Online BSN-to-DNP and MSN-to-DNP Programs Available in Illinois

Illinois, like many other parts of the country, is experiencing a shortage of primary care physicians – a shortage that is projected to continue into the coming years. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), Illinois will be home to 9,620 physicians by 2025, while projections are showing some 10,020 needed just to keep pace with demand.

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As the highest clinical degree available in nursing, the Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP), is increasingly becoming the degree of choice for advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) and others who want to take their nursing career to the next level. Illinois nurses with a DNP enjoy advanced-level nursing opportunities in active practice, administration, and nursing education and are largely seen as the solution to ameliorating the shortage of primary care physicians throughout the state.

Many colleges and universities in Illinois have developed DNP programs in response to an increasing demand for advanced education. According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN), there were 23 DNP programs in Illinois as of 2019.

Earning a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) in Illinois

Doctor of Nursing Practice programs are available as post-bachelor’s programs for BSN-prepared RNs and post-master’s programs for MSN-prepared RNs and APRNs:

  • BSN-to-DNP programs allow BSN-prepared registered nurses to first fulfill their MSN requirements and then transition into the DNP program. This type of program is usually used as a track to initial APRN certification and licensure and would consist of an average of 90 credits taken over 36 months if studying full-time, depending on the specialization.
  • MSN-to-DNP programs allow MSN-prepared registered nurses who may already be certified and licensed as APRNs to fulfill the requirements of a DNP. These programs are designed for APRNs wishing to improve their proficiency within their current APRN role or to add additional certification(s) in other patient population foci or specialties. Executive and organizational leadership tracks are also available. These types of programs average 36 credits completed over 18 months if studying full-time, depending on the specialization.

The Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) and the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN) accredit all DNP programs in the U.S. Accreditation is bestowed upon programs that offer at least 1,000 practice hours at the post-baccalaureate level and give students the opportunity to specialize in at least one of the following concentrations:

  • Advanced practice nursing direct care (nurse practitioner, clinical nurse specialist, nurse midwife, nurse anesthetist)
  • Organizational, aggregate, or systems concentration such as nursing leadership, health care policy, etc.

Illinois nursing students often opt for the many accredited online DNP programs that offer flexible distance learning options. In such online programs, students must still complete clinical requirements at partner clinical sites.

Both campus-based and online DNP programs offer students flexible scheduling options, including:

  • Traditional DNP programs take about 18-24 months to complete
  • Accelerated DNP programs take about 12 months to complete
  • Part-time DNP programs take about 30 months to complete

Three main components exist in DNP programs:

  • DNP core – The DNP core courses (includes topics such as application of analytic, organizational and leadership concepts and methods for evidence-based practicehealthcare informatics and information systems, concepts in population health outcomes, and healthcare policy)
  • Specialty courses consistent with the chosen concentration  Specialty courses focuses on an advanced practice registered nursing concentration or an aggregate/systems/organizational concentration
  • Final project  The DNP program’s final project gives nursing students the opportunity to prove and establish their proficiency in an advanced specialty within the nursing practice. DNP projects may entail a written paper appropriate for publication along with a formal presentation

BSN-to-DNP Programs for BSN-Prepared Nurses

Nursing students who currently hold a BSN may seek admission to DNP programs that allow them to earn both their MSN and DNP in one integrated program. A BSN-to-DNP program gives these students the opportunity to smoothly transition to a DNP program once MSN studies are completed. BSN-DNP programs are typically completed in three-four years.

BSN-DNP programs may concentrate on one of the four APRN roles (nurse practitioner, nurse-midwife, nurse anesthetist or clinical nurse specialist) or offer a systems/organizational leadership track. Additionally, these programs satisfy clinical requirements averaging 500 hours applied to the 1,000 total required to earn a DNP and often allow the student to earn national certification in their chosen APRN role and specialty concentration/population focus as applicable.

Depending upon the chosen nursing concentration, MSN courses will vary. However, the MSN core in a BSN-MSN program is usually uniform from school to school and will encompass the following principles in an average of 36-40 credit hours:

  • Clinical prevention/population health
  • Evidence-based practice research
  • Informatics and technology applications
  • Interdisciplinary collaboration
  • Organizational and systems behavior and leadership
  • Healthcare policy and advocacy
  • Healthcare economics
  • Culture, ethics and policy analysis
  • Program evaluation
  • Quality and safety

MSN programs specializing in an APRN role will also feature an APRN core, consisting of an average of 50 credit hours of study in areas such as:

  • Applied physiology or pathophysiology for advanced practice, including uniform principles that apply across the lifespan
  • Health assessment for advanced practice, including the assessment of all human bodily systems, concepts and methodologies, and advanced assessment practices
  • Pharmacology for advanced practice, including:
    • Pharmacokinetics
    • Pharmacotherapeutic implications across the lifespan
    • Pharmacodynamics

BSN-to-DNP and MSN-to-DNP Programs Available in Illinois

The following DNP programs have been accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE), and/or the American Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN). Other DNP programs not shown here may hold regional accreditation or specialty accreditation through the Council on Accreditation of Nurse Anesthesia Educational Programs or the Accreditation Commission for Midwifery Education.

