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Can You Go Straight From BSN to DNP


One of the critical vulnerabilities in the U.S. healthcare system is the shortage of physicians and skilled nurses, posing a substantial risk to its overall effectiveness and capacity to deliver quality patient care. Two of the major factors contributing to this problem are the large cohort of medical professionals reaching retirement age and the limited size of the country’s nursing school faculty that cannot keep up with the number of qualified applicants, according to the American Association of Colleges of Nurses.


What does this mean for the healthcare industry? First, a concerted effort is underway to increase educational opportunities for nursing students. Second, opportunities for advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) such as nurse practitioners (NPs) are expanding nationwide. NPs are required to have a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) or a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP), and, with this advanced education, they possess the expertise to provide comprehensive primary care to patients, which encompasses a range of responsibilities such as diagnosing patients, establishing treatment plans, and where permissible by state regulations, prescribing medication.


Working nurses should be aware of the various educational opportunities available for their professional growth and advancement. For instance, many registered nurses with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) may wonder, can you go from a BSN to a DNP? The answer is yes. Nurses with a BSN don’t necessarily have to complete a master’s program next. Accelerated programs are available that allow nurses with a BSN to reach the top degree in the field in the shortest amount of time.


Nurses interested in advancing their education should learn more about the online Bachelor of Science in Nursing to Doctor of Nursing Practice (BSN to DNP) program at Maryville University, which can provide an excellent stepping stone on the path to achieving their personal and professional goals in healthcare. It’s also worth noting that nurses with a DNP statistically make higher salaries than those with a BSN or MSN.

What Is a BSN?

A BSN is what approximately 56% of active registered nurses have, according to nursing degree data from Incredible Health. Although individuals can become registered nurses with an associate degree, the BSN is increasingly recognized as the preferred introductory nursing degree.


An Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) program covers a limited selection of healthcare and nursing concepts, whereas a BSN program provides graduates with a well-rounded foundation in nursing theories and skills. The best way for an RN with an associate degree to advance their career is by pursuing an RN to BSN degree.


Courses featured in an RN to BSN curriculum can include:

  • Transition to Professional Nursing
  • Nursing Research
  • Individual Assessment
  • Family Assessment
  • Nursing Informatics
  • Leadership in Contemporary Health Care
  • Public Health Capstone


RN to BSN programs teach a number of essential concepts and in-demand skills, such as leadership in the workplace, how to care for aging patient populations, advanced healthcare technologies, and interpersonal communication.

What Is an MSN?

An MSN is what advanced practice nurses like nurse practitioners and nurse midwives are required to have. This degree builds upon the BSN-level education to develop skills and knowledge pertaining to the theoretical side of nursing, healthcare policy, and leadership.


Core courses featured in the MSN curriculum can include:


  • Theoretical Foundations of Nursing Practice
  • Evidence-Based Practice in Nursing
  • Health Care Policy
  • Professional Role Development
  • Health Promotion/Disease Prevention
  • Advanced Pathophysiology
  • Advanced Health Assessment
  • Advanced Pharmacotherapeutics
  • Leadership and Quality


Ideally, MSN students have a clear idea of their intended career path once they complete their core curriculum. Examples of MSN graduate careers include nurse practitioner, nurse educator, and clinical nurse specialist. MSN programs are essential in preparing students to take on specialized nurse practitioner roles, which also require industry certifications.


Examples of MSN degree specializations include:


  • Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner (AGACNP): AGACNP programs focus on delivering holistic patient care to adults in emergency care, intensive care, and other specialized units.
  • Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner (AGPCNP): AGPCNP programs focus on delivering primary care services to adults. AGPCNPs work in hospitals, physician’s offices, nursing homes, and a variety of other healthcare settings.
  • Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP): FNPs are the most common type of nurse practitioner. FNP programs focus on delivering primary care services to patients across the lifespan. Due to their broad skill set and the range of services they provide, FNPs have been invaluable in helping offset the physician shortage.
  • Pediatric Nurse Practitioner (PNP): PNP programs focus on delivering a variety of preventive care services and treatments to children and young adults. PNPs are trained to conduct age-appropriate health screenings, recognize unhealthy lifestyle habits, and identify cognitive, functional, and mental health issues.
  • Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (PMHNP): PMHNP programs focus on assessing and providing treatment to individuals with mental health needs. Common conditions that PMHNPs treat include trauma, addiction issues, depression, and anxiety. PMHNPs work with patients on a one-on-one basis as well as with families and groups.


