Question: How Long is a BSN to DNP Program?

Answer: This will vary by the student and pathway taken. The length of a program will depend largely on where students seek their DNP education. It will also depend on whether they take an online program, on-campus program, or a combination of the two. Other considerations include the specific path students take to earn their doctorate, the specialization they pursue, and the level of education they already have.

Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) to Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) programs, or BSN-to-DNP programs for short, generally require at least three to four years of full-time study. Full-time MSN-to-DNP programs typically take one to two years to complete.

There are many different kinds of BSN-to-DNP programs offered throughout the country, from part-time to full-time enrollment, either on-campus, online, or as a hybrid of both. This guide explores frequently asked questions about in BSN-to-DNP programs, including program requirements, sub-specializations, and timelines.

BSN to DNP Program Requirements

All BSN-to-DNP programs require students to have earned a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) prior to enrolling. There are, however, other pathways for registered nurses (RNs) who have associates degrees. Typical coursework for a DNP program can include:

  • Advanced Theory and Ethical Issues
  • Epidemiology and Population Health
  • Advanced Statistics for Clinical Practice
  • Business Management and Quality Care
  • Introduction to Adult-gerontology
  • Healthcare Policy and Finance
  • Clinical Prevention
  • Care of Special Populations
  • Advanced Pharmacology
  • Analytical Methods
  • Health Promotion
  • Disease Prevention
  • Advanced Pathophysiology
  • Health Assessment
  • Theoretical Foundations of Nursing
  • Palliative Care
  • Advanced Pharmacology
  • Pathophysiology for Advanced Practice
  • Advanced Assessment and Clinical Reasoning
  • Acute and Episodic Care

Length of BSN to DNP Program: Full-Time vs. Part-Time

The pathway students take to obtain a DNP will determine how long it takes. There are several routes students can take to end up in a DNP program. Those options include a BSN-to-DNP, an MSN-to-DNP, or an RN-to-DNP program. Each of these will take a different length of time to achieve. One of the most significant factors in the length of time required for each will be whether the student is enrolled full-time or part-time.

Registered nurses with a BSN who are looking to pursue a DNP without first completing their MSN can expect to find corresponding programs that require 65 to 95 credits and a minimum of 1,000 clinical practice hours. A full-time BSN-to-DNP program usually takes three to four years, with four or more years being the norm for part-time students. Some students can take up to six or seven years to finish, if programs allow. Depending on the program, students will graduate either with a DNP or with both an MSN and a DNP.

Sample Full-Time Curriculum for a BSN to DNP FNP Program

 
Fall Term
Spring Term
Summer Term
Year 1
  • Orientation
  • Advanced Pathophysiology
  • Foundations of Health Systems and Health Economics
  • Advanced Pharmacology
  • Nursing Inquiry to Support Evidence-Based Practice
  • Social Determinants of Health & Health Equity
  • Adult Nursing Theory I
  • Summer Intensive
  • Research Project
Year 2
  • Epidemiology
  • Maternal and Children Nursing Theory
  • Practicum
  • Adult Nursing Theory II
  • Healthcare Policy
  • Practicum
  • Population-Based Healthcare
  • Healthcare Finance
  • Capstone
Year 3
  • Health Systems, Informatics, and Leadership
  • Practicum
  • Capstone
  • Practicum
  • Capstone
  • Elective
  • Residency
  • Capstone
  • Elective

Sample Part-Time Curriculum for a BSN to DNP FNP Program

 
Fall Term
Spring Term
Summer Term
Year 1
  • Orientation
  • Advanced Pathophysiology
  • Role Development of an APRN
  • Advanced Pharmacology
  • Healthcare Policy
  • Biostatistics
  • Theory Foundation
  • Healthcare Finance
  • Research Project
Year 2
  • Health Systems, Informatics, and Leadership
  • Epidemiology
  • Advanced Health Assessment
  • Elective
  • Adult Nursing Theory I
  • Summer Intensive
Year 3
  • Maternal and Children Nursing Theory
  • Practicum
  • Capstone
  • Adult Nursing Theory II
  • Practicum
  • Population-Based Healthcare
  • Capstone
  • Elective
Year 4
  • Practicum
  • Capstone
  • Practicum
  • Capstone
  • Residency
  • Capstone

BSN to DNP Degree Specializations

This will vary by institution; however, in addition to family health, common specializations include adult-gerontology acute or primary care, neonatal care, psychiatric and mental health, family care, and pediatrics. Sub-specialties can include clinical lipidology, cardiovascular health, and palliative care.

BSN-to-DNP students typically must complete MSN core courses, DNP-specific coursework, and specialization courses that provide preparation for advanced practice within their chosen specialty. In general, BSN-to-DNP programs are available in direct care APRN concentrations and indirect care concentrations, with some specialties requiring more training than others.

Direct care APRN concentrations include:

  • Family Care
  • Adult-gerontology
  • Neonatal Care
  • Certified Midwifery
  • Pediatrics
  • Psychiatric Mental Health
  • Women’s Health

Indirect care concentrations include those areas that focus on:

  • Organizational Leadership
  • Administration
  • Nursing Informatics
  • Healthcare Policy

As a final note, most schools offering a BSN-to-DNP require a GPA of at least 3.0. However, some schools want to see higher GPAs, such as East Carolina University School of Nursing, which asks for a 3.2 GPA; George Washington University, which requires 3.3 or higher; and Saint Louis University, which requires at least a 3.5 GPA. That said, students can find programs that do not require minimum GPAs, such as the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville.

For more information about online FNP programs at the doctoral level, please visit the Complete Guide to DNP Programs.