The need for nurses with advanced degrees is critical in today’s health care industry, with demand far outpacing supply. This makes the field of advanced nursing attractive from a job security standpoint. The tight employment market for advanced nursing also reflects the constant evolution of the health care industry, as evidenced by dynamics such as an unprecedented aging society.
Those who complete a BSN to Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) or an MSN to Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program may discover the benefits of a DNP program put them in a unique position to take advantage of changing employment needs head-on.
The Need for a DNP Degree
Earning a DNP is not just a noble pursuit; it may be a necessary one. The American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) has recommended the DNP be the required degree by 2025 for those seeking a career in advanced practice nursing. Other nursing organizations such as the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) and the Gerontological Advanced Practice Nurses Association (GAPNA) recommend advanced practice nurses take on a larger scope of responsibility to address the increased numbers of patients who are seeking health care.
These recommendations need not be intimidating news for those pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Nursing, or BSN degree. Most reputable colleges offer BSN to DNP programs for those who wish to progress from an undergraduate degree to an advanced degree. This transition can be a skill-sharpening academic journey — one that offers support, flexibility, and preserves a student’s work/life balance. Typically, a BSN to DNP program is available to baccalaureate-prepared RNs.
Nurses who have already earned their Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree can look into MSN to DNP programs. These programs are available to both non-nurse practitioners and practicing nurse practitioners.
One of the benefits of a DNP degree is that most BSN to DNP and MSN to DNP programs offer areas of specialization. Some of these concentrations include pediatrics, family practice, and women’s health.
Benefits of DNP Degrees
Earning a DNP degree can yield many benefits for nursing students at all stages in their education.
Benefit of a DNP Degree: Advance in the Nursing Profession
Pursuing a BSN to DNP or an MSN to DNP is a sound decision for a variety of reasons. It follows the patient-need projections and recommendations developed by nursing organizations. Additionally, obtaining a DNP can provide students with the opportunity to enjoy professional advantages that may be very difficult, if not impossible, to experience with only an undergraduate degree.
One of the most significant benefits of DNP degrees is that they can make it easier to climb the proverbial career ladder. Projections regarding the degree’s importance already indicate the health care industry greatly prizes DNP graduates. Holding the degree usually signals to employers that a student has finely-tuned the specific skills to provide excellent health care and improved patient outcomes.
Benefit of a DNP Degree: Broaden Career Options
Because a DNP is a terminal degree and enables students to view health care from a top-down clinical perspective, graduates are often afforded a wider range of career options. Some available positions are found in high-level administration or the executive level, where responsibilities may include overseeing an entire clinic. These types of positions can provide graduates with the opportunity to forge unique paths to improved patient outcomes — ones that may positively impact the future of health care.
Clinical nurse researchers are responsible for conducting research about patient treatment while they provide care for patients in clinical trials. To be effective in this role, clinical nurse researchers must be able to work effectively with doctors, surgeons, other nurses, and patients who have a variety of conditions.
Nurse researchers assess the current needs of their patients and determine whether their medications and treatment methods are delivering the required level of service. Nurse researchers should have a strong foundation in their own clinical practice of working as bedside nurses. They should be able to collect information and organize it into documents and reports, all while still providing direct patient care.
The median annual salary for clinical nurse researchers is around $72,000, according to June 2020 data from the compensation website PayScale.
Clinical Nurse Specialist
According to the National Association of Clinical Nurse Specialists, these professionals provide diagnosis, treatment, and ongoing management of patient care. Clinical nurse specialists often act as consultants who apply their advanced knowledge of health care delivery processes to ensure medical institutions are performing evidence-based care in the safest, most effective way.
Clinical nurse specialists can positively affect the growth and success of health care organizations. For example, by suggesting more efficient operational strategies, they can help hospitals reduce costs. Likewise, they can use their expertise to positively influence patient health outcomes, contributing to an increased rate of patient satisfaction.
Per PayScale, the median annual salary for clinical nurse specialists was around $90,000 as of June 2020.
Nurse practitioners primarily serve in a highly specialized clinical capacity. They perform advanced clinical tasks in a specific area of nursing practice, such as pediatrics, primary family care, or psychiatric-mental health. They may also assume a range of leadership and administrative responsibilities, depending on the expectations of their employers.
The current minimum educational requirement for becoming a nurse practitioner is the MSN, which qualifies registered nurses to apply for certification and state licensing. The certification requirements vary depending on a nurse’s desired specialization and typically involve a competency-based exam. But the industry requirements are on the verge of change. Prospective DNP students should be aware that the National Organization of Nurse Practitioner Faculties (NONPF) has reaffirmed its interest in making the Doctor of Nursing Practice the entry-level requirement for nurse practitioner roles.
