DNP Jobs and Outcomes for Graduates

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A smiling DNP standing in a conference room.

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 development.

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.

However, which roles are best suited for DNP holders? Also, what’s the demand and job market outlook for some of the positions most associated with DNP-level nurses?

If you’re interested in how online 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 Are the DNP Career Outcomes and Where Do DNP Graduates Work?

A DNP degree helps nurses develop the knowledge and skills to pursue a wide range of careers, including advanced clinical nursing roles, educator positions, and management roles in health care organizations. The DNP serves all of these job fields by building on a nurse’s existing experience, encouraging the development of strong leadership and decision-making capabilities, and focusing on innovative change in the health care industry.

Nurse Practitioner

NPs are some of the most common positions under the umbrella of advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs). 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 NPs, nurses can utilize the knowledge they gained from an online DNP program to specialize in their field. Nurse practitioners work in private practices, hospitals, clinics, nursing homes, and other settings.

Nurse Practitioner Job Market

In addition, demand is exploding in the nurse practitioner job market. According to the BLS, job growth for NPs is expected to reach 45% between 2019 and 2029, which is much higher than the projection for all occupations combined. It’s also ranked No. 3 in U.S. News & World Report’s list of the 100 best jobs for 2021.

Nursing Faculty

Nursing faculty members work in colleges and universities to help prepare the next generation of nurses. Depending on their job setting and specialization, faculty members may conduct tasks such as providing classroom instruction, overseeing student labs, preparing new material, or ensuring that training content is up to industry standards. They may also compile research papers for industry publication.

Health Care Policy Specialist

Depending on their specialization, DNPs are uniquely qualified to effect change in public policy. They may work with government agencies, nonprofits or lobbying firms to review research, evaluate legislation, and influence lawmakers. DNPs interested in policy development can promote global health; respond to health crises; and work toward effective, equitable health care.

Nursing Director

The nursing director oversees the nursing staff of a health care facility. They are responsible for tasks such as recruiting and training new nurses, scheduling nursing shifts, and monitoring the overall performance of the staff. They work to ensure that protocols are followed, goals are met, and training practices are up to date. Nursing directors also function as a representative for the nursing staff, communicating their needs and concerns to other positions of leadership, such as facility managers and physicians.

Chief Nursing Officer

Chief nursing officers (CNOs) are imperative to a health care facility’s operations. They serve a key administrative function, particularly in large facilities or health networks. CNOs oversee planning, budgeting, regulatory compliance, and patient care quality and efficiency across all nursing operations. They also manage nurse supervisors and represent the nursing staff in executive decision-making processes. This means CNOs should have strong communication, critical thinking, and leadership skills.

DNP Salary Expectations

Among the first things an inquiring professional can expect from a DNP is a salary increase. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), nurse practitioners (NPs) made a median annual salary of $117,670 in 2020, while RNs made a median of $75,330. Nurse anesthetists saw even higher numbers, with a median of $183,580. Other insights from the BLS outline the general settings where nurses were most commonly found: 47% in physicians’ offices and 27% in hospitals.

For DNP graduates going into faculty positions, the BLS lists the 2020 median annual salary for postsecondary teachers as $80,560, though top earners can bring in as much as $179,540 based on factors such as location, years of experience, and level of education. Additionally, medical and health services managers, including professionals such as nursing directors, had a median income of $104,280 in 2020, with the top earners earning up to $195,630.

How to Grow Professionally as a Nurse

Nurses interested in advancing by pursuing a DNP should research nursing programs to find the one that’ll help them meet their goals:

  • 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 DNP job prospects. To grow professionally as a nurse, 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 job entirely to go back to school, which could complicate getting a job postgraduation. 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, 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 Bachelor of Science (BSN)-to-DNP degree with a family nurse practitioner (FNP) or a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner (PMHNP) track, or a Master of Science in Nursing (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 adviser if you have any questions.

Recommended Readings

Nurse Practitioner Specialties: Types of Nurse Practitioner Roles and Responsibilities

When Will a DNP Be Required for Nurse Practitioners?

Principles of Nursing Leadership: Jobs and Trends


Daily Nurse, Educator/Nursing Faculty

Indeed, Director of Nursing Job Description

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Medical and Health Services Managers

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

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Registered Nurses

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Postsecondary Teachers

U.S. News & World Report, 100 Best Jobs