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D.N.P. Degree Program


The online doctor of nursing practice (D.N.P.) is a professional, practice-focused doctoral degree designed to prepare highly qualified advanced practice nurses to be leaders who deliver expert nursing care and ultimately improve health care outcomes. The D.N.P. is for nurses who have either a bachelor’s or master’s degree with a major in nursing and who plan to continue in a practice role.

Degree Requirements

The core essentials of the online D.N.P. include translation of research into practice, transformational leadership, and advanced expert nursing practice. To support these essentials, other course work will include nursing/change theory, foundations of advanced practice, health policy, informatics, and population-based health.

While providing the convenience and flexibility of an online program, the Penn State D.N.P. will include all of the rigor of a traditional doctoral-level nursing program. In order to properly prepare for the highest level of clinical nursing practice, students are required to attend three in-person intensive sessions and complete other doctoral benchmarks, including candidacy, comprehensives, and a capstone project with an oral presentation.

Depending on educational background, the D.N.P. program has two entry options:

  1. Directly from the B.S.N. (nursing) for nurse administrators (61 total credits)
  2. Post-M.S.N. entry for nurse administrators and advanced practice nurses (38–46 total credits).

The post-M.S.N. entry is flexible, allowing students to apply up to 550 practicum hours from their M.S.N. program to count toward the 1,000 hours of practicum time required by the national accrediting agencies. Other courses that meet the requirements for this degree may be accepted. A minimum of 30 Penn State credits will be required for the post-M.S.N. entry.

The capstone is an evidence-based practice project. The goal is to produce an actual, deliverable product that has originated from practice experience. Students will identify a problem and use evidence-based research to develop a proposal to implement and evaluate a practice change initiative.

Intensives: For both entry options, students are required to participate in three in-person intensives offered at either the University Park or Hershey Medical Center campus. For full-time students, the first intensive takes place in August of semester 1 for M.S.N. to D.N.P. students, and semester 3 for B.S.N. to D.N.P. students. The second intensive takes place at the beginning of the subsequent semester. The third intensive is at the end of semester 2 for M.S.N. to D.N.P. students and semester 4 for B.S. to D.N.P. students.

In addition to course work, all students are required to complete a series of three benchmarks: candidacy, comprehensives, and a final oral presentation.

Candidacy Examination: All students must satisfactorily complete the candidacy examination, which is designed to evaluate the student’s past performance and potential for successfully completing the program. Candidacy typically occurs during the second intensive, which follows completion of one semester of full-time study for the M.S.N. to D.N.P. student and after three semesters of full-time study for the B.S.N. to D.N.P. student.

Comprehensives: Comprehensives mark the student’s progression into their capstone project. This occurs during the third intensive, when students present their capstone project proposal. Comprehensives need to be successfully completed prior to the submission of the proposal for human subjects’ review or carrying out the project (if it does not require a review).

Final Oral Presentation: The final oral presentation is scheduled upon completion of the capstone project. Students are required to present the project for approval by their doctoral committee. The final paper will be made publicly available through ScholarSphere.

For additional information on doctoral degree requirements, please see the Penn State Graduate Degree Programs Bulletin.

For More Information

Marsha Freije, M.S.N.
Graduate Programs Adviser
203 Health and Human Development East
University Park, PA 16802