msn to dnp
msn to dnp

MSN to DNP: 5 Benefits of Advancing Your Nursing Career

In the last decade, thousands of nurses have transitioned from MSN to DNP. More than 33,000 employed nurses now hold a doctorate. That’s an increase of 307% since 2009.

Advancing from MSN to DNP by taking an online post-master's DNP, has many advantages.

As you consider taking the next step in your nursing education, use this blog to explore five key benefits of earning a DNP.


what is a dnp

What Is a DNP Degree?

The DNP is a terminal nursing degree. By advancing from MSN to DNP, you’ll achieve the highest practice or clinical credential offered in the field.

Unlike a PhD in nursing, the DNP is a clinical practice-focused doctorate. It’s designed to prepare nurses for the highest level of nursing practice. DNP graduates are equipped to transform health care.

In an MSN to DNP program, you’ll gain specialized expert knowledge of nursing practice. You’ll also deepen your understanding of leadership, organizational systems and quality improvement.

These competencies will enable you to plan, evaluate and continuously improve the delivery of care.


msn to dnp requirements and objectives

MSN to DNP Program Requirements and Objectives

Today, all 50 states and the District of Columbia offer DNP programs. The requirements for admission vary by institution.

MSN to DNP programs expect candidates to hold a valid RN license and a BSN and MSN from an accredited nursing school. Some may also require the completion of specific courses, letters of recommendation, and clinical hours.

The American Association of Colleges of Nursing DNP Essentials states a DNP “develops and evaluates care delivery approaches that meet current and future needs of patient populations based on scientific findings in nursing and other clinical sciences, as well as organizational, political, and economic sciences.”


msn to dnp career paths

What Are the Career Paths for MSN to DNP Nurses?

DNP graduates have expert knowledge of:

  • Advanced nursing practice
  • Leadership
  • Organizational systems
  • Quality improvement

As a result, nurses who advance from MSN to DNP can work in direct and indirect patient care. They’re highly sought after for some of the most in-demand roles in nursing:

  • Advanced Practice Nursing: Advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) provide primary, preventative, and specialty care.
  • Nursing Education: Nurse educators teach at colleges and universities. They also serve in clinical settings where they provide continuing education to nurses.
  • Nursing Administration: Nurse administrators have a variety of executive-level nursing responsibilities. They often coordinate or supervise patient care for a department, multiple departments, or a network of health care facilities.

Nurses with a DNP are qualified for the most senior leadership positions in each of these areas.

Learn more about the top nursing roles in clinical practice, education, and administration.


dnp education trends

What Are the Trends in DNP Education?

DNP education has gained momentum since 2004. In that year, members of the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) voted to recommend changing the entry-level education for APRNs from BSN to MSN to DNP.

Between 1979 and 2004, there were just eight practice-focused doctoral programs in the U.S. Now there are approximately 350.

Student enrollment in DNP programs is also rising. The number of enrolled students climbed by 12% between 2017 and 2018 alone.

According to AACN, earning a DNP is the most effective way for APRNs to meet the increasingly complex and dynamic demands of patient care.

The country’s health care providers are seeing more patients than ever before. The population of aging adults is growing, and so is the number of people accessing health care.

At the same time, patients with multiple chronic health problems are becoming the norm.

To ensure quality patient outcomes, AACN believes APRNs must obtain the highest level of scientific knowledge and practice expertise.

Transitioning from MSN to DNP will equip you with exactly that. You’ll develop as a nurse leader who can provide the highest quality of care to individuals and populations.


msn to dnp shift

What Other Factors Led to the MSN to DNP Shift?

In addition to our rapidly changing healthcare environment, other factors necessitated the shift from MSN to DNP. This section will explore three of the most urgent.

Nursing Shortage

According to AACN, the U.S. will experience a widespread shortage of nurses through 2030. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects an average of over 210,000 RN openings every year between 2018 and 2028.

The nursing shortage has been especially apparent during the COVID-19 pandemic. During periods of peak hospital admissions, some emergency room nurses have cared for dozens of patients at a time.

As a result of the nursing shortage, health care settings risk the loss of vital nursing knowledge and expertise. This can jeopardize the delivery, quality, and safety of patient care.

The demand for nurses outpaces the supply for several reasons:

  • A growing aging population and increased access to health care mean that Americans need more health care services than ever before.
  • One million RNs are expected to retire by 2030.
  • U.S. nursing schools are turning away qualified applicants because they don’t have sufficient faculty. During the 2018-19 academic year, nursing schools rejected 75,000 RN candidates due to a lack of resources, including nursing instructors.

The country needs a higher level of preparation for nursing leaders to prevent shortages. By advancing from MSN to DNP, you can learn to lead the way.


doctorally prepared faculty shortage

Shortage of Doctorally Prepared Faculty

As the demand for nurses surges, so does the need for nurse educators with a doctorate.

