Admission Rate
89%
Students Enrolled
10,231
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
96% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission

#3 Best Online DNP Programs

Clemson University

  • Clemson, SC
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

The doctor of nursing practice program at Clemson University uses an online learning format. At the public university, degree-seekers participate in virtual classrooms to earn a doctorate. Doctoral students also benefit from research support, career advising, and library access.

During the online DNP program, learners complete advanced coursework. After passing comprehensive examinations, doctoral candidates propose a dissertation topic and conduct research in their specialty area. Graduates with a nursing practice doctorate pursue roles in research, academia, and leadership.

The accredited institution meets federal requirements for financial aid support. Contact the DNP program to learn more about doctoral admission requirements.

Clemson University at a Glance:

Online Student Enrollment: 7,423

Online Master's Programs: 18

Online Doctoral Programs: 6

Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 16-to-1

Graduate Tuition Rate: $10,600

Average Tuition
In-state
$14,118
Out-of-state
$37,110
Retention Rate
93%
Admission Rate
51%
Students Enrolled
25,822
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
29% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

#4 Best Online DNP Programs

George Washington University

  • Washington, DC
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

The DNP in adult-gerontology acute care nurse practitioner program at George Washington University uses an online learning format. With its flexible format, the private university makes a doctorate more accessible. Doctoral students receive support services like career advising and research support.

In the online nursing program, graduate learners take advanced courses. After meeting coursework requirements, doctoral candidates pass a comprehensive examination and conduct research for an original dissertation or project. A doctorate in nursing trains graduates for roles in research, academia, and leadership.

Doctoral students who attend the accredited institution in an online format qualify for several types of financial aid. Contact the DNP program for more information about doctoral admissions.

George Washington University at a Glance:

Online Student Enrollment: 6,254

Online Master's Programs: 50

Online Doctoral Programs: 11

Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 13-to-1

Graduate Tuition Rate: $31,770

Average Tuition
In-state
$54,453
Out-of-state
$54,453
Retention Rate
92%
Admission Rate
41%
Students Enrolled
27,814
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
22% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Middle States Commission on Higher Education

#5 Best Online DNP Programs

Gonzaga University

  • Spokane, WA
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

The DNP program at Gonzaga University offers an online option for doctoral students. The private university helps degree-seekers complete a doctorate in a flexible format. Doctoral students benefit from support services like career advising.

In the online nursing program, graduate learners complete advanced classes. Doctoral candidates pass comprehensive examinations and conduct research for their dissertation. A doctorate in nursing prepares graduates for careers in academia, research, and leadership.

Doctoral students attending the accredited institution online qualify for several forms of financial aid. Prospective applicants can contact the DNP program to learn more about financial aid opportunities and the admissions process.

Gonzaga University at a Glance:

Online Student Enrollment: 1,317

Online Master's Programs: 3

Online Doctoral Programs: 2

Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 11-to-1

Graduate Tuition Rate: $16,672

Average Tuition
In-state
$44,280
Out-of-state
$44,280
Retention Rate
94%
Admission Rate
62%
Students Enrolled
7,537
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
17% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities

#6 Best Online DNP Programs

Loyola University New Orleans

  • New Orleans, LA
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

The doctor of nursing practice program at Loyola University New Orleans appeals to doctoral students seeking an online route to their degree. With its flexible format, the private university makes a doctorate more accessible. Doctoral students conduct research and participate in academic conferences.

Learners complete doctoral coursework in the online DNP program. After passing comprehensive examinations, doctoral candidates spend 1-2 years researching and writing their dissertation. A doctorate in nursing trains graduates for roles in research, academia, and leadership.

Doctoral students who attend the accredited institution in an online format qualify for several types of financial aid. Prospective applicants can contact the program to learn more about the enrollment process and start dates.

Loyola University New Orleans at a Glance:

Online Student Enrollment: 1,593

Online Master's Programs: 9

Online Doctoral Programs: 2

Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 12-to-1

Graduate Tuition Rate: $14,724

Average Tuition
In-state
$38,926
Out-of-state
$38,926
Retention Rate
78%
Admission Rate
75%
Students Enrolled
4,367
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
36% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

#7 Best Online DNP Programs

Maryville University

  • Saint Louis, MO
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Maryville University offers a top-ranked online doctor of nursing practice program. Degree-seekers benefit from the private university's flexible format. Doctoral students work closely with faculty mentors and career advisors.

In the online DNP program, graduate learners complete advanced classes. After passing comprehensive examinations, doctoral candidates propose a dissertation topic and conduct research in their specialty area. As the terminal degree in nursing, the program leads to career opportunities in academia, research, and industry.

