Weighing the Opportunities and Salary Benefits of a DNP vs MSN

Some of the most important and influential voices in nursing all agree that the DNP is more than just a highly-valued and worthwhile degree for today’s advanced nursing professionals. DNP nurses are able to make a significant and lasting impact on the field of nursing, using their skills and practice expertise to improve patient outcomes. Personally and professionally, earning the DNP also comes with its share of perks, including some of the best-paying, practice-based positions in clinical and non-clinical nursing, recognition and respect from the interdisciplinary healthcare community, and personal fulfillment.

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Ask the healthcare industry as a whole, and the most respected voices in nursing  – including the AACN, National Academy of Sciences, Institute of Medicine, Joint Commission, and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, among others – and the answer to whether you should earn a DNP is a resounding – yes.

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A better educated nursing workforce is needed to manage a healthcare environment that continues to become more complex, particularly in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has placed a renewed focus on patient and practitioner safety. DNP nurses are prepared with the skills and knowledge to make significant, lasting changes to the nursing field while delivering exceptional patient care.

But is the DNP the right choice for you? It depends…Begin by asking yourself the following questions:

Are you interested in a bigger paycheck?

The DNP comes with a long list of benefits, and a larger paycheck definitely comes in at the top of the list. According to a 2019 salary survey by Medscape, APRNs with a DNP earn, on average, about $6,000 more than APRNs with an MSN and $42,000 more than BSN nurses.

A 2016 survey published by the American Organization for Nurse Executives also found that the largest percentage of DNP nurse leaders reported earning $250,000 or more, followed by those earning between $140,000-$149,999.

Whether you choose the DNP to move into administrative, executive, policy, or faculty positions, or to earn an initial or additional APRN certification, you’ll likely be rewarded with a higher salary.

Do you want to futureproof your career?

Job security is another fantastic reason to earn your DNP.

As the highest practice-focused nursing degree, the DNP is the pinnacle of clinical nursing education. Earn the DNP and you’ll be qualified to assume some of the most coveted roles in both clinical and non-clinical nursing, ensuring an upward trajectory for the rest of your career. And while the MSN is the minimum educational requirement to become an APRN, the movement toward the DNP among these nursing professionals remains strong.

For example, by 2025, all new certified registered nurse anesthetists (CRNAs) will need a DNP to practice. While currently practicing nurse anesthetists will be allowed to continue practicing with their MSN, competition in the field and employer preference may encourage them to ultimately earn their DNP. And there’s good reason to believe that the DNP will eventually become the new standard for all APRN roles.

In short, earning your DNP now is a fantastic way to ensure you’re always at the top of your game.

Do you want to expand your career opportunities?

The DNP is the ideal way to expand the opportunities available to you in your nursing career. Use it to gain initial APRN licensure, add another role/population focus to your existing APRN license, or move into various types of leadership roles. Whether you want to practice as a highly qualified APRN, nursing director, nurse executive, informaticist or expert in healthcare policy or public health, the DNP is the degree that will get you where you want to be.

If you’re interested in taking your nursing career to the next level by stepping into a specialist position of any kind, then the DNP should be on your radar.

Do you want to elevate and advance the nursing profession?

You’re committed to nursing excellence, and it shows, so earning the DNP for you means exploring new ways to elevate and advance healthcare delivery and patient outcomes.

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In other words, earning the DNP for you means not only propelling your career but also moving the entire nursing profession forward. The DNP will provide you with outstanding opportunities for exploring new and exciting areas of nursing or becoming an expert in a topic you’re passionate about. In-depth study in areas like population health, systems leadership, and information technology will add to your body of knowledge and allow you to be uniquely positioned to make significant and lasting changes in the way nursing care is delivered.

Are you up for a challenge?

You’ve never been one to back down from a challenge, so achieving the highest practice-focused degree in nursing to achieve professional recognition, personal and professional fulfillment, and to keep you on par with your doctorate-prepared colleagues in physical therapy, pharmacy, psychology, audiology, and similar fields is a challenge you’re ready to accept.

And there’s no doubt about it – earning a DNP is demanding, requiring a commitment of between two and four years, depending on whether you’re coming in with a bachelor’s or master’s. But you’ll find it also takes a razor sharp focus to complete the DNP curriculum, which consists of some of the most arduous didactic and clinical requirements in nursing. No, it’s not an easy venture, but it’s one that comes with outstanding rewards.