2020 Most Affordable Online Colleges for DNP Programs

By the OnlineU team | Updated 5/18/2021
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By the OnlineU team | Updated 5/18/2021

All 24 of these colleges and universities offer affordable online Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) programs. The DNP degree is the highest level of education attainable in nursing, and programs focus on patient care while providing an alternative to research-based Ph.D. programs. While many advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) earn a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN), some may choose to obtain a DNP. Programs prepare nurses for career advancement in APRN roles and leadership positions in nurse education, administration, or research. The schools on our list feature flexible, lower-cost options for students interested in pursuing a doctoral degree. Many offer both BSN to DNP and MSN to DNP programs, with part- and full-time options available. On this page, prospective students will find information on choosing an online DNP program, the cost of a degree, and how salaries stack up between DNPs and NPs.

You can read more about our ranked schools below or browse our rankings of the most affordable online nurse practitioner master's degrees. View our methodology or learn more about OnlineU.

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All tuition numbers were manually collected and verified
Rank School Annual Tuition
# 1 #1 University of South Alabama $4,158
# 2 #2 Wichita State University $4,529
# 3 #3 Aspen University $4,725
# 4 #4 University of Central Arkansas $5,200
# 5 #5 University of Missouri $5,518
# 6 #6 Missouri State University $5,525
# 7 #7 University of North Georgia $5,625
# 8 #8 Arkansas State University $5,661
# 9 #9 Jacksonville State University $6,000
# 10 #10 Georgia College & State University $6,714
# 11 #11 University of Southern Indiana $7,069
# 12 #12 New Mexico State University $7,191
# 13 #13 Delta State University $7,501
# 14 #14 University of Nevada - Reno $7,525
# 15 #15 Fort Hays State University $7,600
# 16 #16 The University of Texas Medical Branch $8,187
# 17 #17 Saint Francis Medical Center College of Nursing $8,208
# 18 #18 West Chester University of Pennsylvania $8,208
# 19 #19 Texas Woman's University $8,379
# 20 #20 University of Alabama $8,400
# 21 #21 The University of Tennessee - Chattanooga $8,580
# 22 #22 University of Arkansas $8,609
# 23 #23 Murray State University $8,704
# 24 #24 Northern Michigan University $8,940
#1
#1
Annual Tuition: $4,158
Annual Tuition: $4,158
Annual Tuition: $4,158
  • Online Degrees: 39
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 95%
  • Graduation Rate: 44%
  • Acceptance Rate: 82%
  • Average SATs: 1040 -1240
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 310
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 3,069
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • School Accreditation: SACS COC

Example Classes: Health Promotion and Disease Prevention in Neonatal and AC Pediatric NP, Healthcare Policy and Finance, Neonatal NP, Nursing in Community Systems, Organizational & Systems Leadership, Physio-pathological Basis of Advanced Nursing

Online Doctoral Degrees

  • DNP in Adult-Gerontological Acute Care Nurse Practitioner (BSN to DNP)
  • DNP in Adult-Gerontological Acute Care Nurse Practitioner (MSN to DNP Advanced Practice)
  • DNP in Adult-Gerontological Acute Care Nurse Practitioner (MSN to DNP)
  • DNP in Adult-Gerontological Primary Care Nurse Practitioner (BSN to DNP)
  • DNP in Adult-Gerontological Primary Care Nurse Practitioner (MSN to DNP Advanced Practice)
  • DNP in Adult-Gerontological Primary Care Nurse Practitioner (MSN to DNP)
#2
#2
Annual Tuition: $4,529
Annual Tuition: $4,529
Annual Tuition: $4,529
  • Online Degrees: 2
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 89%
  • Graduation Rate: 47%
  • Acceptance Rate: 94%
  • Average SATs: 1050 -1290
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 2,016
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 572
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • School Accreditation: HLC

Example Classes: Applied Clinical Pharmacology, Evidence-Based Nursing Practice/ Outcomes of Care, Health Care Systems: Policy & Politics, Pharmacological Management of Acute/ Chronic Diseases, Populations & Social Determinants of Health

Online Doctoral Degrees

  • Doctor of Nursing Practice - MSN to DNP
  • Doctor of Nursing Practice - MSN to DNP: Individual/Family Focus
#3
#3

