DNP Degree: Programs, Education & Salary

If you're looking for a degree that can open several high-level healthcare positions, a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) may be the option you're seeking. This article will look at program options and how earning a DNP can lead to several different lucrative careers.

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A Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP), as the name suggests, is a professional degree for nurses. This is a terminal degree, meaning it's the highest degree that can be obtained in the nursing field, and the program is more practice-based than research-based as a Ph.D would be. DNP programs may focus on a wide range of healthcare topics, such as midwifery, nursing leadership, and anesthesiology. Below are just a few other common specializations that may be available in a DNP program, followed by some information on career possibilities and salary potential.

DNP Tracks

Psychiatric Mental Health NP

One of the DNP tracks that can be commonly found is the psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner (NP) track. This program can prepare you to work in several facilities, including emergency care centers and mental health departments. You'll study psychotherapy, medication management, neuroscience, adult mental health, addictive behaviors, mental health assessments, and substance abuse. Once you've completed your program, you'll be prepared to work with patients of all ages to help with their mental disorders.

Pediatric NP

Pediatric nurse practitioners work with younger patients, typically beginning around three months to 18 years in age. While the ages vary by practice, your education will primarily focus on these age groups. Some colleges offer pediatric critical care tracks, though more offer pediatric primary care. Some of the course topics you will find include genetics, pediatric emergency care, growth and development, neonatal health, and health promotion across the lifespan.

Gerontology NP

Population health, pharmacology, care across the lifespan, gerontology health, and abuse recognition are just a few of the topics you'll study in a gerontology DNP program, which focuses on providing nursing care to older adults. After completion of this program, you'll be ready to work with the elderly to promote good health and proper aging. You'll know all the issues that the elderly may come across and understand policy to offer better care.

Career Options and Salaries

Job Title Average Salary (2017) Job Growth (2016-2026)*
Nurse Practitioner $107,480 36%
Nurse Anesthetist $169,450 16%
Nurse Midwife $103,640 21%
Nursing Professor $77,360 24%
Health Service Manager $111,680 20%

Source *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

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Possible Careers for Those with DNP Degrees

Nurse Practitioner

NPs are advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs). The minimum education required for all types of APRNs is a master's degree in nursing, though many choose to earn a DNP. In many instances, nurse practitioners can work independently, similar to physicians, though they may also work as part of a team. In some small clinics, urgent care centers, or small towns, there may be no doctor available, so a nurse practitioner diagnoses and treats patients. Nurse practitioners are able to write prescriptions and order tests as well. Those with a DNP have additional job opportunities in nursing research. NPs can specialize in any area of medicine, and some of the more popular areas are pediatrics, family practice, emergency care, and geriatrics.

Nurse Anesthetist

A Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA) is a type of APRN that has been trained in administering anesthesia and pain medication. As a CRNA, you'll speak with patients before surgery to decide on the best form of pain medication and anesthesia for the procedure. You'll check patients' medical histories, as well as their reactions to medications. You will monitor the patient during the surgery to ensure strong vitals. After a procedure, you'll check to make sure your patient is recovering well from the anesthesia.

Nurse Midwife

As a nurse midwife, which is another type of APRN, you'll be in charge of your patients' reproductive health and needs. You'll perform gynecological exams, help deliver babies, and promote reproductive health. You may also work with mothers for prenatal care and as a primary care provider for the first several months of the baby's life. The American Midwifery Certification Board grants certification to nurse midwives who meet specific requirements.

Nursing Professor

While nursing and health educators can find work with a bachelor's degree helping the community maintain a healthy lifestyle, nursing professors typically require a doctoral degree to teach. A nurse with a DNP degree has the knowledge to teach the next generation of nurses, though those with a Ph.D. may be preferred by some universities, especially for tenure-track positions. As a professor, you will work at colleges and universities, which are often connected or affiliated with health care facilities, to teach nursing students the skills and theories needed to work with patients.

Health Service Manager

Depending on the facility that you work in, your duties and title as a health service manager may differ. In general, you'll be tasked with setting goals and overseeing the completion of those goals. You may find yourself working as a nursing manager, heading up an entire team of nurses or a department, working with the financial side of healthcare systems, working in information systems, or even working in hospital administration or policy. You may recruit and hire staff, prepare budgets, or act as a liaison between the board and medical staff. In general, you'll want to stay on top of changes and trends in the healthcare industry and work with hospital staff to better the patient care your facility offers.

Although a bachelor's degree is the minimum education needed for this job, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that it's common for health service managers to hold master's degrees. The BLS also states that some employers may prefer to hire those with a graduate education, so a DNP-holder may be an appealing job candidate.

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