Get the facts on Pennsylvania doctorates! Our practical directory contains rankings of the best and most affordable DNP programs in Pennsylvania, details on online & hybrid PA doctorates, and advice on BSN to DNP options. Interested in a particular school? Skip ahead to our listings.
Top Pennsylvania DNP Programs
This list of the best DNP programs in Pennsylvania is based on a large number of quality factors, including independent rankings (e.g. U.S. News & World Report), student reviews, research opportunities, and clinical connections. In addition to Pitt, Villanova, and Drexel, future CRNAs should add UPenn to their shortlist. It’s well-reviewed and highly ranked for Nurse Anesthesia.
1. University of Pittsburgh
Pitt is our undisputed #1 for Pennsylvania. The versatile DNP program comes with an outstanding national ranking (e.g. top 10), superb APRN certification pass rates (e.g. 100%), and all kinds of BSN to DNP tracks. Many of these specialties have top 10 rankings in their own right. The School of Nursing is large enough to support four academic departments, 85+ full-time faculty (100% doctorally-prepared), and a number of international partnerships. It operates Research HUBS in four key areas (e.g. eHealth, genomics of patient outcomes, cancer, and sleep & circadian rhythms) and maintains active grants in all kinds of areas. Motivated students should find plenty of opportunities for research & faculty collaboration.
Another benefit? Location. The School’s Victoria Hall is on the Oakland campus, in the heart of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) district and adjacent to a Level I Trauma Center. According to Pitt’s clinical placement policy, the School coordinates placements for students—arrangements are made by the Clinical Placement Coordinator or primary teacher of the clinical course. (One reviewer noted that rotations tend to be at UPMC sites). Pitt is a public research university, so tuition prices at the School can be high. However, out-of-state students are often eligible for the in-state rate on the DNP—with the exception of the Nurse Anesthesia program—and there are scholarship opportunities for graduate students.
2. Drexel University (Tied)
One for aspiring CRNAs or nurse leaders! Drexel’s College of Nursing and Health Professions (CNHP) usually attains a respectable national ranking for the DNP program (e.g. top 100) and even better placements for its online nursing graduate programs and hybrid Nurse Anesthesia degree (e.g. top 45). The College is a big place, with 200 full-time faculty, so it’s packed with opportunities for research & clinical networking. We’re talking about research centers & initiatives like the Center for Family Intervention Science and AgeWell Collaboratory, civic engagement projects, and CNHP-led practices like the 11th Street Family Health Services Center.
Drexel is a strong pick for anyone interested in healthcare technology. The College has offered fully online programs since 1999, and it’s known for its distance learning innovations. It runs a Virtual Reality (VR) in Healthcare project, facilitates the BAYADA Awards for Technological Innovation in Health Care Education and Practice, and gets rave reviews from alumni on the use of technology in learning. Independent reviewers say that the online graduate programs are well-organized, challenging, convenient, and far superior to other institutions. We also like the fact that the post-master’s leadership DNP includes a one-week global engagement experience.
2. Villanova University (Tied)
Villanova’s DNP program has similar tracks to Drexel (and a better national ranking for the DNP), so you may want to compare them side-by-side. You’ll find it in the M. Louise Fitzpatrick College of Nursing, an NLN Center of Excellence with 150 clinical affiliations, 13 global health sites, and a well-reviewed CRNA program. Nurse Anesthesia pass rates & clinical data are posted on the program website—we’re particularly pleased to see that students receive a lot of advanced clinical training. Just bear in mind that Villanova is a private Catholic research university with high tuition prices. You may wish to ask about scholarships.
Considering the online MSN to DNP? Villanova might be a good choice if you’re interested in “whole patient” research or Philadelphia healthcare issues. Villanova was founded on Augustinian values, and it puts a great deal of emphasis on service learning & thoughtful care. The College operates an NP-led practice called the Unity Clinic in South Philadelphia. It’s involved in the Together for West Philadelphia project. And it runs the Center for Global and Public Health and the MacDonald Center for Obesity Prevention and Education (COPE). View examples of previous DNP projects.
Most Affordable DNP Programs in Pennsylvania
This ranking of the cheapest DNP programs in PA comes with a caveat—Pennsylvania is one of the most expensive states in the country for the DNP. Even at public universities, you may see tuition rates between $700-$1,100 per credit for Pennsylvania residents. And out-of-state rates can be even higher.
1. Millersville University
Millersville is a public university, so we added together the DNP tuition rate + all mandatory fees to determine the final cost. The in-state rate on the post-master’s DNP is fairly reasonable (for Pennsylvania); the out-of-state rate is equivalent to big private schools.
