A doctor of nursing practice (DNP) degree is the highest practice-focused degree in the field of nursing. It is designed to prepare you for the most advanced form of nursing practice. You should seek a DNP if you hold a master’s of science in nursing (MSN) and want to achieve a higher position, more responsibility and a higher salary.
A DNP is appropriate for a variety of nursing-related professionals, including nurse practitioners (NP), clinical nurse specialists, nurse anesthetists and nurse-midwives.
As a DNP graduate, you will have both the education and the research skills to:
- Boost the quality of healthcare delivery and outcomes for patients at all levels
- Become a clinical faculty professional at the university level
- Translate the findings of research created by nurses and other clinicians into direct patient care that leads to better quality and safety.
- Provide a high degree of leadership for health policy and practice changes
The need for strong doctoral education for advanced nursing practice professionals is emerging due to many factors. This includes the growth of scientific knowledge that is needed for safe practice or nursing, and greater concerns about the quality of patient care and outcomes in an extremely complex health care system.
Also, it is critical to note that in October 2004, the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) voted to move the level of preparation needed to work in advanced nursing practice from the MSN to the DNP level. This is planned to take effect in 2015. This means that in the coming years, earning a DNP will be a requirement to work in most advanced nursing practice fields, including nurse practitioner.
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Basic Description of a Doctor of Nursing Practice
The DNP degree is the terminal degree for advanced nursing practice specialties, including:
- Nurse practitioner
- Clinical nurse specialist
- Nurse anesthetist
- Nurse midwife
Many DNP programs have two points of entry. That is, they have a program for a registered nurse with only a bachelor’s degree to earn their DNP, and a program for nursing professionals who already have a master’s degree in nursing. If you are hold your bachelor’s in nursing, you usually can specialize in one of the advanced nursing professions listed above.
Another option for your doctorate is to earn your Ph.D. in nursing. Note that the DNP is a practice degree, and the Ph.D. is for research. Ph.D. graduates conduct independent research and disseminate the findings, and often work as university professors. DNP graduates use their research to influence how they practice medicine.
Note that DNPs do not complete a dissertation; rather their training focuses more on evaluation and the use of research rather than how research is conducted.
Compare Nursing Paths – DNP vs. PhD
Where Can Doctor of Nursing Practice Candidates Find Work After They Graduate?
A DNP degree is an excellent choice for many advanced practice nurses who desire to move into leadership positions. It also is an excellent degree for nurse administrators who want to expand their leadership responsibilities. Note that the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) voted to move the level of preparation needed to work in advanced nursing practice from the MSN to the DNP level. This will happen in 2015, meaning that more employers of advanced nursing practice professionals will be expecting that you have your DNP.
The demand for DNP holders is steadily increasing. Advanced practice nursing positions have grown by 68% since 2000, and nurse practitioner positions requiring a DNP are going to increase by 23% by 2016. Also, 50,000 new nursing instructors will be needed in universities by 2018.
Some of the common places where DNP graduates work include:
- Community health agency
- Community mental health agency
- Federal, state and local government
- Health care organization
- Nursing care facility
- School system
- Social service agency
Some of the job titles for DNP holders are:
- Chief nursing officer
- Health care director
- Nurse educator/professor
- Nursing administrator
- Nursing director
- School system administrator of health services
- Nurse manager
- Nursing operations director
- Director of government policy – health and nursing
- Clinical instructor – pediatrics, maternity, medical/surgical, ER, trauma
CNN Money ranked nurse practitioners as the #4 job in America, with a median salary of $85,000, but that includes many nurses with only a master’s degree. That site reported that the top pay in the field, usually for DNP holders, is $110,000.
Also, a recent survey called the National Salary and Workplace Survey of Nurse Practitioners found that DNP holders earn in the first year $7680 more than those with only a master’s degree.
Payscale.com reports that the average salary of a nurse practitioner with a master’s is $90, 500, while with a DNP it is $98,200.