DNP vs NP | 4 Main Differences

DNP vs NP – Overview

Hundreds of aspiring nursing students every year get stumped when deciding between a DNP and an NP.

To put it in a few words, a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) is a terminal degree in nursing, while an NP is a nursing career or occupation.

This article is meant to resolve this confusion.

Difference between DNP and NP

There are several acronyms in nursing that often lead to confusion. DNP programs are meant to train experienced, licensed nurses, which includes NPs.

These professionals are trained in leadership or certain advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) jobs.

In simple words, a DNP degree is the path to take for registered nurses (RN) and NPs to boost their nursing careers. A DNP is not a career in itself.

To be an NP, you will require experience as an RN along with a post-bachelor degree.

Although many RNs choose to pursue a Master of Science degree in Nursing (MSN) to become NPs, you can also enroll in a DNP program with an MSN or a BSN degree.

Top 4 Major Differences | DNP vs NP


DNP vs. NP – Top 4 Major Differences | DNP vs. NP

Here are the major differences between a DNP and NP:

Years of Education

For those who have an NP with an MSN degree, the BSN to MSN path takes 2 years full-time and around 3 to more than 4 years in the part-time program.

For those looking to take the RN/AND to MSN path, the course takes around 3 to 5 years in full-time and over 5 years in the part-time program.

For those who have an NP with a DNP degree, the MSN to DNP path involves enrolling in either a 1 to 2 years full-time program or a 2 to more than 3 years long part-time program.

For those seeking a BSN to DNP path, the program duration will be between 3 to 4 years in full-time and around 4 to more than 7 years in part-time programs.


For those pursuing an NP with an MSN degree, the average annual salary ranges between US$ 80,670 and US$ 182,750.

The specific salary range will depend on the specialty, experience, education and work environment.

For those pursuing NP with a DNP degree, the average annual salary is between US$ 83,000 and US$ 182,000, again depending on the specific specialty, work environment, education and experience.

After completing your DNP this way, you can also choose to advance your career as a Chief Nursing Officer and similar higher-level roles.


For those pursuing an NP with an MSN degree, there are multiple choices of specialization, including adult care (ANP), acute care (ACNP), neonatal care (NNP), family care (FNP), oncology, nephrology, orthopedics, pulmonology, women’s health (WHN), pediatric care (PNP), etc.

For those pursuing NP with a DNP degree, you have the same range of specialization as previous, along with additional ones, such as certified nurse-midwife or nurse administrator.

Career Prospects for DNP vs. NP

If compared, the NP field is more promising in terms of employee demand in the healthcare industry. Reports expect to see an impressive 36% increase in NP positions by 2026.

There is a growing demand for healthcare services, thanks to the willingness of states to let NPs provide the majority of medical services.

Thus, it is quite common now to see NP staff administering patient care in outpatient and urgent care facilities.

As most nurses with advanced degrees have an MSN, a DNP degree is an excellent way for an NP or RN to boost their career prospects and become an outstanding candidate.

In addition, a DNP may also help to pursue more fruitful and lucrative leadership positions in the nursing field.

A DNP degree can also help you to become a nurse administrator or a chief nursing officer, which was earlier available only to NPs with an MSN degree.

Overall, there are several factors, such as years of education, job options, and earning potential, which eventually help students get an NP or an NP with a DNP degree.


We hope that this article helped us understand the stark difference between a DNP and an NP.

If you are aspiring to advance your nursing career, then it is highly recommended to pursue an NP with a DNP degree.

See Also

Online DNP Programs

Florida Board of Nursing

Texas Board of Nursing

Ohio Board of Nursing

How to Deal With Rude Patients

Types of Nurses

Malpractice Insurance for Nurses


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