Doctor of Nursing Practice Post-Master's


History and Rationale for the DNP Nationally

The American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN), which represents all BSN and higher degree schools of nursing in the U.S., identified the need over ten years ago for a transition from master's degree education to doctoral education for advanced practice nursing due to the:

  • growing complexity of the health care system
  • growth in scientific knowledge
  • sophisticated technology
  • need for clinical career paths

AACN recognized that the growing shortage of nurses could not be met by just increasing basic enrollments as the shortage was also acute for advanced practice nurses such as nurse practitioners, clinical executive leaders, and especially for faculty to teach the increased enrollments.

The concept of the DNP was developed to meet the demand for practitioners able to practice and provide leadership at the highest level of practice and to meet the demand for highly prepared clinical faculty for schools of nursing.

Currently there are over 20 DNP programs in the U.S. with more than 200 in the planning stage. The practice-focused doctorate is a distinct model of doctoral education providing an additional option for obtaining a terminal degree in the professional discipline.

PhD vs. DNP
Designed to prepare nurses for careers as research scientists, often in academic or governmental positions Designed to prepare advanced nurse practitioners for increasingly complex practice and clinical administrators for executive leadership roles
Prepares nurses to conduct research to advance the empirical and theoretical foundations of nursing and healthcare Prepares nurses to provide leadership in integrating and applying research into practice and sustaining and advancing evidence-based practice
Completion and defense of an original research project A practice application-oriented DNP capstone project

For more information regarding the DNP, please go to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing DNP website: and the National Organization of Nurse Practitioner Faculties DNP Resource Center at