Aspen University

Denver (CO)
Annual Tuition: $4,725
Annual Tuition: $4,725
Annual Tuition: $4,725
  • Online Degrees: 1
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 100%
  • Graduation Rate: 23%
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 3,308
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 2,035
  • School Type: For-Profit
  • School Accreditation: DEAC

Example Classes: Evidence-based Practice for Quality Improvement, Health Policy and Advocacy, Theoretical and Scientific Underpinnings

#4
#4
Annual Tuition: $5,200
Annual Tuition: $5,200
Annual Tuition: $5,200
  • Online Degrees: 2
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 98%
  • Graduation Rate: 41%
  • Acceptance Rate: 90%
  • Average SATs: 970 -1170
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 261
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 742
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • School Accreditation: HLC

Example Classes: Advanced Clinical Decision Making, Care of Children for Family Nurse Practitioners, Ethics for Advanced Nursing Practice, Healthcare Economics and Finance for Advanced Nursing Practice, Healthcare Quality and Organizational Systems for Advanced Nursing Practice

Online Doctoral Degrees

  • Doctor of Nursing Practice - Post MSN – DNP
  • Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP)
#5
#5

University of Missouri

Columbia (MO)
Annual Tuition: $5,518
Annual Tuition: $5,518
Annual Tuition: $5,518
  • Online Degrees: 5
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 85%
  • Graduation Rate: 69%
  • Acceptance Rate: 78%
  • Average SATs: 1090 -1290
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 679
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 2,236
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • School Accreditation: HLC

Example Classes: Family Dynamics & Interventions, Health Disparities of Rural & Other Underserved Populations, Newborn through Adolescence Primary Care Outcomes, Nursing & Health Policy, Public Health & Sociocultural Issues, Reproductive and Sexual Health Primary Care

Online Doctoral Degrees

  • Doctor of Nursing Practice
  • Doctor of Nursing Practice - Pediatric Clinical Nurse Specialist
  • Doctor of Nursing Practice (Hybrid)
  • Post-Baccalaureate - Doctor of Nursing Practice - Family Psychiatric and Mental Health Nurse Practitioner
  • Post-Master's - Doctor of Nursing Practice - Nursing Leadership and Innovations in Health Care
#6
#6

Missouri State University

Springfield (MO)
Annual Tuition: $5,525
Annual Tuition: $5,525
Annual Tuition: $5,525
  • Online Degrees: 2
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 91%
  • Graduation Rate: 54%
  • Acceptance Rate: 84%
  • Average SATs: 1018 -1220
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 952
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 1,202
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • School Accreditation: HLC

Example Classes: Emerging Science and Methods of Advanced Practice, Finance Management and Entrepreneurship for Advanced Nursing Roles, Health Policy to Improve Health Disparities, Technology for Transforming Nursing and Healthcare Systems

Online Doctoral Degrees

  • Doctor of Nurse Anesthesia Practice (CRNA to DNAP)
  • Doctor of Nursing Practice (Post-Masters to DNP)
#7
#7
Annual Tuition: $5,625
Annual Tuition: $5,625
Annual Tuition: $5,625
  • Online Degrees: 1
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 86%
  • Graduation Rate: 31%
  • Acceptance Rate: 78%
  • Average SATs: 1025 -1230
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 940
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 279
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • School Accreditation: SACS COC

Example Classes: Approaches to Healthcare Risk Management, Compliance in the Healthcare Industry, Instructional Design and Teaching Strategies for Nursing Education, Translating Research into Practice

Online Doctoral Degrees

  • Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP)
#8
#8

Arkansas State University

Jonesboro (AR)
Annual Tuition: $5,661
Annual Tuition: $5,661
Annual Tuition: $5,661
  • Online Degrees: 1
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 97%
  • Graduation Rate: 48%
  • Acceptance Rate: 66%
  • Average SATs: 1030 -1196
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 961
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 3,259
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • School Accreditation: HLC

Example Classes: Epidemiology and Population Health, Leadership, Policy, and Healthcare Systems, Principles of Healthcare Ethics and Genetics, Theoretical Foundations for Doctor of Nursing Practice, Translational Research for Doctor of Nursing Practice II

