If you are a practicing nurse considering advancing your career, one of the best ways to do so is to complete a doctorate in nursing degree. One of the reasons why nurses hesitate to get a DNP is being unsure of whether this is the right degree for them. There are also a lot of differing opinions on just what a DNP degree is. In this guide, we will look at what a NDP is, what you should know before you enrol in one of the available programs, and why pursuing one is a great idea.

Doctorate of Nursing Practice (DNP): An Overview

A DNP is a doctorate degree designed to produce nurse leaders. A DNP focuses on producing nurses who have the highest knowledge in nursing and those who would like to continue working in clinical settings as nurse leaders. DNP holders can influence healthcare outcomes, quality of care, the organizations they work for, healthcare policy, and direct care using their advanced knowledge.

Things To Know Before Pursuing a DNP

The DNP is a degree that gets you into many healthcare roles. Many of these roles will be administration, management, public policy, and nurse education positions. The main advantage of getting a DNP is that it opens up a lot more opportunities than nurses would otherwise not get access to.

The second thing to note is that a DNP does not make you a physician. However, there are some jurisdictions that give DNP holders who switch to family nurse practices similar privileged to physicians This means they can do tests, administer medication and come up with treatment routines These jurisdictions also allow DNP holders to open their own practices, which means earning a DNP is one of the best ways to get career autonomy if that is important to you as a nurse.

Another thing to know is that a Doctor of nursing practice is very different from a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in nursing. While both of these are terminal nursing degrees, they have stark differences and areas of focus. When you think about a DNP vs PhD, you should think patient care versus research. A DNP focuses on nursing practice, providing the best care for patients and the delivery of high-quality healthcare. A PhD, on the other hand, focuses on the scientific research required to move healthcare forward. Usually, their work has a lot to do with the scientific methodology and academia than it has to do with direct patient care.

Lastly, you do not have to become an advanced practice registered nurse once you earn your DNP. This is certainly one of the roles you can hold but there are so many other great roles out there for nurses that most DNP holders do not consider nurse practice positions.

Why Pursue a NDP: Expanded Career Opportunities

One of the best reasons to pursue a DNP is because it prepares for leadership positions in nursing that nurses would otherwise not be able to access otherwise. A DNP makes nurses more appealing to future employers because they know these nurses have the knowledge and skills to improve their institutions or organizations. Additionally, completing a DNP shows potential employers that you are serious about your nursing career, and this makes you an even better candidate.

Also, as more nurses seek higher positions, the number of nurses with a DNP will increase. This means that nurses who do not have a doctorate will be locked out of mid-level and higher nursing positions. To make sure this does not happen to you, it is best to pursue a DNP and be ready for when the job market changes.

Lastly, a DNP can be crucial for nurses who want to pursue academia, research, or government work. Many of these positions pay a lot better than what healthcare institutions pay and would be a great option for nurses who consider having these opportunities and the higher pay that comes with them a priority.

Avoiding Feeling Stuck

In addition to expanded career opportunities, a DNP can help nurses avoid feeling stuck. Moving from one hospital to another might be an option for nurses who feel like they are stuck. However, being able to move vertically instead of only moving horizontally is something a lot of nurses crave. By opening up new opportunities, a DNP can help nurses avoid feeling stuck. This is because they can move both vertically and horizontally as they have more opportunities, credentials, and the ability to do so.

Increased Demand For Mid-Level Nurses

There is a lot of demand right now for mid-level nurses in leadership positions. This is caused by a nursing shortage rampaging the world and the retirement of many senior nurses who cannot continue being on the job. Many of these positions require nurses with leadership qualifications and a DNP arms you with the leadership skills and expertise to fill these positions.

Remember that as the world’s population ages and the number of nurses shrinks, there will be an increase in the demand for nurses with advanced skills. Earning a DNP now will prepare you for this future.

Keeping Up With Healthcare Discoveries and Methodologies

Healthcare is always evolving. This means that research and methodologies that were relevant a few years or seven a few months ago might not be relevant. Continuing your education remains the best way to update your knowledge on the latest happenings in healthcare. Some DNP programs even allow you to take some classes on topics you have never studied before to ensure you are updated on the latest innovations in healthcare.

A DNP can also help make you an appealing candidate for advanced positions once you have current skills and understand the latest innovations, research, and methodologies in healthcare. Apart from that, a DNP can also improve your own nursing skills, especially when you work directly with patients. Because there is so much that a DNP can cover, it is important to choose a DNP program that is aligned with your specialty, as well as the type of career you want to have.

Income Potential

Many nurses are in the profession because they genuinely would like to make a difference in the world. However, nothing says you should not be compensated well for your efforts while you are at it. A DNP can lead to a 20-30% increase in your annual salary according to statistics from The Bureau of Labor. Such an increase can make a huge difference in your life and make it possible to switch careers down the line by going back to school, as you will likely be able to afford it then.

Build Your Credibility

If you are interested in working in the public space, you need to have credibility as a nursing expert. Holding a terminal nursing degree such as a DNP establishes you as a leader in nursing, especially when you work in positions where you get to influence public policy. People will instantly know that you understand healthcare and that you are informed enough about it to propose or discuss public policy that does the most good.

If you are interested in public policy, you can also use your DNP to get into the boards of various medical institutions. Although their work does not compare to the scope of work done at the public policy levels, you will still be able to affect policy inside the institutions you work for.

Enhances Hands-on Training

If you want to get into senior or administrative nursing positions but still want to be involved in direct patient care, a DNP is perfect for you. This is because in contrast to the other nursing doctorate degree, the Ph.D., you will get hands-on training that enhances hands-on and patient skills. This will allow you to affect patient outcomes, healthcare quality, and patient care directly from the floor of a hospital.


In the past, nurses had to rely on physicians or wait for physicians’ orders to provide care. This has changed with the advent of the role of advance care nurses. Depending on where they practice, advanced practice nurses have full autonomy and they can handle many of the same tasks and responsibilities as physicians.

A DNP is Perfect for Educators

If you feel like your calling is in teaching and preparing the next generation of nurses, a DNP might be perfect for you. Although a bachelor’s or master’s degree can open up opportunities in academia, academia in healthcare tends to be reserved for individuals with higher credentials. In addition, various professional bodies have recommended DNP holders to be included in teaching staff. This has opened the door for nurses who are interested in teaching to seek out teaching positions at both universities and colleges.

A doctor of nursing degree is one of the two highest degrees you can attain in nursing. It can lead to great opportunities and gives you greater flexibility to take your career wherever you want. This is especially true if you are interested in working directly with patients or in academia. Just ensure that you choose a university or college offering a DNP that aligns with the specialties or roles you are interested in.