DNP Benefits: 5 Reasons to Earn a Doctor of Nursing Practice

dnp doctor of nursing practice
dnp doctor of nursing practice

DNP degrees have grown exponentially in nursing – between 2009 and 2018, the number of employed nurses with a doctoral degree quadrupled. The United States has thus achieved a key objective set by the Institute of Medicine – double the number of nurses with a doctorate by 2020.

Yet even with the surge in doctorally-prepared nurses, the demand for those with a DNP remains high.

An online DNP degree with an emphasis in Strategic Leadership can benefit your career and the profession in multiple ways. Read on to explore five of the most significant reasons you could benefit from a DNP degree.


highest nursing credential

#1: You’ll achieve the highest credential in nursing.

The DNP is a terminal nursing degree. In other words, it’s one of the highest credentials available in the field.

The other doctoral nursing degrees are the:

  • Doctor of Philosophy
  • Doctor of Nursing Science
  • Doctor of Education

Unlike the PhD and DNS, the DNP is a practice-focused doctorate. It places greater emphasis on practice than theory or research.

PhD-prepared nurse researchers develop science. DNP graduates are qualified to translate and implement it.

It’s important to know that DNP programs are very rigorous. They integrate coursework and clinical/practicum experiences that build on master's degree programs, emphasizing actionable change within the healthcare sphere.

The DNP curricula will help you gain the highest level of knowledge and skills in the following areas as they relate to nursing practice:

  • Scientific underpinnings for practice
  • Organizational and systems leadership
  • Quality improvement
  • Evidence-based practice
  • Information systems/technology and patient care technology
  • Healthcare policy and advocacy
  • Interprofessional collaboration
  • Clinical prevention and population health
  • Advanced nursing practice

You’ll also cultivate expertise in a specialized area by emphasizing on a degree focus.


dnp terminal degree

What Are the Benefits of Earning a Terminal Degree?

With a doctorate in nursing, you’ll enjoy a bright career outlook and comparable education to other health care providers.

More Career Opportunities

One benefit of earning the highest credential in nursing is that you’ll expand your job opportunities and earning potential.

Doctoral nursing education prepares nurses for executive-level leadership roles in practice and scientific inquiry.

That's because DNP graduates understand all facets of nursing practice. They know how to:

  • Identify emerging trends
  • Initiate efforts to address clinical issues
  • Mobilize interdisciplinary teams

With these competencies, you’ll be qualified for heightened responsibility, which comes with greater pay. Later, this blog will explore how much you can expect to earn in various leadership positions. You can apply your leadership in clinical nursing, healthcare administration and management or nursing education.

The demand for leadership positions in healthcare is high and will continue to grow.

Nurse practitioner, nurse educator and healthcare executive are just a few examples of positions in demand. Between 2018 and 2028, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) expects the employment of each to grow much faster than the national average of 5%.

Position Employment Change % Employment Change #
Nurse Practitioner 28% 53,300 new jobs
Nursing Instructor 20% 13,800 new jobs
Healthcare Executive 18% 71,600 new jobs


Parity with Other Health Professionals

Another benefit of obtaining a terminal nursing degree is that you’ll achieve parity with other health professionals. Medical doctors, physical therapists and dentists are just a few clinicians that must earn a doctorate to practice.

Advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) can practice with a master's degree. But earning a DNP will provide you with an educational credential comparable to expert colleagues.

It will also equip you with the skills to lead and contribute effectively in multidisciplinary teams.


dnp high demand

#2: The demand for DNP nurse educators is high.

Several factors are driving the need for doctorally-prepared nurses. According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN), one is the shortage of nursing faculty.

Over 870 nursing schools reported a total of 1,715 faculty vacancies for the 2018-19 academic year. Approximately 91% of the open positions required or preferred a doctoral degree.

The critical lack of nurse educators is contributing to the national shortage of RNs. As a result of faculty vacancies, nursing schools rejected over 75,000 qualified applicants in 2018.

What’s Causing the Nursing Faculty Shortage?

AACN credits the shortage in nursing faculty to:

  • Increasing faculty age: The average age of doctorally-prepared faculty was 56.9 during the 2016-17 academic year, limiting their number of active years.
  • Rising retirements: One-third of the current nursing faculty are expected to retire by 2025, creating hundreds of roles that must be replaced.
  • Salary: Many DNP graduates enter clinical roles because they tend to pay higher wages than positions in education.
  • Stagnant enrollment: Because nursing schools don’t have the resources to accept all qualified candidates, enrollment in graduate programs has stagnated. Graduate programs aren’t producing enough nurse educators to meet the demand.


faculty shortage

How Will Earning a DNP Address the Faculty Shortage?