Online Doctoral Degrees

  • Doctorate of Nursing Practice
#9
#9

Jacksonville State University

Jacksonville (AL)
Annual Tuition: $6,000
Annual Tuition: $6,000
Annual Tuition: $6,000
  • Online Degrees: 4
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 93%
  • Graduation Rate: 42%
  • Acceptance Rate: 54%
  • Average SATs: 910 -930
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 950
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 832
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • School Accreditation: SACS COC

Example Classes: Health Care Policy and Finance, Health Promotion/Disease Prevention and Issues for AGANP, Innovative Leadership and Collaboration in Healthcare, Interprofessional Healthcare and Informatics, Physio-Pathological Basis of Advanced Nursing

Online Doctoral Degrees

  • Doctor of Nursing Practice - BSN to DNP
  • Doctor of Nursing Practice - BSN to DNP: Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner
  • Doctor of Nursing Practice - BSN to DNP: Family Nurse Practitioner
  • Post Master's Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP)
#10
#10
Annual Tuition: $6,714
Annual Tuition: $6,714
Annual Tuition: $6,714
  • Online Degrees: 1
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 96%
  • Graduation Rate: 63%
  • Acceptance Rate: 79%
  • Average SATs: 1110 -1280
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 18
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 731
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • School Accreditation: SACS COC

Example Classes: Addressing Health Needs in Vulnerable Populations, Epidemiology, Role Transitions & Leadership

Online Doctoral Degrees

  • Doctor of Nursing Practice
#11
#11
Annual Tuition: $7,069
Annual Tuition: $7,069
Annual Tuition: $7,069
  • Online Degrees: 9
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 94%
  • Graduation Rate: 47%
  • Acceptance Rate: 94%
  • Average SATs: 980 -1180
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 620
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 1,183
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • School Accreditation: HLC

Example Classes: Advanced Concepts of Pathophysiology, Application of Assessment with Differential Diagnosis, Patient Management Clinical Application Seminar

Online Doctoral Degrees

  • Doctor of Nursing Practice
  • Doctor of Nursing Practice - Advanced Nursing Practice
  • Doctor of Nursing Practice - BSN to DNP
  • Doctor of Nursing Practice - BSN to DNP - Adult Geriatric Acute Care Nurse Practitioner
  • Doctor of Nursing Practice - BSN to DNP - Adult Gerontologic Clinical Nurse Specialist
  • Doctor of Nursing Practice - BSN to DNP - Adult Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner
#12
#12

New Mexico State University

Las Cruces (NM)
Annual Tuition: $7,191
Annual Tuition: $7,191
Annual Tuition: $7,191
  • Online Degrees: 4
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 99%
  • Graduation Rate: 47%
  • Acceptance Rate: 64%
  • Average SATs: 940 -1160
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 951
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 651
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • School Accreditation: HLC

Example Classes: Advanced Leadership in Healthcare, Epidemiology for Advanced Nursing Practice, Innovations and Health Care Organizations, Promoting Health Behavior

Online Doctoral Degrees

  • Doctor of Nursing Practice
  • Doctor of Nursing Practice: Family Nurse Practitioner
  • Doctor of Nursing Practice: Psychiatric/Mental Health Nurse Practitioner
  • MSN to DNP
#13
#13

Delta State University

Cleveland (MS)
Annual Tuition: $7,501
Annual Tuition: $7,501
Annual Tuition: $7,501
  • Online Degrees: 5
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 97%
  • Graduation Rate: 38%
  • Acceptance Rate: 87%
  • Average SATs: 950 -1190
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 148
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 466
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • School Accreditation: SACS COC

Example Classes: Advanced Pharmacology, Advanced Theoretical Issues in Nursing & Ethics, Differential Diagnosis in Primary Care, Informatics in Clinical Practice, Role Synthesis, Scholarly Project Development

Online Doctoral Degrees

  • Doctor of Nursing Practice
  • Doctor of Nursing Practice - BSN to DNP
  • Doctor of Nursing Practice - Post-Master's (FNP) to DNP
  • Doctor of Nursing Practice - Post-Master's (Non-FNP) to DNP
  • Doctor of Nursing Practice - RN to DNP
#14
#14
Annual Tuition: $7,525
Annual Tuition: $7,525
Annual Tuition: $7,525
  • Online Degrees: 4
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 89%
  • Graduation Rate: 57%
  • Acceptance Rate: 88%
  • Average SATs: 1070 -1280
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 214
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 741
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • School Accreditation: NWCCU

