For health care providers who want to take their career to the next level and love the hands-on patient care they get to provide with nursing, earning a doctorate of nursing practice, or a DNP degree can be a great way to climb the healthcare ladder while still working on the front lines of patient care. While nurse practitioners work closely with doctors to create and implement treatment plans and can work with patients in a way beyond the scope of practice of a registered nurse or a licensed practical nurse, nurses who earn their doctorate of nursing practice take on more of a leadership role than nurse practitioners.
Nurse practitioners have their caseload of patients, similar to that of a doctor. Providing routine health care, working with doctors to analyze and adjust patient treatment plans, prescribing and adjusting patient medications, and providing non-routine/ emergency health care are all within the scope of practice of a nurse practitioner. A doctor of nursing practice embodies all the roles of a nurse practitioner and more. Doctors of nursing practice are expected to be leaders within healthcare organizations, as they provide expertise from both the nursing and doctoral sides of medicine.
When you earn your doctorate of nursing practice, you’ll find that many doors open for you to advance your career. Let’s take a look at eleven of the best career options for nurses who earn their doctorate of nursing practice, or DNP, degree.
1. Nurse Educator
As a nurse, you’re passionate about ensuring that patients get excellent care. To affect change on a greater scale, you may consider becoming a nurse educator. In this role, you’ll get to work with new nurses, informing the path of their careers and how they will treat their patients. Educators with a doctor of nursing practice degree are considered to be experts in the field. You’ll have several options for work settings as a nurse educator. Many nurse educators work with nurses earning their initial bachelor’s of science in nursing degree, while others work with nurses who are working toward their master’s or doctorate degrees. Some nurse educators work in healthcare settings, helping nurses with their practical experience, while others work with nurses in the classroom, giving them a strong base of knowledge to apply to patient care.
Salary range: $54,000 – $100,000
2. Nurse Researcher
Interested in advancing the field of nursing by learning more about the needs of nurses and patients? Becoming a nurse researcher may be a good fit for you. Nurse researchers can learn more about several different healthcare topics, then work to turn that knowledge into data that affects practice and policy change for healthcare organizations and their patients. A nurse researcher may work in a hospital or a lab setting, depending on their scope of research. In this role, it’s key to have excellent interpersonal and presentation skills. It’s also vital to have top of the line knowledge of statistical and data analysis programs, and be able to break down your findings in a language that health care professionals (who may not have your level of statistical knowledge) can understand).
Salary range: $49,000 – $119,000
3. Healthcare Administrator
For nurses who want to remove themselves from providing direct patient care but still want to positively affect change within the healthcare industry, becoming a healthcare administrator can be a great step. People in this position need a deep understanding of the benefits and flaws of a healthcare system, and it’s helpful to have the insider industry knowledge to fully understand what areas of care need to change. Healthcare administrators
Salary range: $40,000 – $103,000
4. Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN)
An advanced practice registered nurse with a doctor of nursing practice degree can provide excellent health care to patients. In this role, healthcare providers have the option of working in several different settings, including emergency medicine, urgent care, routine care, long-term care, and more. Advanced practice registered nurses with their DNP can give their patients the best of two worlds: the knowledge of a highly advanced medical professional combined with the bedside manner of a caring nurse. APRNs can provide one on one patient care, or may work as a part of a larger health care team.
Salary range: $78,000 – $116,000
5. Primary Care Provider (PCP)
The health care field is in dire need of qualified primary care providers. Nurse practitioners and doctors of nursing practice are being called upon more and more to provide patients with routine and preventive care. Studies show that by 2020, there will be a shortage of over 45,000 primary care providers. When you earn your doctor of nursing practice degree, you’re able to provide patients with the same level of care as a primary care doctor, and you bring the bonus of your years of experience providing direct patient care. PCPs may work for themselves in an office that provides routine or urgent medical care or may be part of a larger healthcare organization.
Salary range: $160,000 – $259,000
6. Acute Care Nurse Practitioners
Many people who earn their doctor of nursing practice degree continue to put their advanced knowledge of health care to use working as nurse practitioners. Acute care nurse practitioners often work in urgent care and primary care centers, attending to routine but urgent health care needs. In this role, it’s key to work with patients as well as family members who provide care. Acute care nurse practitioners often work with a physician in charge, but nurses in this role who have their doctorate of nursing practice may not need to consult with other health care professionals before creating and implementing care plans for patients.
Salary range: $85,000 – $125,000
7. Advanced Registered Nurse Practitioner (ARNP)
Nurses in this role have responsibilities that go far beyond that of a standard registered nurse, and this is doubly true for advanced registered nurse practitioners who also have their doctor of nursing practice degrees. Advanced registered nurse practitioners create and implement patient treatment plans, and may also be in charge of a treatment team. ARNPs are seen as leaders in health care and may have a staff of registered nurses and nurse practitioners whom they manage. Nurses in this role may also interpret and make treatment plan changes based on test results.
