Working professionals in the nursing field can earn an online Doctor of Nursing Practice as a way to improve their career options, but most nurses need to seriously consider their return on investment before choosing a program. It’s important to determine the average cost of a DNP program versus how much more you can make, and how much more satisfied you’ll be with your job. Less expensive options are out there if you know where to look.
Some schools offer a Doctor of Nursing Practice program for $50,000 or more. This cost gets intimidating for a working nurse with family obligations. Before making a decision on which DNP program to enroll in, consider some of the most affordable options out there.
Our editors first ranked DNP online programs in November 2022. This ranking was updated March 2024.
Our Method: Ranking the Most Affordable Online DNP Programs
Cost isn’t everything, but for the Best Health Degrees ranking of the most affordable online DNP programs, it is the primary factor in putting programs in order. However, to make the cut, all programs featured must be accredited, trusted by employers in the field, and recognized for their quality and career impact. Here’s a list of the top 10 most affordable DNP programs online, ranked according to raw affordability.
|Georgia Southern University
|New Mexico State University
|Las Cruces, NM
|Texas Woman’s University
|University of Texas Medical Branch
|East Carolina University
|Southern Illinois University
|Indiana State University
|Terre Haute, IN
|East Tennessee State University
|Johnson City, TN
|University of Tennessee
|University of Texas in Arlington
1. Georgia Southern University
Georgia Southern University provides an affordable online DNP degree program to students looking to complete their education by earning the highest degree possible, their doctorate in nursing practice. Students with an APRN license and MSN degree can enroll in this program and continue their education. This degree program is designed to provide students what they need to succeed as professionals in their field, whether it be hands-on clinical patient care or as an administrator at a healthcare facility. GSU offers the most affordable online DNP program in the southeast United States.
GSU has an established track record of offering effective and reputable degree programs to the nursing students it serves. Students who enroll in one of the school’s DNP programs are able to work full-time, care for their families, and still continue to pursue the degree they need to move forward with their career.
- Both synchronous and asynchronous classes
- Diverse elective areas, including Business and Public Health
- Pathways to professional state licensures and certifications
- Summer entry terms
- Minimum 3.0 GPA for admission consideration
- Prerequisite statistics course
2. New Mexico State University
New Mexico State University offers online DNP programs that provide graduates of BSN/MSN programs the coursework needed to complete an education and advance within chosen careers. Students learn the skills and protocols necessary to not only manage a nursing operation but also adhere to the highest standards of care in terms of treating patients and meeting their needs. DNP programs are designed to be affordable and accessible to students who attend online or in the classroom.
NMSU is well-known for its reputable faculty and quality educational degree programs. Their online degree is affordable and allows students who may not be able to attend a classroom setting an opportunity to get the degree they need to excel in their chosen career. Students are guaranteed the resources and tools they need to complete their education in a timely fashion.
- Clinical practicum experiences
- Focus on rural health and health disparities
- Multiple DNP degree plans
- New concentration option in Nurse Anesthesiology
- 2-day on-campus orientation commitment
- Higher out-of-state tuition
3. Texas Woman’s University
Texas Woman’s University offers an affordable online DNP degree program that is designed to allow advanced practice nurses an opportunity to further their education and receive their Doctorate. This degree will provide nurses with the necessary education to act as experts in their field, evaluating practices and integrating different levels of primary and acute care for the patients they serve. The concepts of both professionalism and compassion go hand in hand and are part of every DNP program. TWU has one of the most affordable online DNP programs in the state of Texas.
Texas Woman’s University has a long-standing tradition of providing quality educational programs to its students. It offers affordable course programs with both online and classroom options. Students are provided access to some of the best educators in the area as well as the extensive list of resources offered by the University. The goal is to provide each student with the highest quality education in a format that is both accessible and affordable.
- Affordable in-state tuition for Texas residents
- Evidence-based practice curriculum
- 540 practicum hours required
- 100% online program
- Scholarly project required to graduate
- 1,000 clinical hours
4. University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston
The University of Texas Medical Branch has designed an affordable online DNP degree program for students who want to advance their careers by receiving their doctorate. Students who choose to attend the university receive the knowledge and abilities needed to effectively provide the highest level of care to patients in their care as well as the skills needed to manage a staff of nurses in a professional and competent manner. By offering one of the most affordable online DNP programs available, UTMB ensures each student gets a quality education without the high price tag.
UTMB offers students an advanced education taught by some of the most well-respected instructors in the business. The school has innovative technology along with other valuable resources that make it possible for students who are working full-time to attend college and earn the degree they need to be successful.
- Clinical practice experiences
- Dedicated faculty advisors
- Focus on health equity and diverse populations
- Only 8 semesters and 16 courses
- Small class sizes (even online)
- Licensure requirements for admission
- Minimum GPA of 3.0
5. East Carolina University
East Carolina University offers an affordable online DNP degree program for students who want to receive their doctorate and pursue a career in either management or advanced patient care. Each DNP degree program offers students state-of-the-art technology and the resources they need to work in any type of environment, including rural areas where qualified nursing candidates are lacking. The school also offers mentorship and personalized class plans that can help students complete their projects and gain additional hands-on experience. East Carolina University offers one of the most affordable DNP online degree programs along the east coast.
ECU is well-known for offering students advanced programs that offer a solid curriculum backed up with state-of-the-art technology. Students who attend the university get to choose either classroom-based learning or an online degree program that will allow them to continue to work while finishing up their degree.
- Assistance with clinical site placements
- Faculty mentorships
- Focus on rural, underserved populations
- Personalized curriculum and class plans
- Simulation laboratories
- Higher out-of-state tuition
6. Southern Illinois University Edwardsville
Southern Illinois University Edwardsville offers an affordable DNP online degree program developed for returning students with the advanced education they need to gain an advantage in their careers. The university offers innovative technology combined with coursework guaranteed to provide students with what you need to work as a professional in their field. Each student’s degree program is tailored to meet your unique needs. The school has one of the most affordable online DNP programs in the Midwest.
