Earning a Doctor of Nursing Practice, or DNP is a strategic decision that can further your nursing career. This terminal degree in the nursing field can increase your career options, as well as your value to your employer. With a DNP, you'll have a higher degree of specialized education, and you'll also receive training in leadership and management skills.
If you've always wanted to make a difference in the healthcare field, a DNP can position you to implement changes, evaluate programs, and strategically manage and improve healthcare delivery. While balancing a full-time job and education can be a challenge, these 10 Top Online DNP Degrees West Coast are designed for working professionals and can help you take that next step in your career.
FINDING AN ONLINE DOCTOR OF NURSING PRACTICE DEGREE
The following 10 Top Online Doctor of Nursing Practice Degrees offer greater scheduling flexibility than more traditional on-campus programs provide. These programs are all intended to prepare nurses for leadership positions in academia, patient care, and more. Some of these programs allow you to specialize in particular fields, which can help to better qualify you for more specialized positions. Most of these programs require you to have a master's in nursing and to have at least some experience in the nursing field, but you'll also find that some programs have tracks that allow you to enter the program with only a bachelor's degree.
Because these programs offer most coursework online, you can complete most of the degree from the comfort of your own home. However, almost all of these programs do require you to attend on-campus intensives or stay on-campus briefly for orientation, project defenses, and other program milestones. You'll want to consider the cost and time of these campus visits when deciding whether a program is right for you. You should also think about whether a full-time or part-time course load is right for you, and whether you'll need a program that offers mostly asynchronous courses where you login at any time, or if your schedule can accommodate scheduled, synchronized courses.
RANKING THE 10 TOP ONLINE DNP DEGREES WEST COAST
While you're on your way to earning your Ph.D. or Doctorate within your field, the editors at Online PhD Programs are already practicing doctors of their craft: ranking the best online Ph.D. programs. To be featured on our annual rankings online doctorates must satisfy four coinciding requirements: accreditation, research and scholarship doctorate certification, NSF recognition, and institutional association with peer-reviewed academia.
Each degree is then ranked using the information provided – primarily – through the National Center for Education Statistics to find which degrees are available in individual states. The first round of scoring for this particular ranking is scored using metadata provided by Forbes, U.S. News & World Report, and Money. The second round of scoring is dependant on data collected through a series of weighted categories to represent seven crucial aspects of what makes an online doctorate valuable to future students. Online program quality and presence are joined by industry salaries, student reviews, degree exclusivity, costs, and completion rates to determine the best online doctorates available. For a comprehensive breakdown of how we categorize and source data, please visit our methodology page.
#1. UNIVERSITY OF COLORADO DENVER
At the University of Colorado Denver, students can pursue a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree through CU Online. Students take most of their coursework online, spending minimal time on campus for their projects. This program features five different tracks, including a BS to DNP Program, a Post-Graduate DNP Advanced Practice Registered Nurse, a DNP-PHN Program, a DNP/MPH Dual Degree Program, and a Post-Graduate DNP Health Systems Leadership Program. Many students can complete this 34-credit-hour program in less than two years with a full-time course load, but students may opt for a part-time option and have up to five years to complete the program.
CU Denver offers over 100 different degree programs to students, including 13 doctoral programs. The University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus is located in Aurora, Colorado and consists of six health professional schools that offer more than 40 different degree programs. The Medical Campus is home to the UCHealth University of Colorado Hospital and Children's Hospital Colorado. These two top hospitals in the country provide students with valuable educational opportunities. The CU College of Nursing was founded in 1898 and recently celebrated its 120-year anniversary.
#2. UNIVERSITY OF COLORADO-COLORADO SPRINGS
The University of Colorado Colorado Springs offers a Post Master's Doctorate of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree available completely online with no on-campus residency requirement. This nursing science program prepares leaders for nursing practice and builds on the skills that students have acquired while earning their Master's Degree in Nursing Preparation in Nurse Practitioner or Clinical Nurse Specialty programs. No GRE is required for admission into this program, but applicants must have an active RN license within their state of practice. Additionally, applicants should have a Master of Science Degree in Nursing and a cumulative graduate GPA of at least 3.3.
UCCS's enrollment is over 12,400 students, and over 65% of UCCS graduates continue to live in Colorado after graduating. Twenty percent of UCCS students are affiliated with the military, and Military Times has recognized UCCS as a "Best College." Each year, the university awards more than 2,400 degrees, and a 16:1 student-to-faculty ratio allows faculty to offer students a supportive, personalized education. In 2017, the U.S. News & World Report included UCCS in its ranking of the best online graduate nursing programs. The U.S. News & World Report has also identified UCCS as being a top-10 public university in the West, and a top-5 regional college in the West for veterans.