Example Classes: Global and Transcultural Nursing, Health Care Policy and Social Justice, Mental Health Diagnosis and Management of the Adult, Populations and Aggregate Health Issues

Online Doctoral Degrees

  • Doctor of Nursing Practice
  • Doctor of Nursing Practice - Post-Master's DNP
  • Doctor of Nursing Practice - Post-Master's DNP: Advanced Practice Nurse
  • Doctor of Nursing Practice - Post-Master's DNP: Nurse Executive
#15
#15
Annual Tuition: $7,600
Annual Tuition: $7,600
Annual Tuition: $7,600
  • Online Degrees: 2
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 98%
  • Graduation Rate: 43%
  • Acceptance Rate: 89%
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 8,608
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 2,404
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • School Accreditation: HLC

Example Classes: Epidemiology in Public Health, Evaluation and Management in Health Care Systems, Evidence Based Practice and Scholarly Tools, Healthcare: Policy/Politics/Organization/Cost

Online Doctoral Degrees

  • Doctor of Nursing Practice
  • Doctor of Nursing Practice - MSN to DNP
#16
#16
Annual Tuition: $8,187
Annual Tuition: $8,187
Annual Tuition: $8,187
  • Online Degrees: 1
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 118
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 628
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • School Accreditation: SACS COC

Example Classes: Applied Statistical Methods for Practice Inquiry, Informatics in Transformation of Healthcare, Leadership in Ethical & Legal Issues, Population Health Strategies for Improving the Nation's Help, Translational Methods for Practice Inquiry

Online Doctoral Degrees

  • Doctor of Nursing Practice
#17
#17
Annual Tuition: $8,208
Annual Tuition: $8,208
Annual Tuition: $8,208
  • Online Degrees: 7
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 25
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 221
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • School Accreditation: HLC

Example Classes: Diversity and Social Justice Issues in a Global Society, Healthcare Finance and Practice Management, Healthcare Policy, Politics and Practice, Nursing Education Methods and Measurement

Online Doctoral Degrees

  • BSN to DNP - Adult Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner
  • BSN to DNP - Family Nurse Practitioner
  • BSN to DNP - Neonatal Nurse Practitioner
  • BSN to DNP - Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner
  • DNP
  • DNP - Clinical
#18
#18
Annual Tuition: $8,208
Annual Tuition: $8,208
Annual Tuition: $8,208
  • Online Degrees: 1
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 79%
  • Graduation Rate: 75%
  • Acceptance Rate: 69%
  • Average SATs: 1050 -1200
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 123
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 1,162
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • School Accreditation: MSCHE

Example Classes: Healthcare Economics for the Advance Practitioner, Leadership for Advanced Nursing Practice, Nursing Ethics in Clinical Practice & Leadership, Nursing Informatics

Online Doctoral Degrees

  • Doctor of Nursing Practice
#19
#19
Annual Tuition: $8,379
Annual Tuition: $8,379
Annual Tuition: $8,379
  • Online Degrees: 1
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 93%
  • Graduation Rate: 43%
  • Acceptance Rate: 86%
  • Average SATs: 970 -1160
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 1,619
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 2,406
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • School Accreditation: SACS COC

Example Classes: Ethical Dimensions of Nursing, Financial Management for Advanced Practice Nurses, Health Care Genetics, Health Outcomes: Measurement, Management, and Analysis, Philosophy of Nursing Science

Online Doctoral Degrees

  • Doctor of Nursing Practice to Doctor of Philosopy in Nursing Science Bridge
#20
#20

University of Alabama

Tuscaloosa (AL)
Annual Tuition: $8,400
Annual Tuition: $8,400
Annual Tuition: $8,400
  • Online Degrees: 1
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 80%
  • Graduation Rate: 71%
  • Acceptance Rate: 53%
  • Average SATs: 1060 -1280
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 2,198
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 1,588
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • School Accreditation: SACS COC

Example Classes: Health Policy & Politics: Implications in Health Care, Interdisciplinary Leadership and Role Development for Practice Excellence, Population Health in Advanced Practice Nursing, Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner Roles and Issues

