A look at the job market for DNP graduates

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The Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) can help prepare and qualify nurses for a range of advanced practice positions in clinical settings, as well as executive and director-level roles that deal in decision-making and policy.

Whatever your ambitions are for your nursing career, it’s likely a DNP can help you reach new professional heights. As the terminal degree on the practice side of nursing, the DNP signifies a nurse has gained skills and knowledge commensurate with a doctorate, and positions him or her for advanced practice.

But which roles are best suited for DNP holders? And what is the demand and job market outlook for some of the positions most associated with DNP-level nurses?

If you are interested in how online BSN-to-DNP programs can help prepare you for the upper echelon of the nursing field, read on for more information on the types of jobs for DNP graduates you can pursue after finishing an online nursing program.

What to expect from a DNP

Are you asking yourself the question “What can I do with a DNP degree?” Well, among the first things you can do is expect to earn more. According to a report from the journal Advance for Nurse Practitioners and Physician Assistants, nurse practitioners holding a DNP earned on average $7,688 more than master’s graduates annually.

Other insights from that study outlined the general settings in which DNP-holding nurses are most commonly found: 21 percent worked in family practice, while 19 percent worked in hospitals. Here are some of those Doctor of Nursing Practice jobs in family and hospital settings that students can pursue.

An FNP checks up on a child.

Nurse Practitioner (NP)

NPs are some of the most common positions under the umbrella of advanced practice registered nurses (APRN). Nurses in this position benefit from greater autonomy to not only help treat patients, but also diagnose conditions. Some states also allow NPs (and various other APRNs) to practice without an attending physician, or at least semi-independently. As an NP, nurses can utilize the knowledge they gained from an online BSN-to-DNP program to specialize in their field.

In addition, demand for the position is exploding. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), job growth for NPs is expected to reach 36 percent between 2016-2026, more than five times the average for all other occupations. It’s also ranked as the No. 4 job in U.S. News & World Report’s “100 Best Jobs.”

Upper management and administration

Some DNP students can earn their degree with a distinction in leadership, which prepares them for roles in management of any health care organization or operation. The value in a Doctor of Nursing Practice was particularly underscored in a 2014 paper published in the Journal of Nursing Administration. Chief nurse officers (CNOs) surveyed as part of the research said the positions their institution would consider a DNP important for included:

  • Vice president for clinical service (66.7 percent)
  • Program director (66.7 percent)
  • Quality improvement director (58.3 percent)
  • Director of clinical services (50 percent)
  • Clinical information technology specialist (50 percent)
  • Direct care clinician (41.7 percent)
  • Chief executive officer (25 percent)
  • Faculty member (25 percent)

Indeed, the position of CNO itself is something a nurse can target with a DNP. Key outcomes for the degree include building capacity for personnel leadership, data management, and refining technical management skills.

Tips for getting a job or promotion

Nurses must always consider a few things when looking to advance their careers through new job opportunities or promotions. Particularly, they must do their research on online nursing programs to find the right one for them:

  • Find a program that allows you to specialize in a desired field: Whether family practice, leadership or something else entirely, your areas of interest matter to your job prospects. Getting an education in those areas of specialization can improve your candidate profile.
  • Apply to a program that allows you to work: Not many people can afford to leave their jobs entirely to go back to school, which could complicate getting a job post-graduation. Nurses working full-time need to find an online program that conforms to their needs and facilitates their best learning experience.
  • Enroll in a program that offers a high-quality off-campus experience: In many ways, the DNP you earn is as good as the program you’re in, which makes finding an online program that gives you the best and most enriching experience important. Find a school that has as little difference between on-campus and online alternatives as possible.

Bradley University can help

At Bradley University, online students can begin a BSN-to-DNP degree with a Family Nurse Practitioner track, or an MSN-to-DNP track with a specialization in Leadership. Students can complete coursework when it works for them to take full advantage of the learning experience. Visit the Bradley online DNP site today to learn more, and connect with an enrollment advisor if you have any questions.

Recommended Readings:

What does the future of the nursing industry look like?

Six reasons to consider a career as a nurse manager


Advance Healthcare Network

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

U.S. News & World Report

Karmanos Cancer Institute