DNP vs. NP is a tricky distinction to make, as some nurse practitioners (NPs) hold a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree.
The high level of overlap between the terms can cause confusion when career planning. One refers to the professional, clinical role of nurse practitioner, while the other refers to the highest level of clinical nursing education.
Earning a DNP as well as becoming a nurse practitioner offers many benefits for a nursing professional. Those who are wondering about the differences between a DNP and NP can learn more about how an online Doctor of Nursing Practice can advance their nursing career.
What Is an NP?
NP is the title for a nurse practitioner, a medical professional who is educated to perform the following.
- Assess and diagnose patients
- Administer and evaluate diagnostic tests
- Prescribe and manage medications
- Focus on disease prevention and healthy lifestyle promotion
- Advise, counsel and guide patients and their families in making care-related decisions
The scope of practice of NPs is wide and depends on their specialization and the state in which they reside. For instance, many NPs become certified in providing primary care to specific patient populations, such as families, women, seniors or patients with chronic or acute conditions. They can do this in a number of different job settings.
- Hospitals (state, local or private)
- Community clinics
- Outpatient care centers
- Urgent care clinics
- Primary care offices
One advantage to becoming an NP is practice autonomy. More than half of U.S. states extend full practice authority to NPs, allowing them to see patients, evaluate tests and prescribe medications without a supervising physician or physician assistant.
As of December 2020, nurses with a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) earned a median annual salary of approximately $95,000, according to the compensation website PayScale. However, a nurse practitioner’s salary can vary based on their job location, years of experience, education level, certifications, specializations and other factors. A nurse practitioner’s area of specialty and the job demand for that specialty also can have an impact on yearly earnings. For example, PayScale notes that acute care nurse practitioners earn a median salary of around $103,000, while psychiatric nurse practitioners earn $111,000.
How to Become an NP
NPs are in high demand across the country. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects employment for the career to grow 52% between 2019 and 2029. The job can be personally and professionally rewarding, so interested nursing students or medical professionals should take heed of these five steps to becoming an NP, as laid out by the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP).
- Earn a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree.
- Pass the NCLEX-RN certification exam to become a registered nurse.
- Earn either a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) or a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree.
- Secure national board certification in a specialty.
- Become registered in or licensed by the state in which you practice.
What Is a DNP?
To understand the differences between a DNP degree and an NP, it’s important to know that a DNP is the terminal degree for clinical nurses and is one step above an MSN. However, it’s not the only terminal degree in nursing. The other is the Ph.D., geared toward nurses involved in research. The DNP, on the other hand, is for nursing practice as an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN), nursing leader, nurse educator, nurse executive or nurse director.
The doctorate can open many doors to new careers in administration, management, education and advanced nursing practice. The DNP degree holder is able to participate in assuring that evidence-based practice is applied to patient care. A nurse who holds a DNP-FNP (Family Nurse Practitioner) degree is able to look at patient data through computer analytics and discern whether certain processes may be enhanced to ultimately improve patient outcomes.
Advancing one’s education can yield many benefits, from having a stronger foundation of knowledge to potentially earning a higher salary. With a nursing shortage increasing across the country, health care facilities need advanced practice registered nurses, nurse executives and nurse directors now more than ever. Those who are prepared with a DNP may be compensated for it. DNP-prepared nurses earned a median annual salary of about $103,000 as of December 2020, according to PayScale.
How to Become a DNP-Prepared Nurse
The process of earning a DNP degree can look different based on an individual’s level of education and years of experience.
Earn a BSN
After an individual earns a BSN and passes the NCLEX-RN exam, they become a registered nurse. Registered nurses who want to earn a DNP degree should decide whether they want to become nurse practitioners, clinical nurse specialists, nurse anesthetists, nurse midwives, nurse educators, nurse administrators, public health nurses, or nurse informaticists. Gaining experience in a certain specialty — such as mental health, pediatrics, gerontology, neonatal, emergency or family care — is an important aspect of preparing for a DNP program.
RNs who have a current RN license and have earned a BSN from a regionally-accredited college or university and an NLNAC-, ACEN-, or CCNE-accredited* nursing program can apply to some nurse practitioner-focused DNP programs.
