June 15, 2023

Top MSN to DNP Programs

Top MSN to DNP Programs

An MSN to DNP program is designed for masters-prepared nurses who want to earn a doctor of nursing practice (DNP) degree. There are many tracks that one can pursue toward a DNP which include nurse practitioner (NP), certified registered nurse anesthetist (CRNA), nursing education, and executive leadership. NPs and CRNAs are more likely to pursue this degree as it directly relates to clinical practice. 

Essentially, DNP graduates are leaders in advanced nursing practice that bring evidence-based knowledge into the clinical setting to help improve healthcare outcomes and strengthen the leadership role of nurses in both the clinical and academic settings.

Fast Facts About MSN to DNP Programs


The average annual DNP salary is $120,000 or more, with nurse anesthetists being the highest-paid specialty.

Program Length

36 months+


  • Registered nurse license
  • Relevant clinical experience
  • Professional letters of recommendation
  • Candidate interview if applicable 
  • Minimum GPA above 3.0
  • Transcripts from all educational institutions
  • GRE if applicable
  • TOEFL if applicable

Top 10 MSN to DNP Programs

Every MSN to DNP program has its own benefits and features, and the program that is best for one potential attendee may not be the right choice for another. In assembling our list of top programs, we paid particular attention to objective criteria, paying special attention to ensuring that each is accredited and has proven outcomes for its graduates. 

Our selection process considered the following factors:

  • Cost of attendance

  • Program length

  • Admission requirements

  • Variety of available programs

  • Ranking according to U.S. News & World Report

  • Additional accolades that the program has received

1. Johns Hopkins University 

Johns Hopkins University is leading the way in education, research, and practice, both locally and globally. The DNP track prepares nurses for advanced roles as clinical and healthcare leaders. Students will engage in a DNP final project that establishes them as Hopkins Nursing clinical scholars.

2. Duke University 

Duke University is a world-class university with a DNP program that is ranked #2 in the nation.  The MSN to DNP programs are taught by world-renowned faculty. There are multiple tracks offered leading to a terminal degree. Students are expected to complete a scholarly DNP project to showcase their engagement in evidence-based research.

  • Tuition: $2,075 per credit
  • Program Length: Two to three years
  • Accreditation: CCNE
  • Application Deadline: 
    • DNP Nurse Anesthesia: August 15th 
    • DNP Fall Semester: December 1st
    • DNP Spring Semester: May 1st
  • Contact Information: 

3. Rush University 

Rush University graduates will be prepared to deliver comprehensive health care through a holistic approach. Graduate education will be focused on clinical excellence and leading initiatives to improve health outcomes. There are multiple tracks that an interested student can choose from including,

There are numerous opportunities for students at Rush University both in and out of the classroom. 

  • Tuition: $1,286 per credit
  • Program Length: 2.5 to 3.5 years
  • Accreditation: CCNE
  • Application Deadline: 
    • Nurse Practitioner DNP Programs: July 3rd, October 2nd
    • DNP Nurse Anesthesia: May 1st
  • Contact Phone Number: (312) 942-7100
  • Online Options Available? Hybrid

4. University of Washington  

The University of Washington empowers students with world class-class faculty to do a world of good and ultimately be successful. DNP options include, 


  • Tuition:

    • Resident: $40,848

    • Non-resident: $58.260

  • Program Length: Three years

  • Accreditation: CCNE

  • Application Deadline: January 15th

  • Contact Information: 

    • Email Address: asknursing@uw.edu 

    • Phone Number: (206) 543-8736

  • Online Options Available? Yes

5. Columbia University 

Columbia University prepares nurses to provide comprehensive care to patients in their area of specialty. Columbia offers DNP opportunities in family practice, midwifery, psychiatric mental health, and more. Students graduate with the knowledge, skills, and attributes necessary for comprehensive care.

  • Tuition: $70,194 per year full-time
  • Program Length: 2.5 years
  • Accreditation: CCNE
  • Application Deadline: 
    • DNP Program: January 2nd
    • DNP Nurse Anesthesia: September 5th
  • Contact Information: 
    • Phone Number: (212) 305-5756
    • Email Address: nursing@columbia.edu
  • Online Options Available? Yes

6. Emory University 

Emory University allows students to transform healthcare as nurse leaders. Courses prepare nurses to lead in the areas of innovation, interprofessional team collaboration, and health policy. The program benefits include online learning, the ability to work full-time, gain leadership skills, and learn from nationally-renowned faculty.

Registered nurses can advance their careers as a DNP, available at Emory University for selected specialties including 


7. University of Michigan (Ann Arbor)  

The University of Michigan MSN to DNP programs are offered by world-class faculty to provide students with the education to become healthcare leaders. Students have multiple program plans to choose from. Classes are offered in a hybrid setting with no weekly face-to-face meetings.

