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

Thanks to a 2015 change in legislation that resulted in Minnesota’s APRNs being granted the freedom to practice independent of physician oversight, increasing numbers of these advanced nursing clinicians have entered the field in recent years, quickly filling the void left by droves of retiring physicians. Nurse practitioners and other APRNs provide reliable, cost-effective care to people throughout the state, particularly in the rural areas where physician shortages are persistent.

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A publication by the Minnesota Department of Health, Office of Rural Health and Primary Care found that as of May 2019, there were 8,849 actively licensed APRNs in Minnesota – the majority (66 percent) of whom were licensed as nurse practitioners. This represents a 31 percent increase in the number of licensed APRNs since 2014.

One of the biggest changes to the nursing field in Minnesota is the shift among RNs who are now more frequently electing to earn the DNP, the highest practice focused degree available, over the MSN, the minimum requirement. In 2014, just 3 percent of all APRNs held a doctorate; in 2019, this number had increased to 15 percent.

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Nurses are moving toward the DNP because it provides them with the knowledge and skills they need to succeed at the highest levels of administration and clinical practice. And because most colleges and universities that offer the DNP provide entry points for both BSN- and MSN-educated nurses, it is becoming increasingly common among both aspiring nurse practitioners, nurse anesthetists, clinical nurse specialists and nurse-midwives, as well as current APRNs looking to transition to administration or gain additional training in a specialty or second patient population focus.

Earning a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) in Minnesota

Doctor of Nursing Practice programs are structured in one of two ways to accommodate both BSN and MSN-prepared RNs and APRNs:

  • Post-bachelor’s BSN-to-DNP – For BSN-educated RNs looking to attain initial certification in an APRN role and patient population focus or otherwise pursuing an organizational and systems track in an area like nursing administration or informatics.
  • Post-master’s MSN-to-DNP – For MSN-prepared RNs and APRNs preparing for leadership roles or looking to further develop their expertise in an area of direct patient care. This may involve adding additional certification in another patient population focus or specialty area.

In keeping with accreditation standards established by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) and the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN), all DNP programs are offered in one of two general track types:

  • APRN direct care focus (nurse practitioner, nurse midwife, clinical nurse specialist, nurse anesthetist,)
  • Aggregate/systems/organizational focus (administration, clinical instruction, informatics, executive leadership, public health)

In spite of the numerous on-site programs available in Minnesota, a growing majority of students pursuing DNP degrees in the state are turning to accredited online programs that better accommodate the working schedules of RNs and APRNs.

Doctorate-Level Coursework and DNP Projects

As the ultimate terminal practice-focused degree available in the field of nursing, Doctor of Nursing Practice programs for APRNs are designed to develop students’ knowledge and skills in the following areas:

  • Theoretical principles and practical application of advanced physical assessment
  • Clinical judgment and reasoning to establish differential diagnoses
  • Pharmacology, pharmacokinetics, pharmacodynamics, and genomics
  • Assessing, diagnosing, and treating common acute and chronic health conditions
  • Health promotion, screening, and lifestyle modification techniques
  • Utilization of diagnostic procedures, diagnosis, symptom management, and disease treatment

In general, DNP programs consist of the following components:

  • DNP Core These core courses are relatively universal across most DNP programs, both those designed for APRNs and those with an aggregate/systems/organizational focus:
    • Advanced Nursing Roles
    • Theoretical Foundations of Advanced Practice Nursing
    • Scientific and Analytic Approaches to Advanced Evidence-Based Practice
    • Epidemiology and Health Promotion
    • Health Policy, Ethical, and Legal Perspectives of Health Care
    • Promoting Optimal Models and Systems for Health Care Delivery
    • Ethical Dimensions for Nursing Practice
    • Foundations of Integrative Care
    • Research Methodology
    • Advanced Biostatistics in Health Research
  • Specialty Coursework– These courses delve into the specific area of focus chosen by the student at an advanced practice level
  • Final Project At the close of their studies, students are required to complete a final DNP Project, which will enable them to showcase the practical and clinical knowledge they have gained within their chosen specialization.

In addition to lecture-format coursework, students in the DNP program must complete a minimum of 1,000 hours of supervised post-baccalaureate practice in order to satisfy the degree requirements. As many as 500 hours gained during a master’s program can be applied to the 1,000-hour total, provided the master’s program was in the same area of focus as the DNP.

