DNP vs PhD

Side-By-Side Comparison

The following table outlines some of the biggest differences between DNP and PhD in nursing programs. Statistics included represent an average for graduate nursing programs across the U.S. Requirements for any individual program may vary. If you are considering pursuing a DNP or PhD, be sure to investigate requirements specific to each program of interest.

Core Curriculum
  • Translating research evidence into nursing practice
  • Healthcare policy (including budgets, financial management, leadership theory)
  • Cultivating practice expertise
  • Research methodologies
  • Theories of nursing research
  • Faculty development
Applicant Prerequisites Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing (B.S.N.) or Master’s of Science in Nursing (M.S.N.) Some programs require a Master’s degree in nursing while others accept B.S.N. candidates.
Credit Hours Usually between 70-95 for those entering with a Bachelor’s degree. Fewer credits are required for those students who have already obtained a Master’s degree. Around 60 credit hours for those with a Master’s degree, inclusive of dissertation hours.
Clinical Work Yes, sometimes up to 1000 hours Generally minimal
Research Statistics and theory In-depth, faculty-guided research projects
Online Programs Available Yes, some programs are available primarily or totally online Yes, some programs are available primarily or totally online
Final Project Often consists of a clinical paper, presentation, or other practice-based project Dissertation which contributes substantively to the field of nursing, plus dissertation defense
Typical Post-Graduate Employment
  • Leadership in nursing practice
  • Management positions
  • Healthcare policy, administration, or government positions
  • Academia in practice-based nursing programs
  • Nursing researcher
  • Health policy positions
  • Nursing faculty positions
Occupational Demand According to the AACN, demand for nurses educated at the highest levels of practice is growing. The AACN has advocated for more DNP programs and the movement of a D.N.P. requirement (as opposed to the current Master’s degree requirement) for all nurse practitioners in the coming years. The demand for nurses with Ph.D.-level education is high, particularly in academia where waves of retirement are expected to have a major impact on the number of nursing faculty in the next decade (AACN, 2014).
Salary Expectation A recent survey from Nurse Journal found that NPs with a D.N.P. degree earned an average salary of $96,807 per year, making them the highest paid nurse practitioners surveyed. Nurses with Ph.D.s tend to make slightly less than those with D.N.P.s, with an average salary of $95,577 per year (PayScale).