#3. UNIVERSITY OF NORTHERN COLORADO
The Nursing Education Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) degree at the University of Northern Colorado is a post-master's program that can be completed mostly online. This program focuses on research, leadership, and education to prepare students for careers in academic settings or in health care organizations. The program consists of 66 credit hours that students can complete in four years. During the fourth year of the program, all of the coursework focuses on the student's dissertation. While most of the coursework can be completed online, students must attend a 6-day orientation in July before they start the program. Students must also travel to campus for their proposal hearing, dissertation defense, and oral comprehensive exams.
Founded in 1889, UNC was one of the early adopters of the online education model, offering its first online program over 20 years ago. Today, UNC's Extended Campus offers over 100 degree, licensure, and certificate programs that allow students to pursue an education without coming to campus. UNC is a public doctoral research university with an enrollment of over 12,800 students, including nearly 3,000 graduate students. The university has 19 intercollegiate sports teams and is an NCAA Division I member. UNC's campus is located in Greeley, Colorado, which has been ranked as one of the top 10 performing cities by the Milken Institute. Over 400 UNC faculty are employed full-time, and UNC's 18:1 student-to-faculty ratio allows for personalized, quality education.
#4. REGIS UNIVERSITY
Regis University's online Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree is available with an Advanced Practice Registered Nurse or an Advanced Leadership in Health Care specialization. Thanks to the program's online format, students can log in at any time and complete their coursework. The program's design allows students to continue to work while earning their degree. Most courses follow an eight-week format, so students quickly progress through their degree. Students may opt for a 24-month or 36-month degree plan, and no campus visits are required. Courses begin in May each year, and this program prepares students for careers in administration, nursing education, and in leadership roles in clinical practices.
Located in Denver, CO, Regis was founded in 1877. Today, Regis offers a quality education shaped by Jesuit, Catholic traditions, with a motto of "Men and women in service of others." Over 11,400 students are enrolled at Regis online and across the university's four campuses. At Regis, students have the opportunity to take 78 online degree programs, and a 14:1 student-to-faculty ratio means that faculty know students by name. In the 2017-2018 school year, Regis students performed over 62,000 service-learning hours, and 69 organizations and programs provide students with volunteer opportunities. The U.S. News & World Report has named Regis as a top school in the West for the past 23 consecutive years.
#5. IDAHO STATE UNIVERSITY
At Idaho State University, students can complete the Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree program largely online. This program prepares experts in specialized nursing areas and features a focus on both innovation and evidence-based application to prepare students for success in a changing healthcare system. The program's coursework is delivered online, and students fulfill the program's clinical components in their local area. Each semester, students attend clinical intensives at the ISU Pocatello campus for 2 to 3 days. Program applicants must have a BS in Nursing from an accredited program, as well as a cumulative graduate GPA of at least 3.0. It is also preferred that program applicants have at least two years of healthcare or nursing experience. Each year, the ISU College of Nursing awards approximately $40,000 in scholarships to help students finance their education.
Idaho State University's main campus is in Pocatello, and the university has additional locations in Meridian, Idaho Falls, and Twin Falls. Today ISU is a Carnegie-classified doctoral research and teaching institution. Over 12,000 students attend ISU, representing 40 states in America and 50 countries. ISU offers over 250 programs, including certificate, associate, bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degrees. To help students pay for college, ISU offers a tuition lock, meaning that students continue to pay their freshman tuition rates through all four years of study without having to deal with rate increases. Thanks to a Western Undergraduate Exchange, students from 14 Western states may be eligible to attend ISU programs at a reduced cost.
#6. BOISE STATE UNIVERSITY
The Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) in Leadership degree at Boise State University prepares nurses to become leaders in their field. All of the coursework is delivered online, but students attend four, two-day on-campus Executive Sessions. Students attend these sessions for orientation, the delivery of their Scholarly Projector proposals, and for final reports. The program's cohort model gives students a sense of community and support, and the topics covered – health care policy and advocacy, finance, information systems, project management, and organizational leadership – prepare nurses for leadership positions. Out-of-state students pay the same tuition as in-state residents, which helps to keep the program affordable.
Boise State is a Carnegie-classified doctoral research university that offers 200 different areas of study, including 11 doctoral programs, making it the largest graduate school in Idaho. The university has an enrollment of over 25,000 students, and over 9,500 students take at least one online course. About 2,800 students are graduate students. During the 2017-2018 academic year, nearly 14,000 Boise State students received over $168,000,000 financial aid dollars. Approximately 47% of students received grants or scholarships, and over $56,000,000 in scholarships were disbursed to students. Students at Boise State can participate in over 260 student clubs and organizations.
