Becoming a leader in the healthcare field is a noble goal. It requires significant clinical knowledge, but doing so can be rewarding, as pursuing such a goal allows you to make a difference in health care and to patients. One way to become a leader in healthcare is by earning a California Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree. The DNP is generally the highest degree that a nurse can receive. The difference between a DNP and a PhD is that a CA DNP degree is oriented towards a practice in the field rather than research.
To earn a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree in California, you should first attend an accredited institution and complete a bachelor’s or master’s of science in nursing. It’s important to keep your grade-point-average at a 3.0, as that is typically a requirement to enroll in DNP programs. You will also want to make sure that you have earned a license as a registered nurse. DNP programs are typically designed for registered nurses (RNs) who hold a bachelor’s or master’s degree and have experience in the nursing field.
There are a variety of leadership roles you can enter with a DNP degree. The income you might earn may differ depending on the role, the organization for which you work, the part of California you live in, and more. Some examples of roles you might be able to go into with a DNP include:
- Nurse Administrator
- CA Annual Median Wage: $103,330
- Medical and Health Services Manager
- CA Annual Median Wage: $104,830
- Nurse Practitioner
- CA Annual Median Wage: $121,610
- Nurse Educator
- CA Annual Median Wage: $78,580
- Chief Executive
- CA Annual Median Wage: $189,520
- Nurse Anesthetist
- CA Annual Median Wage: $203,090
Below is an overview of accredited institutions in California that offer a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree program. These universities include:
- University of Massachusetts Global
- University of San Diego
- University of San Francisco
- San Jose State University
- University of California, Irvine
- University of California, San Francisco
- Loma Linda University
- California Baptist University
- San Jose State University
- Azusa Pactific University
- California State University, Fresno
- California State University, Los Angeles
- National University
- Point Loma Nazarene University
- Samuel Merritt University
- Touro University
- Western University of Health Sciences
The Doctor of Nursing Practice program at UMass is offered in a 100% online format, which includes both courses and virtual immersion sessions so students can apply what they have learned through hands-on labs and other hands-on experiences. Students will complete 73 credit hours in the program. 33 of the credits go towards the required residency. The program allows students who have a master’s degree in nursing to transfer up to 40 credit hours if they are enrolling in the post-masters DNP program. UMASS Global’s DNP program is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE).
USD’s Hahn School of Nursing and Health Science offers a DNP program that is ranked among the top 50 DNP programs in California, according to the US News and World Report. Students who want to pursue a higher level of nursing will receive education in clinical practice and leadership to provide excellent patient care. There are two options available for nursing students. The first is the bachelors of science in nursing (BSN) to DNP program, which ranges from 78-83 units. This program is offered in a full-time or part-time format. The second option is the post-master’s to DNP program, which is 34-55 units, and also offered both full-time and part-time.
The DNP program at University of San Francisco is offered through the School of Nursing and Health Professions. There are three DNP degrees to choose from: Family Nurse Practitioner, Population Health Leadership, and Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner. Within each, there is an option for bachelor’s and master’s level nurses to apply for their own program that matches their educational needs. The Family Nurse
Practitioner program can be completed in three years with a BSN and is 78 units. It can be completed in three years with a master’s degree and is 72 units. The DNP in Population Health Leadership is 45-56 credits and takes about seven semesters to complete. The 72-unit Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner program is offered in a hybrid format with weekend in-person classes and a 1,000-hour clinical practicum.
The DNP program at SJSU provides professional nurses with the education needed to continue in the healthcare field with advanced knowledge in patient care. Students will be prepared to take on various educational and leadership positions through the evidence-based DNP curriculum. The online program format allows nurses to continue their employment while receiving their education. Students will complete the required 39 units over 23 months of full-time study. They will also apply what they learned in their courses to a 1,000 hour clinical internship.
UC Irvine’s Sue and Bill Gross School of Nursing provides an evidence-based curriculum that prepares students to become innovative leaders in the field of healthcare. The post-master’s DNP program takes two years to complete and is offered through a hybrid format with asynchronous and synchronous online courses. There is also one on-campus session each quarter. Students in this program will complete a 520-hour clinical practicum. The other DNP program option at UCI is the DNP with a Family Nurse Practitioner concentration. This program takes three years to complete and is also offered in a hybrid format. Students will also complete a clinical practicum that totals 1,020 hours. The program prepares students to become licensed as a Family Nurse Practitioner.
UCSF offers a Doctor of Nursing Practice degree with a Leadership Focus. This program prepares students to continue their career in healthcare at an advanced level while learning how to positively impact and make changes to the field as a whole. Students will learn about quality improvement, safety, health policy, patient advocacy, and more, to improve their organization and patient health outcomes. The program takes seven quarters to complete. Students will focus on 24 quarter-units worth of coursework in the first year. The second year focuses on the required residency and project, as well as immersions that take place in person. The program takes place primarily online, other than the two 2-4 day immersions and the residency.
