Online Doctor of Nursing Practice

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What Can You Do with a Doctorate in Nursing?

As healthcare evolves, nurse practitioners and those with a doctorate of nursing practice (DNP) degree have more opportunities to work as independent healthcare providers and in leadership. Nurses with a doctorate lead the way in healthcare and take an active role in shaping the future of healthcare in this country at the policy, organizational, site and patient care levels. They have the clinical skills and knowledge to manage and implement changes to improve caregiving and patient outcomes.

Higher education opportunities for nurse practitioners have developed rapidly over the past few years. The number of nurses pursuing DNP degrees to begin an advanced practice is also increasing.  Just like any other degree, the DNP can open the road to many career opportunities.

Female Doctor of Nursing Practice wearing mask

Educate the Next Generation

People who are considering a DNP might wonder, “What can you do with a doctorate in nursing?”

DNPs who thrive in the academic environment, like research and publishing, and enjoy interacting with students should consider an educational career path after obtaining the DNP.

Nurses with a doctorate degree might join a university faculty or work in research institutions. They can also find employment in hospital or clinical staff continuing education. Not only do these professionals work with students, but they also develop the curricula and the educational methodologies for the program.

The career outlook for nurses in education is favorable. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the demand for these nursing instructors will increase by 15 percent through 2026.  Nurse educators also earn an average income of $76,000 per year.

Conduct Groundbreaking Research

A DNP also makes it possible to research new ways of treating patients and optimizing both the workforce and patient outcomes. Nurses who have a doctorate degree can launch a successful clinical research career with an interdisciplinary approach to healthcare.

Clinical research nurse practitioners partner up with other medical or academic professionals to coordinate and implement clinical studies, design research programs, choose investigation methodologies, take care of study participants and draw valid conclusions based on empirical evidence.

From oncology to infertility treatment research and new pharmacological product examination, clinical research nurse practitioners have an extensive range of fields to specialize in. Such a career choice comes with a high level of satisfaction with every discovery that’s made.

Serve Patients at a Higher Level

What can you do with a doctorate in nursing if you don’t want to pursue career development in the academic or research sectors? DNP graduates can opt for an advanced patient care practice, especially in medical fields that need extensive knowledge and specialized skills.

A person who has a doctorate degree in nursing can practice as a psychiatric mental health nurse, a family nurse practitioner, an adult gerontology nurse practitioner, a neonatal nurse or a psychiatric nurse practitioner as long as he or she becomes a licensed nurse practitioner.

Advanced practice nurses benefit from a higher level of autonomy when caring for patients because of their specialized skills and academic preparation. These nurses can open their own clinics and are entitled to practice without doctors’ supervision in 23 states. DNP programs educate nurse practitioners who want to develop their independence as healthcare providers.

Lead Healthcare into the Future

Earning a DNP degree gives nurses the perspective, the background and the context to push for change in the healthcare field. Many healthcare innovators began their paths by obtaining a doctorate in nursing degree.

Pamela F. Cipriano, the president of the American Nurses Association, is an example of an innovative advanced practice provider who holds a doctorate in executive nursing administration. Cipriano was named one of the 100 most influential people in the US healthcare field by Modern Healthcare Magazine because of the many leadership roles she has held through the years. She said that the role of the nurse and that of academic education in the nursing field are both changing, with more nurses than ever before pursuing higher education to change the industry and focus on the patient as a whole, rather than just the patient’s immediate health complaint.

Other prominent holders of nursing doctorate degrees include Patricia Benner, a researcher who has worked hard on improving international nursing legislature; Jacqueline Fawcett, a pioneer in conceptual models of nursing; and Virginia M. Ohlson, an important member of the research team that studied the effect of the atomic bomb in Japan in the aftermath of World War II.

It’s easy to see how these advanced practice providers have become leaders and pioneers in an array of medical fields, from policy to clinical practice. Obviously, a person’s academic background plays a key role in advocating for changes in the field.

Earn Your Doctorate in Nursing from Maryville University

What can you do with a doctorate in nursing? A DNP degree can open many doors, by providing more autonomy, as well as an opportunity for specialization in administrative, educational and research fields. Nurses who want to make a difference in the lives and the careers of other nurses, as well as of patients, might consider a DNP degree as the next step in their career progression.

If you’re looking for the expanded opportunities that a doctorate in nursing makes possible, learn more about Maryville University’s online DNP program.


Bureau of Labor Statistics

American Association of Colleges of Nursing

Revista Latino-Americana De Enfermagem


The National Academies Press

Health Leaders Media

Clinical and Transplantation Science Journal