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Below are answers to frequently asked questions regarding our DNP programs. The first section pertains to the Post-Master’s DNP and DNP in Executive Leadership, and the second section below to our DNP in Nurse Anesthesia.

Post-Master’s DNP & DNP in Executive Leadership

Program Information

What is the difference between a PhD and a DNP?

Doctoral programs in the nursing profession primarily fall into two types: research-focused and practice- focused. Most research-focused programs grant the Doctor of Philosophy degree (PhD) and are designed to prepare nurse scientists and scholars to conduct generalizable research using rigorous statistical methods. Practice-focused doctoral programs yield the Doctor of Nursing Practice degree (DNP) and are designed to prepare experts in specialized advanced nursing practice. They focus heavily on evidence-based practice that reflects the application of credible research findings. The two types of doctoral programs differ in their goals but are complementary in nature.

What is the difference between the Post-Master’s DNP and the Post-Master’s DNP in Executive Leadership?

The Post-Master’s DNP (PMDNP) expands the skills of master’s-prepared nurses to translate evidence in order to improve clinical practice and the health outcomes of specific populations. The DNP in Executive Leadership (DNPEL) provides master’s-prepared nurses who already have leadership experience with the executive-level skills to lead systems and organizational change. Please refer to each program’s website for more information.


What are the different admissions requirements of the PMDNP and DNPEL?

Both programs require a graduate degree. The PMDNP requires a master’s degree in a nursing field. The DNPEL requires a BSN, but the applicant’s graduate degree may be in another related field (e.g. MBA, MPH, MHA, PhD). The DNPEL also requires leadership and fiscal management (or graduate-level related coursework) experience.

If your only graduate degree is an MSN, it must be in an APN specialty, education, administration, etc. You are ineligible if the only MSN you have is a direct entry MSN that leads to an RN license.

What type of leadership experience meets the criteria for DNPEL admissions?

Nurses with at least two years of formal administrative, practice leadership or program oversight roles may be eligible to apply for the DNPEL program. Examples of common leadership experience include (but are not limited to) roles such as nurse manager, clinical director, chief nursing officer, patient safety and quality improvement leader, informaticist, lead nurse practitioner, project managers, and healthcare consultants

Future and Current Work Experience

What career paths and opportunities does a PMDNP or DNPEL degree prepare me for?

The PMDNP provides content in health policy, informatics, quality improvement, epidemiology, data analytics, leadership skills and applied healthcare accounting and economics.  Based on their work experience, graduates often seek roles or additional responsibilities in clinical practice improvement, nursing education, and clinical program leadership.  The DNPEL aims to graduate nurses for middle- or executive-level leadership roles including those in clinical operations or project/program leadership at a departmental or systems level.

Can I work while in the program?

Yes, in fact we encourage you to work while in the program as your practice can inform your learning and scholarship. Students often complete their DNP project (usually a quality improvement/practice change initiative) at their site of employment which not only benefits their institution but also showcases your scholarly work.

Plan of Study

Is the program fully online? Are the online classes held live or asynchronously?

Yes, the program is fully online with 2 on-campus intensives. The courses are held online in a mostly asynchronously format. Our faculty provide flexible office hours to accommodate for various time zones.Yes, the program is fully online with 2 on-campus intensives. The courses are held online in a mostly asynchronously format. Our faculty provide flexible office hours to accommodate for various time zones.

I only see a Plan of Study with 2 courses per semester. Can I just take 1 class a semester?

 We encourage all students to take 2 courses/term as you remain within your cohort which is known to be beneficial for networking and teamwork, but we understand that life circumstances can be unpredictable. If you have questions about a different pace of study, please contact your respective director at

How many graduate courses can I transfer into the program?

If you are a Penn MSN alumnus/alumna, you can transfer in up to 3 graduate course units as approved by the DNP Leadership Team. If you earned your MSN from another institution, you can transfer up to 2 course units.

Can I take electives or online classes at other Penn graduate schools?

Yes, we encourage you to explore other online classes at the School of Nursing and other Penn graduate schools. Your program directors can guide you to available courses.

DNP Scholarly Project

Do I need to know my DNP project topic before I apply?

It is not necessary to know your DNP project topic before you apply and, in fact, we expect this to be an iterative process. As you engage in coursework and explore the literature, we encourage you to be curious and think critically about potential areas for practice change in your organization or specialty. You will be guided in the development of your DNP project in your first project-related course (NURS851).

How will I be matched with a Faculty Mentor for my DNP Project and who comprises my DNP Project Team?

The DNP leadership team meet with each student individually in the early spring semester of the first academic year and match you with a faculty mentor who is aligned with your area of focus. Additionally, you identify an institutional lead in your organization as related to your project needs to comprise your DNP Project Team. The DNP leadership team provides guidance to the team.


What are the in-person intensives?

In the PMDNP program, intensives are held on-campus, are 2-3 days in length and scheduled at the end of each August (total of 2). The DNPEL meets for 5 days during the first fall semester in December for the Wharton Nursing Leaders Program and again at the end of August in the 2nd year. For both programs, the intensives are an important time to build relationships and network amongst your cohort. You will also meet faculty and participate in various workshops such as translating evidence into practice, leadership, scholarly writing, data analytics, and other essential DNP topics and skills.

How many students are in a cohort?

For the PMDNP, there are between 20-30 students in a cohort. For the DNPEL, there are approximately 15-20 students in a cohort.

If I am a Penn Medicine or CHOP employee, can I use the Penn Nursing-Penn Medicine/CHOP scholarship for the DNP program?

Yes! Please complete this form, and submit it to the Penn Nursing Financial Aid Office.

Financial Aid

What is the cost per CU?

For program costs, please visit our website.

What financial aid is available?

Please visit the Penn Nursing Financial Aid website for information on financial aid options and external scholarships, including the Nurse Faculty Loan Program.

If I am a Penn Medicine or CHOP employee, can I use the Penn Nursing-Penn Medicine/CHOP scholarship for the DNP program?

Yes! Please complete this form, and submit it to the Penn Nursing Financial Aid Office.

More information

Who can I talk to for more information?

You can e-mail for specific questions about the program or for questions regarding the admission process.

DNP-Nurse Anesthesia

What is the experience needed to apply to the DNP Nurse Anesthesia program at the University of Pennsylvania?

You must have at least two years of ICU/critical care experience working with the most critically ill patients. All work experience should be calculated after your orientation period. Our most competitive applicants usually have more than two years. Neonatal ICU, Emergency Room, Recovery Room, Step Down Units, and Interventional Radiology will not be considered as ICU experience.

What is the minimum GPA for admission?

We have a very holistic admissions process. All parts of your application will be considered. However, we do recommend that your science GPA be at least a 3.0 or higher.

If I received credit from my AP Statistics course in high school, may I use this as my prerequisite statistics course?

Yes, but the credit must appear on your undergraduate transcript.

Is there an admissions interview?

Competitive applicants will be invited to interview by the program faculty.

When will I be able to start the DNP Nurse Anesthesia program?

Due to the demand for the DNP Nurse Anesthesia program, we are admitting students into the program two years in advance.