The DNP program at Loma Lindas University offers a curriculum for both bachelor’s and master’s level nurses that prepares them for leadership roles in healthcare where theytake on advanced nursing practices. The program typically takes three years to complete if a student is enrolled less than full-time, which is recommended if the student is also employed as a nurse. Students will complete a total of 68 units, which includes a project and 510 doctoral leadership practice hours. Certain students may qualify for an advanced standing version of the program if they have previously taken certain courses, as outlined in the curriculum.
The DNP program at California Baptist University is 36 units and can be completed in six semesters. There are four optional concentrations offered as well: Adult Gerontology Acute Care Nurse (33 units), Family Nurse Practitioner (28 units), Nurse Educator (12 units), and Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (29 units). Students will also complete a DNP practicum and project. While completing this portion of the curriculum, students will be guided by a faculty advisor as well as other experts in the field.
The Doctor of Nursing Practice program at SJSU is intended for professionals who have received an advanced education in a specialty field. The program primarily takes place online, with three on-campus meetings: one at the beginning of the semester, one in the middle of the program, and one at the end of the program. The program takes five semesters to complete, which is equivalent to 23 months. Students will take three courses per semester. The SJSU DNP program is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.
The DNP program at Azusa Pacific University emphasizes leadership to its students to prepare them for a complex and ever-changing healthcare system through their evidence-based curriculum. Students will become prepared to assist patients, educate nursing students, improve the healthcare system, conduct clinical research, and more. The program is 39 units and takes place online. There are only periodic, 1-2 day residencies throughout the program. Students who wish to do so can earn an Oncology Certificate while enrolled. This DNP program is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE).
CSU Fresno’s Doctor of Nursing Practice program provides students with scientific knowledge at an advanced level to become leaders in nursing that strive to increase patient outcomes. The program requires the completion of 37 units over five semesters. In the last semester, students will complete a doctoral project, teaching experience, and practicum. Students will gain this experience through a combination of virtual and in-person formats. CSU Fresno’s DNP program is accredited by the CCNE.
CSU Los Angeles offers a DNP program that is offered throughout schools at CSU Fullerton, Long Beach, and Los Angeles. To enroll in this program, a student must have already earned their master’s degree with a 3.0 GPA minimum on prior coursework as well as other admission requirements. This program is 36-45 units. There are several specialties to choose from, including: Nurse Practitioner and Community Health Nursing, Midwifery, Clinical Nurse Specialist, Anesthesia, and Management/Administration/Leadership. Within these specialities, students will complete a 1000-hour practicum.
National University offers an online Doctor of Nursing Practice with a specialization in Executive Leadership. The 46-unit DNP program can be completed in 13 courses in 30 months, with each foundation course taking place over eight weeks and the dissertation courses taking place over 12 weeks. Students will learn about leadership, including finances, advocacy and technology. To enroll in the program, applicants must have earned a RN license and a master’s degree in nursing with a minimum of a 3.0 GPA.
PLN University offers an online DNP program for those with a bachelor’s of science in nursing (BSN) and a master’s of science in nursing (MSN). The BSN-to-DNP program is 76 units and takes 3.3 years to complete. The MSN-to-DNP program is 55-65 units, depending on the prerequisites the enrollee has taken, and takes 3-3.3 years to complete. In the program, students will gain the skills to become leaders who practice through evidence-based methods and are familiar with modern technology that improves patient outcomes and increases efficiency for their organization. Students will also learn how to advocate for their patients to improve the health of their enture community. By the end of the program, students will qualify to take the Family Nurse Practitioner certification exam given by the American Nurses Credentialing Center.
The Family Nurse Practitioner DNP program at Samuel Merritt University is offered in an online format and takes six semesters (24 months) to complete. There is also an option for bachelor’s degree level nurses to enroll in the DNP program. This option takes 36 months (three years) to complete and is offered through a combination of online and on-campus classes. Students will also complete a 1,000-hour clinical internship where they will apply what they have learned in the classroom and labs to real-world situations.
Touro University’s DNP program is accredited by the Commission for Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE). To graduate, students must complete at least 34 units. Courses include many topics such as healthcare policy, leadership, evidence-based practice, and more. Students will also take part in a DNP practicum and a leadership practicum. The program takes one year to complete and is 100% online. To enroll, a student must have a master’s of science in nursing from an accredited university, have a 3.0 GPA, and be a licensed registered nurse.
The DNP program at Western University of Health Sciences is designed for professional working nurses, as it allows students to continue their nursing practice while they receive their education. The program is two years of full-time study, and there is a three-year extended curriculum available as well, both of which take place primarily online. There are two face-to-face sessions required at the beginning and end of the program. Along with coursework, students will complete a 1000-hour practicum and culminating scholarly project. Students will learn how to improve healthcare systems for vulnerable populations and conduct their practice through as an evidence-based clinical leader in the field.