2. University of Scranton
Scranton is a private Jesuit university, which means the DNP tuition rate is the same for all students, regardless of residency. There is a separate—and much higher—per credit rate for the Nurse Anesthesia program.
3. Misercordia University
Our ranking of Misercordia is based on the part-time, BSN to DNP tuition rate. It’s the only university in this affordability list that offers post-baccalaureate options in NP specialties.
Online DNP Programs in Pennsylvania
There are a dizzying number of online & hybrid DNP programs in our Pennsylvania listings, especially when you hit the post-master’s level. We’ve flagged the distance doctorates with their own marker (you’ll notice that Pitt and RMU have a mixture of online & on-campus options). Here are a few more things to watch out for when you’re making your decision.
- Online BSN to DNP Programs in PA: Almost every online BSN to DNP pathway is going to have at least one campus component (e.g. Chatham’s 2-day “scholarly poster” residency for the Executive track or Penn State’s intensive sessions for the Nurse Administrator track). Tracks that focus on APRN specialties usually have additional clinical training sessions and labs for certain courses. Ask the DNP program coordinator for precise details.
- Hybrid BSN to DNP Programs in PA: If you’re willing to commute, you can expand your search to Temple and a number of private universities. These programs may be relatively low-residency (e.g. Carlow) or more involved (e.g. Temple’s one day a week coursework). Universities often try to schedule classes at night or on the weekends to cater to working nurses (e.g. Alvernia’s weekend residencies).
Choices increase tenfold once you start looking at online MSN to DNP pathways. These programs are usually targeted at current APRNs who have already cleared the certification hurdle. So universities are free to focus on leadership & administrative subjects—perfect for online learning.
- 100% Online Post-Master’s DNP Programs in PA: Wilkes and Pitt state that their MSN to DNP programs are 100% online, with no on-site participation or travel. You may also want to check up on options from Gannon, RMU, RJU, and Clarion—the language wasn’t clear.
- Online Post-Master’s DNP Programs in PA: Other schools with online DNPs may have brief face-to-face components. These can take the form of an orientation (e.g. Duquesne), weekend residency (e.g. DeSales), annual immersion (e.g. LaSalle), final executive session (e.g. Gwynedd Mercy), or capstone presentation (e.g. Bloomsburg). Drexel even has a one-week global engagement experience. When in doubt, ask the DNP program coordinator for a sample calendar.
- Hybrid Post-Master’s DNP Programs in PA: We also want to give a shout-out to hybrid or blended programs, since many of them keep campus components to a minimum. For example, Waynesburg’s DNP is set up in such a way that classes meet one weekend every other month. Don’t discount the smaller private options—you may not have to spend a great deal of time at the university.
Finally, before you fork out for the application fee, check with your State Board of Nursing and the DNP program coordinator about distance learning restrictions. Many Pennsylvania schools have limitations on admissions for online DNPs (e.g. Holy Family). In fact, they’ll often have an entire section devoted to the issue (e.g. Clarion State Authorization, Bloomsburg State Authorization, Gannon State Authorization, etc.).
Note: Interested in DNPs across the nation? See our directory of Online DNP Programs. They are organized by state.
BSN to DNP Programs in Pennsylvania
To simplify your search, we’ve listed individual BSN to DNP tracks under each university in our Pennsylvania listings. These tend to fall into four broad general categories. For instance:
- Multiple APRN Specialties: Pitt and TJU are the leaders in choice. In addition to the usual suspects (e.g. FNP), they are willing to offer tracks in rarer areas such as the NNP, acute care, midwifery, women’s health, and informatics. If you’re interested in the PMHNP, you can also throw RMU into the mix.
- FNP & Adult Care Specialties: These are the favored specialties of private universities in Pennyslvania. A number of schools offer the AGPCNP; Cedar Crest has an AGACNP; and Widener even has an AGCNS track.
- Leadership: Schools like Chatham, Penn State, and Carlow have programs with an administrative or leadership bent.
- Nurse Anesthesia: As of 2020, there were 13 COA-accredited programs in Pennsylvania. They come from top-ranked schools (e.g. Pitt and UPenn), universities with unique partnerships (e.g. La Roche University and the Allegheny School of Anesthesia), and more. Some were transitioning from the MSN into the DNP—check the program page & COA website for current accreditation status.
Pennsylvania Nursing Organizations
- Pennsylvania State Board of Nursing
- Pennsylvania Coalition of Nurse Practitioners (PCNP)
- Pennsylvania Higher Education Nursing Schools Association (PHENSA)
- Pennsylvania Association of Nurse Anesthetists (PANA)
- Pennsylvania League for Nursing (PLN)
- Pennsylvania Organization of Nurse Leaders (PONL)
Below you'll find a list of all of the Doctor of Nursing Practice programs available in Pennsylvania.