The Best Online DNP Programs

By Craig Miller


If you’re looking for a new career, there aren’t many choices better than becoming a nurse practitioner. Healthcare is one field that’s expected to explode in coming years, so your education will pay off in terms of both salary and job security.

There’s just one problem, though: where will you find the time to go to school?

Fortunately, that’s less of an issue than ever. There are now many online schools that allow you to get your Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree from home. The degrees from these schools are worth every bit as much as those from traditional outlets — and they’re much more convenient.

In the guide below, we’ll walk you through ten of the best online DNP programs so that you can find the one that’s perfect for you.

The Top 10 Online DNP Programs

1. Rush University

While their main campus is in Chicago, you can take classes from Rush University anywhere — and they’re taught by the exact same faculty.

Those faculty members are one of the biggest selling points of this institution. They’re all extremely well-credentialed, and the university does a good job of preparing them to teach remote classes.

They record and archive all of their graduate-level coursework, which allows you to access it at your leisure.

They place a premium on accommodating your schedule; that’s because 99% of their students are already employed in the medical field. As a result, they offer both part- and full-time programs.

They’re especially good for veterans. If you’ve completed your military service and are looking to take the next step in your career, they will happily accommodate you.

It’s not easy to get accepted into one of their programs, but if you make it, you’ll be well-situated to find a high-paying job after graduating. That’s likely why Rush University consistently scores highly on student satisfaction surveys.

Location: Chicago, IL

Cost per credit: $1,110

Total enrollment: 676

Acceptance rate: 30%

Average undergraduate GPA: 3.4

CCNE accredited: Yes

Admissions deadline: January 2

2. Johns Hopkins University

Long one of the most prestigious names in the medical field, Johns Hopkins University has begun to branch out into online learning as well. If their early results are any indication, they’ll be just as successful in the digital realm as they are in the real world.

Their acceptance rate is higher than you might expect. That may be because only truly well-qualified candidates bother submitting applications.

They only offer full-time programs, so you will need to commit quite a bit of time to your schooling. Of course, a degree from Johns Hopkins makes it well worth it.

They have two tracks to their DNP degrees. The Advance Practice Track is for nurses with earned BSN or MSN pre-licensure degrees, while the Executive Track is for nurses with an earned MSN in a specialty area.

If you want to get in, you’d better brush up on your writing and networking skills. They place a heavy premium on your application essay and in-person interview.

Location: Baltimore, MD

Cost per credit: $1,688

Total enrollment: 64

Acceptance rate: 66%

Average undergraduate GPA: 3.3

CCNE accredited: Yes

Admissions deadline: January 1

3. Duke University

Another elite program, Duke University has one of the highest student satisfaction scores of any school on this list.

That’s somewhat surprising, because they haven’t put as many resources into their online programs as some other universities. We suppose the quality of the education (and the power of the name on the diploma) makes up for any shortcomings.

Their pediatric DNP program is especially good, so anyone hoping to work with kids would be wise to put Duke at the top of their list. Their education and administration programs are also very highly ranked.

They offer on-campus orientations and executive sessions, so you may want to live close to Durham if you decide to attend. Those sessions are a good way to give you a taste of the traditional grad school experience, though.

They do try to tailor their program to favor students who are currently employed. This includes allowing students to perform their DNP project at their place of employment.

Location: Durham, NC

Cost per credit: $1,838

Total enrollment: 630

Acceptance rate: 70%

Average undergraduate GPA: 3.6

CCNE accredited: Yes

Admissions deadline: December 1

4. University of Cincinnati

While the name on the diploma may not open as many doors as one from Johns Hopkins or Duke, a doctor of nursing practice degree from the University of Cincinnati will cost a lot less.

Despite their much more reasonable price tag, the level of instruction at UC is on par with those better-known institutions. They’ve put so much effort into improving their online degree programs, you may end up having a better experience here than at one of the blue bloods.

In fact, they’ve designed many of their online classes for tablets rather than laptops. This makes it even more convenient to fit your studies into your daily life.

