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What is a DNP?

A DNP is a Doctor of Nursing Practice degree. This is a professional doctorate degree for nurses who want to:

  • Integrate research into professional practice
  • Shape health care systems
  • Educate future generations of nurses
  • Lead organization-level improvements

DNP vs. PhD

A Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree places its emphasis on the practice arena while a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) degree in Nursing Education focuses more on research and scientific investigation.

The specific type of program you choose depends on whether your interest is in practicing (DNP) or in research and scientific investigation (PhD).

Careers with a DNP or PhD

The DNP doctorate is designed for those in direct clinical practice and areas that support clinical practice-administration, organizational management and leadership, education, and policy. DNP graduates may seek a variety of roles, including:

  • Managers of quality initiatives
  • Executives in healthcare organizations
  • Directors of clinical programs
  • Nursing faculty positions within higher education or clinical settings


Research doctoral degrees (PhDs) are a critical resource for supplying the evidence base for nursing practice. In many cases, PhD graduates accept academic or governmental positions where research is a major expectation.

Becoming A New Standard

Currently, less than 1% of nurses have a doctoral degree. The American Association of Colleges of Nursing has recommended a doctorate as the new standard credential for all advanced practice nurses by 2015.

In addition, the Institute of Medicine, in conjunction with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, released "The Future of Nursing", a summary of its 2-year study of nursing and health care. This report recommends doubling the number of doctorate-prepared nurses by 2020 by ensuring that 10% of all new BSN grads move into a MSN, PhD, or DNP program within 5 years of graduation.

Capella's DNP Program

Capella University offers both DNP and PhD nursing degree programs.

Nurses with non-nursing master's degrees can bridge into a DNP program with Capella's DNP Preparatory Program. This requires that you first have your Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN), RN license, and nursing experience.

Capella's DNP program is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)*, a nationally recognized accreditation agency approved by the U.S. Secretary of Education. This program can help prepare you to be a leader in the field of nursing by focusing on administrative, organizational, and leadership skills. Curriculum topics may include:

  • Leadership and ethics
  • Policy and advocacy
  • Nursing technology
  • Global population health
  • Management


     *The BSN, MSN, and DNP degree programs at Capella University are accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education, One Dupont    Circle, NW, Suite 530, Washington, DC 20036, (202) 887-6791

Request more information to learn more about these programs and we will match you with an enrollment counselor who can answer your questions.