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The Job Prospects of a DNP Qualified Nurse

Healthcare and nursing in the 21st century are taking a much more science-based route than ever before.

There is a bigger focus on patient advocacy, patient care, and a scientific evidence-based approach to health care across a number of specialized fields.

Never before in history has there been such a wide array of courses and higher-level jobs available in the field of medicine. For nurses that want to take their career right to the top-level, there are more ways to do this today, no matter what specialism you hope to follow.

What is a DNP Degree?

A doctor of nursing practice degree is a doctorate level qualification that is akin to the same level as a medical doctor (MD), doctor of psychology (PsyD), and all other doctors at doctorate level qualifications.

This degree course is a difficult but worthwhile course for any practicing nurse who wishes to take their career to the next level, and at the same time to increase their salary prospects.

The doctor of nursing practice degree allows students to gain a wider understanding of nursing within a healthcare organizational scope, as well as taking on more specialized roles within nursing.

For this reason, many more students are deciding to take higher level qualifications, such as a DNP program, as they look to improve their career prospects in the future.

As with many things in healthcare, nursing is moving at an incredibly fast pace and for those students who wish to keep up with all of the new changes and exciting new developments within the nursing field, working with advanced practitioners and working towards becoming an advanced practitioner is one of the best ways to be at the forefront of all of the exciting developments within medicine today.

What Jobs Can I Get With a DNP Qualification?

A DNP qualification is an advanced qualification for nurse practitioners that have been in nursing for a while. This degree course is a doctorate level degree, one level higher than a master’s, which involves a lot of research and practical experience. It’s not for the faint-hearted. 

Just because the degree is difficult, though, it doesn’t mean it’s not worthwhile and, as some of the jobs listed below will show you, this doctorate level degree can lead to some incredible career choices that come with healthy salaries too.

Advanced Nurse Practitioner

One of the most common job titles for a graduate of a DNP program is to become a nursing practitioner (NP).

Nursing Practitioners have become very popular in the last decade or so, easing the strain on medical doctors (MDs) within all healthcare settings, including family practice, hospitals, and specialist treatment centers.

Depending on which state you are registered in, advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) have the ability to enjoy more autonomy than other nurses of lower qualifications.

This may include practices such as diagnosing conditions, treating acute and chronic conditions, and some states even allow nursing practitioners to prescribe medication as well as work on treatment plans for a variety of patients. 

It is due to this flexibility in experience and the abilities of nursing practitioners that the demand for highly qualified nursing practitioners has really exploded across the US, with the median salary for a nursing practitioner now sitting at around $116,000 per annum. Nursing practitioners that take on more specialized roles or work in more affluent areas can enjoy an even higher salary, perhaps even up to the $150,000 mark.

Nursing practitioners are popular in nearly all healthcare facilities as everywhere is in need of more highly experienced and highly qualified nursing practitioners.

Chief Nursing Officer

For qualified nurses who have a DNP degree and wish to take a back seat when it comes to direct patient care, the role of a chief nursing officer maybe something that calls to them.

Chief nursing officers are incredibly high-level executives; they work within all kinds of care, providing organizations with liaisons between hospital executives, medical professionals, and between patients.

CNOs do not only provide a liaison service, though; their role is absolutely vital across the healthcare sector as they have a unique understanding of organizational structures and the need for well-organized daily management and planning. 

To ensure that healthcare runs efficiently and smoothly, and economically, an understanding of what nurses and nurse teams go through on a daily basis is highly desirable for all medical facilities. This is why the chief nursing officer’s role can fetch an incredible salary, the median being around $124,000 per year.

Depending on the seniority of the chief nursing officer in question, and the location and type of care the healthcare facility provides, salaries for CNOs can even top over the $200,000 per year mark, making this role incredibly lucrative as well as an exciting role for qualified nurses across healthcare.

Nurse Educator

One of the roles that aren’t often mentioned in many articles about DNP courses or their graduates’ career choices is that of a nurse educator.


Quality nursing education is paramount in today’s world. When medicine is becoming much more complex and much more science-focused, nurses need to be able to work under pressure and under the tutorage of more advanced practitioners. 

As a nurse educator, a DNP graduate is well placed to be able to pass on the knowledge learned to the next generation of highly professional nurses and healthcare professionals.

The role of a nurse educator can be very different depending on the location of the job, and the median salary can sit at around $75,000 per year. There is, however, a lot of variation when it comes to salary, and some nurse educators can see their annual salary and earnings topping over $120,000 depending on wear where they are teaching and the type of courses that they are teaching.

