10 Fastest Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) Programs in 2023

Read on to discover 10 of the fastest Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) programs available to prospective students in 2023. Articles Programs

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The Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree prepares nurses to become healthcare leaders, offering graduate education within a specific advanced practice specialty.

There's an abundance of DNP programs available to prospective students, each with unique benefits depending on their preferences. If the pace of education is most important to you, read on to find the 10 fastest programs available, along with background information on degree requirements, salary expectations, and more.

What Is a DNP Degree?

A DNP degree is a post-masters, terminal degree in nursing. Graduate nurses can complete this high-level degree after achieving a master of science in nursing degree (MSN) and practicing as advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs). Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) to DNP programs are also available.

This doctorate is clinically focused compared to the Doctor of Philosophy in Nursing (PhD) degree, which is research-focused. The DNP-prepared nurse translates evidence from research into practice, advancing nursing by reducing the time gap between findings and implementation. They can also lead evidence-based practice quality improvement projects within healthcare systems to improve patient outcomes.

DNP Program Prerequisites and Requirements

Admission requirements for enrollment into a DNP degree program include a BSN degree and licensure as a Registered Nurse (RN). Some programs require taking the GRE, achieving a certain GPA, and work experience of at least one year (or more, depending on the institution). Many online degree programs have specific state nursing license requirements.

BSN to DNP programs take twice as long as MSN to DNP programs. When choosing the MSN to DNP pathway, students must have a master's degree in nursing. Most nurses choose to gain more work experience in their specialized advanced practice roles, but this is not necessary to move on to the DNP degree. Here are a few of these advanced practice roles:

Clinical APRN

  • Nurse Practitioner: Family Nurse Practitioner, Pediatric Nurse Practitioner, Acute Care Nurse Practitioner, Adult-Gerontology Nurse Practitioner, Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner, and Women's Health Nurse Practitioner
  • Clinical Nurse Specialist
  • Nurse Midwife
  • Nurse Anesthetist

Related: 10 Best DNP Programs in 2023

Non-Clinical APRN

  • Nursing Administration
  • Nursing Informatics
  • Nursing Education
  • Healthcare Policy

The DNP curriculum is based on the American Association of Colleges of Nursing's eight essential competencies, which require 1,000 post-baccalaureate clinical hours, though the number of hours needed will vary depending on hours accumulated in previous education.

The degree and clinical practice hours center around the DNP scholarly project, also called a capstone project, aiming to answer a practice problem using evidence-based solutions. The DNP project is then shared with the nursing community so other nurses can implement similar changes or to spur ideas in others to advance nursing practice.

Fastest DNP Programs in 2023

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

1. Arkansas State University

Arkansas State University, located in Jonesboro, Arkansas, offers multiple start dates for its DNP program. With three different specialty tracks, students can decide on full or part-time options.

  • Duration: Full-time students can complete the DNP in 12 months (36-44 credit hours)
  • Three Tracks to choose from: General, Leadership, and Education
  • Fully online degree program
  • Accreditation: Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing

2. Chatham University

The Chatham University DNP program in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, aims to assist nurses in advancing their competencies in their clinical specialties. Tuition reduction and scholarships are available.

  • Duration: Full-time students can complete the program in 16 months (27 credit hours)
  • Online degree option with a required in-person residency program
  • Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)

3. Keiser University

The Keiser University DNP program in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, aims to educate nurses to create healthcare change through interprofessional collaboration to improve healthcare quality and safety.

  • Duration: 18 months
  • Online degree program with a two-day doctoral residency on campus
  • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

4. Purdue University Global

The Purdue University Global DNP program is entirely online, though the central university, Purdue, is in West Lafayette, Indiana. Students obtaining the DNP degree will set themselves apart as clinical expert leaders to help fill the voids left by dwindling numbers of nurses and primary care providers.

  • Duration: 18 months (48-57 credit hours)
  • Fully online degree program
  • Accreditation: CCNE

5. Delta State University

Located in Cleveland, Mississippi, Delta State University's DNP program does offer full and part-time studies. This general DNP degree program allows students to work clinically or in leadership roles.

