How Long Are BSN to DNP Programs?

A smiling nurse practitioner.

Nurse practitioners (NPs) are in demand, and a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree can put nursing professionals on the path to becoming one.

Nurses whose highest degree is a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) can pursue NP roles, but the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) advocates for doctoral-level education as a requirement for these positions.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects 52% NP job growth, or 114,900 new positions, between 2020 and 2030. It cites an increasing demand for health care as a factor in this projected growth, driven by an emphasis on preventive care and the needs of an aging population.

Additionally, the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) anticipates a shortage of as many as 124,000 physicians by 2034. As professionals who can offer many of the same services as physicians, NPs can help fill this gap.

Considering the demand for NPs and the preparation a DNP can provide for the role, individuals with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) may wonder what options they have for pursuing a DNP. Some schools offer a path from a BSN to a DNP, and while timelines vary, full-time students can earn a doctorate in as little as 34 months. But what do BSN to DNP programs entail, and what practice areas can DNP graduates pursue?

What Is a BSN to DNP Program?

A DNP is a terminal degree focused on applying science- and research-based practices in a clinical setting. The degree differs from a PhD, which places a greater emphasis on conducting research.

BSN to DNP programs can prepare BSN graduates for advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) positions, including NP roles. Compared with nurses with only an undergraduate education, APRNs can offer more types of care and often can work with more autonomy.

DNP programs typically offer advanced training in areas such as:

  • Evidence-based practice
  • Health care policy
  • Health care systems
  • Collaboration skills
  • Leadership

BSN to DNP Education Requirements

An MSN degree often is a precursor to a DNP. BSN to DNP programs allow nurses to forgo that MSN requirement.

To earn their bachelor’s degree in nursing — a prerequisite for admission to a BSN to DNP program — students typically study core coursework and gain foundational nursing knowledge. The following are among the health care subjects a BSN program generally covers:

  • Introduction to nursing
  • Adult health nursing
  • Community and mental health nursing
  • Evidence-based practice
  • Family nursing
  • Gerontology
  • Health assessment and promotion
  • Medical and surgical care
  • Pathophysiology
  • Pharmacology
  • Public health

Additionally, undergraduate work in statistics or research often is a requirement for admission to BSN to DNP programs.

Other BSN to DNP Admission Requirements

Students entering a BSN to DNP program typically must hold a registered nurse (RN) license, which requires first passing the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX). Other BSN to DNP admission requirements can include:

  • Meeting undergraduate GPA standards
  • Providing recommendation letters, resumes, and letters of purpose
  • Undergoing interviews

Some BSN to DNP programs require applicants to meet minimum score standards on the Graduate Record Examination (GRE).

What Is the Length of BSN to DNP Programs?

How long BSN to DNP programs are varies by the school and specialty the student chooses to pursue.

Many BSN to DNP programs take between three and four years of full-time study to complete. Accelerated programs may require less time, while nurses studying part time may take longer to finish.

Online programs often provide more flexibility for students to complete courses at their own pace, which makes them a good option for working nurses who need to accommodate work and home commitments while in school. The Hawai‘i Pacific University online BSN to DNP program allows students to earn their terminal degree — focused on a specific NP practice area — in as little as 34 months of full-time study. Part-time students need at least 44 months to complete the program.

BSN to DNP Concentrations

BSN to DNP programs prepare nurses for APRN roles, but nurses in these programs typically can select a practice area of focus. Many BSN to DNP programs provide education and training that target NP roles and specialties.

Nurses preparing for NP roles generally must complete more than 100 hours of clinical training, with some specializations requiring more than 200 hours. BSN to DNP students focusing on an area outside of the NP role may also have clinical or practicum requirements.

The following are among the options that BSN to DNP programs may provide.

Nurse Practitioner

NPs are APRNs who provide primary and specialty care. Aspiring NPs can select a patient population as the focus of their studies — and future practice.