One of the major advantages of advanced nursing programs is that they have several entry points for active nurses and current nursing students to choose from. For many of the specializations offered, an MSN program for BSN degree-holders, a post-master’s certificate program, an MSN to DNP program, and a BSN to DNP program are available.


Keep in mind that these programs vary in length. For instance, nurses interested in how long a BSN to DNP program takes should know that it depends on the concentration, number of required credit hours, and other factors. However, a BSN to DNP program can take less time to complete than an MSN program followed by a DNP program.

What Is a DNP?

The Doctor of Nursing Practice is a terminal degree, meaning that it is the highest possible degree in nursing. Although a DNP is a doctorate-level degree, it is not the same as the MD (Doctor of Medicine) that physicians earn. DNP degree programs are designed for nurses who seek a clinical alternative to the PhD in Nursing, which is more research focused.


DNP programs emphasize practical clinical skills as well as research, so that nurses are prepared to pursue specialized nurse practitioner roles and senior-level leadership roles. Graduates of a DNP program qualify to work in administration, research, healthcare policy, and nursing leadership.


There is growing support in the healthcare industry to make the DNP degree the new standard level of education for nurse practitioners nationwide, which makes it an intelligent investment for new nurses who want to be prepared for possible regulation shifts. DNP degree-holders may have a significant advantage over their MSN and BSN counterparts when it comes to promotion opportunities.

What Is a BSN to DNP?

BSN to DNP program allows nursing students to move directly to doctorate studies without separately earning an MSN. A BSN to DNP is an accelerated degree that is leadership focused. A BSN to DNP program doesn’t skip the skills learned in the MSN program, but rather integrates them into a streamlined educational fast track that can be completed in as few as 40 months.

How to Become a DNP-Credentialed Nurse

Every nurse’s journey is different. Nurses interested in how to become a DNP-credentialed nurse should know that the process can vary from person to person. However, it typically includes the following key steps.


  1. Become a registered nurse by earning either an ADN or a BSN and passing the NCLEX examination.
  2. Earn a BSN, if not already attained.
  3. Earn an MSN followed by a DNP, or earn a DNP by enrolling in a BSN to DNP program.

The BSN to DNP Pathway

BSN to DNP programs are intended for experienced nurses who want to fast-track their careers to qualify for leadership roles and advanced practice nursing positions. Some core advantages of this accelerated nursing program include the following:


  • BSN to DNP programs offer several specializations, such as family nurse practitioner, pediatric nurse practitioner, and adult-gerontology nurse practitioner.
  • Several BSN to DNP programs are offered 100% online, which affords more flexibility and saves on commuting time.
  • Because BSN to DNP programs are accelerated, students save time by skipping the step of enrolling in a standalone MSN program.
  • A DNP degree is the highest level of nursing education an individual can attain, which makes a difference when pursuing senior-level healthcare roles and other Doctor of Nursing Practice careers.

Why Get a DNP?

Some current nurses and nursing students may not be convinced of the benefits of a DNP. After all, why get a DNP, when an MSN or BSN degree is enough to secure employment? While it is true that a DNP is not currently a requirement for most nursing roles, educational standards in the healthcare industry are evolving, and those with the highest level of education, such as a DNP, may hold a competitive advantage in the open job market as pursuing further education can enhance professional qualification and potentially broaden career prospects in the future.

