Career Opportunities for Graduates with a DNP Degree

Career Opportunities for Graduates with a DNP Degree

Image of DNP graduates throwing their grad caps into the air

United States hospitals have struggled with the nursing shortage for decades. However, the coming of age of the baby boomer population magnifies this issue greatly.

While the entire country has not felt the effect of the shortage, some states suffer from a disproportionate talent deficiency. It’s difficult to assess exactly where the nurse practitioner community stands regarding filling their ranks. With a myriad of influences changing in the caregiving landscape, the state of the nursing talent pool – at least as far as actionable, measurable metrics – is a constantly moving target. Moreover, the problem isn’t necessarily a lack of interested nursing hopefuls. America’s nursing education community got a late start out of the gate because the medical environment experienced little change for a vast period of time. Duly, complacency proved an enemy of modern progress in nursing education.

Today, leaders in the American health care field have learned a lot from mistakes of the past. Nursing leaders are urging practitioners to pursue their Doctor of Nursing Practice accreditation, so that they can deliver treatments and services to the full extent of their abilities, while helping to fill the void in skilled medical talent in disciplines such as those highlighted in the following four examples.

1. Chief Nursing Officer

Chief nursing officers (CNOs) serve as high-level executives for various nursing units within a care provider organization. They oversee the daily management, planning, and coordination of the tasks required to deliver positive treatment outcomes for the population. CNOs also serve as a liaison between patient, peers and hospital executives such as boards of directors and senior officers.
In the U.S., chief nursing officers earn formidable salaries that typically eclipse the $124,000 per year mark. For these executives, total compensation can near $200,000 per year with the inclusion of performance bonuses. Chief nursing officers typically spend their workday in the care provider facility managing operations. During their day, they’ll engage with any number of personnel in the organization’s service units.

2. Nurse Researcher

Nurse researchers work to uncover empirical evidence about information that advances the practitioner field. Their discoveries shape the medical field by influencing legislation as well as organizational policies and procedures. The findings revealed by nurse researchers contribute to the field’s body of knowledge in research, multidisciplinary collaboration, and nurse mentoring.

Nursing researchers earn around $65,000 annually on average. This salary ranges from $51,000 to $95,000 a year across the nation. Nurse researchers may find themselves working in either laboratory or academic settings.

3. Advanced Practice Nurse

Advanced practice nurses (APNs) are health care specialists who assume organizational responsibilities that are commensurate with their highly advanced training. In this role, nurses commonly enjoy the freedom of autonomous practice. Others practice with minimal physician oversight. This varies by state law.
On average, nurse practitioners earn nearly $91,000 a year. However, their salary rises only moderately, compared to other nursing disciplines, over the next five to ten years.
APNs commonly work in hospitals and oversee nursing pools as well as organizational operations. In other settings, advanced practice nurses deliver in-home services and run facilities such as community clinics or urgent care facilities.

4. Nurse Educator

Highly experienced advanced practice nurses sometimes opt to transition from the clinical setting into academia. This works well for Doctor of Nursing Practice professionals who enjoy, for example, helping nurses earn continuing education credits. Nurse educators combine their passion for healing and teaching to pursue their ideal profession.
Typically, nurse educators earn around $75,000 per year. Their salary fluctuates between $41,000 and over $117,000 in annual earnings depending on the job location and setting. Most nurse educators teach in colleges, universities, and nursing trade schools. Junior colleges also employ a considerable number of nurse educators.
In the nursing field, private-public partnerships have emerged to work toward incentivizing nurses to pursue careers as nurse educators. It is hoped that these professionals will cultivate the next wave of sorely needed Doctor of Nursing Practice professionals.

As some states and rural areas experience a disproportionate shortage of qualified primary care providers, the availability of continued funding for encouraging the pursuit of careers in academia among advanced practice nurse practitioners appears indeterminate. As part of the solution, the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) has recommended the DNP become standard to fulfill the needed roles. Their recommendation is based on findings that higher education is linked to better healthcare. Along with long-term personal career benefits, students required to pursue a doctoral level education can begin replacing and swelling the ranks of nursing teachers, faculty, and researchers. Despite this uncertain forecast, the United States population will continue to need DNPs to meet their growing healthcare demands.

Learn More

Health care is seeing an industry-wide demand for advanced practice nurses trained at the doctoral level due to the changing landscape, drive for improved patient outcomes, and a shortage of qualified nurses. If you’re an RN with a bachelor’s degree in nursing and ready to take your career to a higher level, the Regis College’s BSN to Doctor of Nursing Practice online program can prepare you for advanced nursing practice.

Recommended Readings

Meeting the Need for Qualified Nurses with a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP)
The Importance of Health Promotion for Family Nurse Practitioners
Best Practices to Promote Cultural Awareness


[1] The Atlantic
[2] – Chief Nursing Officer
[3] Google
[4] Glassdoor
[5] – Advanced Practice Registered Nurse
[7] American Association of Colleges of Nursing