Top 20 Cheapest Online DNP Degree Programs

Healthcare jobs are booming, and for students with a passion for helping others receive the care they need, there’s never been a better time to pursue advanced education. While doctors get a ton of glory (and money), the truth is that highly trained nurses can perform many of the same functions as physicians.

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Advanced education is indeed needed to earn licensure for these nursing jobs or to pursue a career in healthcare leadership, but degrees like the Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) are considerably more affordable for the average person than medical school — and much more attainable.

Nationwide, there are currently more than 350 programs enrolling students in a variety of DNP tracks, and more than 100 are in the planning stages. Our analysis found that most programs don’t offer online DNP degrees, but for the ones that do, costs vary widely.

So we wanted to understand which online DNP programs are the cheapest and offer the students the best bang for the buck. Read on to see our list of the 20 best cheap online DNP degrees healthcare students and working professionals should consider.

About These Rankings

As we said, there are more than 350 DNP programs in the U.S., and many more on the way. We narrowed our analysis down to those that offer their coursework entirely or mostly online, though in many cases with the schools that made our list, some in-person requirements are in place.

That left us with around 70 programs that offer online DNP degrees, and we narrowed that to about 45 finalists by eliminating schools in which per-credit tuition costs were more than 125% above the average for all schools.

Programs Reviewed: 70+

Finalists: 45

Awarded: 20

For our 45 finalists, we awarded points based on average cost, high rankings in respected publications and value for the money such that the higher a school scored, the better return on investment we think students will receive based on the cost and reputation of each program.

Cheapest Online DNP Degrees

It’s not exactly correct here to say “cheapest online DNP degrees,” but we know that’s what you’re looking for. However, the reality is that the vast majority of the 70-plus programs we reviewed are reasonably priced, and only a handful are what we’d consider truly expensive. So instead of simply saying the cheapest school wins, we’d encourage you to consider overall value.

Of course, it’s also important to keep in mind the qualifications you currently have. Most but not all of our award-winners below offer a DNP track that allows students with only a bachelor’s in nursing, typically a BSN degree, to earn their way to a DNP. While this is ideal for these particular students, it’s also considerably more expensive, as these programs generally require in the range of 70 credit-hours compared to 30-ish for programs that accept those with master’s degrees in nursing, like an MSN.

Also, in every case, clinical experience is required to earn these degrees, but for the vast majority, almost all coursework is done entirely online.

Schools Included in This Ranking

  • Clemson University DNP
  • University of Florida DNP
  • University of Alabama Huntsville DNP
  • Northwestern State University DNP
  • University of Alabama Birmingham DNP
  • University of Massachusetts Boston DNP
  • Georgia College & State University DNP
  • University of Cincinnati DNP
  • Bradley University DNP
  • Gwynedd Mercy University DNP
  • Drexel University DNP
  • Southeastern Louisiana University DNP
  • University of Nevada Reno DNP
  • Fort Hays State University DNP
  • Wichita State University DNP
  • University of Central Arkansas DNP
  • University of Central Florida DNP
  • Idaho State University DNP
  • Georgia Southern University DNP
  • University of Alabama Tuscaloosa DNP
  1. Clemson University

Designed for candidates with a master’s degree in nursing, Clemson University’s DNP program requires 35 credit hours, along with at least three on-campus immersion experiences meant to help students synthesize what they’re learning in the classroom. Outside of those experiences, all coursework is completed online.

The Clemson School of Nursing is also home to other advanced nursing degrees, including an accelerated track for second nursing degrees and multiple certificate options. DNP students are expected to be able to complete the program in two years attending on a part-time basis, which makes Clemson’s well-regarded but affordable program the best of all possible worlds for professional nurses.

Program Overview

  1. University of Florida

With paths for both bachelor’s degree holders and those who’ve completed their nursing master’s degrees, the University of Florida’s College of Nursing is the highest-rated Florida program on our top 25. BSN-to-DNP students are required to complete between 75 and 78 credit hours, depending on specialty, while MSN-to-DNP students will need to complete just 35.

MSN-to-DNP students will complete all or most coursework and other requirements entirely online, while BSN-to-DNP students will face some required visits to campus, and those in the psychiatric mental health track will have additional in-person requirements. The BSN-to-DNP track offers a handful of specialties, including family, pediatric primary care and gerontology.

Program Overview

  1. University of Alabama Huntsville

The University of Alabama’s Huntsville campus earned our No. 3 spot thanks to a nearly 100% online delivery method and well-below-average per-credit price. This 40-credit course is designed for MSN degree-holders and can be completed in just over two years or about four years for those who need to attend on a part-time basis.

Students without at least 500 clinical hours will be required to take an additional course to get that required clinical experience, and this can add up to six credit hours. Other nursing programs offered at UAH include an online RN to BSN and an online MSN in nursing administration.