CCNE and ACEN-accredited programs are generally available online to advanced nursing students in Illinois.

  • Illinois State University
    • Post-MSN
    • Aggregate/Systems/Organizational Focus
  • University of St. Francis, Joliet
    • Post-MSN
    • Advanced practice registered nurse focus
  • University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago
    • Post-MSN and BSN-DNP
    • Specializations in:
      • Adult-gerontology acute care nurse practitioner
      • Adult-gerontology primary care nurse practitioner
      • Advanced population health nursing
      • Family nurse practitioner
      • Health systems leadership and informatics
      • Neonatal nurse practitioner
      • Nurse midwife
      • Nurse midwife/women’s health practitioner
      • Pediatric acute care nurse practitioner
      • Pediatric primary care nurse practitioner
      • Psychiatric-mental health nurse practitioner
      • Women’s health nurse practitioner
  • Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, Edwardsville
    • Post-MSN and BSN-DNP
    • Specialty tracks in:
      • Nurse anesthetist (BSN-DNP)
      • Family nurse practitioner (BSN-DNP)
      • Advanced practice registered nursing focus (MSN-DNP)
  • Rush University, Chicago
    • Post-MSN and BSN-DNP
    • Specialty tracks in:
      • Adult-gerontology acute care nurse practitioner (BSN-DNP) (MSN-DNP)
      • Adult-gerontology primary care nurse practitioner(BSN-DNP) (MSN-DNP)
      • Family nurse practitioner(BSN-DNP)
      • Neonatal nurse practitioner(BSN-DNP)
      • Pediatric-acute care nurse practitioner(BSN-DNP)
      • Pediatric-primary care nurse practitioner(BSN-DNP)
      • Psychiatric-mental health nurse practitioner(BSN-DNP)
      • Nurse anesthetist (BSN-DNP)
      • Adult-gerontology clinical nurse specialist (BSN-DNP)
      • Adult-gerontology acute care clinical nurse specialist (BSN-DNP)
      • Neonatal clinical nurse specialist (BSN-DNP)
      • Pediatric clinical nurse specialist (BSN-DNP)
      • Advanced public health nursing (BSN-DNP)
      • Systems leadership (MSN-DNP)
      • Leadership to enhance population health outcomes (MSN-DNP)
  • Loyola University Chicago, Maywood
    • Post-MSN and BSN-DNP
    • Specialty tracks in:
      • Outcomes performance management (MSN-DNP)
      • Healthcare informatics (MSN-DNP)
      • Infection prevention (BSN-DNP)
  • Lewis University, Romeoville
    • Post-MSN
    • Advanced practice registered nurse focus
  • DePaul University, Chicago
    • Post-MSN and BSN-DNP
    • Specialty tracks in:
      • Adult-gerontology nurse practitioner
      • Clinical nurse specialist
      • Family nurse practitioner
      • Nurse anesthetist
      • Nurse midwife
  • Chamberlain College of Nursing, Downers Grove
    • Post-MSN and BSN-DNP
    • Specialization in healthcare leadership systems
  • Kaplan University
    • Post-MSN
    • Aggregate/Systems/Organizational Focus
  • Saint Francis Medical Center College of Nursing
    • Post-MSN
    • Specialty Tracks:
      • Advanced practice registered nurse focus
      • Leadership

Opportunities Available to DNP-Prepared Nurses in Illinois

DNP graduates in Illinois will find a variety of career opportunities in leadership and advanced practice available to them, including:

  • Nurse executives in healthcare organizations
  • Directors of graduate nursing programs
  • Faculty members of clinical nursing programs
  • Developers of health care policies and practices

Registered nurses in Illinois who earn their DNP may find opportunities to advance in leadership roles in their current field and/or with their present employer. The following job posts reveal just some of the outstanding opportunities available to Illinois’ DNP-educated nurses:

Assistant Professor, Southern Illinois University Carbondale, Carbondale, IL

  • Master’s degree in nursing or an RN with a related master’s degree required; doctoral degree in nursing (PhD, EdD, or DNP) or graduate degree in nursing with a related doctoral degree preferred
  • Advanced nursing credentials preferred

Assistant Professor, Illinois State University, Normal, IL

  • PhD or DNP required; an MSN if doctorate is not in nursing; doctoral candidates considered

Director of Nursing Excellence and Magnet Designation, Cook County Health and Hospitals, Chicago, IL

  • RN license in the State of Illinois
  • MSN; DNP or PhD in Nursing preferred
  • Five years of experience in healthcare and previous experience in healthcare accreditation and project management activities
  • Three years of director-level administrative experience

Nursing Faculty – Non-Tenure Track, University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago, IL

  • DNP or PhD by time of appointment
  • Two years of clinical experience; teaching experience in health professions preferred
  • Adult-gerontology acute care NP or adult-gerontology primary care NP board certified preferred


Examples of DNP nursing positions were taken from a survey of job listings in January 2020 and are shown for illustrative purposes only. These examples do not represent job offers or positions that are currently available.

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