The most recent data from AACN shows that 872 nursing schools had 1,715 faculty vacancies for the 2018-19 academic year. Approximately 9 in 10 of these positions required or preferred a doctoral degree.

Without ample doctorally prepared nurses, nursing schools cannot recruit, admit, or graduate enough RNs to fill the national demand.

What’s causing the faculty shortage? AACN points to:

  • Faculty Age: During the 2016-17 academic year, 56.9 was the mean age of faculty with doctoral degrees. This means that many are approaching retirement.
  • Faculty Retirements: One-third of the current nursing faculty are expected to retire by 2025.
  • Salaries: Some doctorally prepared nurses choose to work in clinical settings, rather than academic, to earn higher wages.

By advancing from MSN to DNP, you’ll be positioned to help ease the faculty shortage.


health care provider parity

Parity with Other Health Care Providers

Most licensed health practitioners must hold a doctorate for clinical practice. Examples are medical doctors, dentists, and pharmacists. APRNs only need a master’s degree.

Nursing leaders acknowledge that master’s-level nursing coursework is equivalent to other clinical doctoral programs. However, by advancing from MSN to DNP, nurses can achieve parity with other health professionals.

Nurses regularly work with doctorally-prepared clinicians. That’s why their educational preparation should be analogous, according to AACN.

Earning a DNP will help you become an expert in nursing. Equally important, a DNP will equip you with the leadership skills to enhance interprofessional collaboration.


msn to dnp benefits

What Are the Benefits of Advancing from MSN to DNP?

In this section, we'll explore five of the most notable benefits of the MSN to DNP transition. Learn how earning a DNP will expand your expertise, practice, leadership, earning potential, and influence.

Benefit #1: Advancing from MSN to DNP will deepen your nursing expertise.

As an MSN-prepared nurse, you have broad knowledge and practice expertise. By moving from MSN to DNP, you’ll become an expert in advanced nursing practice.

DNP curricula build on master’s-level competencies. An MSN to DNP program will deepen your knowledge of evidence-based practice, quality improvement, and systems leadership, among other key areas.

In turn, as a DNP graduate, you’ll be equipped to lead changes that improve nursing practice and patient outcomes.

Here’s an overview of what you’ll learn in an MSN to DNP program:

Scientific Underpinnings for Practice

You’ll gain the highest level of academic preparation for nursing practice. The curriculum will teach you how to integrate nursing science and other sciences, employ science-based theories and concepts, and develop and evaluate new practice approaches.



Organizational and Systems Leadership

DNP candidates learn how to assess organizations, identify systems’ issues, and facilitate organization-wide change. You’ll also develop political skills, systems thinking, and business and financial intelligence.

Clinical Scholarship and Evidence-Based Practice

You'll come to understand how to translate, apply, and evaluate new science. You’ll also learn how to produce evidence and disseminate the findings.

Information Systems/Technology and Patient Care Technology

MSN to DNP coursework will teach you how to use information systems/technology to improve and transform health care. You’ll learn to use information technology to support your practice and strengthen your administrative decision-making.

Health Care Policy for Advocacy in Health Care

DNP graduates are qualified to serve as leaders on behalf of the public and profession. You’ll learn how to create, influence, analyze, and implement health care policies that address health care access, social justice, and beyond.

Interprofessional Collaboration

As a DNP-prepared nurse, you’ll be equipped to establish and lead interprofessional teams and participate in their work. By promoting collaboration across health care disciplines, you can improve health outcomes for individuals and populations.

Clinical Prevention and Population Health

Know how to improve the nation’s health by analyzing data to develop, implement, and evaluate clinical prevention and population health.

Advanced Nursing Practice

Cultivate the highest level of expertise in a specific area of nursing specialization.


broad practice authority

Benefit #2: Completing an MSN to DNP program will broaden your practice.

Every MSN to DNP program develops the competencies above. But each also builds expertise in a particular area of nursing. As a result, you’ll expand your scope of practice.

Depending on the focus of your MSN to DNP program, you’ll be ready for increasingly complex roles in nursing practice, nursing education, and systems/organizational management.

Advanced Practice Nursing

MSN to DNP programs that concentrate on advanced practice nursing will prepare you for the most independent level of clinical nursing. You’ll develop the skills for undertaking greater responsibility and accountability in caring for patients.

Nursing Education

An MSN to DNP program in nursing education will enable you to use your practice expertise to teach others. DNP programs for aspiring nurse educators include additional coursework on the science of pedagogy.

As a graduate, you'll educate the next generation of nurses or provide continuing education to practicing nurses.

Systems/Organizational Management

Consider an MSN to DNP program that focuses on systems or organizational leadership if you want to specialize in indirect care. You’ll learn how to define problems and design interventions in the context of health care administration, health care policy or informatics.


msn to dnp leaders

Benefit #3: Nurses who advance from MSN to DNP are highly qualified leaders.

