DNP vs NP: Which One Do I Choose?

Are you torn between becoming a nurse practitioner or a doctor of nursing practice? Well, don’t be. We compare DNP vs NP and take the mystery off each degree. Lets see which one suits you and your aspirations better.

What is an NP?

A nurse practitioner (NP) is a registered nurse (RN) who has completed a master’s degree or a doctorate degree in nursing, and has been licensed as an advanced practice nurse (APN) or advanced practice registered nurse (APRN).

An APN or APRN takes four possible areas or routes of specialization. One is the route to becoming a NP; the other routes lead to the specialized areas of certified nurse anesthetist, certified nurse midwife, and clinical nurse specialist.

Assuming that you are already a registered nurse, you can become a nurse practitioner by completing a master of science in nursing. This is the minimum or entry-level degree to becoming a nurse practitioner.

If you hold an ADN, it will take you about 4 years to complete the MSN. A bachelor’s degree (BSN) is usually granted after the fourth semester in the program.

You will be granted the master’s degree after the eighth semester. On the other hand, you will only need to hurdle 2-3 years to obtain your MSN if you already have a BSN.

Take note that schools will offer several MSN programs. Choose the program that is focused on training you to become a nurse practitioner.

There are various sub-specialized fields within this program which you can focus on, such as acute care, adult gerontology, pediatrics, mental health, diabetes management, and family health.

Generally, RN-to-MSN programs include advanced courses in acute and chronic diseases management, epidemiology, health policy, laboratory diagnostics, leadership roles, pathophysiology, research and statistics, and special focus on specialty areas.

Licensing is administered by the State Board of Nursing. Regulations may vary by state.

There are two national organizations that grant certifications to Nurse Practitioners, and these are the American Nurses Credentialing Center and the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners.

What’s a DNP?

The program on Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) is designed as the next step after the MSN.

MSN degree holders practicing their professions as NPs, midwives, certified nurse specialists, or nurse anesthetists, advance in their careers by completing the DNP program.

It includes practice-focused courses to prepare advanced practice nurses to take bigger roles in the nursing field.

Currently, initiatives are underway to require DNP as the minimum educational requirement for APNs or APRNs.

The American Association of Nurse Anesthetists has pioneered this initiative and has DNP as the requisite education for their members.

The same trend is expected for NPs with similar initiatives being launched by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing.

APRNs already holding MSNs and sitting at the top of their career may not find the need for a DNP degree.

Those who are still young with ambitions to rise from their mid-level positions in the nursing field, however, will benefit from a DNP program. Schools have started phasing out BSN-to-MSN programs. Instead, more and more BSN-to-DNP programs are being developed.

Summary of DNP vs NP

A nurse practitioner is an APN or APRN who has completed an MSN at the minimum, and has been licensed and certified as such.

A DNP, on the other hand, is a doctorate degree recently required for some APNs, such as the nurse anesthetists. Trends also show that it will be the minimum degree requirement for NPs in the near future.

The BSN-to-MSN may soon be passé, and NPs with MSNs may eventually be required to take additional years for the DNP just to keep up.

For those looking to be a leader in their field, the DNP is the degree to aspire for. I hope this info about DNP vs NP has been helpful.