Doctoral students who enroll online at the accredited institution qualify for fellowships, scholarships, and other forms of financial aid. Prospective applicants can contact the program to learn more about research support, financial aid opportunities, and admission requirements.

Maryville University at a Glance:

Online Student Enrollment: 7,651

Online Master's Programs: 15

Online Doctoral Programs: 5

Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 14-to-1

Graduate Tuition Rate: $14,346

Average Tuition
In-state
$26,070
Out-of-state
$26,070
Retention Rate
83%
Admission Rate
83%
Students Enrolled
10,013
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
76% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Higher Learning Commission

#8 Best Online DNP Programs

Montana State University

  • Bozeman, MT
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

The doctor of nursing practice. program at Montana State University offers an online option for doctoral students. The public university provides flexible enrollment options to meet the needs of diverse degree-seekers. Doctoral students receive research support throughout the program.

The doctoral program includes a rigorous curriculum in nursing. After passing comprehensive examinations, doctoral candidates spend 1-2 years researching and writing their dissertation. As the highest degree in nursing, the doctorate trains graduates for academic, research, and leadership careers.

At the accredited institution, online doctoral students qualify for scholarships, federal loans, and other forms of financial aid. Contact the DNP program to learn more about financial aid, enrollment options, and start dates.

Montana State University at a Glance:

Online Student Enrollment: 2,127

Online Master's Programs: 7

Online Doctoral Programs: 2

Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 18-to-1

Graduate Tuition Rate: $5,089

Average Tuition
In-state
$5,654
Out-of-state
$23,890
Retention Rate
77%
Admission Rate
82%
Students Enrolled
16,692
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
13% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities

#9 Best Online DNP Programs

Nebraska Methodist College of Nursing and Allied Health

  • Omaha, NE
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

The BSN-to-DNP program at Nebraska Methodist College of Nursing and Allied Health offers an online option for doctoral students. Degree-seekers benefit from flexible course options through the private institution. Doctoral students strengthen their research skills and present in academic conferences.

Learners take doctoral classes in the family nurse practitioner program. The program also requires passing scores on a comprehensive examination and the successful defense of an original dissertation project. Professionals with a DNP work in academia, research, and leadership roles.

Online doctoral students at the accredited institution pay for their degree with scholarships, fellowships, and loans. Reach out to the program to learn more about transfer credit policies, research support, and admission requirements.

Nebraska Methodist College of Nursing and Allied Health at a Glance:

Online Student Enrollment: 696

Online Master's Programs: 6

Online Doctoral Programs: 5

Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 13-to-1

Graduate Tuition Rate: $11,955

Average Tuition
In-state
$15,422
Out-of-state
$15,422
Retention Rate
68%
Admission Rate
97%
Students Enrolled
1,128
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
62% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Higher Learning Commission

#10 Best Online DNP Programs

Samford University

  • Birmingham, AL
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

The DNP in nursing administration program at Samford University offers a doctorate in an online learning format. With its flexible format, the private university makes a doctorate more accessible. Doctoral students benefit from support services like career advising.

The online nursing administration program requires a minimum number of credits of doctoral coursework. After passing comprehensive examinations, doctoral candidates propose a dissertation topic and conduct research in their specialty area. With a DNP, graduates pursue academic, research, and industry roles.

At the accredited institution, doctoral students qualify for several forms of financial aid. Contact the nursing program to learn more about financial aid, enrollment options, and start dates.

Samford University at a Glance:

Online Student Enrollment: 1,726

Online Master's Programs: 8

Online Doctoral Programs: 2

Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 12-to-1

Graduate Tuition Rate: $17,754

Average Tuition
In-state
$32,000
Out-of-state
$32,000
Retention Rate
89%
Admission Rate
83%
Students Enrolled
5,692
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
30% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Best Online Doctorate

Online Doctorate in Nurse Practitioner Programs Ranking Guidelines

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

Our Methodology

Here at TheBestSchools.org, we take the trust and welfare of our readers very seriously. When making our school and program rankings, our top priority is ensuring that our readers get accurate, unbiased information that can help them make informed decisions about online education. That's why we've developed a rigorous ranking methodology that keeps the needs of our readers front and center.

Our proprietary, multi-criteria ranking algorithm analyzes key data indicators — as collected by the federal government — for each school or program. What data we use depends on the focus of each specific ranking, but in all cases, our ranking methodology is impartial: Schools cannot buy better rankings at TBS.

While specific criteria under consideration can vary by ranking, there are a few data points that we value most highly. They are affordability, academic quality, and online enrollment. Below, we break down our algorithm to help you understand what you're getting when you use one of our rankings.

