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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 B.S.N. or M.S.N. 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 in addition to completing other doctoral benchmarks (see Graduate Bulletin DEGREE REQUIREMENTS), including the qualifying examination, comprehensives, and a capstone project with an oral presentation.

Depending on educational background, the D.N.P. program has two entry options For more specific information see the D.N.P. Handbook:

  • For the B.S.N. to the D.N.P., a core of master’s courses is required. A minimum of 61 credits, 1000 hours of practicum time, and a DNP project is required.
  • The Master of Science in Nursing (M.S.N.) to D.N.P. program requires a minimum of 30 post-master’s degree credits completed at Penn State. The curriculum is individualized based on previous course work and number of practicum hours completed during the master’s program. A maximum of 550 practicum hours from the previous master’s program will be accepted to fulfill to 1000 hours of required practicum hours. The curriculum is composed of 5 components, for a minimum of 38 credits:

In addition to the minimum 38 credits, up to 8 credits of NURS 834 may be required for M.S.N. to D.N.P. students, depending on the number of practicum hours completed in the student’s M.S.N. program

The D.N.P. project 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. 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: qualifying examination, comprehensives, and a final oral presentation.

Qualifying Examination: All students must satisfactorily complete the qualifying examination, which is designed to evaluate the student’s past performance and potential for successfully completing the program. The qualifying examination 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 D.N.P. 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