Best DNP Programs
The Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) is the highest clinical degree available in nursing education. If you're looking for the best DNP programs in the nation, you're in luck! Study.com has created a complete list of the top 50 programs based on a range of factors, including diversity of concentrations/specializations, clinical options for graduate students, and opportunities to gain experience outside of the classroom. We also explored tuition costs, graduation rates, and other important data from the Department of Education. Study.com's rankings are unique in that they emphasize accessibility, affordability, and quality of education, which we considered the most important attributes in our ranking lists. There's no doubt that a DNP program from any school on this list will offer a top-notch academic experience and open doors to amazing employment opportunities in the field.
1. Fairfield University
The Marion Peckham Egan School of Nursing and Health Studies at Fairfield University made the top spot on our list due to its array of DNP options for students interested in becoming family nurse practitioners (FNPs), psychiatric mental health nurse practitioners (PMHNPs), nurse midwives, and more. DNP enrollment is available to students with bachelor's or master's degree in nursing. While enrolled, students get plenty of support from the Robin Kanarek Learning Resource Center, which offers clinical simulations, an operating room area and skills lab.
2. DeSales University
At DeSales University, graduate students can earn their DNP in the areas of executive or clinical leadership. In addition to the standard accredited DNP, the university offers a dual DNP + Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree. DeSales DNP students get plenty of clinical experience through the Gambet Center, which is a 77,000-square-foot facility featuring labs for simulation, gross anatomy and patient care. DNP students who earned their Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) from DeSales can take one free 800-level DNP course for three credits.
3. Wagner College
Wagner College offers a DNP program with a unique focus: population health and disaster preparedness. Designed for full-time completion in just seven semesters, the program enhances students' existing FNP careers by preparing them to work at the state and federal levels and address challenges in global health. Courses in this program ensure students are ready to take part in scientific inquiry, policy development and chaotic human condition response.
4. Augsburg University
Augsburg University's DNP program prepares students to become certified as FNPs or to take on careers in advanced transcultural nursing leadership. The FNP track is designed for students who have earned their Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN), while the transcultural nursing leadership track educates students who have earned their MSN. DNP students have the opportunity to build on their practical experience through immersion courses and practicums in local or international settings.
5. University of Portland
The University of Portland has DNP programs for RNs who have completed their BSNs as well as RNs who already work as nurse practitioners. BSN to DNP students receive more than 900 hours of clinical experience while in the program, while NP to DNP students enjoy the ability to complete their programs in as little as five semesters. Clinical and professional support for graduate students is offered through the university's Simulated Health Center as well as the UP Student Nurses Association (UPSNA).
6. Viterbo University
Viterbo University in La Crosse, WI, offers DNP programs to prepare students with BSNs for careers as family or adult/gerontology nurse practitioners or certified registered nurse anesthetists (CRNAs). Students possessing MSNs can train to become NPs or enhance their existing NP careers by assuming leadership roles. An MBA/DNP dual degree option is available for both BSN and MSN holders. These programs have resulted in fantastic success for Viterbo's DNP students, as evidenced by 100% employment and advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) licensure rates among Spring 2018 graduates.
7. Millikin University
At Millikin University, students can benefit find a practice-centered DNP completion track for students possessing advanced practice licensure and a DNP family nurse practitioner track for BSN and MSN holders. Millikin also offers a DNP nurse anesthesia option, which prepares students for the National Board of Certification and Recertification of Nurse Anesthetists (NBCRNA) National Certification Examination.
8. Valparaiso University
Valparaiso University's DNP degree program prepares students for roles as advanced practice nurses or in positions as managers, directors or executives in the healthcare field. The university enrolls students possessing their BSN or MSN, provides hundreds of clinical hours and ensures students have a solid grasp of epidemiology, evidence-based practice and ethical issues that arise in advanced practice nursing.
9. University of Wisconsin - Oshkosh
The University of Wisconsin - Oshkosh provides more than 35 graduate degree and certificate options, including hybrid and online DNPs. Students holding their bachelor's or master's degree can choose from emphases like FNP and nurse anesthesia. In addition to valuable class time, students can get important practical experience through the university's Graduate Laboratory, which features exam rooms and tables, a mini diagnostic lab, oto/ophthalmoscopes and more.