Earn an MSN
Nurse practitioners are required to hold an MSN degree. Depending on the career specialization they are pursuing, NPs may choose to pursue a doctorate. NPs who have a current RN license and have earned an MSN from an NLNAC-, ACEN- or CCNE-accredited* nursing program can apply to some DNP-Leadership programs.
*The master’s degree program in Nursing, Post-Graduate APRN Certificate program, and the Doctor of Nursing Practice program at Bradley University are accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (http://www.ccneaccreditation.org).
DNP vs. NP: Opportunities
Nurse practitioners may choose to earn a DNP for a variety of reasons. One of the most important is that it can make a nurse more competitive in the field. While a BSN or MSN program can teach a nurse how to provide quality patient care, a DNP dives deep into nursing theory, evidence-based practice and the principles of advanced practice. DNP curricula also cover health policy, nurse and patient advocacy, nursing leadership, and organizational management.
When considering earning a DNP, many nurses take into account their long-term goals. A DNP with an NP focus can open doors for a registered nurse to become nationally certified as an APRN (Advanced Practice Registered Nurse). A DNP can also help those interested prepare for career advancement. For example, a DNP-prepared nurse may become a nursing director — a health care career focused on executive leadership and policy.
What Are the Benefits of a DNP?
Although an MSN is the minimum degree needed for practice as an APRN, a DNP will satisfy the education requirements. There are two main reasons why NPs should consider doctoral studies.
- DNP graduates can compete for higher-paying and more influential jobs.
Experience and education are factors in determining a nurse’s salary. Leadership roles and jobs in the executive suite also pay more, and are frequently sought by DNP graduates.
- The education requirements for becoming an APRN may change in the future.
In 2004, the AACN recommended the DNP replace the MSN as the preferred degree for APRNs. While the change has not been enacted, it is still possible for the requirements to become more stringent. In that case, earning a doctorate could grant future benefits.
What Does a DNP Program Look Like?
Now that the differences between a DNP vs. NP are more clear, we can examine what makes NPs and the DNP degree unique. In terms of learning objectives, DNP programs focus on achieving these eight core outcomes, as outlined by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing.
- Integrating nursing science with ethical, psychological, analytical and organizational knowledge
- Developing and evaluating care delivery and cost-effectiveness of initiatives, while also applying principles of budgeting and finance
- Using information technology to inform quality of care improvements and further tracking, analyzing and interpreting data and outcome results
- Designing and maintaining systems of evaluation that monitor everything from care outcomes to how patients engage with consumer materials and technologies
- Grasping policy formulation and dissemination; acting as an advocate and providing leadership to all levels of nursing/care staff
- Ensuring effective communication and collaboration between departments
- Analyzing cultural diversity and epidemiological, environmental and biostatistical records as a function of managing population health
- Consistently demonstrating advanced knowledge in clinical judgment, accountability, evaluation and improving patient outcomes
Earn Your DNP Online
Doctoral programs may seem intense given their subject matter, but interested nurses can earn their DNPs online in a convenient and seamless manner. Bradley University offers two DNP tracks, one for family nurse practitioners and one designed for leadership roles. Both can be completed online when nurses have the time, even if personal and professional obligations demand their attention.
If you’re interested in learning more about a DNP vs. NP, explore how Bradley University’s online Doctor of Nursing Practice program can help you achieve your professional goals.
Nurse Practitioner vs. RN Career Paths
Should I Move from an MSN to DNP?
What Is a DNP Degree?
