Salary Outlook + Best Things You Can Do with a DNP Nursing Degree

The nursing field is a rapidly growing profession, with strong job demand anticipated for all levels of nurses in the next decade. The Doctor of Nursing Practice or DNP degree is the highest level nursing degree that you can earn. It will provide you with many highly rewarding and interesting job opportunities, if you decide to spend the time and money to earn it. The DNP is held only by 1% of all practicing nurses today. This means that you will be in a very select group of nursing professionals.

If you are considering your doctorate in nursing, consider these five best things that you can do with this advanced nursing degree:

#1 Become a Nurse Practitioner (NP)

Nurses who desire to be a highly respected healthcare practitioner most often earn their DNP degree today to become an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN). The most popular specialty today with the most demand is nurse practitioner.

NPs work as primary and specialty healthcare providers. They deliver largely the same healthcare services that doctors do, but at a lower cost to the patient, healthcare system and insurance company. NPs are responsible for assessing patients, ordering and interpreting diagnostic tests, prescribing drugs, and determining the most effective ways to manage the health of the patient.

Many NPs eventually specialize in a certain population of patients, such as geriatrics, pediatrics, or mental health. After you have earned your DNP and passed your certification examination for national licensure, you can earn another license in your subspecialty.

NPs will see very high demand in the next decade, with 35% increase in job demand, the Bureau of Labor Statistics states. The median salary is high at $100,900.

It is important to note that in the past, earning your MSN degree was sufficient to become an NP. But in the coming years, it will likely be critical, even essential, to earn your DNP degree to be an NP. As of 2017, one can still become an NP with a MSN but this is likely going to change in a few years.

In 2004, the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) released a highly influential position statement that endorsed the concept of the Doctor of Nursing Practice degree to become the minimum standard to work as an advanced practice nurse, such as nurse practitioner. This change was supposed to take effect by 2015.

Since the AACN released its position statement, the number of DNP programs has skyrocketed. As of 2011, there were 138 DNP programs in the US that were accepting students; in 2004, there were less than 50. This suggests that the academic world has accepted that the DNP degree will supplant the MSN as the gold standard for advanced practice nursing.

At this time, it is still possible to work as an NP with an MSN. However, for current nursing students, it makes sense to earn a DNP to ensure that you are able to qualify to work as an advanced nursing practice professional for years in the future.

#2 Become a Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA)

CRNAs offer anesthesia and related healthcare services before, during and after various surgeries, and other healthcare procedures. CRNAs also may provide pain management and various emergency services for acutely ill patients. Before the procedure is begun, CRNAs will talk to the patient about any drugs that he or she is taking, and any possible allergies or illnesses they have. This is very important so that anesthesia can be delivered safely. The CRNA also needs to stay with the patient throughout the procedure and monitor vital signs. Adjustments to the level of anesthesia may be necessary.

Becoming a CRNA is a great job because they perform most of the same duties as full anesthesiologists but at a lower cost and a lower level of education. Nurses with their DNP will be very much in demand in most part of the country with CRNA training, especially in underserved rural and urban areas.

This high demand is revealed in current BLS statistics, with 19% increase in demand in this job anticipated by 2024. The median pay is outstanding at $160,270.

#3 Become a Nurse Educator

The job of nurse educator is a great potential job for the DNP holder because of the great need for new nurses. Naturally, more nurse educators are needed to educate new nurses who are earning their associate’s, bachelor’s and master’s degrees.

It is expected there will be an increased need for nurse educators in the future. This is due to several reasons:

  • Nursing school enrollment is not high enough to meet the demand for RNs and APRNs. AACN reported in 20122 that there was a 5% increase in enrollment in bachelor’s of nursing programs, but this increase was not enough to meet demand. More educators are needed to meet the rising demand for nurses.
  • A shortage of nursing school faculty is a factor in the nursing shortage. AACN also stated in 2012 that nursing schools had to turn down 75,000 qualified BSN applicants because of a lack of faculty and clinical sites. Up to ⅔ of nursing schools who responded stated that a faculty shortage was a major reason for not accepting more nursing students.

The above data shows that there will be a strong need for more nurse educators for years to come. The median salary for nurse educators is $72,700.

#4 Become a Nurse Administrator

Another excellent option with your DNP degree is to become a nurse administrator, or sometimes referred to as a healthcare executive or healthcare administrator. These executive healthcare leaders are responsible for planning, directing and coordinating many types of healthcare services.

Some nurse administrators may manage an entire healthcare system, a hospital, or a certain department or clinical area. Others may work as the administrator of a large practice of doctors or nurse practitioners. It is very important for nurse administrators to be up to date on all healthcare regulations, laws and technology.

Nurse administrators need to work in close proximity with doctors, nurses, medical lab technologists and other healthcare professionals to provide a high level of care to patients.

Other types of related positions you may work in as a nurse administrator include:

  • Nursing home administrator
  • Clinical manager
  • Health information manager

Job demand in this profession will be high in the coming years with jobs increasing by 17%. It is expected that as the baby boomers stop working and stay active later in their lives, there will be a great increase in need for medical services.

Nurse administrators also will be needed to contend with the introduction of electronic health records or EHRs. This will create more need for managers with a deep knowledge of health information technology.

Median pay for for these healthcare professionals in 2016 was $96,500.

#5 Become an Informatics Nurse

Nursing informatics integrates the nursing practice and knowledge with the efficient management of information and communication technologies to improve patient outcomes.

This role is becoming increasingly important as technology systems in healthcare become more advanced. As noted above, the paper based record systems that were used in healthcare systems for more than 100 years are over. Congress mandated in 2009 that medical providers put their healthcare records into electronic formats, if those providers wanted to continue to receive Medicare and Medicaid payments.

Nurses who wish to work in nursing informatics can earn a doctoral degree in health informatics, and earn a median salary of more than $100,000 per year.


By earning a DNP degree, you will open the door to a variety of highly paid, in demand and respected healthcare positions.

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