MSN vs. DNP in NNP


Specializes in NICU. Has 11 years experience.

I've decided after 9 years of NICU level III-IV experience it is time to go for my Master's or DNP in NNP. I'm having a hard time deciding between getting my MSN-NNP or DNP-NNP. My local university is a top rated DNP school but costs $88,000. I just finished off paying my student loans for my BSN and the thought of taking on $88,000 of student debt is absolutely frightening to me. I've talked to NNP head hunters and they all recommend the DNP. I understand the appeal of getting it but you are taking on so much more student loan debt getting the DNP and you do not necessarily get much more salary than an NNP with an MSN. For the online MSN NNP programs they tend to range in cost from $36,000-50,000 and the DNP programs range from $74,000-$102,000.

I was hoping I could ask current NNP's do you recommend a MSN or a DNP degree? Aka do you find its really worth taking on the debt to get a DNP? Is there an online program someone would really recommend that will find clinical placements for you? I've referenced NANN's website and I have done a ton of research on every program; I would love to hear direct feedback from students currently in NNP programs. I would appreciate any feedback from someone currently in an MSN or DNP program or from NNPs/PNP-ACs out there. Thank you in advance!


Specializes in NICU. Has 6 years experience.

55 minutes ago, NICURNSF said:

Is there an online program someone would really recommend that will find clinical placements for you?

all of my co-workers that are in an NNP program are doing clinicals on our unit. Can you do clinicals on your unit?

babyNP., APRN

Specializes in NICU. Has 13 years experience.

I would recommend getting the MSN and then going for your DNP later when your employee is more likely to pay for it. From a finances perspective, you are losing out on a year of salary at the NP level, which could be $100k or more. If you were fresh out of NICU with only a year or two experience I'd lean more towards the DNP for the clinical hours since you would be so new, but with 9 years at Level 3/4, you should be okay. It might be a little hard to transition to the provider role for having so much RN experience, but you just have to ruthlessly be a different person when you are at work as a RN vs as a NNP student in the way you think. Best of luck t you! Keep us posted on your journey

I personally chose to get my DNP for a couple reasons, but that isn't to say that the DNP is the right path for everybody. I went back for my DNP after only 3 years of NICU experience, so adding another year of school was actually beneficial for me so I could get more experience before graduation. The other main reason I went for the DNP was because some NNP job openings at bigger children's hospitals said "DNP preferred". I wasn't sure where I wanted to work when I was done, so I wanted to give myself that edge up if possible. I also just really wanted to be done with school now before I have kids and life gets more chaotic.

That all being said, there were plenty of times during my DNP program where I wished I had gone for the MSN instead. The DNP is a lot of fluff classes that, just like the BSN, feel pointless at times. I actually did enjoy the focus on QI projects/research more than I thought I would, but a DNP is not necessary to work on QI projects in your unit. My preceptor who oversaw my project does tons of projects on our unit and does not have her DNP. Basically, I don't think either choice is wrong, and you have to pick what feels right for you. If you think you're going to have to take out large student loans to get the DNP, then it may be best to get your MSN and then finish the DNP once you graduate. If you do decide to do it that way, though, I would recommend continuing on with your DNP right away while you're still in the school mode and before you lose motivation to do it. You'll be earning more money as an NNP, so that last year to finish your DNP shouldn't be as hard financially.

Best of luck whichever path you choose!