Program Overview

  1. Northwestern State University

Northwestern State University’s College of Nursing offers an online DNP with two paths — BSN to DNP and MSN to DNP. The Louisiana-based school was the first public institution in the state to offer a fully fledged nursing degree program, which launched in 1949.

The MSN-to-DNP path is completed entirely online, while only the first two semesters for BSN-to-DNP students can be finished entirely online. Potential specializations for MSN-to-DNP students include organizational systems leadership, and a new nurse anesthesia specialty for BSN-to-DNP students is pending accreditation.

Program Overview

  1. University of Alabama Birmingham

The University of Alabama’s Birmingham campus (UAB) is home to four total potential paths for prospective DNP students, two of which require an MSN and two of which require a BSN. MSN-to-DNP students whose MSN was in the advanced practice nurse specialty have their own special track, while MSN holders who want to focus on healthcare leadership can take the MSN-to-DNP pathway for nurse executives. For BSN-holders, there are two DNP pathways — nurse anesthesia and nurse practitioner.

Coursework in both MSN-to-DNP tracks is offered entirely online, while BSN-to-DNP students on the nurse practitioner pathway also will complete their coursework online. The BSN-to-DNP pathway for nurse anesthesia requires a mix of traditional and online courses after the first semester.

Program Overview

  • Degree: Doctor of Nursing Practice
  • On-Campus Requirements: MSN nursing annual on-campus orientation and intensive; BSN nurse practitioner annual on-campus orientation and intensive; BSN nurse anesthesia, only first semester is online
  • Paths: MSN to DNP; BSN to DNP
  • Accreditation: CCNE
  • Cost Per Credit: $656
  • Credits Required: MSN 43; BSN 114
  • Learn More: Click here to learn more about DNP Programs at the University of Alabama Birmingham
  1. University of Massachusetts Boston

The University of Massachusetts Boston campus is home to a pair of DNP degrees, one for MSN graduates and one for those with a BSN degree only. UMass Boston’s MSN-to-DNP track is completed online, while the BSN-to-DNP program includes some traditional coursework in addition to online offerings.

BSN-to-DNP students can opt to focus their education on gerontology or family practice if they wish, while MSN-to-DNP students have the option for just one nursing elective in addition to required coursework on leadership and management, health policy, informatics and more.

Program Overview

  1. Georgia College

Georgia College, formerly Georgia College & State University, offers a single path to its online DNP degree — MSN-to-DNP.  While some on-campus experiences are required, thanks to the online coursework, professional nurses can complete the degree part time if they wish, or they can go full time. If attending on a full-time basis, students can finish their degrees in as little as five semesters.

Pre-DNP students can earn both a BSN and MSN from Georgia College, while those who already have an MSN or DNP but aren’t certified advanced practice registered nurses can complete a 32-credit post-master’s certificate online.

Program Overview

  1. University of Cincinnati

BSN-to-DNP students at the University of Cincinnati are in an ideal position to be able to customize their education and specialize in specific areas of interest, such as gerontology, nurse anesthesia, pediatric acute care or mental health, though not all specialties are offered online. Cincinnati also offers an MSN-to-DNP for those who already have advanced training and are interested in a leadership or quality improvement program.

MSN-to-DNP students will be able to complete all coursework online, though at least two visits to campus will be required, for orientation and to defend their capstone project. For BSN-to-DNP students, similar requirements apply.

Program Overview

  • Degree: Doctor of Nursing Practice
  • On-Campus Requirements: MSN on-campus orientation required during first fall semester and project defense required in final semester; BSN some campus visits required depending on specialty
  • Paths: MSN to DNP; BSN to DNP
  • Accreditation: CCNE
  • Cost Per Credit: $761
  • Credits Required: MSN 42; BSN 75-79
  • Learn More: Click here to learn more about DNP Programs at the University of Cincinnati 
  1. Bradley University

Bradley University is home to a pair of DNP degrees, and the ideal one depends on a person’s existing education. Those entering with an MSN will be on a leadership track, while those with a BSN will pursue a DNP in family practice.

Neither program requires on-campus residency, and the BSN-to-DNP pathway should take about twice as long as starting with an MSN. Applicants with an MSN for whom DNP education may not be ideal, particularly given the leadership focus of this program, could pursue a family nurse practitioner certificate.

Program Overview

  1. Gwynedd Mercy University

Gwynedd Mercy’s MSN-to-DNP track is designed to be completed in two years if attending full time, but the 99% online delivery also means that professional nurses can maintain their careers and get their degrees if they wish.

The accelerated DNP program features small class sizes and helps students focus on systems leadership, quality improvement and how to engage in social policy changes. So, despite a slightly higher-than-average price per credit, this program is ideal for students who crave a compact educational experience.

Program Overview

  1. Drexel University

Drexel’s online DNP degree is designed for students who already have an MSN degree, though those who have a master’s degree in another subject may be eligible if they have a bachelor’s degree in nursing.

With 100% online class delivery, students who are able to pursue their education on a full-time basis should be able to complete the program in two years or so, though part-timers will need a bit longer.

