Dual Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) Degree Program Guide

Dual-degree programs allow you to specialize in clinical areas to execute advanced patient care and clinical research to improve patient outcomes. The dual approach pairs a terminal degree in nursing with a graduate-level degree in another area of concentration. The DNP degree focuses on implementing nursing care at the highest level of clinical practice. DNP graduates may typically work in healthcare administration, research and other leadership roles in various medical settings.

What is a dual DNP degree program?

Some dual DNP degree programs pair the Doctor of Nursing Practice degree with another specialization area to prepare the graduate for advanced leadership positions focused on patient care. With a dual-degree program, students may earn two degrees simultaneously at an accelerated schedule. Overlapping coursework means fewer actual classroom hours are required than pursuing the degrees separately. The dual degree programs create clinical scholars who are leaders in nursing science development with a foundation as expert nurse clinicians to develop innovative solutions for improving patient care and the clinical nursing curriculum.

Graduates of dual DNP programs may aim to be nursing leaders in interdisciplinary healthcare teams working to improve systems for patient care outcomes and quality and safety. Online DNP programs have made the pursuit of an advanced degree more convenient for those who may be pursuing a dual degree at the same time.

Is a Dual DNP Program Right for Me?

A dual DNP program is suited for nurses who want to launch careers in advanced nursing practice. Usually, a Master of Science in nursing degree is required, although there are direct bachelor’s degree in nursing-to-DNP programs available online as well. The DNP degree is focused on clinical practice compared to a Ph.D. in nursing degree, which is structured around conducting research to advance the practice of nursing. The dual program may help prepare you for leadership roles in specific areas of practice, such as public health, health administration or the business side of healthcare.

Typically, a DNP program requires two to five years to complete. A dual-degree program may not add to the length of the process, but it will increase the intensity of study and practical experience required. Online programs may allow students to set their own pace, incorporating studies into their professional and personal schedules. 

The value from the time and expense of a dual DNP program is based on your career goals. With a DNP degree, you may help influence the practice and profession of nursing through leadership positions in academia, government or the executive boardroom.

3 Types of Dual DNP programs

A dual DNP program provides a distinct specialty that identifies the student as having a deep interest in a specific nursing practice area. The cross-disciplinary knowledge and skills position the dual degree holder for a unique perspective on healthcare practices. We’ve found four types of dual DNP programs: DNP/MBA, DNP/MPH, and DNP/Ph.D.

Dual Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP)/Master of Business Administration (MBA) 

An emphasis on business administration may prepare nurses to work in administrative roles to create policies and help run healthcare organizations. Nurses already working in the field can select online DNP/MBA degree options that allow scheduling flexibility. 

MBA courses may include finance, marketing and accounting. The DNP/MBA dual program is likely to also include advanced clinical work. Look for a program that is certified by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) and the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN) to be assured it meets national nursing education standards.

Dual Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP)/Master of Public Health (MPH) 

The Master of Public Health (MPH) provides specialized training for nurses interested in focusing on community and public health. The DNP program combined with the MPH program includes courses in epidemiology, public health, healthcare policy and politics as well as advanced clinical nursing. The program will include an advanced clinical internship component that allows students to experience public health practice in a real-world setting.

Dual Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP)/Ph.D. Degree

The dual DNP/Ph.D. track pairs research and clinical practice experience to prepare nurses to teach, research and lead innovations in healthcare. The program combines practical knowledge and theoretical and analytical approaches to conduct and apply research for evidence-based practices. 

With a foundation in both research and clinical practice experience, graduates will be prepared to assume leadership roles in nursing and healthcare for their organization as well as at the national level. Depending on the program, students can select an advanced practice track, such as adult-gerontological acute care, family primary care or pediatric critical care.

Additional DNP Programs

Instead of pursuing a dual DNP, you may consider a DNP degree with a focus in an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) career.

  • DNP-Family Nurse Practitioner: Although you may only need a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) to become a family nurse practitioner (FNP), a DNP program with this concentration may prepare you to lead on providing advanced care for the whole family across a wide range of primary care needs.
  • DNP-Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner: As with FNP, to become a women’s health nurse practitioner (WHNP), you may first earn an MSN. However, a DNP WHNP program may provide you with skills to lead on healthcare for women and their families.
  • BSN to DNP: A BSN to DNP program is a type of bridge program connecting RN level nurses with leadership education to becoming an APRN.
  • DNP-Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner (AG-ACNP): Earning a DNP AG-ACNP degree may help you to become an AG-ACNP responsible for diagnosing and treating medical conditions in critical care and hospital-based settings.
  • DNP-Midwifery: DNP Midwifery, or DNP Certified Nurse Midwife programs enable nurse midwives to offer independent care to meet their clients needs, influence policy initiatives and provide leadership in care settings.

Choosing a DNP Pathway

A Doctor of Nursing Practice is the highest degree possible for practice-focused learning in nursing. Choosing the right path will depend on any specialties you would like to concentrate on, the entrance requirements, and length of study to complete the degree. At the end of the program, students are prepared for advanced clinical nursing positions to help shape the nursing profession.

Launch the next step in your nursing career by learning more about DNP Degree Programs.

Information on this page was last retrieved in August 2020