MSN or DNP? Solving Your NP Education Dilemma

Now, there are more ways than ever to become a nurse practitioner. There are NP programs for BSN’s, nurses with associates degrees, and even programs for students with no nursing experience whatsoever. Then, there is the new addition to nursing education, the DNP.

Perhaps the most confusing thing about these options is the recommendation that all nurse practitioners be required to earn a DNP degree. This proposed mandate really threw a wrench into some prospective NP’s plans. Now that we have seen the DNP will not become a requirement by 2015, aspiring nurse practitioners have the option to get an MSN or DNP degree. Which should you choose?

Getting a DNP is right for you if…

  • Academia is your niche. Planing to become a nursing professor? Or, is working in the university hospital setting your ambition? If so, obtaining the highest education possible in your field, which for nursing practice is the DNP, will be to your benefit.
  • Being at the top of your field holds personal importance. Some people simply can’t stand not being the best. Excellence is in their genes. If not being at the top will drive you crazy, then go for it. Even though the DNP is not currently required, you will undoubtedly gain valuable education in your program.
  • You’re preparing for the future. While a DNP requirement for nurse practitioners is likely years away, the DNP will eventually become mandatory. When this does happen, certified NPs will not be required to further their education but keeping up with the educational standards of the time may be important to you.

A MSN degree is the perfect path for you if…

  • You’re on a budget. Let’s face it, a DNP degree is more expensive than a MSN degree. The DNP requires additional coursework, which, as a student you will pay for. Some would argue you may offset this cost with a higher salary post-graduation. But, in the current job market a DNP doesn’t equate to higher pay in most cases.
  • You’re in a time crunch. If you can’t wait to leave your current career situation behind and begin working as an NP, getting a master’s degree is the way to go. The DNP route is longer than the MSN and won’t get you working in the real-world as quickly.
  • Sticking with the basics is your style. Setting your sights upon practicing as a nurse practitioner with a MSN rather than a DNP isn’t “settling”. You’ve still got and advanced degree. In reality, your future job in most clinic or hospital settings will be the same with either a MSN or DNP. If your career goals won’t be affected by taking your education one step further, you may choose to opt out of the DNP craze.

Don’t worry, you can’t mess this up!

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Choosing whether you will get a master’s degree or take the plunge and go for your Doctor of Nursing Practice is a big decision. Fortunately, this can be a stepwise process. If you are a nurse looking to further your education, consider enrolling in a MSN program. Then, if you choose, you can apply to DNP programs as you near the end of your master’s education. Or, you can take a year or two off then apply to DNP programs.

Which degree is right for you?


You Might Also Like: Will Master’s Prepared NP’s Have Equal Opportunity in the Job Market After DNP Transition?


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