The country needs more nurses to advance to the DNP to ease the shortage of nursing faculty.

The majority of full-time nursing faculty positions require a doctorate. By earning a DNP, you’ll automatically meet the educational requirements for these vacancies.

But you’ll also be qualified for leadership positions in academia. By serving as a nursing administrator at a college or university, you can address the faculty shortage at a higher level.

What Are Leadership Positions in Nursing Education?

Earning a DNP will prepare you to fill the role of a nurse educator as well as the following leadership positions.

  • Dean of Nursing: The dean of nursing is the chief academic and administrative officer of a nursing school. They’re responsible for setting the school vision and objectives, ensuring the school adheres to applicable regulations, and coordinating strategic partnerships.
  • Associate Dean of Nursing: Reporting to the dean of nursing, the associate dean supports nursing school management. They plan initiatives, manage human resources, and assist with budgeting.
  • Nursing Program Director: This position manages a specific nursing program, such as a DNP or BSN program. The responsibilities include curriculum development, faculty supervision, and professional development.

How Much Do Nursing Education Roles Pay?

On average, doctorally-prepared nurses who undertake roles in academia earn more than RNs. The average salary for nurse educators is 16% higher than RNs. In an administrative position, you can take home approximately 30 to 58% more than RNs.

position average salary
Dean of Nursing $116,596
Nursing Program Director $87,429
Associate Dean of Nursing $87,023
Nurse Educator $75,695
RN $64,446



dnp leadership roles

#3: DNP curricula will position you for leadership roles.

In a landmark 2011 report, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) called on nurses to assume a more influential role in transforming the country's healthcare system. IOM recommended that more nurses undertake leadership positions and participate in executive decision-making about the future of healthcare.

The DNP prepares graduates to answer this call.

DNP programs teach advanced nursing expertise and organizational and systems leadership. In turn, candidates are prepared for the highest ranks of organizational leadership and administration.

The curricula focus on eight foundational competencies. They’re intended to enhance your knowledge and leadership so that you can fulfill the key objectives of every nurse leader – improve nursing practice, patient outcomes and healthcare delivery.

Let’s explore each competency and how it will position you for leadership roles as a graduate.


scientific underpinnings

1. Scientific Underpinnings for Practice

According to AACN, DNP graduates need a robust scientific foundation to address the complex practice issues they will face. Earning the degree will give you a comprehensive background in nursing practice.

You will:

  • Develop in-depth knowledge of natural and social sciences.
  • Learn to apply your knowledge to create and evaluate new practice approaches.
  • Translate science-based theories and concepts to identify, improve and measure healthcare delivery outcomes.

2. Organizational and Systems Leadership

As a DNP graduate, you’ll have the training to lead the way in eliminating health disparities and promoting quality and safety for a patient population or a broad community.

The curricula will teach you how to:

  • Work within organizational and policy arenas.
  • Assess organizations.
  • Identify systems’ issues.
  • Facilitate organization-wide changes in practice delivery.

You'll also gain political skills, systems thinking and business and financial intelligence.


evidence-based practice

3. Evidence-Based Practice

DNP graduates are leaders in evidence-based practice. The curricula will help you cultivate the skills needed to:

  • Translate, apply and evaluate new science.
  • Generate evidence.
  • Disseminate your findings.

These skills will aid you in leading improvements in healthcare practice and outcomes.

4. Information Systems/Technology and Patient Care Technology

One distinguishing trait of DNP graduates is that they can use information systems and technology to improve patient care.

The curricula will teach you how to assess the efficacy of patient care technology. You'll also learn to use technology for quality improvement and administrative decision-making.


dnp health care policy

5. Health Care Policy

Health policy can significantly impact the delivery of care. So, nurse leaders must know how to engage in policy development effectively.

The DNP curricula cover the design, influence, advocacy and implementation of healthcare policies. As a result, you can serve as a leader on behalf of the public and nursing profession.

6. Interprofessional Collaboration

Each day, nurses work with a variety of healthcare professionals. This collaboration is crucial to providing safe, timely, effective, efficient, equitable and patient-centered care.