  • Academics
  • Affordability
  • Online Enrollment

Data Sources

The data used in TBS rankings comes primarily from the federal government, and much of it is provided by the schools themselves. We aggregate and analyze this data to build our rankings.

The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) is our primary source. Its data comes from annual surveys conducted by the U.S. Department of Education's National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). Every college, university, or technical school with access to federal financial aid must participate in these surveys, which include questions about enrollment, graduation rates, finances, and faculty qualifications. This is publicly available data, which you can access yourself through the College Navigator.

Additionally, because we value a personal touch and the professional experience of our staff and Academic Advisory Board, we vet all results and adjust rankings as necessary based on our collected knowledge of schools and degree programs. Depending on the ranking, we may obtain additional input from AcademicInfluence.com, subject matter experts, prior TBS ranking lists, or other sources we deem relevant to a particular ranking.

Breakdown of Our Rankings Methodology

About Our Ranking Factors

Here at TBS, we value what you value: quality education, affordability, and the accessibility of online education. These factors guide all of our program rankings.

Each of these factors are further broken down into weighted subfactors. For example, retention rates are weighted more heavily than availability of program options because they are a better indicator of student success.

We chose the following factors for our rankings because of their influence on learning experiences and graduate outcomes. However, students should always balance our rankings against their personal priorities. For instance, a learner who needs a fully online program may prioritize online flexibility more than our rankings do. Our rankings are designed to help you make a decision — not to make a decision for you.

Academics - 75%
Affordability - 15%
Online Enrollment - 10%

In all our school rankings and recommendations, we work for objectivity and balance. We carefully research and compile each ranking list, and as stated in our advertising disclosure, we do NOT permit financial incentives to influence rankings. Our articles never promote or disregard a school for financial gain.

If you have questions about our ranking methodology, please feel free to connect with our staff through contact page.

We thank you for your readership and trust.

Featured Online Doctorate in Nurse Practitioner Programs

What Is an Online Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) Degree?

The DNP is a post-master's graduate degree designed for experienced registered nurses (RNs) who wish to develop more specialized skills. DNP graduates can work in direct patient care as advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs), manage healthcare delivery settings, improve health policy, and contribute to clinical scholarship. DNPs often work in hospitals, health clinics, or their own practices.

Online DNP programs typically require 30-90 credits. The total number of credits for this degree depends on your previous education credentials and work experience. Additionally, each prospective DNP must complete 1,000 clinical hours for graduation.

Clinical hours take place in-person at approved clinical sites, even if your program offers all other DNP requirements remotely. Required classes may include evidenced-based practice, advanced pathophysiology, and advanced health assessment.

Online colleges and universities with doctor of nurse practice programs may offer several concentrations to help you tailor your degree. Popular specialization areas for learners in doctorate in nursing practice programs include:

  • Nurse anesthesia
  • Pediatric acute care nurse practitioner
  • Family nurse practitioner

DNP vs. DNS

A doctor of nursing science (DNS) focuses more heavily on medical research in nursing practice than a DNP. DNPs work with the scientific data and research that DNSs produce to help improve nursing practice and decision-making in the field. Unlike DNPs, DNS graduates usually do not work directly with patients. Instead, they often find careers with research institutions and universities. DNS degree-seekers typically need to complete dissertations for graduation, while DNPs do not.

DNP vs. Ph.D. in Nursing

Both a DNP and Ph.D. in nursing prepare degree-holders for high-level positions, but their intended career path and training differ substantially. DNP students prepare for direct patient care and leadership or administrative roles in healthcare delivery settings. Ph.D. programs in nursing, on the other hand, prepare learners for research positions and teaching at institutions of higher education.

Unlike DNPs, students enrolled in Ph.D. in nursing studies programs do not need to complete clinicals. Additionally, Ph.D. nursing students write traditional dissertations for graduation rather than evidence-based final projects.

Why Get a DNP Degree?

The DNP allows enrollees to develop valuable skills and stand out from other nursing professionals. According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, the DNP may soon replace the MSN as the standard for preparing students for APRN roles such as NP, clinical nurse specialist, certified nurse anesthetist (CNA), and certified nurse midwife (CNM).

DNP degree-holders who pursue APRN careers also earn healthy salaries. According to a Wolters Kluwer study from 2018, professionals with DNPs make an average of $7,000 more per year than nurses with only master's degrees.

DNP Degree Program Admission Requirements

Applicants for doctorate of nursing practice programs must hold MSNs to apply. Individuals with BSNs and master's degrees from outside fields may also qualify. Schools require incoming students to possess RN licenses and some work experience in the field. Additional requirements often include GRE scores, a 3.0 or higher GPA, and official transcripts.

