If you’re a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) or Master of Science (MSN) graduate, then you might be looking toward the next phase of your career. Boosting a career in nursing, however, requires more than just clinical experience.

For example, many nurses who are looking to move into a leadership role or higher education are required to earn a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP). This offers BSNs and MSNs additional credentials to move directly into managerial positions in healthcare and the ability to teach the next generation of nurses.

If you’re looking to advance your career or make a much needed shift, you’ll need to consider the costs associated with DNP programs, and research the paths to financing this advanced level of education.

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Average Cost of a DNP Program

While the costs of nursing degrees vary, NurseJournal estimates that the average cost of a DNP program ranges anywhere from $40,000 to $70,000, though students pursuing DNP programs no doubt recognize the high earning potential of the careers ahead of them.

In fact, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), while RNs earn an average annual salary of nearly $80,000, advanced-level nurses like NPs and nurse anesthetists can earn upwards of $110,000. With this in mind, the costs of attaining a DNP, while high, is well worth the investment.

Despite these promising numbers, there are several factors that can impact the cost of a DNP program. If you’re serious about advancing your career, consider the numerous factors that can affect the cost of this additional education.

Factors Impacting the Cost of a DNP Program

While the cost of DNP programs vary, so do the factors that impact it. Factors like an individual’s level of education or highest earned degree, type of institution, and whether the curriculum is virtual or in-person can greatly impact the overall cost of a DNP program path.

Current Degree Level

The level of education each student brings to their DNP journey can greatly influence the overall cost of their DNP experience. “If you’re taking a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) to DNP approach, as opposed to say a BSN to DNP approach, you’re going to see reduced costs,” says Dr. Donna Barry, director of the DNP on-campus programs at Regis College. “If you’re heading into your DNP program having already taken some of those courses required for your MSN degree, you will definitely see lower costs.”

According to NurseJournal, BSN graduates may need 60-80 credits to complete their DNP program, as opposed to MSN students who may only need an additional 35-50 credits. With the discrepancy in credits required to successfully complete a DNP degree, a lower cost for advanced students should be expected.

In-Person vs. Virtual Learning

The type of program a student enrolls in also determines the price tag of a DNP degree. Naturally, the costs associated with completing a program solely online are less than an in-person setting. With virtual course materials, and no location-based costs, these online courses are an option for students who are searching for a more cost effective path to their DNP. Some students, however, are hands-on learners, and need an on-site course of study to succeed. These students should anticipate higher costs associated with their in-person learning experience.

School of Choice

While most DNP programs help nurses elevate their career, no two programs are exactly the same. Each degree program has its own set of faculty, academic resources, and funding which creates different tuition costs. It’s estimated that most DNP degrees cost, on average, $561 per credit through a public institution, $968 per-credit for out-of-state-students, and $1,024 per credit through a private school.

These average costs per credit are particularly important to consider depending on where you are in your academic journey. For example, a DNP can cost between $20,000 and $40,000 for a post-master’s program (Post-MSN to DNP) and between $40,000 and $75,000 for the longer post-bachelor’s option (BSN to DNP).

Is a DNP Degree Worth the Investment?

Looking at the possible price tag of a DNP degree, you might wonder if it’s worth the investment. According to Dr. Barry, however, a DNP “prepares students for high-paying positions.” This observation is backed up with both the current job market of career outcomes of DNP graduates, as well as the long-term industry outlook.

According to government data, the annual median salary of job postings that require a DNP is $124,800. And while Dr. Barry acknowledges that taking on an additional $40,000 to $70,000 of student loan debt isn’t possible for everyone, she reminds students that with considerably high-paying careers ahead, repayment of that debt is almost guaranteed.

If you’re concerned about the additional costs that come with earning a DNP degree, consider enrolling in a program that offers financial assistance options for its nursing students. For example, Regis College has a loan forgiveness program, called the Nurse Faculty Loan Program (NFLP), that removes some of the financial burden of prospective nurse educators by giving them up to $35,000 per year for up to five years. In addition, these students may also cancel up to 85 percent of their total DNP-related loans in exchange for teaching in their nursing program.

Another thing to consider is that some schools offer tuition discounts for graduate study to students who work for specific employers. These kinds of partnerships benefit the employer and the employee, and provide tuition discounts that can range between 10 to 25 percent.

Enroll in a DNP Degree

Ultimately, BSN graduates or master’s-level nurses looking to enter the world of leadership or academia will need to decide for themselves if a DNP is the right choice. A DNP degree on your resume is an incredible advantage in today’s highly competitive healthcare job market. It indicates a candidate is skilled, informed, and dedicated to going above and beyond in their field. In short, nurses armed with a DNP find themselves uniquely qualified to manage and positively impact the health and well-being of their patients in whichever specialty and setting they choose.

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