The national average salary for nurse practitioners is $122,054 per year . By contrast, professionals with DNPs earn an average annual income of $110,912 per year . It's important to remember that some of this salary data may overlap, as many NPs hold DNP degrees.What is the pay difference between NP and DNP? ›
The national average salary for nurse practitioners is $122,054 per year . By contrast, professionals with DNPs earn an average annual income of $110,912 per year . It's important to remember that some of this salary data may overlap, as many NPs hold DNP degrees.What are the benefits of DNP over NP? ›
While all nurses in advanced roles have graduate degrees, DNP graduates inherently have a higher level of education than an NP with only a master's degree. Professionals with a DNP degree can hold leadership positions in management or education, as well as advanced clinical roles.Which is better NP or DNP? ›
Which is higher, NP or DNP? One is not higher than the other, as it's comparing an educational degree to a certification. An NP is a master's- or doctorate-prepared nurse that is certified and licensed as an advanced practice registered nurse. A DNP is a higher-education degree.Does DNP make more money than NP? ›
Do DNPs make more money than NPs? DNP salaries are generally higher than NP salaries, reflecting their additional training. However, nurse anesthetists, even those with MSNs, often earn more than family practice DNPs. Individual salaries depend on specialty, location, experience, and many other factors.What is the highest paid DNP specialty? ›
Of these positions, nurse anesthetists are the highest paid, earning a median annual wage of nearly $200,000, and the most competitive, requiring a master's or DNP and CRNA certification. Other jobs with higher DNP salaries include: Medical and Health Services Manager. Nurse Manager.Is a DNP financially worth it? ›
According to the 2020 National Nursing Workforce Survey, registered nurses whose highest education was a DNP reported a median salary of about $100,000, 11% higher than the $90,000 median for those who had earned as much as a master's degree.Does anyone regret becoming an NP? ›
More and more, NPs are balking at the irregular hours of the profession, with those with families feeling it the most acutely. Mothers report that they regret becoming a nurse practitioner when it comes to the job stealing critical time from their family life.What percentage of nurses hold a DNP? ›
More than 64% of today's nursing workforce is prepared at the baccalaureate and higher-degree level, but only 1.2% have a DNP degree and 0.6% a PhD, according to American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) statistics.What type of NP makes the most money? ›
As a hospitalist NP, you can expect to have one of the highest-paying nurse practitioner jobs. The average yearly wage is about $117,880. And while hourly rates vary based on region and specific hospitals, it is $56.67 on average.
- Adult Acute Care Nurse Practitioner. ...
- Oncology Nurse Practitioner. ...
- Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner. ...
- Emergency Nurse Practitioner. ...
- Armed Forces NP. ...
- Adult-Gerontology Nurse Practitioner. ...
- Correctional Nurse Practitioner. ...
- Substance Abuse Nurse Practitioner.
Nurses With a Doctorate in Nursing Practice (DNP) Should Not Call Themselves “Doctor” in a Clinical Setting - PMC. The . gov means it's official.Can a DNP diagnose? ›
With a DNP degree, the nurse can provide medical care to patients. For a DNP degree holder that decides to become a nurse practitioner, he or she will be able to diagnose and treat patients, prescribe medications, order imaging tests and bloodwork, and provide education to patients about their healthcare.Are DNP programs hard? ›
Enrolling in a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program can be a daunting task for many students due to the rigorous academic requirements often associated with it.Are nurse practitioners millionaires? ›
So, are nurse practitioners rich? Once again, rich is a relative word, but nurse practitioners can earn a healthy average wage. The starting salary for a nurse practitioner is $82,969 per year. This income is an excellent way to start your NP career at a very livable wage that will increase with experience.How long is the NP to DNP program? ›
DNP programs usually consist of 33 to 43 credits and at least 500 clinical practice hours. This can translate to one to two years of full-time coursework, which can be challenging while balancing a full-time nursing career. On a part-time basis, a typical program requires two to three years of study.Why PhD is better than DNP? ›
Those more interested in teaching or exploring theories and making analyses might choose a PhD in Nursing for a career path. If you're more interested in interacting with other nurses, healthcare professionals, and patients on a regular basis, a DNP might be a better fit for your career aspirations.Is an MD higher than a DNP? ›
A DNP (doctor of nursing practice) and Ph. D. in Nursing are vastly different than an MD (doctor of medicine). The former are highly-trained nurses, and the latter is a physician, with all the scope of practice allowances that come with that title.Is a DNP higher than a Masters in nursing? ›
The MSN is a graduate degree that may provide you with specialized knowledge, skills and expertise to pursue career opportunities like nurse administrator, nurse educator and clinical nurse specialist. The DNP is a doctoral program that may help prepare you for advanced nursing roles and leadership opportunities.What can a MD do that a DNP Cannot? ›
M.D: Job Duties. ○ An M.D. can prescribe medications in all 50 states and DC. ○ While a DNP can prescribe medication under their advanced practice registered nurse license, restrictions are depending on the state. ○ An M.D. can practice to the full scope of their license in all 50 states and D.C.
