Why Get a DNP Degree? Key Benefits and Outcomes

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The health care industry is projected to experience strong growth in coming years. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects 52% growth in the nurse practitioner field between 2020 and 2030, well above the average of all professions’ projected 4% growth during the same period. Earning an advanced nursing degree can lead to a broader range of job opportunities. While some of these positions may be attainable with a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN), a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) can provide students with the advanced skill set and knowledge to pursue more competitive career paths in the field.

Why Should Nurses Get a DNP?

A DNP does more than potentially unlock high-level opportunities that may not be open to nursing professionals with only an MSN. The degree, which commonly takes about two years to complete, can prepare students to become instruments of change and innovation in a complex industry. A DNP helps professionals make sense of the constant changes in health care, ultimately allowing them to develop industry-shaping strategies that can help facilities deliver high-quality health care that improves patient outcomes.

Interest in earning a DNP has grown as the industry evolves: According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, the number of students enrolled in DNP programs nationwide increased from 32,678 to 36,069 between 2018 and 2019.

A group of smiling health care professionals.

Benefits of a DNP

A DNP degree offers several benefits that can shape an individual’s health care career, opening new opportunities, building on specialized knowledge, and improving performance.

The advanced skills students hone in a DNP program help nursing professionals become innovative practitioners adept at tackling health care’s complex problems and challenges. The degree can potentially open doors to more lucrative positions and may also allow graduates to become leaders in one of the world’s most vital industries.

Advanced Skill Development

Earning a DNP may help nurses build upon the skills acquired during an MSN program. Additionally, the DNP’s advanced curriculum can allow students to further develop their expertise in specific concentrations or career specialties they may have pursued in a master’s program, such as the pediatric nurse practitioner or adult-gerontology nurse practitioner track. Sharpening these skills in a DNP program also provides a more complete understanding of the business of health care, such as mastering different organizational and economic competencies required for senior-level roles. Together, these skills may help qualify students for unique executive opportunities, roles that combine the compassion of nursing practice with a foundation in corporate guidance.

The advanced skills acquired in a DNP program may also have a significant impact on a practical clinical level. DNP graduates can gain expertise in advanced clinical techniques that other nursing or medical professionals may not be able to undertake. In some cases, knowledge of these techniques may do more than improve patient outcomes — it could help save lives.


Many of the roles that DNPs can pursue are high-level leadership positions that allow them to manage various aspects of the health care process. Leadership responsibilities could range from overseeing the nurses who deliver patient care to being involved in running a facility’s operations in an executive role, such as chief nursing officer (CNO). A DNP equips students with the ability to lead others with confidence. Strong leaders can motivate and inspire others to carry out a facility’s health care strategies and improve patient outcomes.


Teaching the next generation of nurses to be effective leaders in health care is crucial. A DNP can provide graduates with the knowledge and skills needed to effectively navigate the industry and provide guidance to nursing professionals. Mentorship can not only help improve nurses’ job performance but also increase the quality of care they provide to patients.


A DNP can equip graduates with a heightened ability to break down complex health care situations. These professionals can make smart, informed decisions that can provide short-term benefits to a facility and its health care strategies while still keeping long-term goals in sight. Ultimately, the ability to efficiently assess difficult scenarios and find innovative solutions can go a long way toward helping a health care facility operate efficiently.


DNP graduates may have opportunities to use their expert clinical knowledge to conduct research projects that can have a positive impact on care delivery. Because of the practice-based nature of most DNP-associated roles, these professionals may also be in a position to immediately use their research findings to inform their own health care strategies.


The rise of information technology (IT) has positively impacted health care in several ways, from facilitating the development of health care strategies to improving doctor-patient interactions. DNP graduates who develop an advanced understanding of informatics can help guide nurses in using IT solutions to enhance clinical and proactive care for their patients.

Median Salary for DNPs

Because of the strong projected job growth for nurse practitioners in the next decade, DNP graduates will likely have ample opportunity to pursue advanced nursing roles. When weighing reasons to get a DNP, it’s worth considering that these positions also usually offer higher earning potential. According to PayScale, the median annual salary for individuals with a DNP degree was approximately $105,000 as of August 2021, while those with an MSN degree earned a median annual salary of $97,000. While factors such as location, experience, and specific career all affect salaries, a DNP can lead to significant economic opportunities.

Career Opportunities

Earning a DNP has the potential to open professionals to a host of leadership and executive-level health care positions, including some roles that may not be accessible with only an MSN. These roles can put individuals in a unique position to directly influence care delivery in meaningful, tangible ways.

Medical and Health Services Manager

Medical and health services managers coordinate a facility’s care delivery services to run at optimal efficiency. This includes developing department goals, preparing budgets and managing finances, ensuring legal compliance, and supervising staff. Those in the role may oversee an entire facility or a specific department, depending on an organization’s size. The BLS states that the median annual salary of the profession was $104,280 as of May 2020.

Nurse Practitioner

Nurse practitioners, also known as advanced practice registered nurses, coordinate patient care through a wide range of activities, including patient observation, patient diagnosis, and treatment strategy development. In states that offer full prescriptive authority, nurse practitioners can also prescribe medications independently. Many nurse practitioners specialize in a specific patient demographic or aspect of care, such as pediatrics, women’s health, or psychiatric mental health. Nurse practitioners earned a median annual salary of $111,690 as of May 2020, according to the BLS.

Clinical Nurse Specialist

Clinical nurse specialists can coordinate forms of patient care, but their duties often expand into other vital areas, such as clinical research, nurse education, and care delivery evaluation. They also ensure that facilities use best practices to deliver quality, evidence-based care to their patients. PayScale reports that the median annual salary for clinical nurse specialists was approximately $91,900 as of August 2021.

Chief Nursing Officer

CNOs are C-suite executives who maintain a health care facility’s care delivery standards. They oversee the implementation of nursing strategies, coordinate the establishment and execution of patient care and operational guidelines, and advise on the application of health care technology. Additionally, they may act as liaisons between nurses and physicians to ensure communication and cohesion. According to the BLS, chief executives, including CNOs, earned a median annual salary of $185,950 as of May 2020.

Earn an Industry-Shaping Degree

A DNP does more than provide you with the skills and knowledge to land a well-paying job — it can help make you a leader in a critical field.

Regis College’s MSN to DNP online program can help prepare nursing professionals to become leaders in nurse education and patient care, and to help shape future policies and procedures. Find out how Regis College can help prepare you for your future in nursing.


Recommended Readings

Benefits of Earning a DNP Degree

Career Outlook: How to Become a Nurse Educator

What Can I Do with a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP)



American Association of Colleges of Nursing, DNP Fact Sheet

American Association of Nurse Practitioners, State Practice Environment

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

Houston Chronicle, “Function & Responsibilities of a Chief Nurse”

PayScale, Average Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS) Salary

PayScale, Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) Degree

PayScale, Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) Degree

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, Top Executives

WebMD, What Is a Clinical Nurse Specialist?