Get the inside scoop on DNP programs in Illinois! Our comprehensive directory contains rankings of the best and most affordable DNP programs in the Prairie State, details on online & hybrid IL doctorates, and notes on BSN to DNP options. Want to view a list of pathways and APRN specialties? Skip ahead to our detailed program listings.
Top Illinois DNP Programs
To find the best DNP programs in IL, we evaluated independent rankings for nursing graduate degrees, prioritizing any Illinois school with a high DNP placement in U.S. News & World Report. We also considered important factors such as student reviews, certification pass rates, and clinical reputation. You won’t be disappointed—in the field of nursing, Illinois has some serious academic powerhouses!
1. Rush University
Rush’s DNP program is one of the best doctoral programs in the country. The College of Nursing achieves outstanding U.S. News & World Report results in almost every degree category (e.g. top 5 for DNP, top 10 for MSN, top 3 for Online) and APRN specialty. Nursing students have access to the state-of-the-art Rush Center for Clinical Skills and Simulation and Human Anatomy Laboratory. Pass rates for advanced practice certification exams are substantially higher than the national average. And reviews of the College’s graduate nursing programs on independent sites are superb, especially for the nursing faculty, culture, and clinical experiences.
Thinking about practicum opportunities? Rush is the academic component of Rush University Medical Center, which is located in the Illinois Medical District near Chicago’s Loop. In addition, nursing faculty deliver their own Faculty Practice Patient Care & Consulting Services to diverse populations across Chicagoland. Planning your capstone? Research-focused DNP students can find opportunities through the Office of Nursing Research and Scholarship, the interdisciplinary Center for Clinical Research and Scholarship (CCRS), and the Rush Nursing Center for Aging and Health (RNCAH). All of this quality comes with a price—Rush is expensive. So you may wish to see if you qualify for any College Of Nursing scholarships.
2. University of Illinois-Chicago
Our #2 spot goes to UIC’s versatile DNP program in the College of Nursing. Everywhere we looked, we found quality markers. We’re talking about top 20 national rankings in a number of specialties (e.g. FNP, AGACNP, etc.), strong graduate student reviews, excellent certification pass rates (e.g. 92% for DNP graduates), and superb training facilities. Opened in 2019, the Schwartz Simulation Lab has 15,000 square feet of labs & suites. Better yet, clinical practicum sites and preceptors are arranged for students by nursing staff. DNP alumni bios and examples of DNP projects are posted on the College’s website. You can also attend DNP Info Sessions, ask a question about College of Nursing scholarships, and view the narrated DNP presentation to get a clearer idea of the program.
But wait, there’s more! The College is involved in tons of nursing research—it’s among the top U.S. nursing schools for NIH funding—and it runs multiple Centers, Labs & Interest Groups, particularly in sleep. It’s also deeply involved in global health. The College is a WHO Collaborating Centre for International Nursing in Primary Health Care and the first WHOCC in U.S. to focus on nursing/midwifery. In order to support the local community, the College runs a nurse-led, nurse managed clinic—the Mile Square Health Center (MSHC) in Humboldt Park. Nursing faculty are also involved in Correctional Health Initiatives and available for consulting. If you want a DNP program that’s backed by experience, this is one to consider.
3. Loyola University Chicago
LUC’s DNP program has much to recommend it. It comes from a large Jesuit research university with strong ties to the Loyola University Medical Center. It’s offered by a School of Nursing with solid rankings (e.g. top 45 for the DNP and top 35 for the MSN), great reviews, and an interest in interprofessional healthcare education & practice. It has NP tracks in unusual fields (e.g. oncology). And it includes the personal touch—DNP immersion weekends focus on experiential learning and faculty interactions.
You’ll find more opportunities lurking on the School’s website. LUC has nursing research strengths in multiple areas (e.g. epigenetics, health disparities & vulnerable populations, chronic disease, and education & practice) and DNP students often develop capstone projects around these foci. In order to foster clinical practice, the School also runs nurse-managed centers like the Loyola Community Nursing Center. Don’t be afraid to ask the DNP program coordinator about potential practicum placements at Loyola Medicine!
Most Affordable DNP Programs in Illinois
This ranking of the cheapest DNP programs in Illinois is based on per credit tuition rates (i.e. graduate tuition rate or special DNP rate). However, since each DNP program in our listings has a different number of credits, the total cost will vary quite a bit! You’ll also notice that some public universities have different rates for in-state and out-of-state DNP students (e.g. ISU and UIC) and some don’t (e.g. NIU). Top-ranked universities with multiple NP specialties usually have the highest rates.
1. Illinois State University
Even with the mandatory fees, the in-state tuition rate for ISU’s post-master’s DNP is remarkably inexpensive. Having said that, the out-of-state graduate tuition rate is comparable to private universities.
If you live in a neighboring state, check with the DNP program coordinator. Students who have been admitted from contiguous states—including Iowa, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Missouri, and Wisconsin—may be eligible for in-state tuition.
