Nursing & Health

Is a DNP worth it? Examining this advanced nursing program

DNP Nursing Program

Now that you’ve spent some time working as a nurse, you know there are a number of ways to enter the field. Some providers begin as certified nursing assistants (CNAs) or licensed practical nurses (LPNs) before earning a degree to become a registered nurse (RN).

Others may earn their RN credential right away and gain experience in a few nursing specialties before choosing one to focus on. Many nurses eventually decide to advance their careers and pursue an MSN or DNP.

If you are looking to upskill with a DNP medical credential, you're likely wondering about its true value. This terminal degree can open doors to the leadership positions you may be interested in pursuing. But is a DNP worth it in the end?

Join us as we explore the origin of this advanced nursing degree and dig into the details about DNP nursing programs. This information should help you determine the answer to your question.

What is a DNP and why was it created?

As you already know, DNP stands for “Doctor of Nursing Practice.” This is a terminal nursing degree, meaning it is the highest level of practice-based training in the nursing field.

The DNP credential was created in response to an influential report from the Institute of Medicine (IOM) that was released in 2001. It’s credited with identifying a notable gap between actual U.S. healthcare quality and what it could be. The report suggests closing the gap would require a transformation in the way America educates healthcare providers. A new advanced practice nursing degree path was created soon after.

The American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) took IOM recommendations into account when creating The Essentials of Doctoral Education for Advanced Nursing Practice. This guide discusses the curricular elements that all accredited DNP nursing programs must include. It aims to ensure graduates develop all of the necessary competencies.

Prior to the DNP, most doctoral nursing paths were research-focused degrees — the Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) or the Doctor of Nursing Science (DNS). These types of programs teach students to develop evidence-based knowledge for the nursing profession. Graduates are qualified to lead research teams, as well as design and implement medical studies.

Practice-focused doctoral nursing programs like the DNP were designed to fill the “quality chasm” by preparing graduates for the highest level of clinical nursing practice. Graduates are taught both clinical and leadership skills, which empowers them to lead interdisciplinary care teams, improve care systems and more.

What is a DNP program like?

DNP nursing programs build upon the practice and skills that existing RNs and advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) have already developed. Programs like the ones at UMass Global use a technology-enriched educational approach to create advanced practice clinical nursing experts who are experts in providing patient-centered, culturally appropriate care.

High-quality DNP nursing programs focus on improving patient outcomes, innovating leadership and using evidence as a foundation of practice. DNP curriculum should promote the eight learning outcomes identified by the AACN:

  • Scientific underpinnings for practice
  • Organizational and systems leadership
  • Clinical scholarship
  • Information systems and patient care technology
  • Healthcare policy
  • Interprofessional collaboration
  • Clinical prevention and population health
  • Advanced practice registered nursing

While the desired learning outcomes are always the same, not all nurses considering a DNP are coming from the same starting point. This is why programs like UMass Global’s offer a few different paths. Depending on where you are in your nursing career, there’s a different DNP program entry option that’s tailored for you.

How do you go from RN to DNP?

Two of the four DNP entry options at UMass Global are designed for RNs. BSN-qualified RNs who are looking to earn a doctoral degree and pursue the APRN credential can find what they’re looking for in the BSN to DNP program entry option.

RNs who have already earned a Master of Science Degree in Nursing (MSN) should consider the MSN to DNP entry option. Both RN entry options can qualify graduates to transition into advanced practice as a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner or a family across the lifespan nurse practitioner.

How do you go from APRN to DNP?

MSN-qualified APRNs also have a few entry options for UMass Global’s DNP nursing program. Nurses who are looking for a general DNP can apply directly through the Post Master’s DNP entry option.

The final entry option is for APRNs who, in the process of earning their DNP, are looking to add one of two available specialties: psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner or family across the lifespan nurse practitioner. Upon admittance into a specialty program, an individualized education plan will be developed for each student.

Is a DNP worth it?

In general, DNP nursing programs prepare nurses to fulfill leadership positions in clinical settings. Roles can be in executive management, education, research, information systems or even public health advocacy.

A DNP degree, while not always listed as required education, indicates to employers that you’re highly qualified for some of the more competitive nursing leadership positions. Also consider that an analysis of nursing job postings from the last year revealed that:


Nurses with a doctoral degree were eligible for about 36,000 more positions than those with a bachelor’s degree in the field.*

In addition to opening doors to leadership roles within nursing, this advanced credential can also pave the way for increased earning potential. Generally speaking, DNP salary ranges are higher than that of MSN or BSN nurses. The annual APRN compensation reports from Medscape show that the annual salary for nurse practitioners with a doctoral degree was six percent higher than those with a master’s degree in 2021.

The DNP advantage

If you’re eager to drive your career toward a leadership role, it might be time to start evaluating DNP nursing programs. And with a growing primary care provider shortage across the United States, qualified nurse practitioners will become increasingly in-demand.

To learn more about the DNP nursing programs at UMass Global, explore the School of Nursing and Health Professions.


*Source: (analysis of 817,720 nursing jobs from Mar. 01, 2021 - Feb. 28, 2022)

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