  • Duration: 18 months for full-time students, and part-time options are available (31 credit hours)
  • Online degree program with one to three on-campus visits per semester
  • Accreditation: CCNE

6. Francis Marion University

The DNP program at Francis Marion University in Florence, South Carolina, prepares students to improve clinical outcomes, particularly in rural areas. There are options for graduate scholarships available.

  • Duration: Three semesters for full-time students, and part-time options are available (30 credit hours)
  • Fully online degree program
  • Accreditation: CCNE

7.  University of Phoenix

The University of Phoenix has locations in many different states. This online degree program offers one course every eight weeks, providing a manageable balance for full-time APRNs.

  • Duration: 20 months (31 credit hours)
  • Fully online degree program
  • Accreditation: CCNE

8. West Coast University

West Coast University Orange County campus in California offers an in-depth education on creating sustainable change within complex health systems. In addition, the university provides career development workshops.

  • Duration: 20 months (six trimesters)
  • Online degree program with some onsite requirements
  • Four additional courses for the Executive Leadership Track
  • Accreditation: CCNE

9. Rasmussen University

Rasmussen University has many campus locations, including Florida. Students can choose from the Executive Leadership track, which would offer careers in non-clinical areas. A Public Health and Policy Track also offers careers as a public health expert or policy activist.

  • Duration: 21 months for full-time students (48-63 credit hours)
  • Online degree program
  • 2 DNP Tracks: Executive Health Leadership Track, Public Health and Policy Track
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission

10. Emory University 

Emory University, located in Atlanta, Georgia, is nationally recognized as a leader in nursing education. The current post-masters DNP track is available as part-time learning, allowing students to continue working full-time.

  • Duration: 24 months for the part-time track (33 credit hours)
  • Online degree program with some required time on campus
  • Accreditation: CCNE

Salary Expectations of a DNP in 2023

Many variables determine a DNP's salary, including experience, employer, geographic location, and specialty. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) lists the following 2022 data on nursing salaries:

  • Nurse Anesthetists had the highest average salary at $205,770. The states with the highest average salaries were California, Connecticut, New York, and Illinois, with salaries ranging from $238,440 to $246,510.
  • Nurse Practitioner's highest average salary was $124,680. The states with the highest average salaries were California, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Oregon, and Nevada, with salaries ranging from $136,230 to $158,130.
  • Nursing Administration in healthcare leadership positions had an average salary of $127,980. The states with the highest salaries were New York, District of Columbia, New Jersey, Massachusetts, and Delaware, with salaries ranging from $150,840 to $171,620.
  • Nurse Midwives had an average salary of $122,450. The states with the highest average salaries were California, West Virginia, Hawaii, Massachusetts, and Oregon, with salaries ranging from $136,150 to $169,530.
  • Nursing Education had an average salary of $84,180. The states with the highest average salaries were Massachusetts, Nevada, California, District of Columbia, and New York, with salaries ranging from $100,200 to $106,690.

The demand for APRNs and graduate-level faculty members is continually increasing. The BLS estimates an occupational growth rate of 40% between 2021-2031 and 30,000 jobs annually, creating a competitive market for rising salaries.


Q: Is getting the DNP degree worth it?

A: It depends on your career goals. Some employers require a DNP degree, depending on the position. The DNP degree advances knowledge and leadership skills to create small and large-scale projects to improve patient care and outcomes. Often, the DNP degree will increase your salary and open doors for other opportunities.

Q: What is the difference between a PhD and a DNP degree?

A: The PhD degree is a research degree. There is formal research working to answer a question about a clinical problem. The DNP degree translates those findings into practice. DNP students analyze the best available evidence and use this to solve a problem at the practice level.

Q: Can I get the DNP degree and still work as an APRN?

A: Yes! The required coursework for the DNP degree is challenging but designed for working nurses. Many programs offer online, on-campus, or a hybrid approach. How fast you want to complete the program will depend on how much time you need to commit, but often students continue to work full-time. Your APRN clinical experience is what you will use to develop your DNP scholarly project.

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Editorial Team / Admin

Sarah Beattie has 20 years experience as a DNP, APRN and specializes in Critical Care, Endocrinology.

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