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DNP Degree: 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 roles. Nurses with a doctorate lead the way in healthcare and take an active role in shaping the future of U.S. healthcare 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.

DNP Degree Outcomes

People who are considering a DNP degree might wonder, “What can you do with a doctorate in nursing?” A doctorate in nursing can lead to several rewarding career paths — from advocacy, to teaching, to leading clinical research.

Educate the Next Generation

DNPs who aspire to the academic environment and think they may enjoy research, publishing, and interacting with students should consider an educational career path after obtaining their DNP degree.


Nurses with a doctorate in nursing degree might join a university faculty or work in research institutions. They can also find employment in conducting hospital or clinical staff continuing education. Here, DNPs work with students and develop the curricula and educational methodologies for a program.

Conduct Groundbreaking Research

A DNP degree also makes it possible to research new ways of treating patients and optimizing outcomes for both patients and caregivers. Nurses with a doctorate in nursing degree can launch a successful clinical research career with an interdisciplinary approach to healthcare.


Clinical research nurse practitioners often 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 can specialize in an extensive range of fields. 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 the academic or research paths? There are many other choices. DNP graduates can opt for an advanced patient care practice, particularly in medical fields that need extensive knowledge and specialized skills.


With a doctorate in nursing, professionals can practice as psychiatric mental health nurses, family nurse practitioners, adult gerontology nurse practitioners, neonatal nurses, or psychiatric nurse practitioners, as long as they become 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 a doctor’s supervision in 23 states. Online 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, background, and 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, former 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 U.S. healthcare by Modern Healthcare Magazine because of the many leadership roles she has held through the years.


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

Doctorate of Nursing Careers

A DNP degree can open doors in a number of settings. Doctorate of nursing careers are in high demand and can yield competitive salaries, especially for those with considerable experience. Nurses with a DNP degree can find opportunities for hands-on leadership roles in areas including hospitals and healthcare centers, private sector healthcare organizations, collegiate-level academia, government, and in consulting, just to name a few. Some popular careers for those with a DNP degree include the following.

Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP)

Family nurse practitioners work with a wide variety of patients across the lifecycle. They are often the first point of contact in a medical facility and can diagnose and treat common medical issues.

Adult Nurse Practitioner (ANP)

Adult nurse practitioners limit their practice to adult patients. ANPs may focus on preventive care and patients with acute or chronic conditions, and in many states can diagnose and treat patients and prescribe medication.

Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner (PNP)

Generally working alongside psychiatrists, psychiatric nurse practitioners help patients manage psychiatric disorders such as substance abuse and addiction, mood disorders, and ADD/ADHD.

College or University Professor

Some DNP degree-holders choose to pass their education and experience on to future generations of nurses. University professors teach courses, supervise graduate students, and serve as a resource of information.

Chief Nursing Officer (CNO)

Chief nursing officers work in hospitals and healthcare facilities to manage and train teams of nursing staff. This role involves overseeing the ongoing development of nurses, purchasing equipment, maintaining the hospital’s budgets, collaborating with leadership, and beyond.

Chief Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA)

A chief registered nurse anesthetist oversees all anesthetic procedures in a hospital or healthcare facility. In addition to administering anesthesia to patients, they also assess patients and communicate details of the procedure.

Doctorate of Nursing Salaries and Job Outlook

The career outlook for nurses in higher education is favorable for those with a DNP degree. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), demand for post-secondary instructors will increase by 9% between 2019 and 2029. According to May 2021 data from the compensation website PayScale, professors of nursing earned a median income of approximately $69,800 per year.


Additionally, the BLS reports that nurse anesthetists, nurse midwives, and nurse practitioners earn an average income of $117,670 per year. Job outlook is impressive, with the number of positions expected to grow by 45% between 2019 and 2029.


Some DNP graduates may choose to work in healthcare administration. Medical or health services managers made a median annual salary of $104,280 in 2020 according to the BLS, with projected job growth of 32% between 2019 and 2029.

Earn Your Doctorate in Nursing from Maryville University

What can you do with a doctorate in nursing? A DNP degree can open many doors, providing more autonomy and offering the 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 in the health 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 the Maryville University online DNP programs.


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