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What Can You Do With A Doctorate In Nursing?

The practice of nursing has evolved dramatically over the past decade. Nurses must now take on an expanded scope of practice that includes serving as educators, researchers, and leaders within their organizations.

A doctorate in nursing, also known as a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree, is the highest achievement in nursing education. DNP programs represent advanced practice education and are designed to prepare nurses to improve health system performance at the local, state and national levels.

In this article, we’ll provide an overview of the skills and career options for nursing professionals with a doctorate in nursing. We hope this takes the guesswork out of preparing for your DNP degree so you can go on to have a successful career as an advanced practice nurse in clinical or administrative roles.

What Will A DNP Prepare You For?

A Doctor of Nursing Practice has many applications. Whether you want to work as a Nurse Practitioner, become a clinical leader or affect change in an administrative capacity, a DNP will put you on the path to career advancement.

Here are 5 practical ways a DNP will help you meet personal and professionals goals and put you at the top of the nursing profession:

  • Improve the quality and safety of patient care using principles of evidence-based practice.
  • Develop and manage interprofessional teams that meet the highest standards of quality and safety. 
  • Analyze and evaluate the local and global impacts of a healthcare organization’s policies, practice, and funding.
  • Become a change agent and accelerate transformation to improve complex healthcare delivery systems.
  • Educate the next generation of nurses to provide safe and effective patient care.

DNP programs typically focus on two different career paths—advanced patient care roles or organizational leadership roles. Let’s look at different careers in both clinical and non-clinical settings for nurses who earn a DNP.

Clinical Career Options For Nurses With A Doctorate In Nursing

Many nurses choose to pursue a career in nursing because they want to provide direct patient care. For those who find a clinical career path rewarding, there are many opportunities in advanced practice roles for nurses who earn a DNP.

Let’s look at some of the top professions for DNP graduates and how much you can expect to make on a yearly basis.

Certified Nurse Practitioner | Average Salary (EMSI): $111,675

While a DNP is not the same thing as a Nurse Practitioner (NP), this degree provides excellent preparation for a career as an NP. 

Nurse practitioners help with all aspects of patient care— including diagnosis, treatments and consultations. Nurse practitioners typically work in a primary care setting, managed care organizations or hospitals. 

According to labor market analytics firm EMSI, jobs for nurse practitioners are expected to grow by an astounding 43.4% by 2031. This is largely due to a shortage of primary care providers. According to the American Association of Nurse Practitioners, nearly 80 million people live in Health Professional Shortage Areas. This shortage means no prevention, screening, immunizations or basic care for infections and illnesses, and patients in rural areas are hit especially hard.

To become a nurse practitioner, you’ll also need to earn a national NP certification, which typically requires meeting academic requirements (which a DNP satisfies), evidence of clinical work, an application fee, and a standardized examination.

Certified Nurse-Midwife | Average Salary (EMSI): $111,134

A nurse-midwife is a licensed advanced practice nurse who specializes in women’s reproductive health and childbirth. They provide gynecological care to women, as well as care for expectant mothers and their newborn babies during pregnancy, labor and post-delivery.

Certified nurse midwives are essential members of healthcare teams and, in some cases, operate independent practices. According to EMSI, jobs for nurse midwives are expected to grow by 11.2% by 2031. 

Aspiring nurse-midwives must also pass the national certification exam offered by the American Midwifery Certification Board (AMCB).

Nurse Anesthetists | Average Salary (EMSI): $183,581

A nurse anesthetist is responsible for providing pain medication (anesthesia) for patients before, during, and after surgery. They administer medications that keep patients asleep or pain-free during their surgery and continuously monitor all biological functions of the patient's body. According to EMSI, by 2031, job growth for nurse anesthetists is expected to grow by 13.2%. 

To qualify for this career, a doctorate will soon be required. According to the Council on Accreditation (COA) of Nurse Anesthesia Educational Programs, all CRNA degree programs must include a doctoral degree by January 1, 2022. You will also need to pass the CRNA certification to become a nurse anesthetist.

Clinical Nurse Leader (CNL) | Average Salary ( $91,715

Clinical nurse leaders are responsible for developing, administering and evaluating patient care at the clinical level, as opposed to the administrative level. These professionals coordinate, delegate and supervise the care provided by an interdisciplinary healthcare team—including physicians, pharmacists, social workers, nurse practitioners, and clinical nurse specialists.

A doctorate in nursing is ideal for clinical nurse leaders. DNP programs focus on teaching methods of evidence-based practice, which aligns with the primary role of CNLs—ensuring patients receive the best care by making full use of the latest innovations in care delivery.


Earning a doctorate is challenging and rewarding, but do you know what to really expect? Download this free guide for tips and insights to help you prepare for success.



Non-Clinical Career Options for Nurses With a Doctorate in Nursing

Although nursing is a career where many job opportunities are in the clinical setting, there are many non-clinical options available to nurses with a doctorate in nursing degree. Let’s look at some of the top positions you can qualify for if you earn a DNP degree.

Chief Nursing Officer | Average Salary ( $133,623 

A chief nursing officer (CNO) is responsible for managing the overall operation of all aspects of a healthcare facility. This can include everything from hiring employees to managing budgets. 

The job outlook, according to Payscale, is strong. There are currently only 1,000 positions in the United States classified as CNOs, making it a competitive field. As a result, nurses with doctorates in nursing can find employment in hospitals and other such facilities as a CNO.

Nursing Informatics Manager | Average Salary ( $109,773

Nursing informatics managers work in the interdisciplinary area of healthcare information technology and focus on using technology to improve healthcare delivery. Nursing informatics managers organize patient care software and electronic medical records, using their clinical experience to optimize these systems. 

A doctorate in nursing with a concentration in leadership can provide the opportunity to gain cross-disciplinary skills in health informatics to prepare you for this thriving career.

Medical Policy Manager | Average Salary ( $118,991

In a healthcare setting, a medical policy manager is responsible for formulating and implementing policies that meet the goals of health system administrators. This process usually begins with detailed research on current trends, regulations, and legislation. A medical policy manager then uses this information to develop a comprehensive plan of action that will enhance the quality of patient safety and care provided by nurses in the organization.

A doctorate in nursing will enable these professionals to understand how policies impact the health and effectiveness of an organization. They will also be able to analyze competing options with a comprehensive understanding of their consequences on patient outcomes.

Nurse Educator | Average Salary ( $77,303

Nurse educators are responsible for designing, implementing, and evaluating teaching strategies to prepare students for their roles as nurses in various healthcare settings. They must develop and implement learning objectives that meet the needs of students from a variety of backgrounds. 

A Doctor of Nursing Practice is ideal for nurse educators because it provides the advanced knowledge needed to develop an effective learning environment. A DNP program will provide nurses with the skills and resources needed to implement instructional strategies that are both evidence-based and focus on student and organizational outcomes.

Open Doors to New Opportunities With a DNP Degree

Many nurses see a doctorate as the next step in their nursing career. A Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree will allow you to become a nurse leader that is able to achieve new levels of understanding, expertise, and recognition. 

When you choose Franklin University for your DNP degree we provide two paths that prepare you for both clinical and nonclinical advanced nursing roles—one in family practice and one in leadership. Through our innovative curriculum and built-in practicum courses, you will gain both theoretical understanding and practical experience in advanced practice nursing.

See how our online Doctor of Nursing Practice degrees can help you advance your career to new heights.

Free Guide:
How to Complete Your Doctoral Journey
Discover common pitfalls and the 5 key metrics that will help you finish your doctorate degree.