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DNP Discussions

Working While Getting a DNP Degree

Published February 24, 2012 10:03 AM by Mai Kung

Last month I answered a question from a prospective DNP who was worried about time commitment. Here was her question:

Q: I haven't even begun college yet, but I pretty much have my mind set on becoming a DNP. But after doing some research on how tough the program is, it has me pretty scared! I read that at least 1,000 clinical hours are required, and you DON'T get paid for them, which is a bummer. I would really like to work full time and go to school full time. Would this be possible considering the amount of work I would have for clinical hours and coursework? Also, how many hours a week of homework should I expect? And, how many hours a week are required for in-class sessions? Somebody please help. I would really like to have a better understanding of this.  

I asked for a response from Stacy Kehl, a DNP student in the family nurse practitioner track:

DNP programs are very demanding – it’s good that you are carefully taking into consideration the amount of time you will need to commit to a DNP program. It sounds as though you have not enrolled in college yet, so I would first set your sights on getting into nursing school as an undergraduate. Most programs these days are highly competitive, as I am sure you know. It would be helpful for you to work part-time in a healthcare setting before enrolling in a nursing program. Most hospitals have nurse aide positions. Working in a hospital setting would really help you to make sure nursing is the career you want, along with giving you valuable exposure and experience to patient care. I highly suggest this. Once becoming a nurse, working in a critical care setting would be ideal experience before beginning the DNP program. While many nurses go directly from their undergraduate program to the DNP program, I personally believe that at least two years of experience as an RN would be extremely helpful for you in your studies to become an ARNP. You will find that most nurses in DNP programs are highly experienced RN's and many have already attained a Master's degree.

As far as DNP programs ... if you are planning to matriculate from your BSN to DNP as a full-time student, as I have done, working is an option, but a very demanding one. I quit my job after my first semester, but others in my group continued to work. It depends on your personal situation. Consider that once you start doing clinicals in your program, you will have about 20+ hours per week of clinical, plus a 40-hour work week, plus class time (12 semester hours = 12 class time hours/week), plus studying/coursework (another 15+ hours per week). It adds up very quickly. If you have other family or social obligations, you will be spreading yourself very thin. My DNP program was very heavy in paper-writing and projects in the beginning – this lightened a little bit as I began clinicals, but in its place I was studying for the nurse practitioner role.

As far as finances – the good news is that the U.S. government has recognized the need to have more NPs working, so there are grants and special loan repayment programs available that may mean you don't have to work. I am currently on a HRSA grant that was given to me by my College of Nursing (CON). The CON applied for and got the grant, then distributed it to full-time DNP students in the FNP track. I received a stipend of $22,000 per year (divided into monthly payments across fall and spring semesters) for the final 2 years of my program. The first year of my program, I received a university fellowship where I was awarded an annual stipend of $6,000, plus I worked as a teaching assistant where I was paid an hourly wage to teach in the undergraduate skills lab. So, don't overlook other ways of getting money once you are enrolled – there's a lot out there. I am thankful that I enrolled in a school that is very proactive in getting tuition assistance for its students.

I hope this is helpful. I encourage you to pursue becoming a DNP – nursing is very rewarding and NPs are in demand in many fields of healthcare.

Editor's note: Here at the DNP Answers blog we take your questions about the DNP and answer them as best we can. This question is answered by blogger Mai Kung, NP, a recent DNP graduate. Comment below to discuss this topic, or send new questions to

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What is the difference between an NP and a DNP?

veronica, Psychiatry - PMHNP, State Hospital February 24, 2012 2:51 PM
Allentown PA

I am currently finishing my second year as a BSN to DNP student.  I work a .75, which is 5, 12 hours shifts in a 2 week period.  It is very difficult, but I have a very supportive husband, my children are grown and off on their own, and I have someone to clean my house.  I work, go to clinicals, do homework, and sleep.  I do have time for some fun (but I will be honest, not much) and I exercise 5 times per week in the morning, but most of my time is spent on my program.  I wouldn't change a thing.  My clinical experience has shown me that spending my career as NP will be amazing.  

Kimbelry February 24, 2012 10:51 AM

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