  • Tuition:
  • In-person:
    • Resident: $1,834
    • Non-Resident: $3,339
  • Distance Learning:
    • Resident: $1,624
    • Non-Resident: $1.912
  • Program Length: 2-3 years
  • Accreditation: CCNE
  • Application Deadline: March 15th
  • Contact Information: 
    • Email Address: UMSN-GradAdmissions@med.umich.edu
    • Phone Number: (734) 763-5985
  • Online Options Available? Yes

8. University of Minnesota (Twin Cities) 

The University of Minnesota centers itself around planetary health in which nature is an essential partner in human health. Currently, the second-largest full-time DNP program in the country, grad students have the ability to earn quite a bit of scholarship money to help defer the costs. When students apply to the DNP program at the University of Minnesota, they are automatically considered for one of up to 50 $20,000 scholarships each year.  The school hosts information sessions for all degree programs on a regular basis. DNP students can choose from 12 different specializations including anesthesia, pediatric, and family practice. 

  • Tuition: 
    • Resident: $1,053 per credit 
    • Non-resident: $9,477 per credit
  • Program Length: Two to Three Years
  • Accreditation: CCNE
  • Application Deadline: 
    • DNP Nurse Anesthesia: June 1st
    • DNP  Specialties:
      • Priority: November 1st
      • Final: February 15th
  • Contact Information:
    • Email Address: sonstudentinfo@umn.edu
    • Phone Number: (612) 625-7980
  • Online Options Available? Yes

9. University of Pittsburgh 

Ranked tenth in the country by U.S. News & World Report’s 2024 Best Nursing Grad Schools, the University of Pittsburgh School of Nursing prepares nurses to deliver care that is guided by research, intellect, and passion. The program is facilitated by highly awarded nursing faculty who engage in research and evidence-based practice. Programs offered are nurse anesthetist, nurse practitioner, nurse leader, and nurse-midwifery.

  • Tuition: 
    • Resident: $29,266 (full-time study)
      Non-resident: $34,950 (full-time study)
  • Program Length: 2 years
  • Accreditation: CCNE
  • Application Deadline: 
    • First Deadline: February 15th
    • Second Deadline: May 1st
    • DNP Health Systems Executive Leadership: Rolling
  • Contact Information: 
    • Email Address: sao50@pitt.edu
    • Phone Number (412) 624-6910

10. Vanderbilt University 

Vanderbilt University’s MSN to DNP program prepares advanced nurse practice leaders. The program offers practice integration, collaboration with practice partners, and actively practicing faculty as mentors. Students are required to attend an on-campus intensive session and complete an evidence-based DNP project.

  • Tuition: $1,939 per credit
  • Program Length: 2 years
  • Accreditation: CCNE
  • Application Deadline: October 15th
  • Contact Information: 
  • Online Options Available? Yes

Types of MSN to DNP Programs

On Campus 

MSN to DNP programs require you to attend classes in person with your cohort along with clinical experiences.


Online MSN to DNP programs are offered strictly via a learning management system that the student must log into regularly to access lectures and assignments. It also allows students to communicate with faculty and peers.


A hybrid MSN to DNP program requires students to engage both online and in person. Students may be required to attend class in person on certain days and engage in other course requirements online.

MSN to DNP Program Overview

MSN to DNP programs are designed to assist advanced practicing nurses with an MSN degree to pursue their professional goals and attain a DNP in multiple areas of nursing. The benefits of a DNP program according to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) are,

  • Enhanced knowledge to improve nursing practice and patient outcomes

  • Enhanced leadership skills 

  • Increased supply of faculty for clinical instruction

  • Development of needed advanced competencies for increasingly complex clinical, faculty and leadership role

Program Cost

The program cost for MSN to DNP programs varies significantly from institution to institution. Students should take time to compare different programs to determine which tuition plan best meets their financial needs. Variables include, 

  • The reputation of the program 

  • Quality of the faculty

  • Number of specialty tracks offered

  • Program is offered by a private or public institution

  • Online versus hybrid versus in-person instruction

  • Full-time or part-time attendance


Classes will be focused based on the track the student selects. Supervised clinical experiences will also be required. 

Students can expect to complete roughly 800-1000 clinical hours but this will vary depending on the program and state.  Specific classes will vary on the program track and specialty but general MSN to DNP courses include:

  • Economic of Healthcare

  • Management of Complex Health Problems

  • Scholarly Writing

  • Advanced Research Methods

  • Informatics

  • Ethical and Legal Issues

  • Quality Improvement

  • Health Policy

  • Biostatistics

  • Epidemiology

  • Leadership and Management in Healthcare

FAQs About MSN to DNP Programs

  • How long does it take to get DNP after an MSN?

    • The time varies, but generally 2 to 3 years of full-time study.
  • Is getting a DNP worth it?

    • Yes, obtaining a DNP is worth it if the student takes the time to determine what is best for their professional goal achievement. Students should compare and contract programs closely and decide based on alignment with where they see themselves in the future.
  • Will DNP replace MSN?

    • It is expected for nurse practitioners that a terminal degree will be required. This is already being seen across the country. Other MSN degree programs such as nurse administrator and nurse educator may not require a DNP as this is more of a clinical terminal degree. Those specializing in education and administration may receive other terminal degrees. 
  • Do DNPs make more than MSNs?

    • This depends on the job requirements. If the job doesn’t require a DNP then the pay will be the same. If the job requires a DNP then the pay should be reflected in having an advanced terminal degree.
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