DNP Careers

Interested in earning a doctor of nursing practice degree? Learn about the job salaries and nursing specialties on this career path, as well as how DNPs differ from NPs.

Doctorate in Nursing Salary

As a nurse with a DNP, you could qualify for jobs at the highest pay bracket for this field. Since there are many career paths that can be explored with a DNP, the table below looks at some of the average salaries for nursing careers that you can pursue with this degree.

Career Average Salary
Postsecondary Nursing Instructor $77,360
Nurse Anesthetist $169,450
Healthcare Administrator $111,680
Nurse Practitioner (NP) $107,480
Nurse Midwife $103,640

It's important to remember that these salaries will vary greatly by state. For instance, California was the top-paying state in 2017 for NPs ($126,770), followed by Alaska ($125,140) and Hawaii ($122,580). The lowest paying states for NPs include Tennessee ($93,970), Alabama ($94,880), and Arkansas ($95,230).

Another example is for healthcare administrators. The District of Columbia had the highest average in the country ($143,710), followed by New York ($136,770) and Connecticut ($132,600). The lowest paying mean wages for healthcare administrators include Arkansas ($82,930), Iowa ($86,710), Oklahoma ($88,990).

Along with this, you must remember that specialties pay differently as well. Let's look at some NP specializations and their median salaries.

NP Specialty Median Salary
General NP $104,770
Neonatal NP $119,555
Emergency Room NP $109,225
Nursing Home NP $83,140
Specialty Care NP $107,725

DNP vs NP Salary

Not surprisingly, individuals with a DNP often make a higher salary than those with just an MSN. A 2018 salary survey by Advanced Healthcare Network shows that the average salary of those with a DNP was $113,347, while those with just an MSN earned an average of $105,664. These salaries also vary widely by job title, experience and specialty area; for instance, nursing professionals with 6-15 years of experience earned 20-25% more than those with less than five years of experience.

Doctor of Nursing Practice

A DNP degree prepares you for advanced clinical and leadership careers in nursing fields, and having this credential vastly broadens your career possibilities. As a DNP, you'll be qualified for upper-level nursing careers in a nursing specialty, such as nurse anesthetist or clinical nurse specialist. You could also seek nurse practitioner leadership positions or consider jobs where you would work with specific populations, such as children or the elderly.

With this degree, you can opt to work in postsecondary colleges and universities as an educator, training future generations of nurses. You can also qualify to become a hospital administrator, healthcare executive, or policy advocate with a DNP and professional experience. These roles often look at the administrative side of how healthcare is run, rather than the clinical, hands-on duties that nurses are involved with.

DNP Jobs

There are many career options with a DNP. One of the most common career options is to become a nurse practitioner. While only a master's degree is necessary, some of the more advanced specializations may prefer candidates with a doctorate, such as a nurse anesthetist or clinical nurse specialist.

Another option is to work in academia. Postsecondary nurse educators work in colleges and universities to train the next generation of nurses. They need to have knowledge of how to plan and teach curriculum, as well as simulated labs. While the cliché is that 'those who can't do, teach,' it is not true for nursing educators. You must be well-versed in terminology, diagnostics, and procedures. In other words, 'only those that know how to do really well, teach.'

With a DNP and some experience in either business or healthcare, you can qualify for jobs in management. Hospital and healthcare administrators work to make sure that the hospital, clinic, office, or unit runs smoothly. As a healthcare administrator, you'll be the expert on how new procedures and policies should be implemented to better treat patients. They know what technologies would benefit the hospital or clinic and are able to better promote health throughout the community. With a DNP, you may even work on creating health initiatives and programs.

What Does a DNP Do?

Your job duties depend on your occupation and where you work. As a nurse practitioner, you could spend your days working directly with patients to diagnose, treat, and monitor them. You'll typically have many of the same responsibilities as a doctor, including ordering diagnostic tests and prescribing medicine. Other tasks can include:

  • Taking medical histories
  • Conducting patient exams
  • Educating patients on disease prevention
  • Analyzing test results
  • Developing treatment plans
  • Promoting healthy lifestyles
  • Referring patients to specialists

As a nurse educator, your days can be spent preparing aspiring nurses. You might spend one week designing the academic curriculum, then spend the next few months conducting lectures and giving clinical demonstrations. In addition, you could be responsible for giving tests and assessments, grading assignments, and advising and mentoring your students.

As an NP, you could encounter quite a bit of daily variety in your practice, but as an administrator, what you do will depend mostly on where you work. As an administrator in a hospital, you could be in charge of setting and managing budgets, creating work schedules, hiring employees, conducting training, and developing and enforcing polices. You could handle these duties for a specific department or for the entire facility. Health administrators who work in a nursing home may have those same duties, as well as be responsible for:

  • Overseeing all nursing care
  • Monitoring the cleanliness of the facility
  • Meeting with prospective new patients and their families
  • Making sure current residents are satisfied with their care
  • Ensure compliance with all legal and accreditation requirements and standards

DNP Specialties

The most common path for a DNP is to become a nurse practitioner; however, there are several medical specialties you can choose within this career. Below, you can see some options nurse practitioner specialization options, along with their average salary:

DNP Specialization Average Salary
Family Primary Care $89,043
Adult Acute Care $98,000
Gerontology Primary Care $90,004
Pediatric Primary Care $87,000
Clinical Nurse Specialist $86,234
Psychiatric $97,800
Cardiovascular Care $104,964
Hospitalist $97,807

All salary statistics come from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (2017), PayScale.com (2018), Salary.com (2018), and Advanced Healthcare Network (2018).