Get the facts on North Carolina DNPs. Our practical guide & directory contains rankings of the best and most affordable DNP programs in North Carolina, details on online & hybrid NC doctorates, and advice on BSN to DNP options. Interested in a particular school? Skip ahead to our listings.
Top North Carolina DNP Programs
This list of the best DNP programs in North Carolina is based on a large number of quality factors, including independent rankings (e.g. U.S. News & World Report), reputation, research opportunities, and clinical connections. We also went looking for unfiltered reviews of the graduate nursing programs.
1. Duke University
Duke’s DNP program merits the high price tag! It’s available in multiple online/hybrid tracks & pathways and it comes with an outstanding academic reputation. Duke’s School of Nursing has top 5 national rankings in almost every nursing discipline, including the DNP, nurse anesthesia, and NP specialties. At Duke, you’ll find incredible clinical practice opportunities, a large number of research centers & institutes with NIH funding, on-the-ground partnerships with Durham community organizations, and more. Better yet, the School has a close relationship with Duke Health and the Duke Health Inter-Professional Education (IPE) Clinic.
Here’s the cherry on top—we’ve rarely seen such rave reviews on independent websites & messageboards. MSN and DNP alumni were pleased with almost every aspect of the Duke experience, including the program’s flexible format, help with clinical placements (see the guidelines for NP students), exposure to complex cases, diverse classes, research possibilities, and professional connections. In fact, many reviewers went out of their way to praise the faculty & instructors for being extremely knowledgeable, engaging, and supportive. If you want to double-check, ask the DNP program coordinator for NP certification pass rates & contact DNP alumni through the School’s website or LinkedIn. The school has a strong network of graduates.
2. UNC Chapel Hill
If you’re looking for a public option, Carolina Nursing and its versatile DNP program are tough to beat! Like Duke, Carolina Nursing has excellent national rankings for its graduate programs (e.g. top 10 for DNP) and an international reputation. The DNP comes in a range of specialties, with options to sub-specialize. Reviews are generally positive, with graduate alumni often mentioning the nurturing professors. And doctoral students have access to rich research resources. Carolina Nursing is one of only a handful of schools in the country to house a Biobehavioral Laboratory and it’s involved in many research areas of expertise.
Clinical ties are another bonus. Carolina Nursing is adjacent to UNC Hospitals and many faculty are actively practicing in UNC healthcare institutions. The School also runs a mobile health clinic to serve vulnerable populations in Wake County, partners with North Carolina’s Area Health Education Centers to provide educational programs, and collaborates with international schools on global initiatives. Carolina Nursing is not cheap, but the section on Scholarships & Financial Aid contains funding ideas. You may also want to ask the DNP program coordinator for recent NP certification pass rates (NCLEX pass rates tend to be superb).
3. East Carolina University
ECU makes our #3 spot on the strength of respectable national rankings (e.g. top 70 for DNP), solid reputation, and affordable tuition rates. The DNP program is available in certain NP specialties, nurse anesthesia, and MSN to DNP tracks, and it’s geared toward working nurses. We especially like the fact that the College of Nursing places an emphasis on rural and underserved populations. It runs an APRN RURAL Scholars Program, supports older adults in the eastern portion of the state through geriatric health care initiatives, and encourages faculty service in global locations.
Thinking about your capstone? The College is part of ECU’s Health Sciences campus, which means ECU nurse scientists often collaborate on interdisciplinary research projects with faculty from the Brody School of Medicine, the School of Dental Medicine and the College of Allied Health Sciences. In addition, the College promises to help NP students with clinical placements (rotations are completed solely in North Carolina). Through the Brody School, ECU has particularly tight connections to Vidant Health. You’ll find a number of strong reviews of ECU’s nursing programs on independent sites, especially for nurse anesthesia. Like Duke and UNC Chapel Hill, ECU is a well-known name in the state.
Most Affordable DNP Programs in North Carolina
For this list of the cheapest DNP programs in North Carolina, we ranked each school by the lowest per credit tuition rate for the doctorate. In the case of public universities, this was usually the in-state rate. As you might expect, well-known private schools such as Duke and Wake Forest School of Medicine are going to be expensive.
One thing to note—since UNC schools often use a “per semester” tuition rate, we had to create estimates for certain universities (e.g. UNC Chapel Hill) by dividing total costs by credits. We tried to ensure mandatory fees and DNP tuition differentials were included in the final per credit rate.
1. Winston-Salem State University
At WSSU, the DNP tuition rate for North Carolina residents, including all mandatory fees, is very low. In fact, it’s one of the cheapest in-state rates we’ve seen. Even the out-of-state tuition rate is similar to public universities in more expensive states. Because it’s so low, we recommend you ask the DNP program coordinator about any additional program & course fees.
