As an aging baby boomer population begins to require greater care, the healthcare industry has started seeing greater demand for services across the board, especially in regards to nursing. And as baby boomer healthcare professionals get ready to retire, they’re vacating high-level leadership positions around the nation, leaving openings for the next generation of experienced nurses to step up and take charge.

For nurses who’ve completed their MSN degrees and are eager to continue advancing their careers, it’s an opportune moment to complete a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree in order to develop the skills needed to pursue those leadership roles. Like a PhD, a DNP is the highest level of nursing degree that one can obtain. But while a PhD is oriented toward academic research, DNP careers tend to be hands-on healthcare leadership roles. DNP careers can take on many forms: in clinical practice in a hospital or doctor’s office; in hospital administration or systems management; or in the political sector in legislative advocacy or policymaking.

A DNP degree opens up a world of possibilities for graduates, who will emerge with the skills and experience they need to grow professionally within the healthcare sector.

nursing meeting with hospital stakeholders

Industries Hiring DNP Graduates

Many people aren’t aware of areas a DNP can work in aside from clinical care. But in the complicated world of healthcare policy, DNP graduates’ combination of clinical experience, research knowledge, and systems thinking skills makes them a tremendous asset in all kinds of roles. DNPs may work in the following fields:

  • Government
  • Advocacy
  • Hospitals or doctors’ offices
  • Private-sector healthcare organizations
  • Academia
  • Management or consulting

Popular Careers for DNP Degree Graduates

While many DNPs do work directly with patients, many others do not, dealing instead with higher-level decision-making or policy. The following are some of the most popular positions among DNP graduates. It is important to note that while a DNP degree can help to prepare a healthcare professional for the process of pursuing more advanced healthcare positions, additional training and/or certifications may be required for employment. Additionally, many advanced positions also require significant experience.

(For nursing professionals hoping to pursue an advanced career as a nurse practitioner, NP certification in a specific discipline of nursing must also be obtained alongside a DNP degree)

Family Nurse Practitioner

Family nurse practitioners work with patients of all ages and perform many of the same duties as physicians, including diagnosing and treating common medical issues and prescribing medications. They are often a patient’s first point of contact within the medical system, referring patients to specialists when necessary. They often work in a cooperative practice alongside doctors.
After earning a DNP-NP, and the relevant certification, graduates may be qualified to work as family nurse practitioners, though they may be required to complete a residency or internship first. The median salary for an FNP is $89,043, though that number climbs closer to $99,000 after 10 years of experience. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the outlook for nurse practitioner jobs as a whole (though not FNPs specifically) is very strong — they’re expected to grow by 36 percent between 2016 and 2026.

Skills recommended to succeed:

  • Communication
  • Critical thinking
  • Leadership
  • Attention to detail

Adult Nurse Practitioner

Like FNPs, adult nurse practitioners provide general care, though they work with only adults. ANPs often work in clinics or in hospitals, usually for 12-hour shifts and alongside a supervisor and medical staff. ANPs focus primarily on preventive care, performing health assessments, and on helping patients develop a plan to manage their acute or chronic conditions. They can also specialize in particular areas, such as oncology, pain management, orthopedics, or acute care.

Adult nurse practitioner is one of the most commonly pursued DNP careers. ANPs earn an average salary of $95,000, a figure that can rise higher with experience or according to specialization. Though specific growth data isn’t available for ANPs, the BLS predicts that nurse practitioner positions generally will rise 36 percent between 2016 and 2026.

Skills recommended to succeed:

  • Compassion
  • Interpersonal communication skills
  • Attention to detail
  • Resourcefulness

Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner

Psychiatric nurse practitioners help patients recover from or learn to manage psychiatric disorders, such as ADHD, substance abuse, mood disorders, or schizophrenia. They often work alongside psychiatrists, carrying out evaluations before and after care to monitor patients’ progress, administering medications, and communicating with patients about how a treatment is working. Since communicating with both psychiatrists and patients is a huge part of the job, it’s important that PNPs have strong communication and interpersonal skills.

A DNP degree with a specialization in psychiatric nursing qualifies students for psychiatric nurse practitioner roles. PNPs earn an average of $97,800 per year but can earn closer to $110,000 with 10 to 20 years of experience. Specific growth data for PNPs isn’t available, but nurse practitioners as a whole are expected to see 36 percent growth from 2016 to 2026.

Skills recommended to succeed:

  • Interpersonal communication skills
  • Empathy
  • Research skills
  • Patience

College / University Professor

Some DNP graduates choose to pursue careers teaching the next generation of nurses at colleges or universities. As a professor, your role may include performing research, publishing research findings, staying up to date on research developments, supervising graduate students, preparing and teaching courses, grading exams and papers, and advising students.

Professors of nursing earn a median salary of $78,300. Teaching nursing is among the most common DNP careers, and the BLS projects that nursing professor positions will grow by 24 percent between 2016 and 2026.

Skills recommended to succeed:

  • Strong verbal and written communication skills
  • Critical thinking skills
  • Research skills
  • Leadership skills

Chief Nursing Officer (CNO)

Chief nursing officers generally work in hospitals, directing nursing activities in accordance with hospital procedures. They execute strict safety policies to ensure that patients are protected, and they work with hospital leadership to develop innovative patient care strategies and make changes to existing procedures. On a day-to-day basis, a CNO’s duties include managing staff levels, developing and executing emergency plans, overseeing budgets, and planning for supplies and equipment purchases. They also participate in nursing training and direct orientation and educational programs.

CNOs are expected to have at least master’s-level training in nursing, although a DNP degree would make one an especially appealing candidate for CNO positions. On average, CNOs earn a salary of $124,000. According to the BLS, healthcare manager positions as a whole are expected to grow by 20 percent from 2016 to 2026.