Program Overview

  1. Southeastern Louisiana University

Students at Southeastern Louisiana University have several options for pursuing a DNP degree. Those who already have an MSN degree have three choices: a full-time program or two part-time programs, one taking six semesters and the other taking eight. For BSN degree-holders, a BSN-to-DNP track is available with a focus on family practice.

Coursework is done online, though students must attend an on-campus orientation and defense of their culminating DNP project.

Program Overview

  1. University of Nevada Reno

The University of Nevada’s Reno campus is home to a pair of DNP tracks, including one that’s fully online — MSN to DNP. Those with a BSN can also earn their DNP through a program that’s mostly online, though it has more in-person requirements than the MSN program.

Some degrees must be completed full-time in the Orvis School of Nursing, while other specializations allow students to attend on a part-time basis, and regardless of their starting point, DNP students can specialize in areas like gerontology, family practice and more.

Program Overview

  1. Fort Hays University

A pair of DNP tracks are offered at Fort Hays University in Kansas. The MSN-to-DNP program allows students to study for roles as nurse practitioners, anesthetists, midwives or clinical nurse specialists, while the BSN-to-DNP program is designed for students seeking careers as family nurse practitioners.

All coursework for MSN-to-DNP students can be done online, though students are required to attend one in-person event on campus each academic year. And BSN-to-DNP students will need to be on campus even more, as some semesters consist entirely of traditional, in-person coursework.

Program Overview

  • Degree: Doctor of Nursing Practice
  • On-Campus Requirements: 1 on-campus day required for MSN-to-DNP students; several semesters of BSN-to-DNP program can only be completed online
  • Paths: MSN to DNP; BSN to DNP
  • Accreditation: CCNE
  • Cost Per Credit: $400
  • Credits Required: MSN 30; BSN 75
  • Learn More: Click here to learn more about DNP Programs at Fort Hays University
  1. Wichita State University

Wichita State University is home to two possible paths to a DNP degree — an MSN with a specialty in family care and a BSN-to-DNP path leading to adult gerontology, family practice or mental health.

WSU’s MSN-to-DNP is one of the shortest in the country, with students earning their degrees in just 29 credits; most programs require at least 30. That means the typical student, even going part-time, could earn their DNP in as little as a few years. BSN-to-DNP students will need to complete more courses, but they also have a higher range of specialty options available.

Program Overview

  1. University of Central Arkansas

Two degree tracks are on offer at the University of Central Arkansas, MSN to DNP and BSN to DNP. In both cases, most coursework is done online, though both may require some on-campus events.

In addition to the two DNP degrees, one of which (MSN to DNP) can be completed in as little as three years, the school of nursing is also home to a BSN program and a second-degree MSN for working nurses who want to add skills or change specialties.

Program Overview

  1. University of Central Florida

The University of Central Florida College of Nursing provides multiple options for students interested in doctoral nursing education. Both MSN-to-DNP and BSN-to-DNP tracks are available, and within each, specialty options can help students create a unique educational experience that speaks to their interests. MSN students can specialize in advanced practice or nurse executive education, while BSN students can choose from gerontology or family.

BSN-to-DNP programs are offered in a hybrid format in which some classes take place online in addition to intensives on-campus twice a year. MSN-to-DNP students will complete all coursework online with the exception of limited in-person intensives.

Program Overview

  1. Idaho State University

Among several nursing degree options at Idaho State University, a BSN-to-DNP degree, offering a pair of specialty areas, truly stands out. As one of the few programs geared specifically toward those with BSN degrees, Idaho State’s offerings for these students are much more robust than for MSN-to-DNP students, who have just one option, though it’s an accelerated DNP degree.

BSN-to-DNP students can choose to attend full time or part time and have two broad options — family practice and psychiatric mental health. For MSN-to-DNP applicants, no specialty tracks are available.

Program Overview

  1. Georgia Southern University

The Waters College of Health Professions at Georgia Southern University offers online DNP degree options both for MSN-to-DNP students and BSN-to-DNP students. All coursework in both programs is done entirely online.

BSN-to-DNP students can pursue four tracks — adult acute care, adult primary care, family and psychiatric mental health. While MSN-to-DNP students can’t specialize, they do have a wide degree of freedom to choose electives in this length 37-credit program

Program Overview

  1. University of Alabama Tuscaloosa

Through its main campus in Tuscaloosa, the University of Alabama currently offers just one online pathway to earning a DNP degree — MSN to DNP. All coursework is done entirely online, though students must attend one intensive during the spring.

Students with the freedom to attend on a full-time basis can earn their degrees in as little as two years, while part-timers will typically need an extra year. Students with only a BSN may be able to seek admissions, but this is only offered on a case-by-case basis for online learners.

Program Overview


No matter where you start, earning a DNP is a major investment of time and effort. But considering that this degree may be required for many sought-after jobs in nursing, wise students will weigh the cost vs. the quality of the program before making their decisions.