In about half of the US states, there is one significant role that a doctor can do that nurse practitioners cannot do; that is to prescribe medication independently. In these limited or restrictive practice states, nurse practitioners must have a doctor's approval before prescribing medication.What is the average GPA for DNP? ›
These requirements vary, but typically, students must have a GPA of 3.0 or higher to be considered for a DNP program.Is 40 too old to become an NP? ›
No age is too old to start working as a nurse practitioner! If you complete the MSN or DNP program, perform the required job duties, and have a passion for healthcare and becoming an NP, go for it!Why are nurse practitioners leaving the profession? ›
According to Medscape's "Nurse Practitioner Burnout & Depression Report 2022," almost a third of NPs are considering leaving health care, particularly as more of them struggle with burnout and other work difficulties.Can you bridge from NP to MD? ›
NP to MD Bridge Programs
Currently, there are no schools in the U.S. that allow nurse practitioners to "bridge" by using work hours to credit towards medical school training. So, you'll need to apply for medical school by passing the same admission standards as everyone else.
In May 2018, the National Organization of Nurse Practitioner Faculties (NONPF) announced that all entry-level nurse practitioner education programs would shift from the MSN to the DNP by 2025.What is the attrition rate for DNP? ›
The average five-year graduation rate was 88% for the MSN students and 83% for the DNP students (a four year program of study) based on the most recent available data.Can a DNP get tenure? ›
Do I wish to be a tenured professor at a big university? Again, both a DNP and PhD can be tenured at most universities.What is the lowest paid Nurse Practitioner? ›
The average annual salary for a Nurse Practitioner is $118,040. The bottom 10% of average annual NP salaries is $79,470. The top 10% is $163,350 per year. The median annual wage for a Nurse Practitioner is $120,680.What is the best NP to become? ›
- Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner. ...
- Cardiology Nurse Practitioner. ...
- Aesthetic Nurse Practitioner. ...
- Pediatric Primary Care Nurse Practitioner. ...
- Pain Management Nurse Practitioner. ...
- Emergency Department Nurse Practitioner. ...
- Pediatric Acute Care Nurse Practitioner.
Even though there are geographic disparities in the distribution of primary care NPs, every state, plus the District of Columbia, is predicted to have an oversupply. No state is predicted to have a shortage of NPs by 2025. “ believed that there is a shortage of NPs and that the shortage will continue.What state pays nurse practitioners the best? ›
- 1. California. According to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, California is the highest paying state for nurse practitioners. ...
- New Jersey. ...
- Washington. ...
- New York. ...
- Massachusetts. ...
- Nevada. ...
- Minnesota. ...
The most stressful nursing jobs include ICU nurse, ER nurse, and NICU nurse. In these roles, nurses work in an intense environment with high stakes. They manage emergency situations and care for critically ill patients. Other stressful nursing jobs include OR nursing, oncology nursing, and psychiatric nursing.What is the hardest class in NP school? ›
- Pathophysiology. In this course, students learn how different anatomical systems work and how diseases or injuries affect these systems. ...
- Pharmacology. ...
- Medical Surgical 1 (also known as Adult Health 1) ...
- Evidence-Based Practice.
The designated authority of one's doctorate is “DNP.” Upon earning your doctorate, you could and can legally use the professional designation “Dr.” under the law as long as those are appropriately indicated. Therefore, if one's business card reads: “Jane Smith, DNP, ARPN, FP-C” this is appropriate.How do you address a DNP? ›
A nurse who holds a doctorate degree, such as a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) or PhD, should still be referred to as "nurse" or their name. To avoid confusion, "doctor" should only be used to address physicians with a medical degree, such as Doctor of Medicine (MD) or Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (DO).What is higher than a DNP? ›
To understand the differences between a DNP degree and an NP, it's important to know that a DNP is the terminal degree for clinical nurses and is one step above an MSN. However, it's not the only terminal degree in nursing. The other is the Ph. D., geared toward nurses involved in research.What states can a DNP not be called a doctor? ›
So, the short answer is yes – a DNP nurse may be referred to as "doctor," however, some states have legislation surrounding this. For example, Arizona and Delaware forbid nurses, pharmacists, and other professionals from using the "doctor" title, unless they immediately clarify their role.Do grades matter for DNP? ›
Many schools will require a 3.0 GPA to get into nurse practitioner school. Based on the type of NP program you are applying for (MSN or DNP), your GPA will be calculated from your bachelorly or master's degree coursework.Are doctors being replaced by nurse practitioners? ›
With a shortage of primary care physicians leaving more than 90 million people without access to primary care, according to the Health Resources & Services Administration, it is not surprising that NPs and PAs are filling the gap and being sought to do so.