Their DNP in nursing administration is the star of the show, as it’s one of the most highly-ranked online programs of its type currently available. They’re also notable for their work with veterans.

They offer both part- and full-time classes. Students attending full-time can complete their degree in three years and nine semesters. Part-time students can do it in four years.

Location: Cincinnati, OH

Cost per credit: $655

Total enrollment: 1,390

Acceptance rate: 80%

Average undergraduate GPA: 3.2

CCNE accredited: Yes

Admissions deadline: April 1

5. University of South Carolina

Another program that’s especially good for veterans, the University of South Carolina boasts one of the oldest online DNP programs in the nation.

That head start is a big reason why their online classes run so smoothly. It’s also why their students are so satisfied with the distance learning experience.

Their program is geared towards Doctor of Nursing students who already have their own nursing practice. If you don’t, they’ll help you with job placement in order to finish your clinical experience.

However, without previous nursing experience, you may not be able to earn admission into their school of nursing. That’s one of the biggest factors they look at when deciding who to let in.

Their DNP programs are designed to be completed in as little as 6 or as many as 12 semesters, giving you plenty of flexibility. You do have to finish within 6 years, however.

The university makes it easy to get the funding necessary to finish your education. In addition to regular financial aid, they also give you the opportunity to develop your own grants to complete your projects.

Location: Columbia, SC

Cost per credit: $1,438

Total enrollment: 546

Acceptance rate: 72%

Average undergraduate GPA: 3.5

CCNE accredited: Yes

Admissions deadline: March 1

6. George Washington University

George Washington University’s DNP program actually takes a hybrid format, although the vast majority of the learning process happens online.

However, you will need to go onto their campus occasionally for testing and training. This may make things a bit more difficult, but the in-person experience is extremely valuable.

They do offer both part- and full-time programs, which makes up for the need to venture onto campus from time to time.

Much of their focus is on adult gerontology acute care, and it’s one of the top online programs in the world for that discipline. They also have a highly-respected psychiatric mental health department.

You don’t have to complete an interview to be considered for admission. The school places a lot of importance on your application essay and letters of recommendation, though.

They offer both post-bachelor’s and post-master’s DNP tracks. The latter places a focus on leadership, policy, and putting research into practice.

Location: Washington, DC

Cost per credit: $1,395

Total enrollment: 588

Acceptance rate: 81%

Average undergraduate GPA: 3.5

CCNE accredited: Yes

Admissions deadline: January 15

7. Ohio State University

One of the largest public schools in the world, Ohio State University also offers robust online offerings.

Perhaps their size makes them a bit gun shy about admitting new students, because this is one of the harder programs to get into on this list. If you’re hoping to get in, you’d better have a high undergraduate GPA, as well as a strong essay and impressive interview.

Their classes are held synchronously, which gives you a better sense of belonging to an actual university. It also allows for the opportunity to build rich, real-life connections that can benefit you long past graduation.

However, that cuts into their convenience, as you will need to attend on a set schedule.

The school has a companion clinic where students can engage in collaborative practice. They also boast multiple telehealth clinics and seminars.

The school is excellent at preparing students to pass their certification. In fact, 95% of their students pass, one of the highest rates among DNP programs online.

Location: Columbus, OH

Cost per credit: $973

Total enrollment: 214

Acceptance rate: 42%

Average undergraduate GPA: 3.5

CCNE accredited: Yes

Admissions deadline: October 31

8. University of Nevada – Las Vegas

While not all of their DNP programs are available online, the University of Nevada – Las Vegas offers several distance learning options. These include both a post-bachelor’s and post-master’s track.

Their classes are among the most affordable you’ll find anywhere, but that doesn’t mean the school is easy to get into. They accept less than a third of all applicants, one of the lowest rates anywhere.

You’ll need a high undergraduate GPA and three letters of recommendation from professional sources.

If accepted, you’ll enter a program that focuses heavily on simulating standard patient primary care experiences.

Their students are fiercely devoted to the program and report some of the highest satisfaction scores anywhere.

