Best BSN-to-DNP Programs and Schools

Best BSN-to-DNP Programs and Schools

The highest degree in clinical nursing, the doctor of nursing practice (DNP), continues to become increasingly necessary for nurses who want access to advanced career opportunities and higher-paying jobs. A DNP is practice-focused, giving nurses the skills to implement research findings into patient care. It prepares nurses for advanced practice roles, including as nurse practitioners (NP), as well as leadership positions in healthcare management and administration.

Although many NPs hold a master of science in nursing (MSN), the DNP is becoming the preferred credential for those entering the field. A DNP also significantly increases earning potential in the nursing field. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the mean annual salary for an RN is $77,460, while an NP earns a median of $115,800 per year.

BSN-to-DNP bridge programs serve nurses who already hold a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) but have not yet earned a master’s degree. The curriculum typically includes up to 80 credit hours of coursework and a practice-based DNP project focused on changing healthcare outcomes for a specific population.

Students typically specialize in a clinical area such as pediatrics, gerontology, nurse midwifery, nurse practitioner, or psychiatric nursing. Most online programs take four years to complete following a traditional academic calendar, or three years with summer study.

Most coursework for a BSN-to-DNP program can be completed online, but some schools require attending occasional in-person seminars or workshops, which often facilitate connection with professors and peers.

View ranking methodology here.

Top MSN to DNP Programs

Rank School Location
1 University of Florida Gainesville, FL
2 University of Michigan - Flint Flint, MI
3 University of Pittsburgh Pittsburgh, PA

Top Online Programs

Explore programs of your interests with the high-quality standards and flexibility you need to take your career to the next level.

  • University of Florida

    Gainesville, FL

    A public institution in Gainesville, UF serves approximately 52,300 students.

    UF's College of Nursing offers one of the top online BSN-to-DNP programs. Learners choose from specialties in adult gerontology acute care, family nurse practitioner, pediatric acute care, pediatric primary care, and psychiatric mental health.

    Degree-seekers complete between 75-78 credits to graduate, depending on their specialty track. DNP students complete required classes entirely online with only periodic campus visits.

    Required visits include a new student orientation, a three-day health assessment course, and a two-day project dissemination visit during the final semester. Learners in the psychiatric mental health specialty track may need to attend additional on-campus meetings.

    Applicants need a bachelor's degree with a 3.0 or higher GPA. Additionally, UF expects applicants to have a 500 or higher GRE score and a current RN license in Florida. The school holds regional accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

  • University of Michigan - Flint

    Flint, MI

    A public university established in 1956, UM-Flint boasts approximately 7,600 students. The school holds regional accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

    Remote learners can take advantage of UM-Flint's online BSN-to-DNP program. Available concentrations at UM-Flint include adult gerontology acute care, adult gerontology primary care, family nurse practitioner, and psychiatric mental health.

    DNP degree-seekers need to complete 67-78 credit hours, plus in-person clinical hours, for graduation. Required courses for DNP students include biostatistics for advanced practice in healthcare, epidemiology, informatics, advanced pathophysiology, and a series of healthcare research classes. Learners may enroll at part- or full-time status to accommodate their RN schedule.

    Applicants for this competitive program must possess a bachelor of science in nursing from a regionally accredited institution with a 3.2 or higher GPA. UM-Flint prefers that incoming learners have at least one year of work experience as an RN and hold an unencumbered RN license.

  • University of Pittsburgh

    Pittsburgh, PA

    A public school, Pitt holds regional accreditation from the Middle State Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE) and serves more than 28,600 students.

    Pitt's School of Nursing features one of the best online BSN-to-DNP programs. The program boasts partnerships with several medical facilities, including the Center for Rural Health Practice, Bradford Regional Medical Center, and the Cole Memorial Health System.

    Remote BSN-to-DNP students choose from concentrations in adult-gerontology acute care, adult-gerontology primary care, or family care. Required courses for all nursing specialties include nursing anatomy and physiology laboratory, microbiology, nursing care of children and their families, and ethics in nursing and healthcare.

    Applicants should have a 3.0 or higher GPA, competitive GRE score, and current RN license. Applications must include a personal essay, resume, an application fee, and three letters of recommendation. In-state and out-of-state remote nursing students pay the same tuition rates.

Applying to a BSN-to-DNP Program

To qualify for a BSN-to-DNP program, you must hold a BSN degree from an accredited college of nursing and an active nursing license. Depending on school location, you may need to be licensed in that state to qualify. Some programs also prefer applicants with at least one year of professional nursing experience.

Specific program requirements vary, but most require a minimum 3.0 GPA, with emphasis on achievement in upper-level coursework. Several programs also require a competitive GRE score of 500 or above.

Applicants to online BSN-to-DNP programs also typically need to submit transcripts, a resume or curriculum vitae, a personal statement or essay, and letters of recommendation.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How long does it take to complete a BSN-to-DNP program?

    Program length varies, but most nurses can expect to complete a BSN-to-DNP program within 3-4 years. All programs require a practice-based project to expand student scholarship and expertise; students work on these projects throughout the BSN-to-DNP program.

  • What does it mean for a program to be accredited?

    Accreditation assures that a BSN-to-DNP program meets specific criteria for quality, academic rigor, and learning outcomes as determined by national and regional accrediting agencies. The leading accreditation agencies for nursing are the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) and the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN).

  • Can you earn a DNP online?

    A BSN-to-DNP degree can be completed online. Motivated nursing students who need to balance work, school, and family responsibilities often prefer the flexibility that online programs offer. Most programs utilize a mix of synchronous and asynchronous courses to accommodate students’ busy schedules.

  • What are the best paying careers with a DNP?

    Earning a DNP creates opportunities to work as an advanced practice nurse or NP. These are high-paying positions; according to the BLS, the median wage for nurse anesthetists is $174,790, while nurse practitioners and nurse midwives earn median salaries of $109,820 and $105,030 respectively.

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