Doctoral education in nursing is intended to prepare nurses for the highest levels of leadership. The following are just a few of the leadership roles you can undertake as an MSN to DNP graduate.

Advanced Practice Nurse

APRNs can practice with a master’s degree. But earning a DNP will help you achieve the highest level of competence.

As a result, you’ll be fully prepared to supervise health care teams or operate an independent practice. In these roles, you can employ your advanced nursing expertise to innovate the delivery of health care and meet patients' future needs.

It’s an opportune time to be an APRN. BLS expects the employment of APRNs to grow by 26% between 2018 and 2028, five times faster than the national average.

The demand for APRNs is high because the country lacks primary care providers. By 2032, there will be a projected shortage of up to 52,200. Because certain APRNs are trained to provide primary care services, they can fill the gap.

Nurse Educator

With a growing shortage of nurse educators, it’s also an ideal time to enter this profession. The employment of nursing instructors will increase by 20% between 2018 and 2028, quadruple the national average.

By advancing from MSN to DNP, you can instruct fellow nurses at every stage of their careers. You can also serve in various leadership positions in nursing education. Become a dean of nursing at a college or university or a director of nursing professional development in a health care setting.

Many roles in nursing education require candidates to have a DNP or strongly prefer it. Why? The DNP will equip you with advanced nursing expertise and knowledge of health care delivery and systems.

Nurse Administrator

DNP graduates can also work at the highest ranks of nursing administration. Nurse administrators work at a system or organizational level. Their positions include chief nurse executive, director of nursing, and director of patient services.

MSN-prepared nurses are qualified for some nurse administrator jobs. But employers are increasingly seeking DNP graduates. That's because they have the most robust understanding of leadership and advocacy, organizational and systems thinking, quality improvement, and evidence-based practice.

Between 2018 and 2028, the employment of healthcare administrators is expected to rise by 18%.


higher earning potential

Benefit #4: The transition from MSN to DNP can lead to higher earning potential.

Choosing to obtain the DNP is an investment. At $500 to $1,800 per credit hour, an MSN to DNP program can cost between $32,500 and $117,000.

But obtaining the highest credential in nursing can boost your lifetime earnings. On average, the salary of a nurse with a DNP is $102,000. This figure is 8% higher than the nationwide average wage for nurses prepared at the master’s level, $94,000.

As a doctorally prepared nursing leader, you can make six figures in several positions, including:

Where you live can also raise your earnings as a DNP graduate. The following 10 states pay the highest average salaries for DNP graduates.

  • New York: $127,175
  • Massachusetts: $125,972
  • Washington: $125,093
  • New Hampshire: $122,601
  • Hawaii: $120,987
  • Maryland: $116,746
  • Connecticut: $116,709
  • North Dakota, Alaska, Wyoming, Montana, Nevada, and Idaho: $115,944
  • Rhode Island: $115,760
  • Vermont: $115,131


make a difference

Benefit #5: MSN to DNP graduates make a meaningful difference in health care.

Another benefit of MSN to DNP advancement is the opportunity to substantially influence health care. Evidence shows that DNP graduates have improved the quality, efficiencies, and effectiveness of health care systems.

Here are just a few examples of how nurses with a DNP have made a difference:

  • Reduced patient wait times and hospital readmissions
  • Increased access to health care by underserved populations
  • Prevented surgical complications in ambulatory surgery centers
  • Improved employee health in corporations
  • Identified policy barriers to providing quality care

The opportunity to have a more meaningful impact is one reason why nurses choose to pursue an advanced nursing degree, such as Walsh University’s online DNP.

At Walsh, we believe DNP nurses are blessed to heal through leadership. The online MSN to DNP program is designed to help students discover the healing power of their hands while developing the skills to spark change and improve health care.


walsh university online

Explore Walsh’s MSN to DNP Pathway

Walsh’s online DNP program is ideal for MSN-prepared nurses who want to expand their advanced nursing role and evolve as a nurse leader, ready for the future of health care.

As a DNP student at Walsh, you’ll enjoy benefits such as:

  • Clinical placement support throughout the program
  • A flexible online format, so you can continue working as you pursue your degree
  • Small class sizes to promote personalized attention and a close community
  • Supportive faculty who care about your future and offer field expertise
  • A dedicated student success coach who will support you in finding balance until graduation

Victoria B., a DNP student from Cleveland, Ohio, has found all of the coursework applicable to the real world.

“I was very impressed that right from the beginning that every class I have taken has helped me understand something better and take it back to where I work. It's not taking a class just to take a class.”


Take the next step in your career and learn more about Walsh’s online MSN to DNP.


Read more of Walsh University online's nursing-related blog posts below:

1. MSN vs. DNP: What's the Difference

2. How Nursing Has Changed with Technology

3. Today and Tomorrow: How Are FNP Jobs Trending?

4. Can Family Nurse Practitioners Specialize?

5. The Top 10 Tips for Nurses to Maintain Work/life Balance