What Can You Do With a DNP?

If you’ve been wanting to learn more about what you can do with a DNP, discover how a Doctor of Nursing Practice can help you reach your nursing career goals.
Two nursing professors with a realistic patient doll in a mock hospital room.

Nurse practitioners, administrators, and educators devote themselves to social justice, quality patient care, and equality. Today, many nurses are choosing to enroll in Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) programs. In fact, approximately 36,069 nursing students enrolled in DNP programs and about 7,944 graduated from DNP programs in 2019, according to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN).

In addition, the number of DNP programs in the U.S. has grown from about 50 programs in 2007 to 357 programs in 2019.


What Is a DNP?

A DNP is a doctoral-level degree for nursing professionals. It prepares nurses for the highest level of nursing practice by expanding their knowledge of healthcare ethics, policy, and practice. Whether nurses work as nurse practitioners, administrators, or educators, earning a DNP can prepare them to use their knowledge to make a difference. 

To understand what you can do with a DNP in terms of career options, learning more about the different types of online Doctor of Nursing Practice degree programs can be helpful. Here are a few options: 

MSN to DNP           

The most common DNP program is an MSN to DNP program, the option for nurses who have already completed their Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree and gained experience in the field. A post-master’s DNP program usually takes one to two years to complete and prepares graduates for a variety of leadership, administrative, and clinical positions. 

DNP curriculum meets standards set forth in the AACN’s “Essentials of Doctoral Education for Advanced Nursing Practice.” For example, core courses should ensure DNP students become proficient in: 

  • Organizational and systems leadership
  • Healthcare information systems/technology
  • Interprofessional collaboration
  • Healthcare policy
  • Evidence-based practice

BSN to DNP       

Another type of DNP program is a BSN to DNP program, available to registered nurses (RNs) who have earned their Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree and want to forgo earning an MSN degree. This type of program typically takes three to four years to complete. 

BSN to DNP: Nurse Practitioner

Some nursing programs offer different types of BSN to DNP programs, such as BSN to DNP: Nurse Practitioner and BSN to DNP: Dual Degree. With the first option, nursing students can choose a nurse practitioner specialty and prepare for a clinical career as a family, primary care, or pediatric nurse practitioner, among other options.

All DNP students must complete 1,000 post-BSN clinical hours before they take on advanced positions in the field. Gaining experience through clinical hours can help nursing students prepare for the practical aspects of leadership positions as well as for clinical positions. 

DNP Career Options

Nursing students should understand that, when it comes to what they can do with a DNP, much depends on what type of DNP program they enroll in. Here is a breakdown of clinical and leadership roles: 

Clinical Roles               

Nursing students who are interested in clinical positions and working in bedside roles should enroll in a BSN to DNP or MSN to DNP program with advanced practice registered nurse specialties. Nursing students who have a desire to work in clinical roles as advanced practice registered nurses will typically become: 

  • Nurse practitioners
  • Clinical nurse specialists
  • Nurse anesthetists
  • Nurse midwives

Most nurses in these roles work in physicians’ offices, hospitals, and outpatient care centers. These positions offer nurses a significant amount of autonomy. Some can work as primary care providers. 

The U.S. expects a shortage of physicians in upcoming years due to an aging population, so the demand for advanced practice registered nurses continues to grow. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) categorizes nurse practitioners, clinical nurse specialists, nurse anesthetists, and nurse midwives together, and projects that the number of jobs for those in that category will grow by 45% between 2019 and 2029. 

Leadership Roles        

Nurses who want to take on leadership or administrative roles should consider DNP programs that offer organizational leadership or business administration options. Professionals in this field can hold a variety of positions and work as: 

  • Nurse administrators
  • Clinical managers
  • Nurse educators
  • Nursing home administrators
  • Public health nurses
  • Health information managers
  • Nurse informaticists

Professionals in leadership roles have an educational background in clinical practice as well as management but typically have more administrative responsibilities. They most often hold leadership positions in hospitals, residential care facilities, and physicians’ offices. 

Similar to the demand for clinical nurses, the demand for healthcare leaders is projected to grow in upcoming years. The BLS predicts the number of jobs for medical and health services managers will grow by 32% between 2019 and 2029. 

Earn Your DNP at St. Kate’s

Nurses considering what they can do with a DNP have an array of career paths to evaluate. St. Kate’s online Doctor of Nursing Practice program offers two options for nursing students:  

  1. The MSN to DNP: Post-Master’s option is available for nurses who already have their MSN and have worked toward completing some of their required clinical hours. 
  2. Registered nurses with a BSN who want to pursue careers as nurse practitioners can choose the BSN to DNP: Nurse Practitioner option. 

Whatever your nursing career goals may be, St. Catherine University has a program that’s the right fit for you. To learn more about what you can do with a DNP, check out how a DNP program can help you make a difference in the healthcare field. 


AACN, AACN Position Statement on the Practice Doctorate in Nursing 

AACN, Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP)

AACN, DNP Fact Sheet

Houston Chronicle, “Careers With a Doctorate of Nursing Practice”

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Medical and Health Services Managers 

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Nurse Anesthetists, Nurse Midwives, and Nurse Practitioners