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DNP Discussions

DNP Salary Is Higher Than for Master's-Prepared NPs

Published May 4, 2010 9:11 AM by Jill Rollet

The doctor of nursing practice degree is set to become the degree for entry to advanced practice nursing by 2015. While nurse practitioners debate the merits of the requirement, one suspicion that keeps arising is that employers won't pay more for the degree.

That suspicion was not borne out by the most recent National Salary and Workplace Survey of Nurse Practitioners: The nearly 2% of nurse practitioners with a DNP earned $7,688 more annually than NPs with a master's degree.

Is it possible that the DNP bump could be tied to experience and not education? Most of the DNP degrees (67%) belong to NPs with 6 to 15 years' experience, and this group tends to be at the top of the earning curve. 

But nurse practitioners with DNPs earn more no matter their experience. Below the numbers in bold are 2009 annual average salaries for NPs with DNPs with specific years of experience; the regular font indicates salaries for all NPs with that level of experience:

0-2 years DNP  $96,854 ($87,500 median)
0-2 years NPs  $82,020 (median $80,000)

3-5 years DNP  $96,572 ($93,538 median)
3-5 years NPs  $88,444 (median $85,000)

6-10 years DNP  $96,871 ($90,500 median)
6-10 years NPs  $92,180 (median $89,000)    

11-15 years DNP  $97,785 ($98,000 median)
11-15 years NPs  $94,142 (median $90,000)


M confused between NP and PA . I hve only high school. More likely m interested in bsn-MSN -NP route. Bcoz it has option to increase my qualification .like I can do DNP after that. I can practice alone and open my own clinic . But in PA route I hve no option to study more on higher level. And I hve to work and a physician . I can't practice alone. Plz guide me which route is best.

reetu June 13, 2015 5:52 PM

I am a cna I have been a CNA for 12 years, just recieved my medication aide license and know I am pursuing my LPN my goal is to either pursue my DNP or Med school which would be the best way to go I am really routing on my DNP longterm goal.

aretha richardson, 1978 May 2, 2015 9:22 PM
houston TX

I am an AGPCNP with six months experience and am making $108,000 per year. If have a max of ten years work left in me.  Should I borrow $50,000 to work for a DNP degree?

You got that answer right!

D K, Adult primary - NP, Medical center January 30, 2014 12:00 PM
Midlothian VA

Interesting that I find myself commenting on this site again. I am now in the final stages of my DNP and I can't wait!!! This has been the most difficult degree and credential that I have had to earn so far. My time spent in the DNP program has shown me that this is a credential worth working for!! I hope that all of you that are opponents of the degree take notice and really inform yourself about the degree and what it has to offer prior to making any preliminary decisions on its value. Salary is always what you are willing to fight for and if you are willing to fight for what you want you can earn top dollar for your education. I am in a physician run office and am currently aiming for "partner" status with the conferment of my DNP degree and pushing for a higher salary (I already make a good lick and have great hours) and I think I will get it. your future is what you make of it and if NPs are not willing to stand up and say what they want you will never get it. I am lucky enough to know what I want and am not afraid to say what I need to get me there.

I wish you all luck in your future endeavors and Fight for what's right!

KC , ARNP October 15, 2013 8:56 PM
Plant city FL

Im a FNP with less than a yr experience. I have a MSN and planning for my DNP maybe in next 2 years.  I work in an urgent care clinic and I'm planning to open my clinic in next 3 years. Im making $118k. I believe in higher education and DNP is the way to go. Im happy it is recommended in 2015.

Johnny , Family - NP September 7, 2013 1:19 PM
Oklahoma city OK

I just started an MSN program online.  I obtained my BSN 22 years ago after acquiring two other degrees.  I did love nursing for those 22 years and after injuring my back decided to put my excellent assessment skills to good use and go back to school.  I thought it would be much better pay, too, as I feel nurses are highly taken advantage of and not respected at a lower education level.  Now, I am learning about the DNP program and I am even wondering if it is worth it to obtain my Masters as I fear I will be back right where I started and I am older.  I think if I were much younger I would go back to law school or medical school and yes I do want and feel we nurses deserve better pay!

Sharon December 16, 2012 9:43 PM

Ok, so right about now I am soo confused. Ive graduated with my BSN about 2 years ago and I have been itching to go back to school. However, looking at the pros and cons of either direction (NP/DNP or MD) is making my decision even harder to make.

