Choosing MSN to DNP Degree with Online Program Options

This article is about what an MSN to DNP program is, and why earning one is a strong career move for many nursing professionals. It will detail what is studied in an MSN to DNP program, the typical curriculum, and the skills that will be developed. Also included is a review of an online MSN to DNP program.

What Is an MSN to DNP Degree?

An MSN to DNP degree is an advanced, postgraduate nursing degree that is focused upon building your advanced nursing practice competencies. A DNP degree is above all a practice-focused degree, instead of a research or academic degree, such as the Ph.D. in nursing.

Nurses who earn their DNP degree usually already have an MSN degree, and may already be working as advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs). The most common types of APRNs are nurse practitioner, certified nurse midwife, nurse educators and certified nurse anesthetist.

Professionals who already work in advanced practice nursing may earn their DNP degree to advance their clinical skills, and to increase their leadership skills. The latter can be critical to become the leader of a nursing department or a healthcare system. Nurses with their DNP can qualify to work in many administrative and leadership positions in education, public policy, public health and healthcare.

It is becoming increasingly important for nurses to earn their DNP who wish to be leaders in the profession. In 2004, the American Association of Colleges of Nursing or AACN published a position paper that supported the concept of the DNP degree being the terminal degree for nursing education, as well as the graduate degree to become an advanced nursing practice professional. This means that the DNP degree will become the standard requirement for most advanced practice nursing roles in the future. While having an MSN today is enough to practice in most workplaces, eventually the DNP will be required. Therefore, it make sense for many MSN degree holders to earn their DNP as well.

The AACN believes that the DNP both now and in the future will play a vital role in the mentorship, education and leadership for the entire nursing profession. As a nurse with a DNP, you will serve as an advocate, problem solver and role model for many other healthcare professionals.

Nurses who already hold their MSN degree are generally eligible to apply for a DNP program if their MSN was in a particular advanced practice specialty, such as nurse practitioner or nurse midwife.

A curriculum for the DNP degree may include these types of courses:

  • Quantitative methods for evaluating healthcare practices
  • Evidence based practice
  • Applied finance and budget planning
  • Data driven healthcare improvement
  • Effective leadership
  • Scholarly writing
  • Transforming the nation’s health
  • Health systems transformation

Why Earn an MSN to DNP Degree?

Many experienced nurses with their BSN or MSN eventually opt to earn their DNP degree. There are many reasons for doing this that we highlight below. As noted above, the standard degree for advanced practice nurses will eventually be the DNP. So many nurses who already are or aspire to be advanced practice nurses are earning their DNP so that they have more career options in the future.

Enhanced Demand for Nurses

There is more need for nurses today than ever before. According to Department of Labor data, it is expected that there will be a 16% rise in demand for nurses by 2024. The demand is being caused by more Americans living longer and expecting more healthcare services. Nurses are required to administer the orders by healthcare professionals, so it is clear more nurses will be needed.

There also is more demand for healthcare services because of advances in medical technology. It is possible today to treat many different diseases that a few decades ago were nearly untreatable.

As the demand for clinical nurses rise, there also is a strong need for nurse educators to educate them at the bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral levels. The AACN published recently a report that stated that nursing schools in America were forced to turn away more than 60,000 nursing school applicants because they lacked the instructors to teach them. Almost ⅔ of the schools surveyed noted that a faculty shortage was the major reason they were unable to accept all qualified nursing students in 2016.

Many nurses earn their DNP so that they can become nursing instructors at a college or university. There is little doubt that most nursing schools will welcome more nurse educators with a DNP.

More Responsibility and Respect

Nurses with a BSN or MSN are able to earn a very good living and get a good amount of respect. But the DNP degree is the highest level degree in nursing. It is a degree that commands the highest level of respect. The curriculum provides the nurse with advanced clinical, leadership and administrative skills that can propel her to the top of the profession. Positions of leadership, respect and high compensation will be available in hospitals, nursing homes, universities, healthcare facilities and systems, and more.

Also, note that only one percent of nurses have a doctoral degree. You will be a highly respected professional with a very rare nursing degree.

Advanced Practice Nurses in High Demand

Both the MSN and DNP degree are in demand because of the need for more advanced practice nurses. You can already be an advanced practice nurse with your MSN, and earn the DNP for a higher level of skill. Or, you can earn your DNP degree straight from your BSN program in some cases to become an advanced practice nurse. Common APRN professions include the following:

  • Certified nurse midwife (CNM): Provides care to women and newborns, as well as pre- and postnatal care.
  • Certified nurse anesthetist (CRNA): Gives anesthetic services to patients having a variety of medical procedures, under the supervision of an anesthesiologist.
  • Nurse practitioner (NP): Offers primary and secondary care to patients, much in the same way as doctors do.

The demand for nurses in these fields by 2024 ranges from 19% to 35% increases.

High Salary

The pay for advanced nursing practice professionals averages more than $100,000 per year. Nurses with the most experience and a DNP can earn as much as $175,000 per year in some fields.

Online Option for MSN to DNP Degree

A good choice for an MSN to DNP program online is listed below.

Wilkes University

The goal of this MSN to DNP program is to produce the most competent, knowledgeable and clinical proficient nurses. Graduates of this online program possess the clinical practice skills that they need to serve well in healthcare leadership capacities in many areas.

The major elements of this DNP program are clinical practice and applied research. These two core elements are part of all the courses in this program. It is a 30 credit hour program that concentrates on the most recent scientific knowledge, IT advances and public health policy advances.

The DNP program is made to provide progressive clinical leaders who can translate research into practice to improve patient outcomes. All students in this online program complete a capstone scholarly project in a mentored clinical environment.

Required courses include:

  • NSG 600 (3) Nursing Informatics
  • NSG 601 (3) Biostatistics
  • NSG 602 (3) Ethical Principles for Advanced Nursing Practice
  • NSG 603 (3) Application of Nursing Research
  • NSG 604 (3) Epidemiology and Environmental Health
  • NSG 605 (3) Collaboration in Health Care Delivery
  • NSG 606 (3) Diversity and Social Issues
  • NSG 607 (3) Leadership in Advanced Nursing Practice
  • NSG 609 (2) DNP Program Practicum I
  • NSG 610 (2) DNP Program Practicum II
  • NSG 608a and NSG 608b (6) Scholarly Project*


Earning a DNP degree is a wise investment in your nursing education and future career. There is virtually no end in sight for the need for nurses with advanced clinical and leadership skills.

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