10. College of Our Lady of the Elms
The College of Our Lady of the Elms offers three DNP programs. Options include the FNP and adult/gerontology acute care nurse practitioner (AGACNP). The college also features a comprehensive health systems innovation and leadership (HSIL) degree track designed to prepare students to enhance the delivery of patient care and make improvements to healthcare systems. Graduates of this program will be eligible to sit for the American Organization of Nurse Executives certifying exam.
11. Quinnipiac University
At Quinnipiac University, 98% of the 2018 graduating class of nurses continued their education or secured employment within six months of completing their studies. A contributor to the university's success is its relationship with more than 300 clinical sites, which ensures students get plenty of experience outside of the classroom. Quinnipiac offers an on-campus DNP for bachelor's degree holders looking to enter the field of nurse anesthesia. Online DNP options are available for master's degree holders interested in the care of populations or nursing leadership.
12. South Dakota State University
The South Dakota State University College of Nursing boasts impressive success rates for its nursing students, including 100% job placement and advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) pass rates for 2017. The university's extraordinary data can help DNP students aiming to advance their current APRN careers feel confident in their ability to build on their existing knowledge and skills. By the end of their time in the program, they could be ready to work among underserved and rural populations as FNPs, PMHNPs, neonatal NPs or pediatric NPs.
13. Radford University
Radford University's School of Nursing began its graduate program in 1988 by educating students in home health nursing. Since then, the program has blossomed into one that offers a DNP program with concentrations in areas like FNP, psychiatric mental health and nurse executive leadership. While each DNP program prepares students to work in specific settings or scenarios, all ensure they have the skills needed to care for patients in rural settings.
14. Oklahoma City University
The Kramer School of Nursing at Oklahoma City University offers DNP programs designed to prepare bachelor's degree holders for careers as FNPs or AGACNPs. The school also provides a comprehensive DNP-completion option with clinical and administration tracks for students possessing their MSNs and national certification. Each DNP option includes some online coursework and clinical hours for practical experience in a supervised setting.
15. North Dakota State University
At North Dakota State University's main campus, students can take advantage of a stellar BSN to DNP program, complete with advanced nursing curriculum and clinical experiences. The practice-focused program, which is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE), prepares students to work in a variety of medical settings as FNPs. Completion of the program requires core graduate, practice core and specialty courses that focus on areas like ethics, applied statistics and advanced practice roles.
16. University of Mary
The University of Mary ensures its DNP students have the knowledge and skills needed to become FNPs or expand their current nursing skills to enhance the field. The BSN to DNP program has more than 1100 clinical hours and prepares students to work with chronic and acute conditions. Students enrolled in the MSN to DNP program are trained to work in academic and clinical leadership and practice roles. Both programs are offered in a blended format that allows students to take courses online and at the Bismarck, North Dakota, campus.
17. The College of Saint Scholastica
The College of Saint Scholastica's doctoral-level nursing programs are available at its Duluth and St. Cloud campuses. In St. Cloud, students can enroll in a Bachelor of Science (BS) to DNP program, while Duluth offers BS to DNP and post-graduate DNP programs. The four-year BS to DNP program consists of three nurse practitioner specialties and can be completed mostly online. The online post-graduate DNP takes two years to complete and prepares students to excel in nursing leadership and change management.
18. Seattle University
Seattle University offers an advanced practice nurse immersion (APNI) program, which features 16 quarters of study designed to prepare non-nurses who already have a bachelor's degree for RN licensure while earning their DNP degree. Students who are already licensed RNs can take advantage of a DNP program designed to train for acute care or primary care nurse practitioner positions. This program offers five nurse practitioner tracks from which to choose, including adult/gerontology, family, psychiatric mental health and nurse midwifery.
19. Chatham University
At Chatham University, students can enroll in one of two CCNE-accredited DNP programs. The BSN to DNP helps students earn their MSN and DNP for executive-level nursing leadership roles after completing 53 credits and taking part 1,000 clinical hours. The university's traditional DNP program requires only 27 credits and 500 clinical hours, can be completed in just five semesters and trains students for advanced practice nursing roles.
20. Belmont University
Belmont University features a three-year BSN to DNP program that prepares students to become FNPSs as well as a 21-month MSN to DNP program for students interested in securing positions in health policy development, patient care advocacy and education. Nursing students have access to more than a dozen learning labs and 30 simulation manikins offering realistic care experiences. Belmont also offers students mission trip opportunities.