Online Doctoral Degrees

  • Doctor of Nursing Practice
#21
#21
Annual Tuition: $8,580
Annual Tuition: $8,580
Annual Tuition: $8,580
  • Online Degrees: 2
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 96%
  • Graduation Rate: 48%
  • Acceptance Rate: 83%
  • Average SATs: 990 -1210
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 286
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 430
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • School Accreditation: SACS COC

Example Classes: Epidemiology and Health Requisites of Populations, Health Care Policy, Meeting Population Demands through Biostatistics, Philosophic Underpinnings for Nursing Practice

Online Doctoral Degrees

  • Doctor of Nursing Practice
  • Doctor of Nursing Practice - Nursing Administration Systems
#22
#22

University of Arkansas

Fayetteville (AR)
Annual Tuition: $8,609
Annual Tuition: $8,609
Annual Tuition: $8,609
  • Online Degrees: 4
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 77%
  • Graduation Rate: 65%
  • Acceptance Rate: 66%
  • Average SATs: 1100 -1290
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 887
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 1,441
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • School Accreditation: HLC

Example Classes: Analytic Methods and Epidemiology for Health Care, Evaluation Methods and Translational Research for Evidence-based Practice, Organization Management and Systems Leadership, Pharmacotherapeutics, Statistics in Education and Health Professions

Online Doctoral Degrees

  • Doctor of Nursing Practice (BSN to DNP)
  • Doctor of Nursing Practice (BSN to DNP) - Adult Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner
  • Doctor of Nursing Practice (BSN to DNP) - Family Nurse Practitioner
  • Doctor of Nursing Practice (MSN to DNP)
#23
#23
Annual Tuition: $8,704
Annual Tuition: $8,704
Annual Tuition: $8,704
  • Online Degrees: 1
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 97%
  • Graduation Rate: 55%
  • Acceptance Rate: 87%
  • Average SATs: 1028 -1213
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 622
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 562
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • School Accreditation: SACS COC

Example Classes: Biostatistics, Ethics in Nursing, Philosophy of Science, Principles of Epidemiology, Research in Nursing, Theory and Concept Analysis in Nursing

Online Doctoral Degrees

  • Doctor of Nursing Practice
#24
#24
Annual Tuition: $8,940
Annual Tuition: $8,940
Annual Tuition: $8,940
  • Online Degrees: 3
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 93%
  • Graduation Rate: 47%
  • Acceptance Rate: 74%
  • Average SATs: 970 -1180
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 228
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 234
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • School Accreditation: HLC

Example Classes: Evidence-Based and Translational Methods, Health Policy and Advocacy for Improving Rural and Population Health, Interprofessional Leadership for Quality Improvement, Policy, and Health Care Transformation, Professional Role Development

Online Doctoral Degrees

  • Doctor of Nursing Practice
  • Doctor of Nursing Practice - Post-Baccalaureate Track: Family Nurse Practitioner
  • Doctor of Nursing Practice - Post-Master’s Track: Family Nurse Practitioner

Choosing an Online DNP Program

What Factors Should I Consider When Choosing an Online DNP Program?

Accreditation is one of the most important factors to consider when choosing a DNP degree. Enrollment in an accredited Doctor of Nursing Practice program ensures that graduates will qualify for licensure and certification in whatever nursing position they choose to pursue. Employers may prefer to hire nurses who have completed a program accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) or the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN). These organizations are the only accreditors recognized by the U.S. Department of Education as accreditors for nursing programs. They ensure nursing programs are held to universal academic standards and meet specific industry requirements to better prepare nurses for healthcare roles.

Accreditation is one of the most important factors to consider when choosing a DNP degree.

Prospective students should also consider what DNP program options a school has available. There are many specializations within these programs, including adult-gerontological acute care, family nurse practitioner, nursing administration, neonatal nurse practitioner, nursing informatics, public health administration, women's health, and nurse educator tracks.

Students enrolled in a DNP program need at least 1,000 clinical practice hours. Those considering an online program should look closely at the requirements to ensure they can complete their nursing practicum locally. This is especially important for nurses who want to complete clinical hours at their current place of work.