Health Policy

Some BSN to DNP programs offer a focus on health policy. This field deals with the processes and laws of health care systems. Health policy professionals often help shape health care policy through politics or policy institute positions.


Nurses interested in administration roles might consider BSN to DNP programs that offer a health care leadership focus. This academic path can lead to leadership roles at hospitals or other health care organizations.

Public Health

BSN to DNP programs that offer a focus in public health can prepare nurses for careers that advance community health. These professionals can work for health departments, hospitals, or universities.


Some BSN to DNP programs include a health care technology focus. This concentration educates nurses about the technological tools that facilitate patient care.

What Can You Do With a BSN to DNP Degree?

Whether they choose an NP path or focus on health policy, leadership, public health, or technology, graduates of BSN to DNP programs can pursue a variety of career options.

Nurse Practitioner

NPs provide holistic care that combines clinical expertise with disease prevention and health management. While their specific roles vary according to state regulations, NPs’ work can include disease management, health care counseling, and patient education. Many states also permit NPs to prescribe medication and order and interpret diagnostic tests.

These APRNs specialize in specific populations and conditions. About 70% of NPs are family nurse practitioners (FNPs), according to the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP). Adult-gerontology acute care nurse practitioner (AGACNP) and psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner (PMHNP) also are common types of NPs.

Nurse Manager

Nurse managers are leaders who serve as a liaison between nursing staff and executive management in health care organizations such as hospitals and clinics. They hire, train, and manage nurses; ensure compliance with nursing regulations; and monitor departmental budgets.

Program Director

A BSN to DNP program also can prepare nurses for roles as program directors. These professionals lead a program or initiative within a health care organization, focusing on efforts such as public health or research. Program directors set goals, maintain a budget, hire and train staff, and ensure compliance with program guidelines.

Health Policy Analyst

Health policy analysts review the effects of health policies on communities — and on populations within those communities. Their work can include interviewing local residents and medical professionals, analyzing data, and developing projections for policymakers.

Chief Nursing Officer

As the highest-ranking nurse position in a health care organization, chief nursing officers (CNOs) oversee all nursing operations and lead systemwide efforts to encourage outstanding nursing care. They represent the needs of the organization’s nurses, working to provide competitive compensation and fair performance evaluations.

Pursue Your Nursing Passion at a Higher Level

BSN graduates who are interested in advancing their nursing careers should explore BSN to DNP programs, how long BSN to DNP programs are, and what careers nurses can pursue with a DNP degree. The Hawai‘i Pacific University online Doctor of Nursing Practice program, which offers a BSN to DNP path, can provide you with the clinical knowledge and advanced nursing experience that lead to a career as an NP.

Hawai‘i Pacific University’s FNP, PMHNP, and AGACNP concentrations can provide a foundation to succeed in a top NP practice area. Online coursework, flexible scheduling, and strong preparation for NP certification exams are among the program’s other benefits. Discover how the BSN to DNP program can help you achieve your nursing goals.

Recommended Reading:

Nursing Advocacy: The Role of Nurses Advocating for Patients

What Is Evidence-Based Practice in Nursing?

Transcultural Nursing in Remote Areas


American Association of Colleges of Nursing, DNP Fact Sheet

Association of American Medical Colleges, AAMC Report Reinforces Mounting Physician Shortage

American Association of Nurse Practitioners, NP Fact Sheet

American Association of Nurse Practitioners, What’s a Nurse Practitioner (NP)?

Indeed Career Guide, "13 Doctorate in Nursing Practice Jobs You Can Pursue"

Indeed Career Guide, "BSN to DNP: Program Types and Admissions"

Indeed Career Guide, "DNP or Ph.D.: Which Nursing Degree Is Right for You?"

NPHub, "Should You Get a DNP? Here’s the Answer!"

NurseAvatar, "Online/E-Learning Versus On-Campus/Traditional Nursing Degree Program"

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