MD will definitley pay off in the long run compared to NP/DNP. Also, judging by how much I will have to pay to go back to school either routes makes me wonder the more. I know there are some MD schools that tuition is <10k per year, and there are some NP/DNP schools that tuition is over that amount.

As a BSN, becoming a doctor (in title at least) will be no less than 4 years ("P-MD"). Some DNP programs take up to 3years plus, some of them ALSO have residency. All in all, going to medschool and DNP school will take about the same time to complete (Im talking about me or any other BSN right now).

NP/DNPs are doing the same things that MDs are doing, the only difference is possibly the outcome, route at which health care was given, salary, the prestige (or title) and the amount of debt one will be in after either one of the process.

MD seems like a better route, depending on tuition that is. Im not bashing NP/DNP route, its just that Ive been applying to several schools (NP and BSN-DNP schools) and one right after another they do not accept me (graduated from a private well known Uni with a gpa of >3.0). One of the reasons why Im sick of persueing the nursing route. My cup of tea.

Brenda Love, RN, BSN July 22, 2012 12:27 PM
Baltimore MD

I am an LPN pursuing my RN licensure. I plan to pursue my DNP and I believe that nurses with questions should do more research. Most people told me that as an LPN that I would be stuck making on $17-$20/hr tops. I earn a salary of $60K plus and I work no overtime and my education is being paid for in its entirety. I have only been a nurse for 4 years and I believe that there is no ceiling on what one can do if they truly want to do something. I'm talking about simple research people. I'm sure that my DNP nursing counterparts would agree that research is a very integral part of life. I wish the best of success to each of you!

Nurse Dance, Outpatient Nursing - Nurse Care Manager, Advocate May 5, 2012 6:46 PM
Oakbrook IL

I am proud to have completed my DNP and will graduate in 13 days. Everyone has an opinion about this degree and I encourage everyone to do your OWN research. The reasons I chose to venture on this path can be different from others, but none of them are wrong. I gained a tremendous amount of knowledge and look forward to the doors that I'll be opened as a result.

Praise God!!!!

Da Nine, ANP- BC April 29, 2012 12:32 PM


I am a Board Certified PMHCNS and have had my CNS since 1977 when a PMHNP was not on the drawing boards.  I am a little over a year from completing my DNP and am proud to have made the decision to pursue this, not waiting to "possibly" be grandfathered in.  It is our responsibility as Nursing professionals to keep up with the changes whether we like it or approve of it or not.  After being a DNP student for 2 years, I understand why the DNP is preferred within the current healthcare setting.  I cannot begin to summarize all the information I have learned in my core courses of the program, but I know I will be well equipped to work beside other healthcare professionals with their doctorates.  Don't judge the DNP until you have gone that route, then you will understand why it is so important and valuable to you as a professional and to our profession.

Susan Corey, PMH - Intern-Widener U. DNP program, Lebanon Volunteers in medicine free Clinic January 8, 2012 8:14 AM
Lebanon PA

To help you get your bearings on doctor of nursing practice issues — and issues pertaining to doctoral

December 30, 2011 12:53 PM

I am a nursing student at the moment working on my BSN. I noticed alot of you are talking about more money on top of the Master's degree, however what about the schools that offer the RN-DNP? I have looked into a school that offers this, a very well-known school. I for one think that this would be just as worth my time as completing their Master's program, since the requirements are nearly the same. I am still researching it and would love to have more information if anyone has any regarding this.

Sabrina December 29, 2011 6:37 PM

What do you all think about the PA Programs and profession versus NP and DNP?  I am applying for schools and I have been swayed both ways.  I did research and it seems as if the professions are the same its just a matter of getting a doctorate in Nursing or just receiving a Masters in Physician Assistant Studies and the length of school.  So I would love to have some unbiased honest opinions for a little guidance.

El Lucas December 28, 2011 2:34 PM

I personally think DNP would be worth if I can find a school that would give me more clinical experience, more hands on. I worked with PAs and somehow they were trained better when dealing with fractures, suturing, xrays readings, etc. however i seen tha nps are better trained in teaching, preventive treatments and diagnosing. Salary wise it can vary it all depends on the employer, when i first graduated i made $110, 000. Now $122,000 (4 years later). but sure, there were a cople place where they would pay me less than what i was making as an RN.

The curriculum I have reviewed was not too impressive; I strongly believe that schools are profiting out of it.