Salary range: $78,000 – $120,000
8. Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA)
Nurses in this position administer anesthesia to patients to prepare them for surgical and other procedures. Many nurses who work as CRNAs have their doctor of nursing practice degree, and they also need to have state certification and approved training to provide anesthesia. Communication skills are especially important in this role, as a CRNA must constantly monitor and communicate data on a patient’s condition to the rest of the treatment team. Continuing education is key for a CRNA, as advances are constantly being made in anesthesia. Bedside manner is an important part of patient care for any nurse, but it’s especially important for a CRNA. People who are about to receive anesthesia are often nervous and depend on the care of a qualified CRNA. Calmly and professionally explaining procedures and medications to nervous patients and their families can set the tone for a successful surgery and recovery.
Salary range: $99,000 – $195,000
9. Chief Nursing Officer (CNO)
A CNO in a healthcare organization is in charge of hands-on nursing activities in a hospital. This can including hiring, scheduling, salary negotiations, disciplinary measures, and more. CNOs need to have stellar knowledge of the latest advances in nursing and need to show exemplary communication and leadership skills. The chief nursing officer of an organization ensures that nurses are providing the highest standard of patient care. Leaders in this role may also observe nurses at work and find weak spots in their practice, then develop trainings that can be helpful to the entire nursing team. Becoming a CNO is a great career move for advanced nurses who want to take on a leadership role within their organization.
Salary range: $91,000 – $200,000
10. Nursing Director
A nursing director takes on many of the roles of a chief nursing officer within a healthcare organization, as well as a more administrative role. The nursing director works with other healthcare administrators on budgeting and staffing issues, while also supervising chief nursing officers and directing their care. Nursing directors work to ensure that a hospital’s nursing staffing needs are met. In many healthcare circles, nursing staffing is a complicated issue. Healthcare administrators prefer nurses to work long shifts to ensure continuity of patient care, but this can lead to exhaustion and burnout for nurses. The nursing director has the difficult job of ensuring top-level care for patients while also ensuring the well-being of their nurses.
Salary range: $64,000 – $128,000
11. Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner
Nurse practitioners who work in the psychiatric field have an interest in treating patients with mental health needs. Many psychiatric patients also have physical health care needs. Nurses who work in psychiatry can provide care for several mental health conditions, including depression, ADHD, bipolar disorder, anxiety, and more. Some psychiatric nurse practitioners specialize in treating a specific mental health disorder, such as schizophrenia or postpartum depression. Nurses in this role provide many different types of care to patients and their families, and they often work with other healthcare providers to ensure that a patient’s health is fully managed.
Salary range: $82,000 – $138,000
12. Cardiovascular Advanced Registered Nurse Practitioner (CARNP)
Cardiovascular nurse practitioners have all the responsibilities of a standard nurse practitioner, with added expertise in helping patients with heart issues. CARNPs may dictate a patient’s daily recovery plan after cardiovascular surgery, including physical therapy, ambulatory work, medication changes, and comfort care changes. CARNPs often work closely with cardiac surgeons to devise and adjust plans for cardiac care patients.
Salary range: $83,000 – $124,000
13. Certified Nurse Midwife (CNM)
Midwifery has experienced a renaissance in recent years, as more and more moms-to-be are looking toward natural, holistic childbirth experiences. CNMs support pregnant women throughout their pregnancies, birth experience, and immediate postnatal care. For nurses who love providing care on an advanced level, becoming a certified nurse midwife can be an excellent complement to a doctorate of nursing practice. CNMs may work in several settings, including birthing centers, hospitals, emergency care centers, and more.
Salary range: $77,000 – $117,000
As a nurse, you have many options when it comes to your career path. You may choose to specialize in a specific field, or you may choose to work with a more general patient group. When you earn your DNP, you’ll find that you also get to take on a leadership role, influencing patient experience at your organization. As a DNP, you’ll provide a unique perspective and viewpoint to healthcare administrators and policymakers who do not have your experience with direct patient care. Earning your DNP can be a career and life-changing choice, and will allow you to influence healthcare in a new way. You already care deeply about your patients – earning your DNP allows you to take your ability to care for them to the next level.
- Salary and other information received from Payscale.com and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
- Payscale.com, Doctor of Nursing Practice Degree. (2019).
- Payscale.com, Nurse Practitioner vs. Doctor of Nursing Practice. (2013).
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Nurse Anesthetists, Nurse Midwives, and Nurse Practitioners. (2019).