Is a D.N.P. Required for Nurse Practitioners?

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A smiling nurse practitioner is high-fiving a child being held in his parent’s arms.As medical practice continues to evolve, the role of the nurse practitioner is changing along with it. Tasked with caring for people, nurses have a challenging but fulfilling job, one that is growing in scope and demand every year. As training for nurse practitioners becomes more rigorous, and as the national physician shortage continues to grow, many in health care leadership are pushing to grant nurse practitioners increased authority.

In many states, nurse practitioners now have full practice and full prescriptive authority, giving them the legal standing to make medical decisions like prescribing treatment and medication for patients without a physician’s supervision.

With this shift comes increased responsibility and the need for more advanced training, but does it mean that a Doctor of Nursing Practice is required for nurse practitioners (NPs)? Currently, in many states, the answer is yes for nurse practitioners who want full practice authority. In the near future, however, all nurse practitioners are likely going to need to earn the advanced degree. For all nurses, the most efficient way to prepare for more advanced roles in nursing is by earning a master’s degree or a post-master’s Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree to build on foundational nursing skills and meet the challenges of nurse leadership.

Current Education Requirements

Nurses have a few options for continuing their education after completing their Bachelor of Science in Nursing (B.S.N.) degree. Currently, earning a Master of Science in Nursing (M.S.N.) degree meets the educational benchmark to work as a nurse practitioner once graduates also complete their state’s licensure and certification requirements.

Generally, nurse practitioners must seek national certification from an accredited certifying body to begin practicing. Depending on whether they have a specialization, such as in pediatrics or critical care, and the individual regulations of their state, different certifications and licenses may be required, and not all states grant full practice or prescriptive authority. In some states, a D.N.P. is required for nurse practitioners to gain full practice authority.

The Push Toward the D.N.P. Requirement for NPs

According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, the shortage of physicians in the United States is projected to reach a deficit of 139,000 by 2033. This combined with an aging population means the need for nurses to take on additional authority is on the rise. Efforts are being made to establish a D.N.P. as the minimal education requirement for NPs by 2025, a timeline that prospective students choosing to enroll in a graduate program should consider.

Establishing a D.N.P. requirement for NPs means that nurse practitioners will be pursuing the same level of education as other advanced health care professionals such as physicians, dentists, and clinical psychologists. By earning the knowledge required to potentially gain full practice authority, NPs will be able to relieve some of the pressure on physicians and other areas of the health care system, while allowing them to earn a higher salary and achieve their professional goals.

The Benefits of Earning a D.N.P.

After completing a B.S.N. degree, the prospect of pursuing a doctorate in nursing, with its additional years of training and tuition, can be daunting. However, a D.N.P. qualifies graduates to assume a broader role in health care advocacy, practice and leadership, all while making a lasting positive impact on the lives of patients. With increased training, nurses can work toward a variety of roles including:

  • Nurse and patient advocacy
  • Full practice and prescriptive authority roles
  • Supervisory and management roles
  • Nursing research and education
  • Primary care practice

The reason for a D.N.P. to be required for nurse practitioners, according to advocates, is so they can build upon the foundational skills gained in a B.S.N. program. A D.N.P. program can teach them skills such as communication, leadership and decision-making needed to take on advanced roles. While pursuing a D.N.P. requires additional years of schooling, it can open new doors for graduates, empowering them to become nursing leaders both inside and outside hospital walls.

D.N.P. Salary and Job Outlook

As a terminal degree, a doctorate typically takes longer to earn than a Master of Science in Nursing because it provides graduates with advanced level training and skills, and qualifies them for advanced job opportunities and a higher average salary.

According to PayScale, as of October 2021, graduates with an M.S.N. had a median annual salary of around $97,000 per year, while those with a D.N.P. had a median annual salary of around $105,000. While factors such as job location, title and work experience affect nurse salaries, those with a D.N.P. earn more on average than their M.S.N. graduate colleagues.

Prepare for the Future of Health Care

Nurse practitioners have the skills and opportunity to shape the future of health care. By earning a D.N.P., nurses may be able to gain full practice authority and can make a positive impact on their patients’ lives. As the benchmark changes and a D.N.P is required for nurse practitioners, nurse leaders will play a more significant role in the lives of their patients, potentially making diagnostic decisions, prescribing medications and following the progress and delivery of their care.

For nurses aspiring to reach new professional goals, choosing a degree program with a focus on leadership and the practical skills required to succeed in the workforce is a crucial step. With its fully online coursework, seamless transition from master’s coursework and option to choose between two specializations, the online Doctor of Nursing Practice program from the University of North Dakota is designed to prepare students for real-world challenges and professional success.

By offering students a choice between a Leadership Track and an Advanced Practice Nursing Track, UND recognizes that students have different goals and is dedicated to providing them with the skills needed to attain them. Discover the positive impact you can make with an advanced degree from the University of North Dakota.

Recommended Readings

How to Become a Hospital CEO

What Is the Difference Between a DNP and a PhD in Nursing?

What Is the Salary for a Nurse Practitioner with a D.N.P.?


American Association of Colleges of Nursing, DNP Fact Sheet

American Association of Nurse Practitioners, Nurse Practitioner (NP) Certification

American Association of Nurse Practitioners, State Practice Environment

Association of American Medical Colleges, “U.S. Physician Shortage Growing”

Nursing Outlook, “Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) Degree in the United States: Reflecting, Readjusting, and Getting Back on Track”

PayScale, Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) Degree

PayScale, Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) Degree

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