DNP graduates are adept at facilitating interprofessional collaboration. They can establish and lead multidisciplinary teams and participate in their work. The curricula will help you learn communication, collaborative, consultative and leadership skills so that you can create change in complex healthcare systems.


clinical prevention

7. Clinical Prevention and Population Health

DNP graduates are expected to lead the way in improving the health status of individuals and populations. The curricula will prepare you to do just that by establishing a foundation in health promotion and population health.

You’ll learn how to:

  • Analyze scientific data.
  • Synthesize concepts.
  • Evaluate care delivery models to address and improve health promotion efforts.

8. Advanced Nursing Practice

Our complex healthcare environment demands that healthcare providers develop specialized knowledge. Through specialization, practitioners can provide the highest quality of care.

That’s why DNP programs prepare candidates in a distinct area of nursing practice. No matter which specialty you choose, you’ll master the knowledge and skills necessary to:

  • Navigate complex situations.
  • Manage therapeutic interventions.
  • Build strong therapeutic relationships.


dnp graduate roles

What Leadership Roles Can DNP Graduates Undertake?

Becoming proficient in the DNP competencies will qualify you for a variety of roles, including executive-level positions in nursing and healthcare.

According to BLS, healthcare executives plan, direct and coordinate health services. They can manage a facility, department or multi-facility health system.

DNP graduates are an excellent fit for healthcare executive roles because they’re experts in practice as well as healthcare policy, technology and delivery.

Hospitals employ approximately one-third of healthcare executives at the state, local and private levels. The remainder work in:

  • Physician offices
  • Nursing and residential care facilities
  • Government
  • Outpatient care centers


healthcare executive demand

Healthcare Executive Demand

The overall employment of healthcare executives will rise by 18% between 2018 and 2028. That pace is almost quadruple the national average. During these 10 years, the country will add approximately 71,600 jobs.

BLS attributes the demand to a growing population of older adults. As their need for healthcare services increases, so does the need for healthcare executives to manage the delivery.

The demand also stems from the necessity to replace retiring healthcare executives.

Healthcare Executive Roles

With a terminal degree in nursing, you can serve in a range of executive roles. Here are just a few of the positions available to DNP graduates:

  • Regional Chief Nursing Officer: The regional CNO leads nursing practice across a multi-facility healthcare system. They’re responsible for overseeing nursing education and research, patient safety and quality improvement, among other areas.
  • Patient Care Director: As patient-focused health professionals, DNP-prepared nurses can become patient care directors. This position supervises programs and initiatives related to patient welfare. Budgeting, policies and staff recruitment are a few areas of responsibility. Their primary objectives are to ensure safety, quality and affordability.
  • Nursing Home Administrator: This type of healthcare executive oversees all aspects of residential nursing facilities, from staff and resident admission to finances and the delivery of care.
  • Director of Nursing/Chief Nursing Officer: DNP graduates in this role supervise the nursing departments of various healthcare facilities. They’re accountable for budgeting, staff performance, policies, procedures and much more.
  • Chief Nursing Information Officer: The CNIO champions informatics to enhance nursing practice and healthcare outcomes. They implement solutions for care delivery and serve as subject matter experts on interprofessional healthcare teams.


dnp earning potential

#4: Earning a DNP will increase your earning potential.

By achieving the highest credential in nursing, you can significantly increase your earnings. Regardless of your career interests or salary expectations, a DNP will prepare you for a meaningful and lucrative role in healthcare.

How Do Salaries Compare for MSN and DNP Graduates?

On average, DNP-prepared nurses make more than those with an MSN.

The average salary of a nurse with a DNP is $102,000. That’s nearly 8% higher than the average wage for master’s-level nurses, $94,000.

Why do DNP graduates make more? They're compensated for having the greatest competency in the field and taking on ultimate accountability in leadership positions.

How Does DNP Salary Vary by State?

Depending on where you work, your salary can exceed the average for DNP graduates. The following states pay the most.

  1. New York: $127,175
  2. Massachusetts: $125,972
  3. Washington: $125,093
  4. New Hampshire: $122,601
  5. Hawaii: $120,987
  6. Maryland: $116,746
  7. Connecticut: $116,709
  8. North Dakota, Alaska, Wyoming, Montana, Nevada and Idaho: $115,944
  9. Rhode Island: $115,760
  10. Vermont: $115,131

States on the East Coast are the highest-paying. In the top state, New York, the mean salary for DNP graduates is 14% higher than the national average reported by ZipRecruiter, $110,219.


healthcare executive pay

What Can DNP Graduates Earn as Healthcare Executives?