21. University of the Incarnate Word
University of Incarnate Word students can secure doctoral degrees whether currently possessing their bachelor's or master's degree. The BSN to DNP prepares students for careers as FNPs or PMHNPs with coursework focused on APRN professional roles, advanced pathophysiology and residencies in their specific concentrations. The MSN to DNP is designed to enhance current practicing nurses' careers by preparing them for leadership and clinical management roles.
22. Union University
Union University offers nursing programs at all levels, including a DNP program for current registered nurses and bachelor's degree holders. Concentrations include those for prospective nurse practitioners as well as in executive leadership and nurse anesthesia. Students looking to enhance their time in the program can take part in organizations like the Baptist Student Nursing Fellowship or international mission trips. Clinical experiences are available through the Center for Excellence for Health Care Practice and in local medical settings.
23. Montana State University
Montana State University's College of Nursing, which got its start in 1937, takes pride in offering the state's only graduate nursing educational opportunities. At the DNP level, students are prepared to become family/individual NPs or psychiatric/mental health NPs through coursework offered mostly online. Within this DNP program, students can gain practical experience through opportunities in Montana's frontier and rural areas.
24. Duquesne University
Duquesne University's School of Nursing boasts numerous accolades, including the special distinction of being a National League for Nursing (NLN) Center of Excellence in Nursing Education. Among the doctoral programs available at the school is a 100% online DNP program that is designed to prepare students to make healthcare enhancements through policy and the design of patient care service models. DNP students are able to get personal attention through the assignment of a faculty mentor. Study abroad options give students the unique opportunity to learn at campuses in Rome or Dublin.
25. Wilkes University
The Passan School of Nursing at Wilkes University has been recognized for its impact in the world of healthcare and was acknowledged by the Obama administration for training its nursing students in the prevention of heroin and prescription drug abuse. The school offers an online 30-credit DNP program designed to prepare nurses to work in leadership roles, understand information technology, enhance public health policy and more. DNP coursework includes biostatistics, collaboration in health care delivery and leadership in advanced nursing practice.
26. University of Kentucky
The University of Kentucky is home to the nations first DNP program - which it started offering in 2001. Students can enter the DNP program as BSN holders interested in advanced practice roles or as MSN holders who are already advanced practice registered nurses and want to further their careers in the areas of clinical or executive leadership. While enrolled, DNP students can seek financial assistance through graduate student assistantships and the Nurse Faculty Loan Program (NFLP).
27. University of San Francisco
Available at the University of San Francisco are DNP programs for prospective nurse practitioners as well as options for students interested in executive leadership and population health leadership. FNP and PMHNP DNP program options are available for BSN and MSN holders who are also registered nurses in their specific areas of concentration. Leadership program tracks are designed for current nurses with master's degrees who wish to improve the health care system as nurse executives or through population health analysis and intervention.
28. Regis University
At Regis University, students with master's degrees in nursing can choose between two DNP specializations: advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) or advanced leadership in healthcare (ALHC). The programs offer online courses and features 24-month and 36-month degree plan options. A DNP option is available for BSN holders interested in earning an MSN with an FNP or neonatal nurse practitioner (NNP) focus along with a DNP. This program typically lasts four to five years.
29. Loyola University New Orleans
Loyola University in New Orleans offers a CCNE-accredited DNP that is available completely online. This program features three tracks: BSN to DNP family nurse practitioner, MSN to DNP nurse practitioner and MSN to DNP executive leader. During their time in their respective program, students typically complete more than 1,000 supervised practicum hours. Depending on the track chosen, students might take courses focused on primary care pediatrics, program planning and evaluation or ethics and social justice.
30. Wichita State University
The DNP degree programs from Wichita State University prepare students for family, adult/gerontology acute care, psychiatric/mental health, or individual/family focus nurse practitioner roles. While in their programs, Wichita nursing students get plenty of practical experience through access to life-like mannequins that simulate patient care. Students also get the opportunity to take part in the Medical Mission at Home event, a free day of health care that allows them to sharpen their nursing skills while working with uninsured and underinsured patients.
31. University of North Carolina at Greensboro
The School of Nursing at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro offers DNP programs for BSN holders interested in becoming adult/gerontology primary care nurse practitioners as well as MSN holders who want careers in nursing leadership, informatics and evidence-based practice. The school also offers a DNP for students looking to work in nurse anesthesia roles. Students who graduated with the nurse anesthesia degree in 2018 had a first-time certification exam pass rate of 91 percent and employment rate of 100 percent.