Gladis, Family - NP, clinica medica virgen de guadalupe August 4, 2011 1:57 AM
Huntington park CA

First of all, the DNP is the RECOMMENDED degree as of 2015, not a requirement. It's recommended by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, which makes it a rather biased opinion indeed. Many schools of nursing have not yet committed to making that change.

Always gather your information before you step up on the soapbox.

Christine Robbins, Family July 19, 2011 3:26 PM
Hoschton GA

I am an FNP with 10 years of nursing experience and 3years of family practice experience as an ARNP. i am in a DNP program and im almost finished. reading the other comments appalls me for many reasons because it seems ridiculous that other nurses would bash a Doctorate degree for nursing that would put us on the same playing field as our other provider counterparts. if you think that DNP's won't be paid that good you're probably right-NOW. Wait a couple years and there will be big differences when DNP begin to saturate the market and employers start to see the difference in the preparation of the doctorally prepared nurses compared to their masters prepared counterparts. We have already seen that NP's have a lot to offer any practice that they are in. I think that MD's don't like it because they think that we are raining on their parade, and they're RIGHT!! look at the statistics and tell me any different. NP's are doing the same job with the same or better outcomes as physicians and with even more education and training we stand to excel even more. To the other RN's that feel they don't need to go back to school because they think there is no difference-don't hate on what you don't have and know nothing about, because there is a big difference in our roles and knowledge. i can't speak for anyone else but I have a burgeoning practice and have way more patients than I know what to do with. With the healthcare crisis where its at and the lack of access to care DNP's stand in a unique position to profit substantially, and I am just going to sit back and reap the benefits and laugh at all of your comments in a couple of years because its hysterical!!!

keischa, Family - ARNP-BC, Outpatient July 18, 2011 8:56 PM
Tampa FL

Uncertain why the transition from MSN to DNP is so costly. There is no financial gain and actually a huge financial loss with decrease in work productivity in terms of not being in the healthcare setting and taking care of patients. Additionally, is this increase in the number of DNP programs actually decreasing access to care.  Most schools have become increasingly expensive as a direct result of this transition. I am also uncertain as to the median salary range as mine is currently well over the 150,000.

Greg, Emergency - FNP June 10, 2011 5:58 PM
Las Vegas NV

In my geographic area the physicians are ticked off cause they resent the fact that nurses can write prescriptions with less years of training than what they completed . If you really looked hard, politically, I have a feeling they have more to do with this issue than first meets the eye.

Lisa, Psych - RN CNS March 26, 2011 8:11 AM
Akron OH

I plan to get a DNP because it will be required. I think it is completely unnecessary and only invalidates our current our educational preparation and experience. I make 125k +. NPs are poorly paid because the expect to be and dont demand anything more. If we dont value our selves and our skills why would anyone else. I recommend stepping out of the weak world of belittlement and value your contribution. Start demanding more and risking not getting it. Though the whole issue pisses me off I offer tis advice in love and hope.

Dawn March 19, 2011 8:05 AM
Central VA

In my opinion, pursuing a higher standard of education for nurses in the long run will grant us the respect and professionalism that higher educated nurses deserve. That being said...the increase in pay will come with given time.

Elsa, Pulmonary/Critical Care - ACNP December 10, 2010 12:02 AM

I don't see the point in pursuing all of the student loans for a little pay raise. Also, what's wrong with the current NP curriculum? DNP should either have more clinicals hours and privledges or just forget it at all. Physicians would make three times the salary of a DNP with almost the same amount of years of education. This makes it uninteresting. I suppose if DNP's could have more room for practice and more of a six figure salary, then it would be appealing.

Jessica, ER - RN, ER October 31, 2010 2:29 PM
San Diego CA

Considering the time and trouble one goes to in order to complete a DNP, not to mention the extra $30k-$60k one must shell out to do those two extra (full-time equivalent) years beyond the MSN level, the numbers cited above leave you wondering whether it's really worth it or not, frankly.

Moreover, has it occurred to those behind the mandatory-DNP push that just maybe, many (if not most) nurses probably don't want to go to all the trouble, time and expense (which for many nurses would likely be overwhelming, if not prohibitive) of earning a DNP? Perhaps they would do better instead to bother offering a compelling explanation as to why, in light of study after study showing that master's-prepared APNs are highly competent and provide excellent care, there is such a dire need to force RNs who wish to become APNs to complete a DNP -- something they have yet to do.  

Richard July 10, 2010 6:19 PM

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