Location: Las Vegas, NV

Cost per credit: $429

Total enrollment: 113

Acceptance rate: 29%

Average undergraduate GPA: 3.5

CCNE accredited: Yes

Admissions deadline: February 1

9. Stony Brook University – SUNY

Stony Brook University only offers a post-master’s DNP program, but it’s one of the best programs of its type in the world.

They’re an especially good choice for international nursing students. They offer multilingual technical support in addition to top-notch instruction.

The school uses a cohort model, so you’ll be a part of a class of the same individuals for your entire term of study. This fosters a sense of community, as well as providing you with built-in cheerleaders to keep you motivated.

There are several on-site requirements, but the majority of the learning happens online. The on-site projects are often held at their state-of-the-art academic medical center. This allows students to experience a real-world nursing practice.

Location: Stony Brook, NY

Cost per credit: $963

Total enrollment: 844

Acceptance rate: 59%

Average undergraduate GPA: 3.4

CCNE accredited: Yes

Admissions deadline: December 5

10. St. Xavier University

St. Xavier University is an excellent college of nursing, but its online model is truly top-notch.

Their instructors know how to make the distance learning experience as enjoyable as possible. As a result, their nursing students are among the most satisfied anywhere.

The entrance requirements are fairly simple, with only an essay and a single letter of recommendation required. Fully two-thirds of all applicants are accepted.

You will need work experience, though, as 100% of their applicants are employed upon enrolling. That means they tailor their curriculum towards working students, though.

Location: Chicago, IL

Cost per credit: $750

Total enrollment: 238

Acceptance rate: 75%

Average undergraduate GPA: 3.4

CCNE accredited: Yes

Admissions deadline: Rolling

Online DNP Program Buyer’s Guide

What’s the Career Outlook for Registered Nurses with a DNP?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), registered nurses with a DNP will have excellent job security and plenty of opportunities in the coming years, not to mention high salaries.

In fact, the BLS estimates the need for nurses with a DNP will grow by 26% over the next decade. That’s much higher than the outlook for the average occupation.

What Are the Most Affordable DNP Programs?

The most affordable DNP programs on our list are the University of Nevada – Las Vegas and the University of Cincinnati. They offer courses at $429 and $655 per credit hour, respectively. 

You can find less expensive schools of nursing, to be sure, but you don’t necessarily want to bargain shop. Remember that this is an investment in your future, so you want to make sure that the degree you earn is worth every penny you spend on it.

Besides, with online learning the whole world is opened up to you. You can easily find an inexpensive program that also offers a desirable degree.

What Are the Fastest Online DNP Programs?

The University of Cincinnati is the fastest program listed here, as it allows you to complete your studies within 18 months. However, it’s not the fastest overall DNP program online.

The fastest program online DNP program we found is offered by the University of Miami. Their hybrid program allows you to earn your degree in just 12 months.

However, while you can finish it quickly if you go full-time, the pace is very aggressive and may be overwhelming for some students. We’d urge you to worry less about finishing quickly and focus more on finding a program that will ensure you soak up all the skills and information they provide.

What is an MSN to DNP Program?

These programs are for nurses that have already attained a Master of Science degree in a related field. Many choose to pursue a Doctor of Nursing Practice degree in order to take on an administrative role in their field.

Generally speaking, it takes about one to two years to complete an MSN to DNP program.

What is a BSN to DNP Program?

These programs are for registered nurses with Bachelor of Science in Nursing degrees. They typically pursue their DNP in order to become a nurse practitioner or an anesthesia nurse.

These programs are more labor-intensive, and often take three to four years to complete. However, upon completion you’ll earn both an MSN and a DNP degree.


If you’re a nurse who’s hoping to earn your DNP degree, you’ll find that there are dozens of universities available to you. However, while we’re sure they’re all fine academic institutions, they’re not all geared towards distance learning.

The schools on this list have proven themselves capable of preparing nurses to take the next step in their careers, and they can do so without requiring you to step foot on campus.

If you’re ready to take the next step in your career, consider enrolling in one of these online curriculums. Best of all? You don’t even have to get out of bed.

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