#7. UNIVERSITY OF NEVADA, LAS VEGAS
The University of Nevada, Las Vegas offers an online Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree that prepares nurses for leadership roles in a variety of settings, including in administration, clinical practice, and research. Students may choose from three program tracks: A BSN to DNP plan with a Family Nurse Practitioner track featuring an Advanced Practice track, or a BSN to DNP and MSN to DNP Nurse Executive tracks. The requirements for each track differ, but they allow students to enter the DNP program from a variety of backgrounds. During this program, students will develop skills and knowledge that will prepare them to provide advanced nursing care to patients, take on leadership roles including healthcare analysis and delivery, collaborate with teams to meet the healthcare needs of diverse populations, and serve as a change agent in evaluating and implementing health care policy.
Founded in 1957, UNLV is a thriving research institution today. UNLV has an enrollment of over 25,000 students, including more than 4,000 graduate students and 888 professional students. Students may choose from 290 different degree programs at UNLV. The university is home to more than 120,000 alumni, 71,350 of whom continue to live and work in Nevada. For the past six years, the U.S. News & World Report has included UNLV in the top 10 universities of its Best Ethnic Diversity ranking. UNLV has the distinction of being the first four-year institution in Nevada to reach a 25% Hispanic enrollment.
#8. MONTANA STATE UNIVERSITY
Montana State University's Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree is offered primarily online, and students and faculty can interact via teleconference and video conference. Much of the coursework is asynchronous, though students meet at pre-scheduled times four times each semester. Students must also travel to Bozeman at the beginning of each Fall semester. The DNP degree offers two specialty areas: the Nurse Practitioner, Family/Individual specialization and the Nurse Practitioner, Psychiatric/Mental Health specialization. During the course of the program, students develop a DNP Scholarly Project with. Examples of past Scholarly Project topics include the establishment of pediatric cancer support groups for the rural client and the development of mental health outreach programs for the rural elderly.
With an enrollment of nearly 17,000 students, MSU is the largest university in Montana. MSU was established in 1893 as a land grant university. Research plays a central role at MSU, and research expenditures typically reach $100 million each year. Funding from the Department of Defense, the National Institutes of Health, and the Department of Energy helps support MSU research in top fields including immunology, chemistry and biochemistry, transportation, physics, and environmental sciences. MSU students have won a variety of competitive awards and scholarships including the Rhodes Scholarship, Marshall Scholarship, and Goldwater Scholarship. MSU holds the distinction of being the largest land-grant institution and the largest research and development entity in the state.
#9. UNIVERSITY OF NEVADA, RENO
At the University of Nevada, Reno, students may complete most of the Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree online. Students may pursue two paths: A Post-Master's DNP, as well as a BSN to DNP program. Nevada's Post-Master DNP program is intended for students who already have a master's degree in nursing. The coursework is offered fully online, but students will need to travel to campus for orientation and for their final project defense. Students may select from an Advanced Practice Nurse and a Nurse Executive track. The BSN to DNP program coursework is mainly online, though students must come to campus on a limited basis. BSN to DNP program students can choose from three tracks: Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner, Family Nurse Practitioner, or Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner.
When the University of Nevada, Reno was founded in 1874, it was the first institution of higher education in the state. Since then, the university has grown to offer 460 undergraduate and graduate degree, as well as certificate and minor programs, throughout its 11 colleges. Its 21,000 students learn from 1,049 academic faculty and explore programs in earthquake sciences & engineering, the humanities, neuroscience, biotechnology, and more. The University of Nevada, Reno School of Medicine has served the area for 50 years and offers both quality patient care and clinical training. While the university is large, its 19:1 student-to-faculty ratio keeps class size manageable so that faculty can provide personalized feedback and support.
#10. AZUSA PACIFIC UNIVERSITY
Azusa Pacific University's Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree is designed to prepare nurses for the challenges they'll face within today's complex healthcare environment. The low-residency format allows working professionals to meet their employment commitments while also pursuing an education. Students complete most coursework remotely, then periodically attend on-campus intensives for one- to two-day periods at APU's Monrovia Regional Site. Nurse practitioners who are interested in specializing in oncology can choose to co-enroll in the Oncology Nurse Practitioner Certificate. With this dual enrollment, students can apply all 12 didactic units and almost half of their certificate program hours to their DNP program requirements. The DNP degree is a 39-credit-hour program that covers topics including statistical analysis, social ethics, program evaluation, spirituality and health, and more.
Located in Azusa, California, APU is an evangelical, Christian university. Its six regional locations throughout Southern California allow for students to easily and conveniently access the 100 bachelor's, masters and doctoral programs that it offers. In addition to providing a variety of online programs for distance learners, APU also offers international study opportunities such as the South Africa Semester and the Ecuador Semester. Ninety percent of APU undergraduates receive some form of financial aid and in 2017-2018, APU awarded over $70,000,000 in institutional scholarships. The U.S. News & World Report annually recognizes APU in its rankings of the best colleges in America.