Is a BSN to DNP Program Right For Me?

BSN to DNP programs are designed for nurses who wish to begin a career as an advanced practice nurse (APRN). These programs provide a solid foundation of nursing practice and nursing theory along with teaching research methods.

What a DNP prepared nurse does day-to-day depends on which program they choose. Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) programs are becoming more accessible and available every year. Many schools have integrated MSN and DNP programs so that graduates will earn both degrees on graduation day.

Many BSN to DNP programs are available and some schools even offer dual programs to prepare students for multiple patient populations, which should increase hiring potential. Roles such as Nurse Practitioner, Clinical Nurse Specialist, Nurse Anesthetist, Nurse Midwife, and Clinical Nurse Leader are offered.

Types of BSN to DNP Programs Available

With so many different niche nursing areas to go into, RNs looking to become advanced nurses should seek out the right pathway for them, as many BSN to DNP programs require that you enter a specialty upon applying. The following are some of the main types of BSN to DNP programs available, and the many specialization categories that fall under them:

Nurse Practitioner (NP)

Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS)

  • Adult Health
  • Adult-Gerontology
  • Adult Psychiatric–Mental Health
  • Child/Adolescent Psychiatric–Mental Health
  • Pediatric

Registered Nurse Anesthesia (CRNA)

Certified Nurse Midwifery (CNM)

Clinical Nurse Leader (CNL)

What Are the Prerequisites for a BSN to DNP Program?

Nurses who have been working in the field and know that they want to enter an advanced nursing specialty can opt for a BSN to DNP program. Not all schools offer all specializations, so it's important for RNs to fully examine their school of choice to ensure that their desired program is available. The following are general prerequisites that apply to most programs:

  • Bachelor's of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree from an accredited university
  • A score of 500 or better on the Graduate Record Examination (GRE)
  • Current, unencumbered nursing license or eligibility for nursing licensure in the school's state
  • In-Person interview
  • Personal essay

Are Clinical Hours Required for the BSN to DNP Program?

Clinical hours are mandatory for any BSN to DNP program which requires licensure in the desired state of practice. Even if an RN opts for an online program, a clinical practicum is typically required, but can often be arranged in the student’s local area. These BSN to DNP specialties involve hands-on patient care, so clinical hours are a great way to give a nurse the direct experience required to handle the role upon graduation.

BSN to DNP specialties which require clinical hours and state licensure are:

  • Nurse Practitioner (NP)
  • Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS)
  • Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA)
  • Certified Nurse Midwife (CNM)

The amount of clinical hours required varies by the individual program and state requirements. When researching programs, be sure to check with the State Board of Nursing to determine the schools that satisfy this requirement. Accredited schools should have programs which satisfy the clinical hour requirement for state licensure.

Arrangement of clinical hours may rely solely on the student or the school may organize them.

Some schools may require travel in or out-of-state to organized clinical sites.

Are Online BSN to DNP Programs Available?

Finding the right BSN to DNP program involves taking inventory of life and work demands and finding a program which will work with those demands.

Flexible program options are available to meet the needs of busy students. Coursework options to attend school full-time, part-time, in-classroom, and online are available.

All BSN to DNP programs are offered full-time and many are offered part-time. Of these, some programs now offer online core coursework to accommodate the schedules of busy RNs. These online options are a lifesaver for many nurses who have families, work obligations, or who don't live close enough to a school to attend in person.

How Long Do BSN to DNP Programs Take to Complete?

The total length of a BSN to DNP degree program depends on the state, school, and most importantly, the specialty chosen. With online, in-classroom, full-time, and part-time options available, students can choose the program style which suits their schedule best. General length estimates of popular BSN to DNP programs include:

Nurse Practitioner (NP) and Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS)

BSN to DNP Nurse Practitioner (NP) and Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS) programs require 65-75 credits of classwork plus clinical hours. Most full-time programs are 2.5 to 3 years and most part-time programs are 4 years, including clinical hours. Many schools require all coursework be completed within 7 years.

Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA)

BSN to DNP Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA) programs are about 3 years or 36 months of full time coursework and about 85-95 credit hours. Clinical hours are completed during those 3 years.

Certified Nurse Midwifery (CNM)

BSN to DNP Certified Nurse Midwifery (CNM) programs are about 3 years of full-time coursework and about 80-90 credit hours and clinical hours are completed during those 3 years.

How Much Will Tuition Cost for a BSN to DNP Program?

Similar to the process to obtain a baccalaureate degree, BSN to DNP programs require students to cover the cost of tuition, mandatory fees, and course materials (such as textbooks). Online programs have the advantage of not requiring travel or parking expenses for students. Tuition is based on credit hours and whether the student is applying with resident or non-resident status. The cost varies greatly between schools and states.

Some examples as of 2017 are:

The University of Arkansas charges $409 per credit hour for online classes and $636 to $1042 for in-classroom courses. The program is 79 credit hours, so for 79 online credit hours the total cost for 2016 tuition was $32,311, plus any credit hours where in-classroom courses are required.

The University of Maryland charges $732 (resident) to $1324 (non-resident) per credit hour and the BSN to DNP program is 80 credit hours plus 1080 clinical hours. Therefore, the entire program is $58,560 (resident) or $105,920 (non-resident).

What Is the BSN to DNP Curriculum Like?