The median salary for nurse practitioners was $115,800 as of May 2019, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
Health Services Manager
Health services managers work with the management teams of health care organizations to help plan and coordinate their daily operations. They do so by managing human resources, organizing finances, and communicating with executives and other internal and external stakeholders. Although this occupation is not specific to nursing professionals, DNP graduates typically have the expertise to excel in health services management roles that involve managing teams of nurses or nursing departments.
Through their experience studying and working in the nursing profession, DNP graduates likely have the knowledge to develop and carry out strategies that enable their departments to make progress toward their objectives. According to the BLS, the 2019 median annual salary for medical and health services managers was $100,980.
Nurse educators work in health care organizations and on university campuses to develop the next generation of nursing professionals. As university faculty members, they often teach courses that relate to a specialty area in which they’ve previously practiced or studied thoroughly. Some employers may not consider candidates who do not have real-world clinical experience, so it is important to gain several years of nursing experience before pursuing a career as a nurse educator.
The National League for Nursing strongly supports doctoral preparation for nurse educators. In fact, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), most large universities expect their faculty members to have doctorates. Aspiring nurse educators should consider earning a Doctor of Nursing Practice to enhance their future career prospects. The median annual salary for nursing instructors and teachers was $74,600 in 2019, according to the BLS.
Nurse supervisors draft employee work schedules and ensure nursing personnel are deployed appropriately across various units. As leaders, they must ensure their employees’ actions are in line with the mission, vision, and values of their organizations. This includes observing daily activities to certify that all employees are adhering to any ethical or regulatory standards placed on them by governing entities.
The advanced nurse leadership curricula in DNP programs can equip graduates with the cognitive tools to navigate complex health care regulatory systems as they work to motivate and organize their employees. The BLS reports the median annual salary for medical and health services managers (including nurse supervisors and other clinical managers) was $100,980 as of May 2019.
Benefit of a DNP Degree: Earn a Higher Salary
In health care, advanced degrees such as a DNP tend to attract higher salaries than undergraduate degrees. This is due in part to the higher level of positions that can be obtained through a DNP, which are also typically marked by broader responsibilities. These added tasks may command handsome compensation, although the actual salary of a position may fluctuate based on the type of role.
For example, PayScale provides the median annual salary for psychiatric mental health nurse practitioners to be around $99,000 as of May 2020. Family nurse practitioners earned a median annual wage of about $98,000 as of June 2020, according to PayScale.
DNP salaries vary based on experience, occupation, and expertise. Completing a Doctor of Nursing Practice curriculum, however, shows graduates have the competency to practice at the highest levels of the nursing industry. Therefore, when nurses take a step forward and enroll in a clinical doctoral program, they are also taking a step toward higher earning potential.
Benefit of a DNP Degree: Prepare the Next Generation
Earning a DNP can lead graduates to obtain a host of top-level positions in health care; from administrative, to managerial, to academic, and beyond. DNP degree holders are also often equipped to use their skill set, unique educational perspective, and experience to mold the next generation of nurses for the ever-changing world of health care. One of the benefits of a DNP degree is being able to impact new and incoming nurse professionals. This can make a significant difference in health care’s future — and can provide a great deal of job satisfaction.
Benefit of a DNP Degree: Sharpen Skills Within a Specific Concentration
BSN to DNP and MSN to DNP programs typically feature areas of concentration such as pediatrics, women’s health, adult-gerontology, psychiatric mental health, and family medicine. Because of this, students can choose to take a deeper dive into a specific aspect of health care. This enables them to further hone skills to excel in a specific field and equips them to pursue a professional path that most interests them.
Make a Vital Difference
Completing a DNP program does more than prepare graduates for an industry that is in great need of qualified nurses with advanced degrees. It can equip students to thrive in the rapidly moving health care industry. It can also help them prepare the next generation of nurses to contribute to improving patient outcomes regardless of where the industry goes.
One of the benefits of a DNP degree is that the skills, knowledge, and perspectives offered through the program’s completion can lead graduates to experience a satisfying career — one that can make a profound difference in people’s lives.
To discover the many benefits of a DNP degree, consider pursuing a BSN to Doctor of Nursing Practice or an MSN to Doctor of Nursing Practice degree from Regis College. In as little as 24-36 months, BSN- and MSN-prepared nurses can complete their online coursework, enabling them to meet DNP requirements, pursue opportunities for career advancement, and possibly qualify as a nurse practitioner.
Learn more about how Regis College’s dedication to social justice, commitment to excellence in education, and reputation for a supportive academic environment can work for you as you reach your advanced practice practitioner goals.
National Institutes of Health, “Clinical Research Nurse Roles”
National Organization of Nurse Practitioner Faculties (NONPF), “The Doctor of Nursing Practice Degree: Entry to Nurse Practitioner Practice by 2025”
PayScale, Average Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS) Salary
PayScale, Average Clinical Research Nurse Salary
PayScale, Average Family Nurse Practitioner (NP) Salary
PayScale, Average Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner Salary
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, Nursing Instructors and Teachers