32. Loyola University Chicago
The Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing at Loyola University in Chicago takes pride in offering a top educational experience that has resulted in many of its students being hired for professional nursing positions within two months of graduating. Among the school's program options are its DNP and BSN to DNP. The DNP prepares current nurses for roles as clinical faculty members, practitioners and nursing leadership, while the BSN to DNP trains students to become nurse practitioners through specialty tracks in FNP and PMHNP.
33. Old Dominion University
Old Dominion University's School of Nursing provides students with new equipment, laboratories, educational models, and other academic and clinical experiences that can help them to excel in their field. Graduates of the school tout an astounding 99% employment rate within one year of graduating. Students interested in earning doctoral degrees at this school have several options from which to choose, including a 36-month nurse anesthesia, 1.5-year advanced practice, and online four-semester nurse executive DNP program.
34. Saint Louis University
Students possessing both bachelor's and master's degrees can pursue accredited DNPs through Saint Louis University's School of Nursing. Post-bachelor DNP students can study to become nurse practitioners in areas that include adult/gerontology, family, pediatric primary care and family psychiatric-mental health. The post-master DNP prepares students to enhance their current roles as NPs or clinical nurse specialists by becoming health policy leaders or educators. To strengthen their studies, DNP students have access to graduate research labs as well as graduate scholarships and research assistantship opportunities.
35. Southern Illinois University - Edwardsville
At Southern Illinois University in Edwardsville, students can earn their DNPs in the areas of FNP or nurse anesthesia. The School of Nursing also offers a post-master's DNP for nurses who want to make a difference in health care by strengthening health outcomes, developing new care models and using evidence-based knowledge to make practice enhancements. In addition to these DNP programs, students have the option to secure a dual DNP/MBA degree, which prepares them for positions as chief nursing officers (CNOs) or chief executive officers (CEOs) in medical settings.
36. University of Massachusetts - Dartmouth
The University of Massachusetts - Dartmouth College of Nursing is recognized for its exceptional educational opportunities and state-of-the-art clinical facilities. The college offers a variety of graduate programs for nurses aiming to enhance their careers, including BSN to DNPs for adult/gerontology and psychiatric/mental health and a post-master's DNP program for advanced practice nurses. In addition to on-campus clinical opportunities and off-campus options in the community, graduate students may be able to study abroad in places like Portugal and Haiti.
37. Concordia University - Wisconsin
Concordia University - Wisconsin offers four doctorate degrees, one of which being the post-master's DNP. Students following this track take courses that include economics and public policy of health care, advanced evidence-based practice and healthcare informatics, By successfully completing this 30-credit online program, students can strengthen their existing advanced practice nursing or administrator careers by working to make enhancements in the areas of patient care, academics and practice.
38. University of San Diego
The University of San Diego provides two program options for students looking to earn a terminal nursing degree. The three-year BSN to DNP is designed for bachelor's degree holders aiming for careers as FNPs or PMNHPs or for students who want to couple their FNP with a degree in emergency care (FNP/ENP), pediatrics (PNP/FNP) or adult/gerontology (AGNP/FNP). The MSN to DNP program prepares students for careers focused on advanced practice, nursing informatics and data science, health systems leadership or emergency care (for current FNPs).
39. DePaul University
DePaul University is recognized for its top nursing offerings, which are supported by access to dozens of clinical sites and a robust alumni network that eases the process of securing employment. Students enrolled in the university's DNP program have several tracks from which to choose, including those leading to careers as FNPs, AGNPs, nurse anesthetists or nurse midwives. Faculty members who have significantly impacted the nursing field and quality on-campus clinical facilities make this university a top choice for DNP academics.
40. The University of Tennessee - Chattanooga
The University of Tennessee - Chattanooga provides two comprehensive programs for DNP students. The DNP: Nursing 36-credit option is designed for students already possessing MSNs who are interested in enhancing their practical nursing skills. The DNP: Nursing Administration option prepares BSN or MSN holders to work in complex clinical settings and allows them to apply some of their credits towards a dual DNP/MBA. While in their programs, students learn about leadership in complex health care systems, health care policy and economics and philosophic underpinnings for nursing practice.
