EDUCATION
September 23, 2022

Top Direct-Entry Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) Programs

Top Direct-Entry DNP Programs

What is a Direct Entry DNP Program? 

A direct-entry doctorate of nursing practice (DNP) is an accelerated advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) program for non-nurses with a bachelor's degree in another field.

There are several benefits of direct-entry DNP programs. For example, for students with a non-nursing bachelor’s degree who wish to continue their education as a DNP, the time and investment to start from scratch may seem daunting. Direct-entry DNP programs help bridge that gap so that students can earn their degrees faster without retaking coursework they have already studied.

This article will explain what a direct-entry DNP program is, what a DNP can do, average income, the top programs, and more.

Fast Facts About Direct-Entry DNP Programs

Salary

$123,780 or $59.51/hr per BLS

Program length

4-6 years

Requirements

  • Bachelor's degree in a non-nursing field
  • College grade point average of 3.0 or higher
  • Official transcripts
  • Goal Statement Essay
  • Resume
  • Three letters of recommendation
  • Prerequisite courses 

Top Direct-Entry DNP Programs 

There are only 2 direct-entry DNP programs available in the U.S. Here are the details for each of them.

Boston College

Boston College offers a direct-entry DNP program to help students become advanced nursing leaders in their chosen specialty much faster than taking a more traditional route. 

The program starts with five semesters of full-time, pre-licensure coursework. This part of the curriculum prepares students to take the National Council Licensure Examination-RN (NCLEX-RN). 

This portion of the program also bypasses earning a bachelor's degree in nursing (BSN) but results in earning a “generalist” master of science in nursing (MSN).

The second half of the program involves clinical fieldwork in the student's chosen specialty. Students in the direct-entry DNP program and the traditional DNP program take the same classes. 

Additional Program Information:

  • Tuition: $61,706
  • Program length: Four years
  • Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) 
  • Application deadline: November 15th
  • Requirements:
    • Bachelor's degree in a non-nursing field
    • College grade point average of 3.0 or higher
    • Official transcripts
    • An Application
    • Goal Statement Essay
    • Resume
    • Three letters of recommendation
    • Prerequisite courses (grade point average of 3.0 or higher)
    • TOEFL scores are required for students whose native language is other than English

Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores are usually not required for admissions into a direct-entry DNP program. However, they may be included to complement your application.

  • Contact Info 
  • Email: susan.gennaro@bc.edu
  • Phone number: 617-552-4250
  • Are Online Options Available? No
  • Types of direct-entry DNP programs 
    • On-campus direct-entry DNP program

Show Me DNP Programs

University of Vermont

The University of Vermont's accelerated program also bypasses a BSN, but after students earn their MSN, they are prepared to take the NCLEX exam for RN licensure in Vermont. Out-of-state students can then complete their state's licensure requirements to obtain licensure in that state.

Students must have an active Vermont RN license to progress into a DNP-Primary Care Nurse Practitioner track. Students can choose between two programs:

  • Adult-Gerontology Nurse Practitioner (AGNP), or 
  • Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP)

Additional Program Information:

  • Tuition 
    • In-state tuition: $19,062
    • Out-of-state tuition $43,950 
  • Program length: Four years
  • Accreditation: CCNE
  • Application deadline: December 1
  • Requirements 
    • Application
    • Resume
    • Bachelor's degree in a non-nursing field
    • College grade point average of 3.0 or higher
    • Official transcripts
    • Admissions essay
    • Three letters of recommendation
    • Prerequisite courses (grade point average of 3.0 or higher)
    • TOEFL scores are required for students whose native language is other than English
  • Contact Info 
    • Email: nursing@uvm.edu
    • Phone number: 802-656-3830
  • Are Online Options Available? No 
  • Types of direct-entry DNP programs 
    • On-campus direct-entry DNP program

What to Expect in a Direct-Entry DNP Program

Students can expect to take a wide range of coursework during a direct-entry DNP program. Because these programs combine many years of nursing education into an accelerated program, it may seem like an overwhelming amount to work. 