Whether online or classroom-based, the BSN to DNP program will consist of a mix of graduate-level core nursing courses, combined with specialty courses that relate to a nursing concentration. Aside from the academic portion, the program will also require a minimum number of supervised, hands-on clinical hours that can usually be arranged in the student's local area if an online program is chosen. The 4 major specialties for BSN to DNP are:

  • Nurse Practitioner (NP)
  • Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS)
  • Certified Registered Nurse Anesthesia (CRNA)
  • Certified Nurse Midwifery (CNM)

To give an idea of courses and curriculum, below are some examples of each:

University of Washington BSN to DNP

The University of Washington offers the following courses as part of its Nurse Practitioner BSN to DNP program:

  • NURS 503 Scientific Inquiry in Nursing
  • NURS 562 Advanced Health Assessment and Differential Diagnosis
  • NURS 563 Advanced Pharmacology Concepts and Practice
  • NURS 565 Information Management for Clinical Practice
  • NURS 573 Rational Prescribing
  • NURS 576 Organizational Systems and Leadership

Johns Hopkins University BSN to DNP

Johns Hopkins offers the following courses as part of its Clinical Nurse Specialist BSN to DNP program:

  • Context of Healthcare for Advanced Nursing Practice
  • Health Information Systems and Patient Care Technology
  • Advanced Health Assessment and Measurement
  • Health Promotion and Risk Reduction Across the Lifespan
  • Translating Evidence into Practice

Thomas Jefferson University BSN to DNP

Thomas Jefferson offers the following courses as part of its Nurse Anesthetist BSN to DNP program:

  • NU 706 Quality Measurement and Outcomes Analysis in Healthcare
  • NU 673 Comprehensive Assessment for Clinical Decision-Making
  • NU 570 Pathophysiology of Human Disease
  • NU 568 Basic Principles of Anesthesia and Advanced Health
  • NU 624 Chemistry and Physics Related to Anesthesia 

Are Any DNP Exams Required Before I Can Practice?

Yes, for any clinical DNP degree that are hands-on with patients. National certification is required for state licensure. There are different credentialing organizations depending on specialization, including the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC).

The Nurse Practitioner Certification Exam:

These exams are offered through the ANCC

  • Adult-Gerontology Acute Care NP
  • Adult-Gerontology Primary Care NP
  • Family NP
  • Pediatric Primary Care NP
  • Psychiatric–Mental Health NP
  • Emergency NP

The Clinical Nurse Specialist Certification Exam:

These exams are offered through the ANCC

  • Adult Health CNS
  • Adult-Gerontology CNS
  • Adult Psychiatric–Mental Health CNS
  • Child/Adolescent Psychiatric–Mental Health CNS
  • Pediatric CNS

The Certified Registered Nurse Anesthesia Certification Exam:

The Certified Nurse Midwife Certification Exam:

  • Managed by the American Midwifery Certification Board (AMCB)
  • 175 multiple-choice question exam
  • Computerized and proctored by Applied Measurement Professionals (AMP)
  • Eligibility includes graduation from an accredited Nurse Midwifery program and an active RN license

Where Can I Work as a DNP?

DNP prepared nurses enjoy high-level positions in healthcare-oriented settings, typically including:

  • Hospitals
  • Physicians’ offices
  • Clinics
  • Colleges/Universities
  • Outpatient Centers

How Much Money Will I Earn as a DNP?

Earning an advanced nursing degree leads to careers that have high levels of responsibility, autonomy, and leadership. Luckily, these important roles come with higher paychecks as well. The following are some salary statistics for different DNP roles:

Nurse Practitioners (NP) earn an average of $101,221 with a range of $87,270 – $117,913 nationwide.

Clinical Nurse Specialists (CNS) earn an average of $99,383 with a range of $81,217 – $117,473 nationwide.

Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists (CRNA) earn an average of $172,554 with a range of $145,818 – $202,560 nationwide.

Certified Nurse Midwives (CNM) earn an average of $102,132 with a range of $86,416 – $128,165 nationwide.

For all areas of DNP nursing, experience, location, and education affect salary. Many of these roles are filled by MSN prepared nurses making the DNP prepared nurse the nurse with more education, and usually a higher salary.

Helpful Links


List of Online BSN to DNP Programs

Listed below are online BSN to DNP programs from across the country, get more details about each program by visiting the school's webpage.

Jump to Your State Listings


School of Nursing
1720 2nd Avenue South
Birmingham, AL 35294
(205) 975-7529


BSN to DNP Programs
13120 East 19th Avenue
Aurora, CO 80045
(303) 724-2152



BSN to DNP ProgramsDNP Programs
4001 W. McNichols Road
Detroit, MI 48221
(313) 993-1245


5100 Rockhill Rd
Kansas City, MO 64110
(816) 235-1000

North Carolina

BSN to DNP Programs
601 S. College Road
Wilmington, NC 28403
(910) 962-3000



College of Nursing
1200 Volunteer Blvd.
Knoxville, TN 37996
(865) 974-4151


DNP Programs
2800 S University Dr
Fort Worth, TX 76129
(817) 257-7000

Washington, DC

BSN to DNP Programs
School of Nursing & Health Studies
3700 O St NW
Washington, DC 20057
(202) 687-0100

Are we missing your school's program or need to update information listed? Please contact us so we can make the necessary changes.

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