Post-Bachelor’s BSN-to-DNP Programs for BSN-Prepared Nurses

Candidates who hold BSNs can apply to post-bachelor’s BSN-to-DNP programs designed to introduce master’s and doctoral level curriculum progressively in one accelerated program. This provides RNs with a pathway towards obtaining a DNP while earning an MSN, certification in an APRN role and patient population focus, and state APRN licensure in the process. BSN-to-DNP programs are also available in non-APRN tracks for those interested in becoming administrators, informaticists and more.

BSN-DNP students will complete approximately 30 credits of core MSN courses before moving on to finish the remaining 60 credits in doctoral level coursework.

Just like traditional post-master’s DNP programs, these programs are available in various specialty tracks that may include:

  • Executive Leadership
  • Family Nurse Practitioner
  • Adult Gerontology Nurse Practitioner
  • Transcultural Nursing Leadership
  • Psychiatric and Mental Health Nurse Practitioner
  • Nursing and Organizational Leadership
  • Nurse Educator

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

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) (current as of 2016).

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Both CCNE and ACEN-accredited DNP programs are often available online to students in Minnesota.


Augsburg University



Accreditation: CCNE

BSN-DNP (hybrid)

  • Family Nurse Practitioner

MSN-DNP (hybrid)

  • Transcultural Nursing Leadership


College of St. Scholastica

School of Nursing


Accreditation: CCNE

BSN-DNP (hybrid)

  • Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner
  • Family Nurse Practitioner
  • Psychiatric and Mental Health Nurse Practitioner

Post-Graduate-DNP (hybrid)

  • Leadership Skills and Change Management


Metropolitan State University

College of Nursing and Health Sciences

Saint Paul

Accreditation: CCNE

BSN-DNP (hybrid)

  • Family Nurse Practitioner

Entry-Level MSN-DNP (hybrid)

  • Family Nurse Practitioner


University of Minnesota

School of Nursing


Accreditation: CCNE and COA

Post-Baccalaureate-DNP (hybrid)

  • Adult Health/Gerontological Clinical Nurse Specialist
  • Adult/Gerontological Primary Care Nurse Practitioner
  • Women’s Healthcare Nurse Practitioner
  • Nurse Anesthesia
  • Family Nurse Practitioner
  • Health Innovation and Leadership
  • Nursing Informatics
  • Integrative Health and Healing
  • Nurse Midwifery
  • Pediatric Clinical Nurse Specialist
  • Primary Care Pediatric Nurse Practitioner
  • Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner

Post-Master’s-DNP (hybrid)

  • Leadership


Walden University

School of Nursing


Accreditation: CCNE

MSN-DNP (online)

  • Leadership


St. Catherine University

Henrietta Schmoll School of Health

Saint Paul

Accreditation: ACEN

BSN-DNP/MBA Dual Degree (hybrid)

  • Leadership

BSN-DNP/MHI Dual Degree (hybrid)

  • Leadership

BSN-DNP/MAHS Dual Degree (hybrid)

  • Leadership

BSN-DNP/MAOL Dual Degree (hybrid)

  • Leadership

MSN/DNP (hybrid)

  • Nurse Practitioner


  • Leadership (online)

Other DNP programs in the state not shown here may be regionally accredited or hold specialty accreditation through the Council on Accreditation of Nurse Anesthesia Educational Programs or the Accreditation Commission for Midwifery Education.

Opportunities Available to DNP-Prepared Nurses in Minnesota

Achieving the DNP has inherent value for RNs and APRNs interested in the highest clinical nursing roles, as well as roles in administration, nursing education, and executive leadership positions.

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The following job posts highlight just some of the excellent professional opportunities available to Minnesota’s DNP-educated nurses:

Nurse Practitioner, Mayo Clinic, Mankato, MN

  • Experience in providing nursing care to patients
  • Master’s degree in nursing required; DNP preferred

Director of Nursing, South Central College, Mankato, MN

  • Master’s degree in nursing, nursing administration, nursing education, public health nursing, or a nursing clinical specialty required; DNP, PhD, EdD preferred
  • RN with current Minnesota license
  • Minimum three years of experience as an RN
  • Minimum two years of experience as a faculty member within a professional nursing education program

Nursing Faculty – DNP, Metropolitan State University, Saint Paul, MN

  • Current doctoral degree in nursing or closely related field or intent to complete doctoral degree within one year of hire
  • Two years of professional nursing experience as an NP within the last five years
  • Current certification as a family nurse practitioner through AANP or ANCC


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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