NP vs. DNP: Descriptions, Degree Requirements and Salary

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published September 29, 2021

Those who wish to advance their nursing careers have many degrees to choose from. When viewing career options, some degrees can look similar at first glance. Understanding key similarities and differences can help you decide which opportunity is right for you. In this article, we discuss what NP and DNP degrees are, the qualifications needed to complete them and salary information to help you choose the right path.

Related: MSN vs. DNP: Definitions, Differences and Tips

What is an NP degree?

A nurse practitioner (NP) degree is a Master of Science in Nursing with the completion of an NP focus. This degree builds upon the foundational education of a Bachelor of Science in Nursing and offers advanced knowledge, such as how to:

  • Manage patients' overall primary and acute care

  • Prescribe medications

  • Run diagnostic tests

  • Perform physical examinations

  • Operate medical equipment

Related: How To Become a Nurse Practitioner

NP degree requirements

If you want to pursue a career as an NP, you must first have a Bachelor of Science in Nursing. You can then earn your Masters of Science in Nursing and complete an NP-specific program. As a graduate nursing student, you can choose a specialty to focus on while pursuing your MSN degree, such as family or pediatric care, women's health, psychiatric mental health or trauma. It takes two years on average to go from a BSN to an MSN degree. Passing at least one certification test is also required.

Coursework for an MSN degree can include:

  • Standard academic nursing courses

  • Clinical practice

  • Direct patient care

  • 500+ clinical hours

  • Employment as a patient care advocate or with a primary care provider

Related: A Guide to MSN Nursing Programs

What is a DNP degree?

A Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree is the highest educational level you can achieve in the nursing practice. A DNP degree is a professional degree instead of an academic or medical degree because graduates can find job opportunities outside the clinical environment. Some of these opportunities may include educational, administration, government and consulting positions. In addition to nurse practitioners, DNP degrees are also available to clinical nurse specialists (CNS), certified nurse anesthetists and nurse-midwives with master's degrees.

As a DNP graduate, you can:

  • Conduct research

  • Influence health care policies

  • Practice management

  • Evaluate illnesses

DNP degree requirements

To pursue a DNP degree, you must already possess an MSN. Coursework for this degree differs from an MSN because there is an emphasis on research-based work instead of clinical experience. On average, it takes about two to five years to go from an MSN to a DNP degree.

Coursework for a DNP degree can include:

  • Nursing leadership

  • Evidence-based practice techniques

  • 1000+ clinical hours

  • Research-based final project

  • Employment in a leadership nursing position or administrative position

  • Additional certification

NP and DNP degree similarities

NP and DNP degrees both require master's degrees, similar numbers of classroom credit hours and clinical practice. Both of these degrees also require certifications that you must renew after a certain amount of time. You can usually choose a concentration to specialize in, and job opportunities for both degrees are considered advanced nursing positions. Both career paths come with more independence than an RN position. If you have either of these degrees, common workplaces can include hospitals and physicians' offices.

NP and DNP degree differences

Here are the main differences between an NP and DNP degree:

  • Coursework: Coursework for an NP degree usually focuses on medical skills depending on your area of focus such as mental health support and administering anesthesia. DNP degree coursework builds upon that training with an added emphasis on leadership, research and employee management.

  • Work environment: With an NP degree, you can work in environments such as hospitals, physicians' offices, long-term care facilities and community clinics. With a DNP degree, you can work in universities, public health offices, specialty practices, health care administration settings and health care advocacy organizations.

  • Recertification: Depending on your desired specialty, an MSN needs recertification every one to five years. A DNP degree requires recertification every five years on average.

  • Level of education: DNP graduates are considered to have a higher level of education than NPs with an MSN.

  • Salary: You can typically earn more per year with a DNP degree.

How much do an NP and a DNP make?

NursingProcess.org states that the average salary for a DNP is $120,460 per year. An NP can earn an average of $81,103 per year. Factors that influence NP and DNP salaries include geographic location, the type of employer, years of experience and nursing specialty.

Related: 10 Highest Paid Nursing Jobs

DNP salary averages by state

Every state pays nurses with these degrees a different average salary. Here is a list of average DNP salaries by state according to NursingProcess.org:

  • Alabama: $114,260

  • Alaska: $137,750

  • Arizona: $113,030

  • Arkansas: $108,920

  • California: $150,240

  • Colorado: $112,330

  • Connecticut: $127,870

  • Delaware: $120,240

  • District of Columbia: $123,490

  • Florida: $116,320

  • Georgia: $112,160

  • Hawaii: $140,070

  • Idaho: $111,300

  • Illinois: $111,840

  • Indiana: $116,880

  • Iowa: $133,510

  • Kansas: $112,290

  • Kentucky: $117,980

  • Louisiana: $111,050

  • Maine: $109,120

  • Maryland: $118,850

  • Massachusetts: $135,520

  • Michigan: $121,210

  • Minnesota: $142,260

  • Mississippi: $119,870

  • Missouri: $103,410

  • Montana: $146,790

  • Nebraska: $111,950

  • Nevada: $129,600

  • New Hampshire: $118,720

  • New Jersey: $112,260

  • New Mexico: $112,160

  • New York: $131,330

  • North Carolina: $117,940

  • North Dakota: $131,320

  • Ohio: $112,180

  • Oklahoma: $110,870

  • Oregon: $133,260

  • Pennsylvania: $114,460

  • Rhode Island: $94,570

  • South Carolina: $109,090

  • South Dakota: $122,780

  • Tennessee: $102,710

  • Texas: $112,600

  • Utah: $116,180

  • Vermont: $92,490

  • Virginia: $124,450

  • Washington: $127,660

  • West Virginia: $123,960

  • Wisconsin: $126,060

  • Wyoming: $151,180

NP salary averages by state

Here is a list of average NP salaries by state according to NursingProcess.org:

  • Alabama: $94,880

  • Alaska: $125,140

  • Arizona: $104,970

  • Arkansas: $95,230

  • California: $126,770

  • Colorado: $110,440

  • Connecticut: $118,500

  • Delaware: $105,380

  • District of Columbia: $107,950

  • Florida: $99,930

  • Georgia: $103,890

  • Hawaii: $122,580

  • Idaho: $102,760

  • Illinois: $101,960

  • Indiana: $101,780

  • Iowa: $104,130

  • Kansas: $97,870

  • Kentucky: $95,450

  • Louisiana: $98,780

  • Maine: $100,100

  • Maryland: $109,840

  • Massachusetts: $120,140

  • Michigan: $102,250

  • Minnesota: $116,150

  • Mississippi: $107,280

  • Missouri: $96,490

  • Montana: $97,470

  • Nebraska: $99,930

  • Nevada: $105,520

  • New Hampshire: $112,440

  • New Jersey: $117,630

  • New Mexico: $109,330

  • New York: $117,210

  • North Carolina: $106,320

  • North Dakota: $103,470

  • Ohio: $101,710

  • Oklahoma: $95,590

  • Oregon: $112,870

  • Pennsylvania: $98,260

  • Rhode Island: $108,630

  • South Carolina: $97,140

  • South Dakota: $100,030

  • Tennessee: $93,970

  • Texas: $111,330

  • Utah: $99,960

  • Vermont: $103,920

  • Virginia: $102,240

  • Washington: $115,250

  • West Virginia: $95,000

  • Wisconsin: $101,930

  • Wyoming: $113,310

Explore more articles