The Rising Demand for Advanced Practice Nurses

In the current healthcare landscape, the demand for advanced practice nurses is much higher than for RNs. Positions for registered nurses are projected to grow 6% between 2021 and 2031, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, which is about as fast as the national average for all occupations. By comparison, jobs for nurse anesthetists, nurse midwives, and nurse practitioners, all of which require advanced education, are projected to grow 40% in the same time frame, the BLS reports.


Several factors are cited as contributing to the increased demand for APRNs. First is the nationwide shortage of physicians. A shortage of upwards of 124,000 physicians is expected by 2034, according to an American Association of Medical Colleges estimate. Nurse practitioners are likely to be uniquely qualified to fill the need for primary care services, especially in rural areas where access to healthcare services is limited.


Other reasons for the increased demand for skilled nurses include:


  • Increased demand for healthcare services
  • The need to replace workers who are transferring out of healthcare or retiring
  • A growing demographic of older patients from the baby boomer generation
  • The need to improve access to primary care services

Qualify for a Wide Range of Careers

Most registered nurses work in a generalist capacity, providing a broad range of healthcare services to all types of patients. However, nurses who complete a BSN to DNP program have far more opportunities. Depending on their interests, they are able to pursue careers in clinical care, leadership, administration, education, research, or policy.


Those who wish to pursue a career in clinical care can specialize in one of the many nurse practitioner concentrations offered in BSN to DNP programs. These programs can also offer paths to high-level leadership positions such as chief nursing officer  or director of nursing.


Additionally, because BSN to DNP programs place a strong emphasis on evidence-based practice, graduates are able to pursue Doctor of Nursing Practice careers in medical research. The curriculum of BSN to DNP programs can also qualify graduates to pursue careers in academia as teachers, helping to train the next generation of nurses.

Monetary Benefits of Earning a DNP

Education and experience have a direct impact on healthcare workers’ salaries. MSN graduates had a median salary of about $100,000 per year, according to April 2023 Payscale data. By comparison, DNP graduates had a median salary of about $110,000 per year.


Earning a higher level degree can position healthcare professionals to attain salaries at the higher end of a position’s salary range. For instance, family nurse practitioners earned salaries that ranged from $83,000 to $124,000 per year, Payscale reported in March 2023. DNP graduates hold an educational advantage over their MSN counterparts, which may result in them making higher salaries.


Factors such as experience, region, certifications, and facility hiring all influence an individual’s salary, but education is a factor that can carry considerable weight. The DNP degree is likely to be even more valuable in the future if it becomes the standard level of education required for advanced roles that currently require an MSN degree.

BSN to DNP Programs

When deciding on a program like a BSN to DNP, how long the journey will take is always an important consideration. Fortunately, BSN to DNP programs are often highly flexible and can accommodate different types of students.


Maryville’s BSN to DNP program is 100% online, which means students don’t have to worry about commuting to campus. Additionally, students can begin the program in the spring, summer, or fall.


Each concentration in the Maryville BSN to DNP program can be completed in as few as 40 months by full-time students, which is one of the most streamlined educational paths to a DNP a nursing student can pursue. Part-time students take longer, but they are afforded more leniency in their schedule, which allows them to keep up with their work and family obligations.


Another advantage of the BSN to DNP path is that it allows students to effectively skip the standalone MSN program, saving time and tuition money. And the multiple concentration options allow BSN to DNP students to prepare for leadership and specialized nursing roles.

Become a Leader in Nursing with a Doctor of Nursing Practice Degree

Nurses play a critical role in the healthcare system, especially those with an advanced education or specialized training. With the ongoing physician shortage, the demand for advanced practice nurses is likely to continue to address gaps in healthcare access.


You can go from a BSN to DNP to streamline your advanced education and be ready for high-level positions in just 40 months. Career-minded students are encouraged to learn more about the online Bachelor of Science in Nursing to Doctor of Nursing Practice program at Maryville University. The comprehensive curriculum, 100% online format, and concentration options make it an ideal choice for students who aspire to become leaders in the field.


Learn more about how Maryville can help you reach your professional goals.


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