Students who plan to seek APRN certification should check the eligibility requirements for their intended specialization when choosing a program. Each APRN certification has specific criteria for supervised clinical experience hours, program accreditation, and core competencies that must be included in the coursework.

Common Online DNP Courses

Students of DNP programs will likely take some of the following courses, though specific course names may vary by school.

  • Advanced Clinical Decision Making: To assess, diagnose, and treat patients, APRNs and other healthcare workers must make informed decisions based on many different variables. Advanced clinical decision making incorporates critical thinking and clinical problem-solving skills that nurses apply in a range of complex healthcare settings. This course provides nurses with a strategic framework for making evidence-based decisions when providing healthcare to offer the best outcome for patients. Clinical decision making may be taken as a single course or in a series, as in the online DNP program at the University of Central Arkansas.
  • Applied Clinical Pharmacology: Pharmacology is the study of drugs used in patient care to prevent, diagnose, and treat disease. In applied clinical pharmacology courses, students will learn how drugs affect different body systems and how to prescribe and administer them for primary patient care. Advanced pharmacology courses, such as the ones offered by the University of North Georgia and Jacksonville State University, also cover legal requirements and ethics related to drug prescription.
  • Epidemiology and Population Health: Epidemiology is the scientific study of disease and other health issues within a population. In this class, DNP students learn clinical epidemiology concepts such as risk factor analysis, public health surveillance, and the health impacts of social trends. They will also study how to use epidemiological methods to develop health policies and practices and evaluate the health of specific groups or communities. Course topics may include epidemiology in the workplace, study design, data sources, statistical measures, methods of evaluation, and prevention of health conditions. This course is common in DNP programs such as the one offered by the University of Tennessee - Chattanooga.
  • Health Policy and Advocacy: This course focuses on the relationship between policy and healthcare delivery in nursing. In this class, DNP students learn how to evaluate health policies and understand their impact on healthcare quality. Coursework may examine the role of health policy at the organizational, community, state, and/or federal levels. Some courses, such as the Health Care Policy and Social Justice course at the University of Nevada - Reno, also cover social justice strategies in healthcare systems. Other courses may incorporate leadership strategies for health advocacy, such as the Health Care Policy course at Northern Michigan University.
  • Populations & Social Determinants of Health: Many factors can affect a person's health, including social, political, cultural, environmental, and economic factors. Some DNP programs include courses on how these factors can cause health inequity. Courses, such as Population Health: A Local to Global Perspective, offered at Missouri State University, focus on healthcare barriers and how social determinants affect health equity in different populations. Other courses may cover community-based healthcare, promoting health and prevention of health issues within communities, and understanding the needs of diverse populations.

Should I Get My MSN or DNP?

Nursing professionals who currently hold a Bachelor of Science in Nursing may be considering either an MSN or DNP program. Choosing between these different levels of education is a personal decision that will depend on individual career goals and how much time and money a student is able to dedicate to their studies. Both degrees will allow nurses to become APRNs. Generally, earning a DNP is a better choice for nurses seeking roles in leadership, administration, education, or research. Earning an MSN can lead to specialized nursing roles.

The major differences between these two degrees are cost, length of time to completion, and salary benefits. Earning an MSN will likely take less time and cost less than earning a DNP, but may also mean lower average salary rates, depending on the specialty area or chosen career path. Earning a DNP will require more credit hours, take a longer amount of time, and may be more expensive, depending on the program. However, a DNP may be necessary for some positions and may qualify nurses for higher pay.

How Long Does an Online DNP Program Take?

As with any doctoral program, the length of an online DNP program depends on a few factors: what degree a student holds before entering the program, whether they attend full time or part time, and whether the program requires a dissertation. On average, MSN-prepared nurses will earn their DNP in 2-3 years, whereas nurses with a BSN will need 5-6 years to complete the degree.

MSN students take many of the classes required to graduate with a DNP, and this effort is usually rewarded with a shorter time to graduation. For example, the University of South Alabama requires 36 credits for its MSN-to-DNP track (which takes five or six semesters at full time) but 69-87 credits for its BSN-to-DNP track (taking an estimated 10 semesters of full-time study). Students in a BSN-to-DNP program need to demonstrate their aptitude with the graduate-level coursework included in an MSN program before they move to the DNP requirements.

