Doctoral Degrees in Nursing

Online or On-Campus?


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Does an Online DNP Program or On-Campus Work Best for Me?

Explore the difference between online DNP and on-campus doctor of nursing programs.

Who are online DNP programs tailored for?

Today’s online nursing degree programs offer a great education solution for a variety of students. More and more students who are returning to school are now choosing to go online for their post-graduate training. Because of the increased demand for online nursing degree programs, there are now many high-quality options available for more advanced nursing degrees, including doctoral programs.

Generally, online education has become widely popular for three types of students:

  • Parents returning to school: Returning to school after having children is a huge time commitment, and sometimes it can seem downright impossible. The benefit to most online nursing programs is that your courses can be completed according to your own schedule, so if the only time you’re able to work is after your kids have gone to bed, that’s no problem.
  • Students in rural areas: If you’re hours away from the nearest college, the commute required might prevent you from making it to class, or even enrolling in the first place. If you’re someone who may not be able to make it to campus regularly, an online program solves this by bringing the campus to you.
  • Those who don’t want to quit working: When you’ve already earned your nursing degree, taking time off work to go to school can feel like a step back. To keep a steady income while earning a higher degree, many students will work part-time and attend online classes.

And here are a couple more reasons for considering an online DNP program:

  • Much of the learning in doctorate programs is intended to be autonomous and research-based. If you’re a student who can self-direct and complete work independently, an online program provides the flexibility you may need.
  • Generally speaking, online programs tend to be less expensive than on-campus programs, and since doctorate programs can take up to six years to complete, the lowered cost can save you money.

I fit into one of the categories above. Are online programs available for this degree?

Thanks to the increased demand for flexible learning, there’s dozens of great online programs for students pursuing a doctoral degree in nursing. Though less common, there are some students who choose an accelerated program that take them through the BSN to MSN to doctorate degree. If this is you, your web-based program will be a hybrid program, which blends online instruction with practical, hands-on nursing. Since nursing is a tactile profession, students are expected to have clinical experience before they can earn an advanced degree.

It’s much more likely that doctorate students have already achieved RN status. In this case, practical and clinical experience has been accomplished, and advanced learning can be completed online. It should be said, however, that many online doctoral programs will require you to participate in some community interaction assignments, such as interviewing other doctors of nursing or observing in local clinics.

How do online DNP programs differ from campus programs? Will the quality of education be the same?

Online DNP programs might seem as though they would differ greatly from on-campus programs, but the reality is that they’re not so different after all. Online programs have grown in popularity in recent years, and because of this, schools that offer online programs are doing their best to make the online degree option a great experience. Here’s a look at how online programs stack up against on-campus ones:

  • Quality: The popularity of online degrees has forced schools to ensure they’re offering a thorough education to students. Many of today’s online courses do a great job of teaching students all the same skills they would learn on-campus.
  • Time to completion: Because many online programs allow you to work at your own pace, you often have the option to work faster and complete the program sooner than the average time.
  • Overall experience: Since doctor of nursing programs require so much independent learning and research, an online program may not be that different from an on-campus program. In an undergrad program, you may feel like you’re missing out on peer interaction, but at the doctorate level, there is a lot of independent learning and research.

Every student has their own reasons for choosing an on-campus or online program, but neither format will lead you in the wrong direction. Just make sure your program has earned accreditation so you can take advantage of the benefits, such as federal financial aid and credit transfer.

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