SIU has a reputation for offering online degree programs that are second to none in the DNP category. The school prides itself on offering the latest technology as well as having the most in-depth coursework available. Their online courses offer students the degree they need, while they continue to work and support their families.
- 100% pass rate for national board exams
- In-state tuition
- Four specialization areas
- State-of-the-art technology
- Limited number of transfer credits accepted (up to 15)
- Stringent admission requirements (minimum 3.0 GPA, 3.5 preferred)
7. Indiana State University
Indiana State University has an affordable online DNP degree program for students looking to earn their doctor of nursing practice degree. The online program offers material needed to excel in advanced medical practices as well as to manage a staff of nurses in a professional capacity. The DNP degree program includes courses that discuss all aspects of nursing, including ethics, advanced patient care, and directives on how to effectively manage digital records and files. ISU is well-known for offering some of the most affordable online DNP degree programs available in the Midwest.
ISU faculty members have years of experience and are capable of guiding students so they can graduate confident they have succeeded in reaching their goal. Indiana State continues to be a leader in its field when it comes to affordable online DNP degree programs.
- ACEN-accredited program
- Diverse selection of courses
- Scholarships and financial aid assistance
- Supervised clinical experience
- 1,000 post-baccalaureate clinical/practicum hours requirement
8. East Tennessee State University
East Tennessee State University offers an affordable online DNP degree program to its students who want to receive their doctorate but prefer to do it in their own time. The University offers specialized classes to ensure each student has the knowledge and the skills they need to provide advanced care to their patients and effectively manage their team of nurses. Quality courses and innovative technology go hand in hand to provide students the education they need to succeed. East Tennessee State University provides its students with one of the most affordable online DNP degree programs in the state.
East Tennessee State University is one of the best schools in Tennessee for online, undergraduate and post-graduate education. The school strives to provide each student with the best possible learning opportunities. Students who need to remain on the job to support their families, can now complete their education and explore new avenues for advancement in their chosen career.
- Diverse curriculum and courses
- Four concentration areas
- Practicum in an interprofessional experience
- Top 100 DNP programs with U.S. News and World Report
- Blended online program
- Required intensive sessions 1-2 times each semester
9. University of Tennessee Chattanooga
The University of Tennessee in Chattanooga offers an affordable online DNP degree program to students who wish to pursue their doctorate degree in nursing practice. If you have earned an MSN degree, you can return to the University of Tennessee to complete your education by choosing the online DNP degree program. It offers specialized classes that focus on advanced nursing and management skills so that you can move forward in your career. UT has in place one of the most affordable online DNP degree programs available in the area for those who want to earn their doctorate.
UT is well-known for the quality of its educational programs. Now, with their online degree programs, students can earn their degree while they continue to gain experience through their job. Online programs move along at the student’s own pace ensuring you move forward in your career goals with confidence.
- 2 online concentrations available
- Evidence-based project requirement
- MBA option alongside the DNP
- 1,000 clinical hours required
- Clinical residency requirement
10. University of Texas Arlington
The University of Texas in Arlington offers affordable online DNP programs for students ready to return to school to finish their education. The online DNP degree programs utilize innovative technology and a wide variety of resources that make your online learning experience convenient and easy to follow. Reputable faculty members are easily accessed allowing students the opportunity to ask questions and receive the answers students need in a short period of time.
UT works diligently to develop online degree programs that provide each student with what they need to succeed. Through well-known faculty members to state-of-the-art technology, each student who graduates from the university can feel confident knowing they have the education they need to fit in among other professionals in the nursing field.
- Dedicated academic advisors
- Diverse courses and programming
- Innovative technology for online students
- Year-round program finishes in 6 semesters
- Competitive admission
- Minimum of 1,000 clinical hours required
Frequently Asked Questions
Accredited online DNP programs are as good as their traditionally delivered counterparts. Many reputable institutions offer rigorous and accredited online DNP programs. They prepare you with the skills and knowledge you need to work in this growing industry.
To determine if a DNP is financially worth it, look at the job outlook. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a 38% growth in jobs for nurse anesthetists, nurse midwives, and nurse practitioners through 2032. This is about 29,200 new openings for NPs each year, on average, for the next decade. Average pay exceeds $125,000/year. Because jobs are plentiful and high-paying, getting a DNP can be worth it financially.
It depends on the program, but the average time to get a DNP is 3 to 4 years of full-time study. Some programs offer accelerated options, allowing students to complete the DNP in a shorter timeframe. However, program lengths can vary among institutions.
The more education you have, the more money you can make as a nurse practitioner. Pay varies by factors like experience, location, and specialty. In some cases, having a DNP can lead to higher pay due to advanced education and leadership roles, but it’s not 100% guaranteed.
The highest paid DNP is a nurse anesthetist. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, nurse anesthetists make $203,090/year, on average. These highly specialized nurse practitioners make the most money working in hospitals and outpatient care centers.
Earning a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) online can open up different career opportunities in advanced clinical practice, leadership, education, and research. DNP graduates pursue roles as:
• Clinical leaders
• Nurse executives
• Nurse practitioners
Most DNP programs require a scholarly project, while others expect a traditional research-based thesis. Scholarly projects are the norm, but there are some programs that specifically want a quality improvement project that addresses a real-world healthcare issue.
The Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) typically does not require a traditional dissertation as seen in Ph.D. programs. Instead, DNP programs require a final project, which may take the form of a scholarly project, a capstone project, or a quality improvement project. This project is designed to demonstrate advanced nursing practice and contribute to the field.