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

On average, students can expect their online NP doctorate programs to last 3-6 years. The amount of time required to earn an online nurse practitioner doctorate depends on several factors, including part-time or full-time enrollment, course availability, whether courses are individually paced or cohort-based. Enrolling in BSN-to-DNP programs or MSN-to-DNP programs will also affect the time of study.

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.

Choosing an Online DNP Degree Program

Students searching for DNP degrees should consider both the academic and financial components of their education. DNP learners who qualify for in-state tuition rates can usually save money in the long run.

A self-paced, asynchronous program can also help you finish your program more quickly and reduce expenses. Additionally, online DNP programs require in-person clinicals, so location can also influence the overall cost of your degree.

Degree-seekers should also look into programs that offer online DNP concentrations in their areas of interest. Since DNP students work closely with faculty members, they can benefit from attending programs where their research interests align with the teachers in their department.

Accreditation for Online Doctor of Nursing Practice Programs

Aspiring DNP enrollees should only attend schools that possess regional accreditation. Accreditation ensures that your college or university undergoes a rigorous evaluation by a third-party organization.

Nursing programs should also possess programmatic accreditation from the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education or the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing in addition to approval by their state's board of nursing.

Paying for Your Online DNP Degree

One of the most overwhelming aspects of pursuing your online nurse practitioner doctorate can be the cost. Doctoral students can pursue several methods to pay for their education, including student loans, scholarships, grants, and loan forgiveness programs.

Every NP 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 cannot apply for federal student loans, grants, and many scholarships.

NPs work to improve the public good, which opens up additional scholarships, grants, and other financial aid opportunities. NP doctoral students may be particularly interested in student loan forgiveness programs that benefit individuals in public service careers.

NPs may qualify for the NURSE Corps Loan Repayment Program, the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program, and the Perkins Loan Cancellation Program. Additionally, some workplaces offer tuition reimbursement or will pay down student loan debts for employees.

Nurse Practitioner Careers

Graduates of NP doctoral programs typically work as APRNs in hospitals, clinics, and physicians' offices. They coordinate patient care and provide primary and specialty care to patients.

The scope of practice available to NPs varies among states, but many enjoy independence in their day-to-day duties. Working as an NP can be both stressful and rewarding for individuals who want to make a career out of helping others.

Certified Nurse Anesthetist

Median Annual Salary (2020): $183,580

CNAs administer anesthesia and other medications to patients before, during, and after medical procedures. They may focus on a broad range of patients or specialize in subfields such as neurosurgery, pediatrics, or obstetrics. CNAs work in medical settings such as surgical centers, physicians' offices, and outpatient care centers.

Certified Nurse Practitioner

Median Annual Salary (2020): $111,680

CNPs are nurse practitioners with additional training in a specialty area such as family practice, gerontology, or pediatrics. They diagnose patients, order diagnostic tests, treat chronic and acute illnesses, and educate patients. CNPs commonly work in hospitals, college campus health centers, and urban community health centers.

Certified Nurse Midwife

Median Annual Salary (2020): $111,130

CNMs play an essential role in women's health services, especially for pregnant patients. These healthcare professionals work closely with physicians and other healthcare providers to provide counseling and care for expecting mothers, from pre-conception through postpartum. CNMs often work in hospitals, birth centers, private practices, and military hospitals.

Common Questions About DNP Degree Programs

Do DNPs Get Paid More Than NPs?

Yes. DNPs traditionally earn higher annual salaries than NPs, who possess master's degrees. Some APRNs who only possess master's degrees may make more than DNPs, depending on the career and location.

What Can a DNP Do That an NP Cannot?

Professionals with the terminal DNP degree qualify for top jobs in the field. DNP degree-holders also have more influence on healthcare policies and qualify for administrative or leadership roles before NPs.

Can You Get a DNP Without an MSN?

Yes. DNP degree-seekers who do not already possess MSNs earn their master's degree en route to the DNP in BSN-to-DNP programs. Some programs also accept bachelor's degree-holders who possess master's degrees in other fields.

Can a DNP Be Called a Doctor?

Yes. Anyone with a doctoral degree may use the title, including professionals with a Ph.D. or DNP. The title serves as a recognition of the DNP's skills and training. It also builds trust between patients and DNPs in clinical settings.

Portrait of Timon Kaple

Timon Kaple

Timon Kaple is a writer and ethnographer specializing in the study of music, language, and American culture. His recent work explores how people understand their daily experiences and how those beliefs influence their actions, engagement with social media, language, work, and art. He conducts ethnographic fieldwork and teaches students of all ages about music and culture. Timon also holds the Ph.D. from Indiana University-Bloomington.

Header Image Credit: SeventyFour | Getty Images


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