Online Doctor of Nursing Practice

Get Program Details
This will only take a moment.
. Which degree program are you most interested in?
Which degree program are you most interested in?
Next Step

Benefits of a DNP vs. MSN

Hospitals and healthcare facilities are looking for nurses who are able to excel above and beyond the minimum job requirements while leading the next generation of skilled nurses. Forward-thinking medical facilities want experienced health professionals who have strong areas of expertise and can approach medicine from an analytical yet compassionate point of view. Considering that nurses are already in short supply, with that employment gap expected to grow as the current workforce retires, the demand for these types of experienced, capable nurses is even greater.

To adapt to these evolving healthcare trends, nurses are pursuing advanced degrees that can set them up for success. However, before nurses can reach the next level of their education and career, they need to understand the differences between the DNP and MSN degrees.

What are the DNP and MSN degrees?

Nursing professionals who want to strengthen their skills and advance within the field can do so by pursuing a Doctor of Nursing Practice degree (DNP) and/or a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN). There are actually multiple requirements to becoming a nurse, because each state has its own respective licensing guidelines. Nor do the degrees promise a significant bump in salary or a higher position within the field. However, pursuing both degrees can give nurses leadership skills and a stronger healthcare expertise than peers without the same level of education.

A nurse with a DNP or MSN degree will be more adept to making difficult decisions and handling challenging medical procedures than their colleagues without the degree. They can become better communicators, more skilled and ethical practitioners, and more thoughtful and inspiring leaders because of their advanced education. While there are benefits for both a  DNP and MSN, the two degrees are not exactly the same, nor are they intended for the same type of nursing student.

What are the benefits of an MSN degree?

An MSN is an advanced degree that can help registered nurses achieve more prestigious positions and leadership roles in the workplace through an enhanced nursing curriculum. Students commonly take classes like Healthcare Policy, Advanced Health Assessment, and Theoretical Foundations of Nursing Practice within this program. Some of the positions that MSN graduates can obtain are nurse consultant, nurse educator, or an advanced nurse practitioner, specializing in a specific medical field like pediatrics, psychiatry, or gerontology.

An MSN program can offer students the option of selecting from nurse practitioner specialties, such as family nurse practitioner (FNP), adult-gerontology primary care nurse practitioner (AGPCNP), adult-gerontology acute care nurse practitioner (AGACNP), pediatric nurse practitioner (PNP), and psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner (PMHNP). Some programs can be completed entirely online, so students can continue their career and handle personal responsibilities while pursuing an advanced education. Students can complete clinicals in a location convenient to wherever they’re situated, and they are not required to take the GMAT or GRE to be admitted.

What are the benefits of a DNP degree?

Nursing professionals who want to continue their education after an MSN degree, or are interested in a particular advanced practice specialization, would then pursue the DNP degree. There are two options for a DNP Degree: DNP and DNP-NP. The DNP option provides students with advanced understanding of healthcare procedures and theory, and allows them to pursue some of the most prestigious positions in the nursing field, including top level administration roles, policy managers,  and research and academic appointments. The DNP degree also gives students an even deeper understanding of crucial concepts in the health landscape like evidence-based practice, legislative advocacy, and patient care. This degree usually takes anywhere from 30-33 credits to complete over a timespan of 2-3 years.

The DNP-NP option allows students to pursue a nurse practitioner specialty all while completing the same terminal DNP program. The five DNP-NP specialties are the same as the MSN specialties: family nurse practitioner (FNP), adult-gerontology primary care nurse practitioner (AGPCNP), adult-gerontology acute care nurse practitioner (AGACNP), pediatric nurse practitioner (PNP), and psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner (PMHNP).

How do both degrees compare?

Nursing professionals trying to weigh the benefits of a DNP vs. MSN will find that both degrees are valuable to enhancing one’s nursing skill set, career opportunities, and earning potential. The MSN degree provides nurses with an advanced knowledge and specialty in healthcare and nursing topics, and puts students on the road to becoming a successful nurse practitioner. The DNP degree helps nurses who already have their MSN to achieve an even stronger expertise and reach higher leadership, organizational, and decision-making roles reserved for only the most knowledgeable and capable nursing professionals.

Start Your Journey Today

Maryville University offers convenient and flexible nursing degrees that enable professionals to grow their knowledge and expertise. Visit the online MSN and online DNP degrees now for curriculum information and how to get started in pushing your nursing career to the next level.


Maryville University, How Long is a DNP Program?

Maryville University, Master of Science in Nursing Online

Maryville University, Nurse Practitioner versus Doctor: Filling the Healthcare Gap

Maryville University, Online Doctor of Nursing Practice

Maryville University, Online MSN Curriculum