Doctor of Nursing Practice Program

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What is the DNP?

The DNP is the Doctor of Nursing Practice degree.

The DNP program prepares nurses for direct clinical practice and for executive roles in areas that support clinical practice such as administration, organizational leadership, and health policy. Parallel with other health care professions (pharmacy, physical therapy, psychology, medicine, and audiology), the nursing discipline is adopting a practice-focused doctorate as the appropriate graduate education for advanced practice in a highly complex, fast-paced, health care environment.

Why choose UNC School of Nursing for the DNP?
Excellence. UNC is a top tier program. The classroom-based format enables discussion, collaboration and networking. World renowned faculty are available to provide mentorship crucial to professional development.

What are the pathways to the DNP at UNC-Chapel Hill?

BSN to DNP Pathway
There are two options for BSN prepared nurses to obtain their DNP. The Healthcare Systems option prepares nurses for roles that support clinical practice such as administration, informatics and organizational leadership, and the direct care pathway will prepare graduates to be nurse practitioners in the following Advanced Practice Areas:
Adult/Gerontology Nurse Practitioner – Pri­mary Care
Adult/Gerontology Nurse Practitioner – Pri­mary Care – Oncology
Family Nurse Practitioner
Psych Mental Health Nurse Practitioner
Pediatric Nurse Practitioner – Primary Care
Health Care Systems – Administration
Health Care Systems – Outcomes Manage­ment
Health Care Systems – Informatics

BSN-DNP Course List

MSN to DNP Pathway
This option provides enhanced education to those who are already prepared as Nurse Prac­titioners, Clinical Nurse Specialists, Registered Nurse Anesthetists, Nurse Midwives, Nurse Administrators or other Health Care Systems Leaders.

MSN to DNP Course List

What are the Prerequisites to the DNP Program?

BSN to DNP Pathway

  • Hold a BSN from a CCNE or NLNAC accredited program.
  • Possess a minimum of one year of recent (within the past 3 years) clinical work experience, as a Registered Nurse, preferably in an area relevant to the DNP track to which the candidate is seeking admission.
  • Provide evidence of successfully completing an undergraduate statistics course within 5 years with a grade of B or better.

MSN to DNP Pathway

  • Hold a master’s degree in nursing from an NLNAC or CCNE-accredited program.
  • If applicable, provide verification of being certified or ever having been certified as an advanced practice nurse.

What is the focus of the DNP?
The curriculum requirements for the DNP are driven by the eight elements from the AACN Essentials of Doctoral Education for Advanced Nursing Practice:

• Scientific underpinnings for practice
• Organizational and systems leadership for quality improvement and systems thinking
• Clinical scholarship and analytical methods for evidence-based practice
• Information systems technology and patient care technology for the improvement and transformation of health care
• Health care policy for advocacy in health care
• Interprofessional collaboration for improving patient and population health outcomes
• Clinical prevention and population health for improving the nation’s health
• Advanced nursing practice.

Can one get certified in a new area through the MSN to DNP Pathway?
No, the MSN to DNP will not provide certification in a new area.


How long is the BSN to DNP Pathway?
Those admitted with baccalaureate preparation will take 3 years of full-time study ranging from 66 to 75 credit hours depending on the student’s designated area of advanced practice preparation. Those hours will include approximately 1000 practice hours; required coursework for advanced practice, leadership, and practice-based inquiry; and completion of a capstone experience, which will incorporate completion of an evidence-based practice or policy, focused capstone project.

BSN to DNP Curriculum Examples

How long is the MSN to DNP Pathway?
Those admitted with a master’s degree, and who are already nationally certified as an advanced practice registered nurse (e.g., NP, CNS, CNM, or CRNA), will only need the DNP content not included in their prior program of graduate study. They will require 37 to 41 credit hours, a maximum of 500 practice hours, and the completion of an evidence-based practice or policy focused capstone project. Those students admitted with master’s degrees and are not prepared as APRNs (e.g., nurse managers) will work closely with their advisor to develop a program of study that credits prior graduate level work, enables them to meet DNP end of program objectives, and prepares them for roles as a nurse executive.

How much time should I plan to spend per week?
Students should plan to spend two hours out of class for every hour in class to complete course assignments and preparation.

Can I work full time and attend the MSN to DNP Pathway?
Doctoral study does require concentrated effort. Although your courses might meet only one day per week, you must consider the time required outside of the classroom. Due to the intensity of the Full-time plan of study (4 semesters) it would be very difficult to work full-time.

Is this program online?
No. UNC-Chapel Hill School of Nursing offers a campus-based program although most of the DNP courses have a distance component or hybrid format.

Do I need experience as an NP before I apply?

Must I take the GRE?
The GRE Requirement has been suspended for the next five years. You no longer need to take the GRE to apply to a graduate program in the School of Nursing – read more about it here!

Must students find their own site for the capstone project?
No. The School of Nursing will facilitate the clinical site for the capstone practicum.

Is a dissertation required?
No, a dissertation is not required; a capstone project will be required.

The nature and scope of scholarly projects differs significantly from the traditional dissertation.
This non-exhaustive list reflects a range of types of capstone projects:
• Translate research into practice
• Quality improvement (Care processes, Patient outcomes)
• Implement and evaluate evidence based practice guidelines
• Analyze policy: Develop, implement, evaluate, or revise policy
• Design and use databases to retrieve information for decision making, planning, evaluation
• Conduct financial analyses to compare care models and potential cost savings
• Implement and evaluate innovative uses of technology to enhance/evaluate care
• Design and evaluate programs and models of care
• Collaborate with researchers to answer clinical questions


How much will it cost?
See our Cost of Attendance page:Cost of Attendance

Will financial aid be available?
Yes, Please complete the FAFSA now.

Are there Scholarships available?
Yes. Please review the School of Nursing’s DNP Financial Aid Page for DNP Applicants.

Does UNC offer Teaching Assistant and Research Assistant positions?
Yes. Qualifying DNP students may apply for TA and RA positions.


Specific application instructions will be posted on this page:

Who can apply?
The BSN to DNP Pathway is available to applicants who hold a bachelor’s degree in nursing from an NLNAC or CCNE-accredited program.The MSN to DNP Pathway is available to applicants who hold a master’s degree in nursing from an NLNAC or CCNE-accredited program.

What is the application deadline?
January 12, 2016

What materials are needed for the application?

  1. Unofficial transcripts from all colleges attended are required
  2. Copies of certification and RN licensure
  3. Letters of Recommendation

The GRE Requirement has been suspended for the next five years. You no longer need to take the GRE to apply to a graduate program in the School of Nursing!

5. Professional Statement (requirements outlined in the DNP Application Instructions)
6. Resume
7. Application Checklist
8. Application Fee ($85)

Q: When will applicants be notified of admission decisions?
A: April 2016

What steps should I be taking now?

• Complete the FAFSA
• Identify your 3 Recommenders (see description above)
• Update your Resume
• The application will require that you upload unofficial copies of your transcripts, so make sure you have access to all of your documents.

Contact Us

Please email your questions to

Information Sessions

DNP Information Session dates and times are available on our Information Sessions Page