By earning a DNP and advancing to leadership positions, you can receive a substantially higher salary.

Healthcare administrators with a doctoral degree earn a median salary of $91,000, which is 21% higher than someone with a master’s degree (Source: Labor Insight, Burning Glass Technologies).

Because the DNP is a terminal degree, it also positions nurses for the highest earnings in their roles. The top 25% of healthcare executives make an average of $133,520, while the top 10% take home $189,000.

Where you work can also increase your earnings as a healthcare executive. The top-paying states for healthcare executives are:

  1. District of Columbia: $150,040
  2. New York: $147,000
  3. Hawaii: $133,320
  4. California: $133,040
  5. Massachusetts: $132,960

In Washington, D.C., the average healthcare executive makes 26% more than healthcare executives nationwide.

Healthcare executive salaries are even larger in some metropolitan regions. These 10 areas pay the most lucrative salaries:

  1. Santa Cruz-Watsonville, CA: $163,280
  2. Vallejo-Fairfield, CA: $159,190
  3. Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk, CT: $154,570
  4. Salinas, CA: $154,440
  5. Hanford-Corcoran, CA: $145,340
  6. San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA: $144,530
  7. New York-Newark-Jersey City, NY-NJ-PA: $144,370
  8. Janesville-Beloit, WI: $143,940
  9. San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA: $142,760
  10. Binghamton, NY: $141,450

Individual healthcare executive salaries are also well paid.

It’s not uncommon for healthcare leadership position salaries to rank in the six figures. As you gain more years of experience, you can also expect your salary to increase.

Leadership position pay < 1 Year Experience Average Pay Pay > 20+ Years Experience
Chief Nursing Officer $111,000 $128,220 $144,000
Patient Care Director $80,000 $100,022 $103,000
Nursing Home Administrator $73,000 $90,528 103,000
Nursing Informatics Director n/a $117,407 n/a


online dnp

#5: Online programs make earning a DNP convenient.

Approximately one in three graduate students are enrolled exclusively in distance education courses. That’s according to the latest data from the National Center for Education Statistics.

Online programs have become a popular option for post-secondary education. In fact, 99% of higher education administrators said the demand for online programs has increased or remained steady.

Flexibility is the main reason why students choose online learning over campus-based programs.

Distance learning allows students to earn a degree while accommodating their existing commitments, such as a full-time job.

Respected online graduate programs often offer several conveniences. For example, Spring Arbor University’s online DNP has:

  • No set log-in times
  • Small class sizes to promote a sense of community
  • A unique 7-1-7 model, allowing students a week off in between courses
  • Engaged faculty who are experts in the field
  • A dedicated student success coach who will support you until graduation

Adult learners typically express high satisfaction over distance learning experiences, according to Best Colleges’ most recent online education trends report.

Nearly nine in 10 graduates of online programs said their degrees will have a positive return on investment. Similarly, 97% of currently enrolled students and 92% of graduates would recommend online education to others.

When it comes to online DNP programs, the United States has approximately 350 options. Nearly 100 more are in the planning stages.

Like campus programs, online DNP programs include clinical/practicum experiences and coursework. But an online DNP will help you obtain the highest credential a nurse can achieve with more flexibility than a traditional program.


spring arbor university dnp

An Online DNP in Strategic Leadership Program

Spring Arbor’s online DNP is designed for MSN-prepared nurses, with or without an APRN certification. Academic rigor, combined with a Christ-centered worldview, will help you develop as a nursing leader grounded in integrity and faith. Spring Arbor aims to instill personal, professional, and spiritual growth as students incorporate ethical teachings into practice.

Uniquely designed for working nurses, the online DNP program offers a flexible and supportive learning environment for today’s professionals. Graduates are prepared to land top positions of authority involving clinical applications, quality improvement and healthcare policy contributions.

In this program, you can experience a relevant education with a real-life application of knowledge and take advantage of unparalleled support every step of the way.


Why not take the first step toward earning your online DNP in Strategic Leadership today?


Read more of Spring Arbor University Online's top nursing blog posts below:

1. Best Nurse Practitioner Qualities

2. Advantages of Being a Nurse Practitioner

3. 15 Nursing Trends in 2020

4. What Can You Do With an MSN in Nursing Education?

5. Challenges in Nursing: What Do Nurses Face on a Daily Basis?