Skills recommended to succeed:

  • Leadership skills
  • Strong written and oral communication skills
  • Attention to detail
  • Organizational skills

Healthcare Organization CEO

Another possible DNP career is CEO of a healthcare organization. While many CEOs arrive at the job from a more traditional corporate background, healthcare organizations often favor candidates with a medical background or an advanced degree, such as a DNP. As a CEO, you’re responsible for overseeing all aspects of an organization, including staff, finances, and strategic planning. The CEO works closely with stakeholders and other business leaders, gathering outside perspectives and expertise, but is responsible for making the ultimate decisions.

CEO salaries vary significantly according to the type and size of the organization, but the average salary is around $164,000. That high salary makes CEO positions appealing to many qualified applicants, so competition is stiff. The BLS estimates the CEO positions will actually decrease by 4 percent between 2016 and 2026.

Skills recommended to succeed:

  • Leadership skills
  • Interpersonal skills
  • Communication skills
  • Strategic planning skills

Director of Nursing Services

A director of nursing services (DONS), also called a director of clinical services, oversees a team of nursing staff, other clinical professionals, and office staff. The DONS is responsible for supervising, training, and providing continuing education for staff. The DONS also develops budgets, ensures that the company complies with the law, and oversees the auditing of clinical services and records. The DONS may oversee a specific department, such as oncology or mental health, and reports to the CNO.

Directors of nursing services are expected to have at least a master’s degree, but a DNP degree will give prospective candidates an edge. The average salary for a DONS is $85,000. The BLS doesn’t calculate job growth for DONS specifically, but it projects that healthcare manager roles in general will grow by 20 percent between 2016 and 2026.

Skills recommended to succeed:

  • Ability to delegate effectively
  • Attention to detail
  • Interpersonal communication
  • Systems-level Thinking

Chief Nurse Anesthetist

A chief nurse anesthetist, or CRNA, coordinates and supervises anesthetic procedures. The CRNA administers anesthesia to patients, often alongside a team that includes an anesthesiologist. CRNAs perform health assessments on patients, inform patients about their procedures, determine the type and quantity of anesthesia to administer, and monitor and adjust anesthesia during procedures.

CRNAs possess strong leadership skills, taking charge of optimizing patient outcomes and meeting performance benchmarks. They also need to be strong communicators, ensuring patient satisfaction and facilitating communication among other nurses. Furthermore, CRNAs help coach other nurses in best practices and ethical concerns.

A master’s degree plus work experience is the minimum requirement for this position, but a DNP degree would make you an even more qualified candidate. CRNAs earn an average salary of around $164,000 — which explains why CRNA is among the most highly sought-after DNP careers.

Skills recommended to succeed:

  • Effective communication
  • Compassion
  • Organization
  • Ability to work under pressure

Certified Nurse Midwife

Certified nurse midwives are involved in labor and birth at every stage of the process: family planning counseling and gynecological care, prenatal care, labor and delivery, and newborn care. Certified nurse midwives can work in a range of settings, including hospitals, clinics, private practices, public health departments, and even homes.

While a BSN degree was once considered the minimum requirement, it’s now commonly expected that candidates will have at least a master’s degree, if not a DNP degree. Many DNP programs now offer midwifery tracks to prepare graduates for leadership roles at the highest levels of midwifery.

Certified nurse midwives earn an average salary of $88,990. The BLS estimates that nurse midwife positions will increase at a rate of 21 percent from 2016 to 2026.

Skills recommended to succeed:

  • Interpersonal communication
  • Attention to detail
  • Ability to handle high-stress situations
  • Empathy

Health Policy Analyst

A health policy analyst works for an institution, such as a government institution, nonprofit organization, political action committee, or community group, helping to develop and analyze strategies related to health policy. The analyst uses data and research to show the effects of current policies on various demographic groups and determines the likely effects of prospective policies. The analyst might use advanced statistical analysis and modeling to evaluate the effects of health policies on communities.

While a health policy analyst may not be a position most people associate with DNP degrees, the chance to influence health policy makes it one of the most interesting possible DNP careers. For DNP graduates with a particular passion for helping improve patient outcomes by getting involved in healthcare policy, a policy analyst position might be the perfect fit.

Many health policy analysts enter the field with a master’s degree in public health, but DNP graduates have a unique combination of clinical experience, policy knowledge, and research skills that makes them compelling candidates for analyst roles. Health policy analysts make around $60,000 per year, though the salary varies depending on the employer.

Skills recommended to succeed:

  • Research & data analysis
  • Systems-level thinking
  • Interpersonal communication
  • Public speaking

A DNP degree can help students learn some of the skills they will need to pursue a wide range of advanced healthcare positions, including specialized advanced nursing careers, administrative leadership positions, policy roles, and academic positions. All of these DNP careers offer the opportunity to improve patients’ lives and make healthcare better, whether by leading other nurses, educating future nurses, or influencing health policy. They’re not only exciting and rewarding careers — they’re also among the fastest-growing and best-compensated careers in the healthcare field. And even in those careers where a DNP degree isn’t a minimum requirement, the skills and experience that a DNP program provides put graduates in a prime position to excel professionally.

If you’re looking to lead at the highest level, consider Maryville University’s online DNP program. This program can start you down the path towards learning the practical skills and clinical expertise necessary to impact and influence patient care.

Now that you understand these potential career paths with a DNP degree, read on to learn more about the differences between a nurse practitioner vs doctor.

Sources:

https://online.maryville.edu/online-doctorate-degrees/doctor-nursing-practice/

https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes291171.htm

https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/nurse-anesthetists-nurse-midwives-and-nurse-practitioners.htm

https://www.bls.gov/ooh/management/medical-and-health-services-managers.htm

https://www.bls.gov/ooh/management/top-executives.htm/