Best 12-Month Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) Programs | 2024

Discover the best 12-month Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) programs. Learn more about their prerequisites and requirements, pros and cons, and salary expectations after graduation. Programs

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In the dynamic world of healthcare, the demand for advanced nursing professionals equipped with the highest level of clinical expertise is on the rise.

As a response to this growing need, many institutions now offer accelerated Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) programs, specifically designed to be completed in just 12 months. These programs are tailored for nurses who are eager to ascend the professional ladder swiftly, without compromising on the quality of education.

Dive into the intricacies of the best 12-month DNP programs for 2024 as we shed light on their structure, benefits, and what potential students can expect. Whether you're a seasoned nurse looking to further hone your skills or a recent graduate aiming for the pinnacle of clinical nursing practice, you've come to the right place.

What Is a 12-Month DNP Program?

A 12-month DNP program is an accelerated educational pathway tailored for nurses seeking to attain the highest level of clinical nursing expertise in a condensed timeframe.

The DNP is a terminal degree in nursing that focuses on the clinical aspects of nursing rather than academic research. This fast-paced program is designed for individuals who are highly motivated, have a strong academic background, and are committed to advancing their careers in a short period. The one-year format is particularly suited for those who can dedicate themselves full-time to their studies, given the program's intensive nature.


The coursework component of the Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program encompasses a diverse range of subjects, providing students with a robust foundation in advanced nursing practice. While specific courses will vary between institutions and specializations, students can generally expect to engage in the following areas:

  • Advanced Pharmacology: Courses in pharmacology provide in-depth knowledge of medications, their mechanisms of action, and their effects on the human body. DNP students gain expertise in prescribing and managing medications to optimize patient outcomes.
  • Advanced Health Assessment: Health assessment courses focus on developing advanced skills in conducting comprehensive physical assessments. DNP students learn to systematically evaluate patients, identify health challenges, and formulate appropriate care plans.
  • Epidemiology: This course covers the principles of epidemiology, providing DNP students with essential knowledge in understanding and managing the distribution and determinants of health-related states.
  • Law, Regulation, and Ethics in Healthcare: Focusing on legal and ethical aspects of healthcare, this course equips DNP students with a solid understanding of the regulatory environment and ethical considerations in their practice.
  • Leadership and Management: Reflecting the DNP's emphasis on leadership, students engage in courses focusing on healthcare leadership, management strategies, and organizational dynamics. This prepares them to effectively assume leadership roles and navigate the complex healthcare landscape.
  • Healthcare Policy and Advocacy: DNP students delve into healthcare policies, advocacy strategies, and the socio-economic factors influencing healthcare delivery. This knowledge empowers them to actively contribute to shaping healthcare policies and practices, advocating for positive change.
  • Evidence-Based Practice: Courses in this domain teach students how to integrate research findings into clinical practice, ensuring that patient care is grounded in the latest scientific evidence. This critical skill fosters a culture of continuous improvement and patient-centered care.
  • Informatics: Recognizing the increasing integration of technology in healthcare, DNP students study health informatics. This involves learning to leverage advanced technologies to enhance patient outcomes, incorporating data-driven decision-making into their practice.

Clinical Training:

Beyond coursework, DNP students undergo extensive clinical training, typically involving a minimum of 1,000 clinical hours in APRN-focused roles. Clinical hour requirements may vary for non-clinical DNP programs, with some requiring fewer or none.

 In these cases, additional emphasis is placed on specialized coursework, research, leadership development, or other non-clinical components. 

This dual emphasis on coursework and clinical training ensures DNP graduates have a well-rounded skill set, blending advanced theoretical knowledge with practical proficiency for 

Update salary expectations to include career outlook and statistics from BLS or other trustworthy/authoritative sources, emphasizing increased job opportunities with a DNP over time.

Best 12-Month DNP Programs

The following schools have been selected based on allnurses' methodology of surveying our readers to understand what they value most, with the addition of graduation rates, student-faculty ratio, price, mode, duration, and admission rates of hundreds of the most prominent nursing schools in the United States.