DNPs are practice doctorates rather than research doctorates, which means they're terminal degrees that aim to prepare students for a profession rather than a career in research or teaching. Therefore, most DNP programs culminate in a capstone course that features a semester-long research project rather than a dissertation that takes years to write.

Cost of an Online DNP Degree


The cost of a DNP degree can range from under $5,000 to more than $50,000 per year. Each school on our list of the most affordable online DNP programs has an annual tuition rate under $9,000. In general, online programs are often more affordable than their on-campus counterparts. We have limited data on the average cost of online graduate degrees, but bachelor's degrees are significantly more affordable online, especially for out-of-state students or those who attend private colleges and universities.

Each school on our list of the most affordable online DNP programs has an annual tuition rate under $9,000.

There are ways to lower this cost even more. Many schools offer both BSN-to-DNP and MSN-to-DNP programs. A DNP program will likely cost less for those who already hold an MSN instead of a BSN. This is because MSN students will need to complete fewer prerequisite courses, so they should be able to graduate sooner than students with a BSN.

Given the growing demand for DNP-prepared nurses, a student's employer may agree to partially subsidize the degree in exchange for a guaranteed period of service after graduation. Many employers provide up to $5,250 a year, which is the amount they can pay without being taxed. We cover additional ways of funding an online degree below.

Funding an Online DNP Program

Earning a DNP degree is a significant financial investment, but there are opportunities to lower the total cost. The first step prospective DNP students should take is to apply for federal and state financial aid by filling out the FAFSA. This form is used by the federal government to determine how much money students will need, in the form of grants and loans, to pay for their education. Colleges and states also use this information to award scholarships and grants. To receive aid from a state government, the student may need to reside in the state where their online program is based.

Scholarships and Grants

These are some of the best ways to fund a degree program because they don't require repayment. Many schools offer graduate-level scholarships and grants, and funding specifically for nursing students. Prospective DNP students should check their school's financial aid webpage for more information about scholarships offered by their institution. There are also many nursing and healthcare organizations that offer scholarships and grants to nursing students, including the Health Resources and Service Administration, an agency of the U.S. Bureau of Health Workforce, which provides scholarships to nursing students who plan to work in facilities with nurse shortages. Other opportunities are offered by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN), the Association of periOperative Registered Nurses (AORN), and the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP). The Maryland Action Coalition has compiled a list of additional grants and scholarships available to DNP students.

Loan Repayment Programs

Many DNP students qualify for loan repayment programs. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services offers a Nurse Corps Loan Repayment Program that repays up to 85% of student loan debt for licensed registered nurses, advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs), and other nurse faculty members who work in either an accredited school of nursing or facilities with healthcare worker shortages. Some schools also participate in the Nurse Faculty Loan Program. This option is a good choice for DNP students who plan to go into nursing education — up to 85% of their student loans can be forgiven if they work in a school of nursing for four years post-graduation.

Funding From Employers

Those who work in government or nonprofit hospitals or healthcare facilities may also qualify for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program. Under this program, the federal government forgives the remaining balance on any federal Direct Loans after 120 payments. Prospective DNP students should also check with their employer to see if any tuition reimbursement opportunities are available. Many employers will fund part of an employee's tuition, enabling them to pursue more education.

Salary Outlook: DNP vs. NP Salary


Nurse practitioners (NPs) are APRNs who work in a wide range of settings. They diagnose and treat medical problems and have the power to prescribe medication in all states. According to salary data from PayScale at the time of writing, nurses who hold a DNP earn about $8,000 more per year, with an average salary of $104,000, than those with an MSN. DNP graduates are also better prepared for more advanced nursing research and leadership roles or positions as faculty members or administrators.

Even if someone isn't motivated by a higher salary, they may want to consider a DNP to stay competitive with the rest of the workforce. Currently, an MSN is the minimum degree required for NP certification, but several nursing organizations (including the American Association of Colleges of Nursing) are advocating for the DNP to replace the MSN for entry into NP practice. The industry hasn't yet adopted this change, but the trend in nursing education is to require more advanced credentials among nurses. For example, beginning in 2025, a doctorate will be required for nurses to certify as a registered nurse anesthetist (CRNA), one of the highest-paid positions within the field.