By Staff Writers
May 26, 2020
Nurse practitioners (NPs) specialize in a specific patient population, such as adult-gerontology, family practice, or clinical, and those with a doctor of nursing practice (DNP) achieve the highest level of training in their fields. The NP profession also includes nurse anesthetists (CRNAs) and nurse midwives (CNMs). CRNAs assist those undergoing surgeries or procedures. CNMs help women through pregnancy, delivery, and post-delivery.
Online DNP programs offer students the flexibility to continue working while earning their degree. The best online DNP programs hold accreditation from the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education and the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing.
Our ranking of best-value online DNP programs provides information on accreditation, available NP specialties, and course delivery methods to help you in your search for the best DNP program.
Top 10 Best-Value Online DNP Programs
What to Expect From an Online Doctorate in Nursing Program
Virtually all U.S. states require NPs to earn a master of science in nursing (MSN), but many pursue DNPs. Before pursuing an MSN, most candidates earn a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) degree. The number of DNP graduates rose to 7,039 in 2017-18.
The typical paths for distance learners consist of either a 3-4-year BSN-to-DNP program online or a 1-3-year MSN-to-DNP online. Students should expect to take web-based courses and attend periodic on-campus immersions, completing at least 1,000 hours of on-site internship and clinical experiences.
Course content varies by specialty, but most DNP curricula include organizational and systems leadership; clinical scholarship and analysis; information systems and technology; and healthcare policy.
NPs become licensed as advanced practice registered nurses. Most U.S. state licensure boards require a registered nurse license, a graduate degree from an accredited program, and a passing score on the applicable national certification exam.
Career Outlook for Nurses Practitioners
As primary care providers who work with specific patient populations — whether neonatal, pediatric, or psychiatric — NPs perform many of the same tasks as physicians. Their daily duties include physical exams, diagnostic testing and analysis, and prescribing treatments and medications. Depending on their jurisdiction, they work independently or in collaboration with supervising physicians.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects employment in the NP profession to grow by 26% from 2018-28, which significantly outpaces the projected growth of all occupations. The top industries for NPs include physicians' offices, hospitals, and outpatient care centers. New York, California, and Texas boast the highest employment levels.
The 2018 median annual wage for NPs, CRNAs, and CNMs reached $113,930, with CRNAs topping the pay scale at $167,950. California ranks as the highest paying state, followed by Washington and Hawaii. NPs in the California metropolitan areas of Vallejo-Fairfield and San Francisco-Oakland, along with those in Spokane, Washington, outearn NPs in all other cities, with mean wages above $155,000.