Findings: Main challenges include: Difficulty defining a practice gap or absent training in protocol development for quality improvement (QI) projects (design stage); difficulty identifying and accessing project sites or practice mentors and limited academic faculty support (implementation stage); and a lack of common ...How much do DNP make in NYC? ›
How much does a Dnp make in New York? As of May 16, 2023, the average annual pay for a Dnp in New York is $127,631 a year. Just in case you need a simple salary calculator, that works out to be approximately $61.36 an hour.How to make 7 figures as a nurse? ›
- Become a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA) ...
- Become a Nurse Practitioner (NP) ...
- Become a Nurse Midwife. ...
- Advance in Nurse Leadership. ...
- Begin travel nursing assignment. ...
- Change Nursing specialties. ...
- Relocate to a higher paying state. ...
- Make sacrifices.
The average nurse practitioner makes $117,670 per year — and depending on which specialty you choose, you can make well beyond that amount. … if making over six figures as a nurse is your goal, it may be the most worthwhile and rewarding way to do so.Why do nurse practitioners make so little? ›
In some areas NPs are in high demand. In other areas, nurse practitioners struggle to find work. Salaries follow demand. If the NP job market in your area is saturated, you'll earn less and may not see as drastic of a pay differential as you expected.Can you get DNP without NP? ›
An NP is a master's- or doctorate-prepared nurse that is certified and licensed as an advanced practice registered nurse. A DNP is a higher-education degree. An NP can earn a DNP degree, but a DNP-prepared nurse does not have to be an NP.Will all NPs need DNP? ›
Each state determines the education level required for an NP license to practice; while a nurse's home state may not require a DNP, it could limit the ability to move. Nurses who want to become an NP could strongly consider entering a DNP program, which can take a full-time student up to four years to complete.What type of NP gets paid the most? ›
As a hospitalist NP, you can expect to have one of the highest-paying nurse practitioner jobs. The average yearly wage is about $117,880. And while hourly rates vary based on region and specific hospitals, it is $56.67 on average.Does DNP pay more than MSN? ›
According to PayScale.com, individuals with a DNP earn a higher average income than those with the MSN: DNP: $102,000 average salary. MSN: $93,000 average salary.Where is the highest paid nurse practitioner? ›
- 1. California. According to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, California is the highest paying state for nurse practitioners. ...
- New Jersey. ...
- Washington. ...
- New York. ...
- Massachusetts. ...
- Nevada. ...
- Minnesota. ...
The average annual salary for a Nurse Practitioner is $118,040. The bottom 10% of average annual NP salaries is $79,470. The top 10% is $163,350 per year. The median annual wage for a Nurse Practitioner is $120,680.Is it worth it to get a DNP vs MSN? ›
Both provide advancements in your career, salary, and opportunities. With the DNP, which is a terminal degree, there are more opportunities for executive leadership roles, nurse faculty roles, and healthcare advocacy programs in the clinical setting, hospitals, and throughout many organizations.Why hire a DNP? ›
The DNP is designed for nurses seeking a terminal degree in nursing practice and offers an alternative to research-focused doctoral programs. DNP-prepared nurses are well-equipped to fully implement the science developed by nurse researchers prepared in PhD, DNS, and other research-focused nursing doctorates.Can a DNP perform surgery? ›
Nurses cannot perform surgical procedures independently. Nurses can fill many different roles before, during, and after surgical procedures. Consider additional training or education to get the job you are most interested in.Will all NPS need DNP? ›
Each state determines the education level required for an NP license to practice; while a nurse's home state may not require a DNP, it could limit the ability to move. Nurses who want to become an NP could strongly consider entering a DNP program, which can take a full-time student up to four years to complete.What state has the highest demand for nurse practitioner? ›
New York: NPs in New York earn well above the average salary. More so, New York boasts the highest number of job opportunities for NPs, with more than 1640 new jobs available annually. One potential downside is that NPs in this state must practice under a collaborative agreement with a physician.Can you switch specialties as a NP? ›
NPs can switch specialties at any point in their career; depending on the context of the shift, doing so may entail additional training, as well as a new certification exam.