2. McKendree University
McKendree is a private university, so the tuition rate is the same for all students in its post-master’s DNP program. In addition to the standard per credit rate, there is a mandatory per credit hour fee for online courses. You’ll also need to budget for travel to two mandatory, on-campus immersions (1-2 days each).
3. Saint Francis Medical Center College of Nursing
Saint Francis Medical Center appears in our #3 spot because it has a reasonable graduate tuition rate for its BSN to DNP and post-master’s DNP pathways (similar to McKendree). But there are substantial fees (e.g. technology fee, course fees, graduation fee, DNP Project Fee, etc.). See the tuition page for a breakdown of costs.
Online DNP Programs in Illinois
Our Illinois listings are awash with online & hybrid DNP programs, including options from heavy hitters (e.g. Rush, LUC, and UIC) and affordable schools (e.g. ISU). Before you commit to a distance learning degree, we highly recommend you read the fine print on the program website and talk to the program coordinator. Many DNPs that are labeled as “online” have campus components. For example:
- Online BSN to DNP Programs in IL: Bradley University is the only university we found that claims to have a 100% online BSN to DNP for Family Nurse Practitioners, with no campus residencies. Even Rush’s online tracks include periodic campus visits (e.g. 2-day campus orientation, 1-2 day training for the Health Assessment course, a 2-3 day lab for Physical Diagnosis, etc.). We’ll issue a caution about 100% online programs for the BSN to DNP—you’ll need good clinical training in order to thrive.
- Hybrid BSN to DNP Programs in IL: Blended formats are the most popular option for the BSN to DNP. Some schools have immersions or skills sessions (e.g. LUC, Saint Francis Medical Center, and SIUE). Some mix online courses with weekly on-campus classes (e.g. Rush and UIC). Some start off with online courses and then transition into face-to-face instruction (e.g. Millikin) or vice versa (e.g. Rosalind Franklin’s Nurse Anesthesia Entry program). And some make a point of including elements like internships (e.g. NIU). Each DNP program has its own quirky set-up.
DNP programs at the post-master’s level are going to be much more flexible. Schools of Nursing are focused on providing coursework in leadership & administration—classes which can often be delivered online.
- 100% Online Post-Master’s DNP Programs in IL: We found a number of schools that made this claim, including Bradley, Resurrection, Saint Francis Medical Center, and ISU. You might also wish to ask Millikin, Rosalind Franklin, and the University of St. Francis if their post-master’s pathways are completely online.
- Online/Hybrid Post-Master’s DNP Programs in IL: Many of the remaining programs have at least one on-campus element. This may take the form of an annual immersion (e.g. McKendree, SIUE, Lewis, etc.), per semester immersion (e.g. LUC), or occassional pre-arranged campus meetings (e.g. NIU). When in doubt, ask.
And be sure to check with the DNP program coordinator about state authorization and distance learning restrictions. This is an especially important step for aspiring NPs. For example, due to State Board of Nursing requirements, students who wish to enroll in the University of St. Francis’s DNP program must reside in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, New Mexico, or Wisconsin.
Note: Looking for even more choices? Check out the listings of Online DNP Programs. They are organized by state.
BSN to DNP Programs in Illinois
BSN to DNP programs in our Illinois listings fall into three broad categories—schools with multiple NP and leadership specialties; schools that chosen to focus on the FNP; and schools that offer Nurse Anesthesia programs.
- Multiple Specialties: Rush and UIC are the clear winners in this category, with 10+ tracks and strong academic reputations. But St. Anthony College, DePaul, and GSU have plenty of adult-centered specialties; Loyola offers NP tracks with unusual sub-specialties (e.g. oncology); and Saint Francis Medical Center has rarer choices like the NNP.
- FNP Only: Schools that fall into this category include SIUE, Millikin, NIU, and Bradley. With the exception of Bradley, these are primarily hybrid programs, with on-campus immersion experiences and/or face-to-face components.
- Nurse Anesthesia: These programs tend to be a) full-time and b) intense. Some IL schools have developed hybrid programs, with online coursework (e.g. Millikin, Rosalind Franklin, and DePaul). Others may expect you to be on the campus for much of the teaching (e.g. Rush or SIUE).
In other words, you’ll be spoiled for choice! If you’re having trouble deciding between programs, don’t be afraid to reach out to BSN to DNP alumni (through LinkedIn, nursing messageboards, or the university website). These folks may also have tips & ideas on how to secure the best preceptors and clinical sites.
Illinois Nursing Organizations
- Nursing – Illinois Department of Financial & Professional Regulation (IDFPR)
- Illinois Society for Advanced Practice Nursing (ISAPN)
- Illinois Association of Nurse Anesthetists (IANA)
- Illinois League for Nursing (ILN)
- Illinois Organization of Nurse Leaders (IONL)
Below you'll find a list of all of the Doctor of Nursing Practice programs available in Illinois.