1. University of Miami

The MSN-to-DNP program at the University of Miami is a structured program designed for students who have completed their MSN and are looking to further their education and skills with a DNP degree. The program is lock-step, meaning students must complete the coursework as specified in the Plan of Study and in the Student Handbook for the specific track under which they were admitted.

Program Highlights:

  • Specializations: The program offers various tracks for students to choose from, tailored to their specific interests and career goals.
  • Plan of Study: The program provides multiple plans of study, including a 1-Year Plan, 2-Year (Fall Entry) Plan, and 2-Year (Spring Entry) Plan.
  • Clinical Hours: Depending on the chosen track and plan of study, students will complete between 560 to 1,000 clinical hours.

2. University of Minnesota

The DNP program at the University of Minnesota is designed for RNs who have an entry-level degree in nursing, such as a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) or a professional master's entry-level nursing degree. The program aims to prepare nurses to positively influence nursing practice and health care delivery, expanding their scope of responsibility and impact.

Program Highlights:

  • Specializations: DNP students can choose from 12 specialty areas including Adult Gerontological Primary Care Nurse Practitioner, Family Nurse Practitioner, Nurse Anesthesia, Nurse Midwifery, Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner, and more.
  • Post-Master's 12-Month Option: Designed for nurses with a master's degree from a fully accredited institution in areas like nurse practitioner, clinical nurse specialist, nurse midwife, etc.

3. Samford University

The D.N.P. Nursing Administration program at Samford University is an online 12-month post-master's option designed for advanced practice nurses, including nurse practitioners, nurse anesthetists, clinical nurse specialists, nurse midwives, and nurse administrators. The program aims to equip nurses for leadership roles in evidence-based practice, enabling them to fully implement emerging science and practice innovations in health care.

Program Highlights:

  • Leadership Preparation: The program prepares students to improve the safety and quality of patient care, administer health care programs and organizations, and develop and implement health policies.
  • Educator Add-On: Courses are available for those who wish to teach in a school of nursing. The Nurse Faculty Loan Program offers loan cancellation of up to 85% of the original student loans (plus interest) for up to four years of post-graduation full-time nurse faculty employment.
  • Online Format: The program is delivered online, offering flexibility for working professionals.

4. Chatham University

Chatham University's online DNP program is tailored for professional nurses who already possess master's degrees. This rigorous program empowers nurses to develop advanced competencies in their clinical specialty areas. The curriculum emphasizes innovative, evidence-based practice and systems leadership, aiming to promote safe, quality, person-centered healthcare for diverse populations with intricate needs. Students are given the opportunity to design, implement, evaluate, and disseminate a clinical practice change in their specialty area, typically within their workplace.

Program Highlights:

  • Online Format with Residency: The program is primarily online, with each course lasting 15 weeks. Only one brief on-campus residency is required towards the end of the program.
  • Evidence-Based Practice Clinical Immersion: The program culminates in an evidence-based practice clinical immersion experience. This will be implemented at the student's approved practice experience site, potentially their place of employment, with an approved preceptor.
  • Accreditation: The RN-BSN, MSN, and DNP programs at Chatham University are accredited by the CCNE.
  • Costs: The cost per credit for the program is $1,126. The total cost would be the product of the cost per credit and the number of credits, in addition to any university-specific or degree-specific fees.

Prerequisites & Requirements

Given the accelerated nature of 12-month DNP programs, the prerequisites and requirements are typically rigorous to ensure that students are adequately prepared for the intensive curriculum.

Here's a breakdown of the common prerequisites and requirements for such programs:

  1. Educational Background:
    • Post-Graduate Education: Most 12-month DNP programs require applicants to have an MSN degree from an accredited institution. For example, an MSN-prepared APRN may go from MSN-FNP to DNP-FNP, MSN-PMHNP to DNP-PMHNP, etc.
    • GPA: A minimum GPA, often around 3.0 or higher from previous nursing education, is typically required.
  2. Licensure and Certification:
    • Active RN License: Applicants must possess an active and unencumbered RN license.
    • Advanced Practice Certification: Depending on the program, an active certification as a Nurse Practitioner, Clinical Nurse Specialist, Nurse Anesthetist, or Nurse Midwife might be required.
  3. Clinical Experience:
    • Documented Hours: A specific number of clinical hours (often 500-1000 hours) completed during the master's program or in professional practice might be required.
  4. Letters of Recommendation:
    • Typically, two to three letters of recommendation attesting to the applicant's clinical skills, academic abilities, and readiness for doctoral-level study are required.
  5. Statement of Purpose or Personal Essay:
    • A written statement detailing the applicant's career goals, reasons for pursuing a DNP, and areas of interest in advanced nursing practice.
  6. Resume or Curriculum Vitae (CV):
    • A detailed CV highlighting the applicant's educational background, clinical experience, professional achievements, certifications, and any relevant research or publications.
  7. Interview:
    • Some programs may require an interview, either in-person or via video conference, to assess the applicant's fit for the program and their understanding of the DNP role.
  8. Additional Coursework:
    • Depending on the applicant's educational background, some programs may require completion of specific courses (e.g., statistics, research methods) before admission.
  9. Background Check and Drug Screening:
    • Given the clinical nature of the program, a criminal background check and drug screening might be required for admission and subsequent clinical placements.
  10. Health Requirements:
    • Proof of immunizations, a recent physical examination, and health insurance might be required, especially if the program includes clinical components.
  11. Technical Standards:
    • Given that many 12-month DNP programs offer online components, applicants might need to meet specific technical standards, including access to a computer, reliable internet, and proficiency with online learning platforms.

It's essential to note that specific prerequisites and requirements can vary based on the institution and the focus of the DNP program. Prospective students should thoroughly research individual programs, reach out to admissions counselors, and ensure they meet all criteria before applying.

Costs of 12-Month DNP Programs

The cost of 12-month DNP programs can vary widely based on several factors including the type of institution, location, program reputation, online vs. on-campus, out-of-state fees, and more.

General Cost Breakdown:

  • Tuition: This is the primary cost and can range significantly. Some programs charge per credit hour, while others have a flat rate for the entire program. Tuition for 12-month DNP programs can range from $20,000 to $60,000 or more, depending on the factors mentioned above.
  • Books and Materials: Given the accelerated nature of 12-month programs, students might need to purchase a significant number of textbooks, software, and other learning materials. This can cost anywhere from $500 to $3,000 or more for the entire program.
  • Clinical Fees: Some programs charge additional fees for clinical placements, lab experiences, or simulation labs. These can range from $500 to $5,000, depending on the program's requirements.
  • Miscellaneous Fees: These can include application fees, graduation fees, technology fees, student activity fees, and other miscellaneous costs associated with attending a university. These fees can add an additional $500 to $3,000 or more to the total cost.
  • Living Expenses: For on-campus programs, students should consider costs related to housing, meals, transportation, and personal expenses. While these aren't direct educational costs, they are essential for budgeting purposes.
  • Travel and Residency Costs: For online programs that require occasional on-campus residencies or intensives, students should budget for travel, lodging, and meal expenses during these periods.

It's crucial for prospective students to research specific programs, understand all associated costs, and explore financial aid options, scholarships, or employer tuition reimbursement programs to help offset expenses.

Salary Expectations

When exploring the earning potential of DNP graduates, it's essential to recognize that salaries can fluctuate based on several determinants. Key influencers include the specific DNP degree specialization, the region of employment, accumulated experience, and the hiring institution or organization.

DNP Salary Breakdown

Nurse Practitioners (NPs):

  • Starting Salary: Approximately $87,340
  • Average Salary: Around $124,860
  • Top Earners: Up to $148,960

Nurse Anesthetists (CRNAs):

  • Starting Salary: Approximately $143,870
  • Average Salary: Around $203,090
  • Top Earners: Up to $246,980

Healthcare Administrators:

  • Starting Salary: Approximately $64,100
  • Average Salary: Around $127,980
  • Top Earners: Up to $252,520

Nurse Educators:

  • Starting Salary: Approximately $47,760
  • Average Salary: Around $84,180
  • Top Earners: Up to $126,570

It's crucial to note that these salary figures are general estimates and can deviate based on the factors mentioned earlier. As the healthcare landscape evolves, DNP professionals continue to be in high demand, reflecting positively on salary trends.

