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DNP Discussions

Deciding on an MSN Program vs. a DNP Program

Published April 27, 2012 11:30 AM by Mai Kung

Q: I am currently applying for MSN programs to become an acute care nurse practitioner. I am looking at applying for the DNP program instead since I expect to finish the MSN degree by 2015. My questions are: 1. If I graduated in 2015 with an MSN-ACNP, will I be grandfathered with that? Is it mandatory to have a DNP degree by 2015? 

A: The DNP as entry to practice for a nurse practitioner (NP) by 2015 is still a recommendation and not a mandate. Therefore, I do not anticipate that you will have a problem being "grandfathered in" when you graduate with an MSN-ACNP degree. For more information regarding this recommendation and how to choose a program see blog posts dated December 2, 2011 (Current MSN Status and the DNP Transition) and October 22, 2010 (The Official Switch to the DNP). 

Choosing a DNP project can be a challenging task (also see the blog post dated March 30, 2012, Picking a Capstone Before Starting a DNP Program). You can start by evaluating areas of interest. Choose an area that you are willing to live, sleep and dream about for the next 3 to 5 years (BSN to DNP).  Understand that this may become your area of expertise that acts as a catalyst for your future career. However, don't be intimidated by this process, as most likely this topic can be altered during the program as opportunities arise or as interests develop or change over time.

To summarize the answer to the question, "Should you attend a master's or a DNP program to become an ACNP?"  You may want to check into different programs. Many DNP programs offer an "early exit" option after achieving a master's degree, such as the one at the University of Florida. I hope this blog and the references provided will help alleviate some of your concerns regarding the requirements for NP education, licensure and practice. Good luck!

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, DNP. Comment below to discuss this topic, or send new questions to

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