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How to Get a DNP Without an Advanced Nursing Degree

Published on: May 28, 2021

As a registered nurse, you are dedicated to treating patients and being present to those in your care. However, as healthcare delivery continues to change, nurses are constantly having to adapt to new and challenging obstacles, leaving many in search of new ways to provide exceptional care.  

If you have a bachelor's degree in nursing and possess a desire to master clinical practice, you can get a DNP without an MSN degree. If you have a drive to lead and a commitment to human connection—a BSN to DNP program may be the right fit for you. 

This blog will teach you a bit about how to get a DNP — and explain why it's such a boon to your career.

What is a DNP Degree? 

The Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree is designed for those who want to take the next step in their nursing career. A quality DNP program helps nurses achieve the highest level of proficiency in their field through the translation of science into clinical practice.

A DNP degree can lead you (and your patients) to greater success.  

Why earn a DNP degree? There are plenty of reasons!

Some DNP students choose to focus their studies on delivering complex care over the lifespan of one population, while others work to help shape entire systems, organizations, and policies through executive or administrative roles. Regardless of specialty or individual area of focus, DNP graduates work as leaders in the health care system to develop and improve better methods of patient care. 

Can you earn a DNP without an MSN?

You can earn a DNP without an advanced nursing degree, like an MSN, through a BSN to DNP program. Designed for registered nurses with a bachelor’s degree in nursing, a BSN to DNP program offers preparation as nurse practitioners, nursing informaticists and health systems leaders with clinical practice leadership expertise at the doctoral level.

If you already possess an advanced nursing degree, there are also Post-Master's to DNP tracks available!


USD SON - DNP Students


What is a BSN to DNP Program?

BSN to DNP programs are designed for registered nurses with a bachelor’s degree in nursing to gain clinical practice and leadership expertise at the doctoral level. The DNP program is perfect for those interested in becoming nurse practitioners, nursing informaticists, or health systems leaders. 

As an RN, you understand the value of time. A BSN to DNP program is designed to allow you to move seamlessly through coursework and clinicals as you build upon your existing knowledge and credentials—making your doctorate more attainable than you might think.

Learn how a BSN to DNP can accelerate your career and allow you to focus on what matters to you.

How to Get a DNP Degree

Select a BSN to DNP Program

When selecting a quality BSN to DNP program, you will want to pay attention to learning outcomes, clinical sites, faculty expertise, and how long it will take to earn your DNP degree. 

A quality BSN to DNP program will offer a variety of tracks or specializations that allow you to hone your skills in the area that aligns with your career goals. Some of these specializations include Nurse Practitioner, Health Systems Leadership, and Nursing Informatics and Data Science. 

Depending on your individual aspirations, be sure to take time to learn about the faculty and their areas of clinical expertise. The program you choose should have expert faculty with experience in your area of interest.

Finally, don't forget to consider the flexibility of the program. Some BSN to DNP programs offer flexible options such as part-time study that will allow you to continue working and earn your doctorate in a timeframe that works for you. 


USD's BSN to DNP program can help you reach your goals

At USD, our BSN to DNP program helps students develop the skills needed to lead others, integrate research into practice, and develop better ways of delivering care. Our DNP students can focus their studies on improving the care delivered to a specific population or on impacting entire healthcare systems. 

Whatever your intended focus, you’ll earn your DNP in a unique environment that blends academic strength with nurturing support. At USD, what truly fosters our students’ success is their personal connection to our expert nurse faculty as, together, we push science into practice.

With a rich heritage of excellence in graduate nursing education, our school blends rigorous academics, state-of-the-art technology, and innovative teaching. While these elements are key to achieving your goals, we also believe in a culture of compassion. Our faculty — internationally recognized scholars and clinicians — nurture and support each student, instilling the confidence needed to make a real difference.

The education I received not only provided me with the clinical/theoretical foundation necessary to provide care to a diverse aging population with increased complex needs; but also skills in evidence-based research, health policy, health care informatics, and quality improvement.

- Marissa Munsayac, DNP, FNP-C

Earn Your DNP Degree at USD

Our graduates are leaders in their fields, be it clinical, education, or research. Because here, a degree earns you more than mere letters after your name. 

At USD, your degree comes with a reputation and a network that opens doors so you can become a leader in your community and beyond. If you’re ready to join the USD nursing community, we invite you to request more information today!

A Guide to Achieving the Doctor of Nursing Practice at USD

Our DNP program prepares nurses at the highest level of proficiency as they learn to translate science into clinical practice. Download the guide to learn about clinical placements, get answers to FAQs, and read about options to help finance your graduate nursing degree.

USD SON - MSN Brochure Revamp COVER

A Guide to Achieving the Master of Science in Nursing at USD

For future Executive Nurse Leaders, Nursing Informaticists, or Adult-Gerontology CNSs.

Get the Guide

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