Online BSN-to-DNP and MSN-to-DNP Programs Available in North Dakota

A shortage of nurses persists in North Dakota’s Red River Valley, particularly as Fargo-Moorhead hospitals expand to accommodate an influx of new residents working the oil fields. For example, Sanford Health, in Fargo, is in the process of building a new $500 million medical center, while Essential Health, also in Fargo, is adding a new wing. Aggressive recruiting—including signing bonuses of up to $15,000—aim to alleviate the problem.

Sponsored School

Featured DNP Programs:

This type of situation means plenty of professional opportunities for North Dakota’s nurses at all levels. Nurses with advanced degrees like the Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP), make significant contributions to strengthening the capabilities of North Dakota’s nursing workforce, taking on clinical leadership and administrative roles and earning professional recognition for their achievements in advancing nursing practice.

For example, Stacey Pfenning, DNP, APRN, FNP, recently earned the “ND Legendary Nurse Award: Evidence Based Practice” for demonstrating excellence in using and promoting evidence-based practice principles in the pursuit of clinical excellence.

Unlike the PhD in Nursing, aimed at careers in research and academia, the DNP remains the highest level clinical nursing degree, preparing nurses in North Dakota and throughout the country for careers as advanced practice nursing leaders, managed care executives, clinical faculty members, and quality initiative managers, among many others.

Earning a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) in North Dakota

A Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) is a terminal degree designed to prepare nurses to assume leadership roles as executives or advanced practice nurses.

North Dakota nurses may enter a DNP program with either a BSN or MSN:

  • BSN-to-DNP programs accept BSN-prepared RNs and include the components of both an MSN and DNP, consisting of about 90 credits and three years of full-time study. BSN-DNP programs allow BSN-prepared nurses to first complete the components of their MSN, which includes choosing an APRN role and population focus and earning national certification in an APRN role, and then transition to the DNP. BSN-DNP programs are also available in executive leadership tracks.
  • MSN-to-DNP programs are designed for MSN-prepared nurses. Depending on the institution, nurses may specialize their MSN-DNP in one of a number of areas, such as nursing informatics, administration, and advanced practice nursing. DNP programs in advanced practice nursing roles generally require students to hold national certification in the chosen APRN specialty upon entering the program.

Accredited programs generally require at least 1,000 post-baccalaureate clinical practice hours (500 of which may be transferred from an MSN program) and offer students the ability to specialize in at least one of the following:

  • An advanced practice nursing direct care focus
    • Nurse practitioner
    • Clinical nurse specialist
    • Nurse anesthetist
    • Nurse-midwife
  • An aggregate/systems/organizational focus, such as:
    • Clinical education
    • Nursing informatics
    • Executive leadership
    • Public policy
    • Public health
    • Administration

A large number of institutions now allow students to complete some or all of the components of their DNP program through distance-based study. On-campus requirements for online DNP programs are generally limited to an immersion experience, which provides DNP students with the opportunity to meet and interact with faculty and peers. Like their campus-based counterparts, online students work alongside a faculty advisor who ensures they meet program requirements and who helps coordinate their clinical rotations.

Depending on the institution, students of online and campus-based DNP programs may complete their program via a full-time, part-time, or accelerated format. While a traditional, full-time DNP program takes about 18-24 months to complete, part-time programs take about 32 months and accelerated programs take about 12 months.

DNP programs include three, main components:

  • DNP Core: This includes a core course of study in topics such as:
    • Scientific Foundation of Nursing Knowledge Development
    • Qualitative Methods in Clinical Nursing
    • Leadership in Organizations and Systems
    • Quantitative Methods for Practice-Based Nursing Inquiry
  • Specialty courses in line with the chosen focus – Specialty coursework focuses on an advanced practice nursing focus or an aggregate/systems/organizational focus
  • Final Project – DNP programs culminate in a final project. Final projects may consist of a pilot study, a program evaluation, a quality improvement project, or an evaluation of a new practice model, among others.

In an effort to prepare a greater number of DNP nurses, many institutions offer a point of entry for BSN-prepared nurses. These programs involve completing an MSN (usually in an advanced practice role) before transitioning to the DNP program.

Similar to MSN-DNP programs, students may complete BSN-DNP programs in part-time, accelerated, or full-time formats, and many are offered in an online format.

CCNE-Accredited Post-MSN and BSN-DNP Programs Available in North Dakota

The following DNP programs have been accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) (current as of 2016).

North Dakota State University
BSN-DNP – Nurse Practitioner

University of Mary
BSN-DNP – Nurse Practitioner

University of North Dakota
MSN-DNP – Nurse Practitioner

A larger selection of CCNE and ACEN (American Commission for Education in Nursing)-accredited DNP programs are available 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 North Dakota

DNP-prepared nurses in North Dakota possess the knowledge required to translate research into practice and the advanced competencies to lead within the clinical environment.

Although the following job listings provide no guarantee of employment and are for illustrative purposes only, they do provide insight into the types of opportunities available to DNP nurses in North Dakota (from a survey of job vacancy announcements in North Dakota performed in April 2016):

CRNA, St. Alexius Health: Bismarck


  • Ensure quality patient care while providing pain relief during surgical and special procedures
  • Administer appropriate anesthetic techniques to all risk and age categories of patients


  • Graduate of an approved program in nursing
  • Graduate of an accredited school of nurse anesthesia; master’s & DNP preferred

Assistant Professor/Assistant Professor of Practice: North Dakota State University, Fargo


  • Coordinate and teach undergraduate/graduate courses or clinical rotations
  • Develop clinical rotations and learning activities for FNP/DNP nursing students in rural and urban clinical sites


  • Master’s degree in nursing or DNP
  • Excellent oral and written communication and collaboration skills

Nurse Practitioner, Pediatrics: Essentia Health, Fargo


  • Utilize advanced health assessment, knowledge, and decision making skills
  • Provide healthcare to individuals emphasizing health promotion, disease prevention, and disease management


  • Master’s or doctoral degree in nursing practitioner program
  • Pediatric trained and certified through PNCB or ANCC

Back to Top