41. University of Massachusetts - Boston
The University of Massachusetts in Boston offers a DNP for post-BSN students aiming to earn their MSN and DNP degrees and become family nurse practitioners or adult/gerontology nurse specialists or practitioners. Students already possessing an MS in nursing can work toward a DNP that will allow them to expand their roles to enhance policy, collaborate with other disciplines and more. Students can gain practical experience through study abroad opportunities in Kenya, China, Scotland and other countries.
42. Gardner-Webb University
Gardner-Webb University, which presented its first nursing courses in 1965, expanded its program to include DNPs in 2010. By adding these programs, the university has been able to honor its mission to improve the health of individuals on a global scale. Students interested in doctoral degrees can earn their DNP as BSN holders aiming to become FNPs or PMHNPs or MSN holders interested in taking leadership roles in nursing. To aid their academic journeys, the university offers access to scholarship opportunities like the Nurse Corps Scholarship Program.
43. Widener University
Students enrolled in Widener University's DNP program can prepare for careers as nurse practitioners, systems leaders, directors in clinical services and more. While Widener's DNP courses are offered 100% online, students can also enjoy a hybrid online/in-person format with courses available at the Main and Central PA campuses. The program ensures they get plenty of clinical experience through the Center for Simulation and Computerized Testing and in community medical settings.
44. Drexel University
Drexel University offers several graduate programs in nursing, including a DNP for students interested in advanced practice nursing roles or executive positions within the nursing field. In addition to experience gained through courses and 500 clinical hours, DNP students can develop their skills by taking part in a global engagement experience in spring quarter of their second year. Students can also brush up their nursing skills in the Center for Interprofessional Clinical Simulation and Practice (CICSP), a 22,000-square-foot facility offering simulation labs that feature computerized mannequins and state-of-the-art equipment.
45. University of Missouri - Kansas City
The University of Missouri in Kansas City gets its graduate students off to a great start in their fields with academic excellence that has resulted in its advanced practice graduates boasting a 100% certification rate. The university takes pride in offering one of the nation's first online DNPs in which students can train to become family, pediatric, adult/gerontology, women's health, neonatal or psychiatric nurse practitioners. BSN holders can take a 74-credit path, while MSN need only 31 credits to complete their degrees.
46. California State University - Fresno
The DNP at California State University is a consortium degree program through the collaboration of the Fresno campus and San Jose State University. This CCNE-accredited program is typically completed in five semesters and is available mostly online but features some in-person courses, also known as intensives. Courses students take in this DNP program include the application of biostatistics to populations, principles of epidemiology and evaluation in nursing education.
47. University of Connecticut
The University of Connecticut's School of Nursing has been preparing students for careers in the nursing field since 1942. Years after offering its first nursing courses, the school expanded to include two comprehensive DNP options, one for post-baccalaureate students and the other for post-master's students. The post-baccalaureate DNP is designed for students interested in careers as nurse practitioners or clinical nurse leaders. The post-master's DNP, which was the first of its kind in Connecticut, is designed to enhance the careers of practitioners, midwives, clinical specialists, anesthetists and more.
48. Indiana University-Purdue University-Indianapolis
The School of Nursing at Indiana University and Purdue University in Indianapolis (IUPUI) offers a five-semester, 20-month DNP program that combines distance learning and on-campus learning. Students get clinical experience through interprofessional practicums. The program also prepares students for executive leadership through personalized development plans that expose them to image consulting, mentoring relationships and more.
49. Regis College
Regis College takes pride in providing flexible study options for students enrolled in its DNP programs. On-campus and online learning options are available for BSN to DNP and MSN to DNP students. The on-campus and online BSN to DNPs offer five program tracks for students interested in becoming nurse practitioners. MSN to DNP on-campus learners can choose from seven unique concentrations, while online MSN to DNP students can earn a degree in nurse education.
50. University of Colorado Denver/Anschutz Medical Campus
The University of Colorado Denver/Anschutz Medical Campus established its DNP nursing program in 2005, but it been educating nurses since 1898. This long history of providing stellar academic experiences ensures its DNP students are prepared for success in the field. The university's BSN to DNP offers an impressive 10 specialty options, including i-LEAD nursing leadership and health care systems. Post-MS DNP students can strengthen their academic experience and employment prospects by attaining a dual DNP/MPH (Masters of Public Health) degree.
To get a more in-depth look at our school ranking methodology, please visit Study.com's ranking methodology page.