While it may seem that other job roles for the DNP qualified nurse are more lucrative than that of a nursing educator, there are many programs and partnerships emerging that are helping to incentivize nursing professionals to pursue careers in nursing education. It is hoped that this push towards and encouragement for the professionalization of nursing will help to bring better qualified and well-experienced nurses into the field of education.

It’s hoped that this focus on the qualified and experienced nurse practitioner as an educator will help to inspire the next generation of nurses and nurse professionals to build on and improve the role of nurses within healthcare.

Health Care Lobbyist

For nursing professionals whose mind is set on changing nursing and healthcare for the better, a career in healthcare lobbying may be exactly what you are looking for.

This is an exciting time for well-qualified nursing professionals because never before in our history has the public been so supportive of advancing medicine and healthcare together.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the role of qualified and expert healthcare professionals has been really thrown into the limelight, and now is the perfect time for nursing professionals to take on roles within policy to help impact the health of the nation for the better.

A healthcare lobbyist will be responsible for helping to create and improve healthcare policies and approaches. Policies may include working with insurance companies and government agencies to improve access to healthcare and to improve the public face of healthcare.

Healthcare lobbying is not an easy role, and the median salary for this type of role sits at around $100,000 per year. This salary depends on the level of governance that the health care lobbyist is working on and at the federal, state-level, or even local levels.

Clinical Nurse Researcher

Another important and typical job title is that of a clinical nurse researcher, working towards better clinical research and evidence-based decisions.

Many clinical researchers work inside healthcare facilities in patient-facing roles to collect data and information to help inform and improve policies. Other clinical researchers may be much more lab-based, away from direct patient care but working within specific fields depending on their own particular interest, experience, and funding.

The role of a clinical nurse researcher is important for the future of healthcare. This critical role helps to shape change within healthcare, providing science-backed and evidence-backed reasoning for implementing methodologies and implementing change across policies.

The clinical nurse researcher DNP graduate will work with colleagues across the healthcare sector, especially those working in healthcare lobbying, to provide evidence for why policies need to change and be updated. 

This important role can be life-changing for patients and for patient outcomes, and it can also be a vital role for the future of healthcare, making healthcare both more economical and more efficient.

The DNP graduate who goes down the root of clinical nursing research can expect to have a healthy average salary of just over $100,000 per year, with the top salary expected to be over $150,000 depending on the seniority and experience of the nurse researcher’s role.

High-Level Administrative Roles

While all students who take on a DNP course will be professionals in the field of healthcare, it may come to pass that direct patient access roles are not something that every DNP graduate will want to do.

Many students who take on a DNP course are interested in the work that goes on behind the scenes of direct patient care, and for these graduates, a position in higher-level management and leadership may be exactly what is required.

Good leadership within the healthcare profession is absolutely critical, especially at a time of high public interest in health and medicine such as that we have seen with the covid-19 pandemic.

Taking a role in higher-level management and administration is a great way to get involved with all aspects of organizational structure and to get involved with how to change the way nurses are managed and work for the better within.

Some of the roles that may include higher-level management and administration include:

  • Direct care clinicians
  • Quality improvement directors – improving access to patient care and the quality of that care 
  • Program directors
  • Faculty members – working with nurse practitioners in education to ensure better nursing and general health care education across the board 
  • Clinical information technology specialists – working with some of the newest technology and Innovations within the healthcare field to improve access to technology and use of more advanced technology within the healthcare scope

How to improve your career prospects with a DNP degree

A DNP degree course is already a high-level degree course at the doctorate level. There will be significantly fewer professional nurses and nursing practitioners who will be interested in taking this degree course.

That being said, there are definitely ways to improve your career prospects should you be considering going for the DNP course.

Research is the key for nurses who are looking to improve their career prospects, whether they take a DNP course or not. One of the best ways to improve your chances of getting a higher salary career is to look at specializations within your field and becoming an expert in your chosen area of medicine. Becoming an expert in a chosen field of medicine will provide you with a solid foundation for beginning your career following your studies.

Advanced nurse practitioners who choose to specialize, may that be in areas such as maternity, women’s health, pediatrics, geriatrics, or any other specialist area, will be able to hone their skills and experience so that they become a more desirable employee once they finish graduating their course.

Another way to improve career prospects while still studying for the DNP course is to find a program that is either part-time or a course that requires some practical work so that you may continue working throughout your degree course.

By continuing to work throughout your degree course, you are giving yourself the best opportunity to build up both qualifications and experience. Building on both of these together means that you are a more well-rounded prospect for any prospective employers, which is a highly desirable trait in today’s competitive world of healthcare.

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