DNP Vs. NP: Difference & Salary

Jan 10, 2020

Nurse practitioners (NP) and nurses with a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree are two types of advanced practice nurses. This article explains the education requirements, career opportunities and salary differences between these two titles.

Comparing NP and DNP Degree Programs

Nurse practitioners (NP) with or without a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree are respected medical professionals with a specialization in some area of nursing practice. While all nurse practitioners are highly-trained, some hold an MSN degree (two-year Master of Science in Nursing) while others go on to obtain a DNP (Doctor of Nursing Practice), the terminal degree for nursing practice.

Job Title Education Requirements Median Salary (2019)* Job Outlook (2018-2028)**
Nurse Practitioner with an MSN degree Master of Science in Nursing $93,848 26% (for all nurse practitioners)
Nurse Practitioner with a DNP degree Doctor of Nursing Practice $102,000 26% (for all nurse practitioners)

Sources: *PayScale.com, **Bureau of Labor Statistics

Responsibilities of NPs and Nurses with a DNP

The day-to-day responsibilities of nurse practitioners with an MSN degree and NPs that have earned a DNP degree can be very similar. Both types of nurse practitioners hold a specialization in some area of advanced practice, such as primary care, adult gerontology, psychiatry, pediatrics or gerontological care. Both hold a tremendous amount of responsibility to implement evidence-based practice in clinical settings. Both will likely hold managerial positions and oversee groups of resident nurses (nurses with a bachelor's degree or associate's degree). However, because a nurse practitioner with a DNP degree has more experience conducting research, they may be eligible for more research-based positions, administrative positions and teaching positions. On average, nurse practitioners with a DNP degree earn a bit more than nurse practitioners with just an MSN.

Nurse Practitioner with an MSN Degree

Nurse practitioners are nurses with an additional 2-year Master of Nursing Science (MSN) degree. Depending on their specialization, nurse practitioners can work in hospitals, community centers, clinics and other healthcare facilities. Sometimes it is difficult to tell the difference between a nurse practitioner and a doctor, because these nurses may work independently and provide similar services as a primary care doctor.

Job responsibilities of a nurse practitioner include:

  • Meet with, diagnose and treat patients in a variety of settings
  • Act as leaders amongst their peers and within the administration of healthcare facilities
  • Apply evidence-based practice to ensure that their healthcare facilities provides the best care to patients based on the latest nursing science research
  • Support and provide expert advice for other nurses

Nurse Practitioner with a DNP Degree

A DNP is the highest degree one can earn in the field of nursing. DNP programs differ from PhD programs because they focus on clinical practice, rather than academic research. Still, to complete the program students must become experts in applying scientific research in clinical settings to improve community health outcomes. Nurse practitioners with a DNP degree can continue on with clinical practice or move into leadership, training and research roles.

Job responsibilities of a nurse practitioner with a DNP degree include:

  • Diagnose diseases
  • Create treatment plans
  • Prescribe medication
  • Conduct research in nursing science and/or practice
  • Train nurses and medical professionals

Related Careers

If you are interested in becoming a nurse practitioner, you may want to consider a career as a registered nurse, the most common first step to obtaining an advanced nursing position. If you are interested in earning a DNP degree, consider becoming a nurse educator so that you can focus on research and train the next generation of nursing professionals.

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