Career Outlook

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the job outlook for Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRNs) is positive, with a projected growth rate of 38% from 2022 to 2032, resulting in an estimated 123,600 new jobs.

Healthcare administrators can expect a positive job outlook, a projected employment growth of 28%, and an increase of 144,700 jobs during the same period (BLS). 

Unfortunately, BLS doesn't provide career outlook data on the job outlook for Nurse Educators.

Pros & Cons of 12-Month DNP Programs

Although varying based on the needs and preferences of students, some pros and cons of one-year DNP programs include the following.


  1. Time Efficiency: One of the most significant advantages of a 12-month DNP program is the ability to complete the degree in a shorter timeframe compared to traditional programs, allowing nurses to advance in their careers more quickly.
  2. Cost Savings: While the tuition for accelerated programs might be comparable to longer programs, students can potentially save on living expenses and other associated costs by finishing their education faster.
  3. Intensive Learning: The condensed format often means that students are immersed in their studies, allowing for focused and continuous learning without long breaks.
  4. Quick Return on Investment: Graduating earlier means entering the advanced professional workforce sooner, which can lead to an earlier increase in salary and job opportunities.
  5. Ideal for Committed Learners: For those who are dedicated and can manage the intensity, the program offers a chance to dive deep and achieve their goals in a streamlined manner.


  1. High Intensity: The accelerated nature of a 12-month program means a more demanding schedule, which can be challenging to manage, especially for those with other commitments.
  2. Limited Breaks: The continuous nature of the program might leave little room for breaks, potentially leading to burnout if not managed well.
  3. Less Time for Assimilation: The fast pace might mean students have less time to assimilate and reflect upon what they've learned, which can be a drawback for some learning styles.
  4. Potential for Overwhelm: Balancing the rigorous coursework with extensive clinical hours can be overwhelming for some students.
  5. Limited Networking Opportunities: Given the compact nature of the program, there might be fewer opportunities for extended networking or building long-term relationships with peers and faculty.
  6. Work-Life Balance: For those with families, jobs, or other commitments, maintaining a work-life balance can be particularly challenging during the program's duration.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Q: What is the primary difference between an MSN to DNP program and a post-master's DNP program?

An MSN to DNP program is designed for nurses who have a Master of Science in Nursing and wish to pursue a Doctor of Nursing Practice degree. In contrast, a post-master's DNP program is tailored for those who might have a master's degree in another field but want to achieve the highest practice degree in nursing.

Q: How does a 12-month DNP program prepare nursing students for leadership roles in healthcare systems?

The 12-month DNP program emphasizes nursing leadership, equipping students with the skills and knowledge to take on leadership roles in various healthcare systems. The curriculum often includes courses on healthcare policy, management strategies, and evidence-based practice, ensuring that nurse leaders are well-prepared to drive change and improve patient outcomes.

Q: Can I specialize in areas like primary care, acute care, or public health in a 12-month DNP program?

Many 12-month DNP programs offer concentrations or specializations in areas like primary care, acute care, and public health. It's essential to research individual programs to understand the available concentrations and ensure they align with your career goals.

Q: Is a GRE score required for admission into a 12-month DNP program?

GRE requirements vary by institution. While some programs might require GRE scores, especially if the applicant's GPA is below a certain threshold, others might waive the GRE for applicants with strong academic backgrounds or significant clinical experience.

Q: How important is accreditation, like CCNE, for a 12-month DNP program?

Accreditation, such as that from the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE), is crucial. It ensures that the DNP program meets specific standards of quality and prepares students for advanced nursing careers. Before enrolling, always verify that the program has proper accreditation, as it can impact licensure, certification, and eligibility for financial aid.

Q: Will I have to complete a scholarly project or practicum in a clinical setting during the program?

Most 12-month DNP programs require students to complete a scholarly project that demonstrates their ability to apply research findings to real-world challenges in healthcare. Additionally, practicum hours in a clinical setting are typically mandatory, allowing students to gain hands-on experience and apply their knowledge in real-world scenarios. The specifics of these requirements can vary based on the institution and program focus.

Editorial Team / Admin

Erin Lee has 11 years experience as a BSN, RN and specializes in Critical Care, Procedural, Care Coordination, LNC.

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