2. UNC Wilmington
UNC Wilmington’s DNP tuition rate is listed in the Graduate Distance Education section of the tuition & fees page. The in-state rate, plus all mandatory fees, is excellent. The out-of-state rate is comparable to big private universities.
3. East Carolina University
At ECU, the per credit DNP tuition rate for North Carolina residents is not that much higher than UNC Wilmington. (This number includes mandatory fees and the required per credit fee for all DNP courses.) The out-of-state rate is almost three times the in-state rate.
Online DNP Programs in North Carolina
To speed your search, we’ve flagged all the online DNP programs in our state listings. But we’ll be the first to admit that online is a slippery term for North Carolina universities. Some online DNPs have a fair amount of campus components; some hybrid DNPs may be primarily online. For example:
- Online BSN to DNP Programs in NC: UNC Chapel Hill’s track in Health Care Leadership & Administration is fully online, but NP specialties are hybrid. Meanwhile, Duke’s “online” BSN to DNP contains 2-5 day intensives each semester for certain courses in the MSN portion and a 2-day campus orientation and four executive on-campus sessions (2-3 days per session) for the post-master’s portion.
- Hybrid BSN to DNP Programs in NC: Universities like ECU and UNC Wilmington state that their hybrid programs are primarily online, but don’t provide a lot of detail. Others, like Gardner-Webb and UNC Greensboro, might mention on-campus intensives or weekly on-campus sessions. And WSSU will want to see you for 2 days per week in the first two years and 4 times per semester in the last two years. Ask the DNP program coordinator for specifics before you commit.
It’s a similar story at the post-master’s level. MSN to DNP programs in North Carolina are rarely 100% online. Most of them have at least some components that will require travel to the campus. For instance:
- Online Post-Master’s DNP Programs in NC: UNC Chapel Hill’s MSN to DNP is advertised as being “fully online,” but it’s best to check. Programs at ECU and Wake Forest will definitely have occasional in-person sessions. And Duke’s post-master’s DNP has a 2-day orientation and four executive on-campus meetings (2-3 days each).
- Hybrid Post-Master’s DNP Programs in NC: Programs in this category include UNC Charlotte & WCU’s Dual DNP (e.g. 3-day immersion sessions each semester); UNC Greensboro (e.g. on-campus sessions 3-6 days per semester); WSSU (e.g. 3-day campus meetings four times per semester); and Gardner-Webb’s DNP in Leadership (e.g. 20-23 on-campus hours per course each semester).
Out-of-state students will need to read the rules on state authorization & distance learning restrictions very carefully (e.g. Duke’s Accreditation & State Authorization section). Some online & hybrid DNP programs in North Carolina cannot accept certain candidates. For example, all students in ECU’s BSN to DNP program (FNP or PMHNP) must maintain unencumbered RN licensure in North Carolina and complete their clinical placements in the state.
Note: Interested in DNPs across the nation? See our directory of Online DNP Programs. They are organized by state.
BSN to DNP Programs in North Carolina
BSN to DNP tracks are linked under each school in the North Carolina listings. Fortunately, there’s a fair amount of choice, especially if you’re interested in the FNP or adult specialties. Here’s a general summary of what you’re likely to find.
- Multiple APRN & Leadership Specialties: Top-ranked schools like Duke and UNC Chapel Hill will have the most variety. Here you’ll find popular options (e.g. FNP), pediatric possibilities, and even sub-specialties (e.g. UNC Chapel Hill’s AGPCNP with an Oncology focus). Duke also has rare tracks in areas like the NNP, AC PNP, informatics, and education.
- FNP, AGNP & PMHNP: If you’re not interested in neonatology or pediatrics, you can add the other North Carolina schools to your shortlist. They all offer the FNP; some offer the AGPCNP (e.g. ECU and UNC Greensboro); others offer the PMHNP (e.g. Gardner-Webb and UNC Wilmington). UNC Wilmington even has opportunities to sub-specialize in areas like transcultural nursing.
- Nurse Anesthesia: North Carolina is a great state for aspiring CRNAs—six COA-accredited universities offer a DNAP or NA-DNP program, and many of them have excellent exam & employment statistics. A few things to mention: UNC Charlotte’s program was created in partnership with Carolinas Medical Center; UNC Greensboro’s program has hybrid elements; and—as of 2020—Wake Forest was in the process of transitioning from the MS to the DNP.
North Carolina Nursing Organizations
- North Carolina Board of Nursing
- North Carolina Nurse Practitioner Network (NCNPN)
- North Carolina Association of Nurse Anesthetists (NCANA)
- North Carolina League for Nursing (NCLN)
- North Carolina Organization of Nurse Leaders (NCONL)
Below you'll find a list of all of the Doctor of Nursing Practice programs available in North Carolina.