DNP Program Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

This Q-and-A page answers questions about the DNP degree and UC's DNP program, in general. For details about our CRNA program, specifically, visit the Nurse Anesthesia FAQ page.

Earning a DNP degree provides nurses personal and professional benefits, including:

  • Expanded career opportunities — Nurses with a DNP can pursue leadership roles at the highest levels of health systems and higher education institutions. A DNP can also as a differentiator for nurses in a crowded job market.

  • Leadership skills — DNP programs equip nurses to take on leadership roles and contribute to shaping health care delivery, whether through patient care, quality improvement initiatives or health policy.

  • Evidence-based practice proficiency — Nurses with a DNP are trained to integrate research findings and current evidence into clinical decision making and evaluate outcomes, which allows them to provide care based on the best available research. 

  • Enhanced professional credibility — As the terminal nursing practice degree, the DNP places nurses on the same level as other health professionals required to earn a doctorate (e.g., audiologists, dentists, physicians, pharmacists, psychologists and physical therapists), which can boost respect and influence among colleagues. In addition, many professional organizations continue to push for advanced-practice nurses to earn a DNP for entry to practice. Current recommendations support this effort by 2025.

  • Ability to make an impact at a systems level — The DNP prepares nurses to actively participate in the transformation of health care and contribute toward improving health systems. DNP-prepared nurses are educated to identify gaps in practice, develop and implement innovative solutions, and lead change initiatives to improve patient care, safety, and outcomes.

PhD in nursing programs focus on conducting research and producing new knowledge, while DNP programs emphasize advanced clinical practice, leadership and translating research into practice.  

PhD in nursing programs include coursework on research methodologies, data analysis and critical evaluation of research literature. Students are required to complete a dissertation based on original research. After graduation, PhD-prepared nurses pursue careers in academia as professors or researchers. They also take on leadership positions in health organizations, policymaking institutions or research institutes.  

The DNP degree is a practice-focused doctoral degree designed to prepare nurses to deliver the highest level of patient care, impact change and assume leadership roles in health systems. Coursework focuses on clinical skills enhancement, evidence-based practice, quality improvement, health policy and leadership. Students complete a final project that demonstrates their mastery of DNP concepts.

After graduation, DNP-prepared nurses pursue advanced practice roles in clinical settings where they can lead health care teams, implement evidence-based practices on a systems level and improve health outcomes. Additionally, DNP-prepared nurses are well equipped for the academic environment. 

If you are interested in taking your role a step further to include community or population health, or if you want to assume a systems leadership or university-level teaching role, choose the DNP. 

DNP-prepared nurses are well-equipped to fully implement the science developed by researchers, which allows them to consider patient, community and population needs in total when providing care. In addition, nurses with a DNP can more easily move up in health care administration and access academic positions at all levels of nursing education. The DNP can also serve as a differentiator for nurses in larger job markets.

For a more detailed comparison, read our blog post: MSN or DNP: Which nursing degree should you choose?

Nurses with a DNP open themselves to a range of career opportunities, including advanced practice roles, leadership positions in health systems and higher education institutions, and health care consulting.

Yes, nurses who want to build on their MSN can earn a DNP through UC's Post-MSN DNP online program. Applicants must have an MSN from an accredited program that leads to certification as a nurse practitioner, nurse midwife, or nurse anesthetist; or a clinical nurse specialist in community, public or occupational health or nurse leadership/administration.

Many of UC’s DNP programs are offered fully online, including:

  • Adult-Gero Primary Care NP
  • Family NP
  • Occupational Health Nursing
  • Post-MSN DNP
  • Pediatric Acute Care NP
  • Public Health Nursing
  • Psych-Mental Health NP
  • Systems Leadership

Our Adult-Gero Acute Care NP program offers all but one course online; labs are held in-person. Students come to campus once a week for one semester of the program for their advanced health assessment course and once a week for two semesters for hands-on lab sessions.  

The Nurse Anesthesia program is the only DNP program offered on campus only.  

Whether students learn fully online or in person, all DNP program students who live within a two-hour drive (about 100 miles) of UC’s campus are expected to defend their DNP project in person. Students outside of a two-hour drive can defend their project virtually. 

Students are eligible for federal financial aid, as well as university graduate assistantships and scholarships. UC also offers a Nurse Faculty Loan Program that provides funding to students committed to a faculty role and teaching after graduation. Externally, several independent scholarships are available. To learn more, visit our Scholarships and Financial Aid page.

UC offers nine specialization options at the DNP level:  

  • Adult-Gero Acute Care NP
  • Adult-Gero Primary Care NP
  • Family NP
  • Nurse Anesthesia
  • Occupational Health Nursing
  • Pediatric Acute Care NP
  • Psych-Mental Health NP
  • Public Health Nursing
  • Systems Leadership

To explore these specialty options, visit our Choose Your DNP Specialty page.

Yes, most specialties within the DNP program require at least one year of RN experience at the time of application; however, experience requirements vary by specialty. For more details, visit respective specialty pages.

Clinical requirements for UC's DNP program vary by specialty. For more details, visit respective specialty pages.

Yes, many students enroll part-time in UC's DNP programs so they can work while they are taking classes. Along with coursework, DNP programs require several precepted clinical experiences, which could prohibit a full-time work schedule, but students can decide what works best.

Most Post-MSN DNP students maintain a full-time work schedule while pursuing their degree.

Students' work environments often provide an ideal setting for the DNP project, required for graduation.

Faculty members who teach UC’s DNP programs have a PhD or DNP. Most of our core DNP courses are taught by DNP-prepared faculty. To learn more, visit our DNP Program Faculty page.

Talk to an Admissions Counselor

Do you have more questions about our DNP program? Our admissions counselors are here to help! Email or call 513-558-3600.