However, it is crucial to remember that non-accelerated DNP coursework can take up to eight years or longer if completed in a traditional format. 

Students enrolled in a direct-entry DNP program can expect to take courses on the following topics:

  • Professional Nursing Issues
  • Pharmacology
  • The Science of Nursing for Adults (with clinical rotation)
  • Pathophysiology
  • Complex Nursing Care of Adults
  • Mental Health Nursing (with clinical coursework)
  • Nursing for Women and Newborns (with clinical coursework)
  • Nursing for Children
  • Public Health Nursing (with fieldwork)
  • Advanced Pathophysiology
  • Advanced Pharmacology
  • Advanced Health Assessment
  • Biostatistics & Epidemiology
  • Health & Management of Community Health Issues
  • Advanced Neuropharmacology
  • Fundamentals of Critical Inquiry in Nursing Practice
  • Health Care Ethics, Policy & Politics
  • Professional Nursing Role Development
  • Health Informatics
  • Women Gendered Health Care
  • Health Care Quality in Nursing
  • Genetics 
  • Primary Care Management of Acute & Common Health Conditions
  • Health Care Finance and Organization
  • Chronic & Complex Conditions
  • Nursing Leadership

What Does a DNP Do?

DNPs generally work in one of two areas:

Types of leadership and administrative roles that DNP-prepared nurses can choose to work in include management roles in the hospital, such as chief nursing officer, director of nursing, director of patient care services, or health informatics officer. DNPs can also choose to work in a health policy role within their state. 

APRN-prepared DNPs usually provide direct patient care in one of the following roles:

DNP graduates who enter an APRN role must also sit for an APRN certification exam and a specialty certification exam before they are allowed to practice in the U.S.

The scope of an APRN's practice is determined by the chosen specialty area and by each individual state. However, in addition to providing medical care for patients, a DNP role usually includes:

  • Diagnosing patients 
  • Establishing treatment plans
  • Prescribe medications
  • Order diagnostic blood testing and imaging 
  • Providing patient education

Benefits of DNPs in the healthcare environment include providing essential high-quality healthcare, often at a reduced medical cost for patients and healthcare systems. The American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) reports that patients who use advanced practice nurses as care providers often have lower prescription costs and fewer trips to the hospital. In addition, hospitals also report increased earning profits.

It is essential to research the DNP role in your state to determine if a DNP program is the right option for you.

Here are a few fast facts about DNP programs from the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN):

  • There are 357 DNP programs in the nation (there are currently only two that are direct-entry DNP programs)
  • DNP programs exist in every state
  • The number of DNP students and graduates increases every year at a significant rate compared to Ph.D. in nursing programs.

FAQs About Direct-Entry DNP Programs 

  • What accreditation is best for DNP? 

    • DNP programs in the U.S. must be accredited by one of the two following accreditation bodies: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) or Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN). 
  • How many DNP programs are there in the US?

    • There are currently 357 accredited DNP programs, with 106 new programs still in the planning stages, according to the AACN.
  • Is getting a DNP worth it? 

    • A DNP is worth it if nurses want to expand their nursing practice and make significantly more money.  Direct-entry DNP programs also help bridge a time gap so that students can earn their degrees faster without retaking coursework they have already studied.
  • Will DNP replace MSN? 

    • National Organization of Nurse Practitioner Faculties (NONPF) stated that all NP education would require a DNP degree by 2025. At this time, many NPs practice with an MSN alone. However, other MSN specialties, such as an MSN in nursing administration, will not require a DNP.
  • Can a DNP prescribe medication? 

    • Nurse practitioners can prescribe medications in every state in the nation. However, prescribing rules vary between states. Some states allow nurse practitioners to prescribe medications autonomously, while other states, such as California, require NPs to write prescriptions under a medical doctor's license.
  • Are DNP programs competitive?

    • Yes, DNP programs are highly competitive. These programs require intense commitment and rigorous clinical training. Make sure you understand the time and study commitment before determining if a DNP program is right for you.