FAQs: Doctor of Nursing Practice

About the Program

1) What is the DNP program at UNCW?

  • DNP is the abbreviation for Doctor of Nursing Practice.
  • The program at UNCW is a terminal clinical practice degree for advanced practice nurses and nurse executive leaders.

2) What are the concentrations?

  • Two Masters entry-level concentrations: the MSN-DNP for APRNs and the Masters - DNP for Nurse Executive Leadership
  • Two BSN-DNP Concentrations: the Family Nurse Practitioner concentration and the Psychiatric Mental Health NP concentration

3) What is special about the DNP program at UNCW?

  • We offer a fully online program. There may be a few opportunities that students are required on campus for Skills Labs, but this is specific to each program.
  • We offer fulltime and part time options.
  • The program can be completed in as few as five (5) semesters for the Master’s entry and eight (8) semesters for the BSN entry.
  • For in state students, it is an affordable option to obtain a doctorate - around $9,000 for post masters students and around $18,000 for BSN students. We also offer some great scholarships for our DNP students and opportunities for paid research assistant positions.
  • We have a diverse group of students and are starting a mentoring program for our DNP students to help support you outside the classroom through your educational journey.
  • We have amazing faculty who have many years of experience in many different fields of nursing, including nurse practitioners who continue to practice in a multitude of settings and populations.
  • Know that your faculty are here to support you. We are your colleagues as nurses before you enter the program and when you exit, we will be your colleagues as NPs or nurse leaders. We want you to succeed for the benefit of the N.C. citizens as well as our profession. We will push you but also support you.


4) What degrees and what experience does one need to apply to each concentration?

  • The MSN-DNP requires an advanced practice degree, which may include any type of NP (nurse practitioner) with an MSN, CRNA (certified registered nurse anesthetist), CNM (certified nurse midwife) or CNS (clinical nurse specialist).
  • The Nurse Executive Leadership concentration (also a post masters entry) preferably should have a Master’s degree in Nursing Leadership and Management but applicants with a masters in a nursing specialty other than leadership or a masters degree outside of nursing may also be considered.
  • Applicants for the BSN-DNP concentrations should have completed a BSN prior to or in the spring semester of the year the program starts in that fall (Ex: Fall 2022 start date should have completed the BSN no later than Spring 2022). Recent graduate applicants, if accepted, must complete 600 hours of RN work experience prior to starting their clinical rotations in the NP programs.

5) What is the admissions process?

  • The admissions process happens once a year and generally opens around the middle of September and runs until February 15 for the BSN-DNP Concentrations and until March 15 for the Masters-DNP concentrations. We utilize a holistic admissions process, meaning we look at many aspects of the student’s application and experience and background, not just grades or test scores. Applications start in the graduate school and you can get to that website by going to uncw.edu/gradschool and clicking on the Admissions tab. The DNP program is under the Regular Term Instruction or RTI so that is the one to select to start the application. Once the application is complete with the graduate school, they send it to the admissions committees in the School of Nursing and we review the qualified candidates at that point. That process usually starts in January and students are notified by April 1 and May 1 depending on the concentration for the following Fall start.

6) How is the admissions criteria specific to each concentration?

  • Under the DNP application, students will specify which concentration they are applying to and each concentration has its own admission criteria. All of that information is listed under the Admissions drop down for each concentration. The BSN-DNP applicants have to create a video to answer specific questions laid out on the application and the Masters-DNP students must write an essay addressing specific questions. Each applicant must submit their transcripts, three recommendations, and a resume or CV to show their experience.  It is very important that applicants address all the requirements on the application in order to improve their chances of acceptance.

7) Can a student who graduated from the MSN NE (Nurse Educator) program apply to the DNP program?

  • The answer is yes and no. Graduates from the NE program do not have a direct entry into the post master’s DNP UNLESS they are already an APRN (see above) OR they have extensive leadership experience and qualify for the Nurse Executive Leadership concentration.  If an NE graduate wants to become a FNP or PMHNP, they must go through the entire program for the BSN-DNP.

Managing Your Time in the DNP

8) Can I work full-time while in the DNP program?

  • It is not recommended to work full-time while in the DNP program. This doctoral program is rigorous in content and time commitment. We realize that working fulltime  may be a necessity for some, but we also hope that students will make this advancement in their careers a priority and focus on success in the program to progress into a new career. This may mean taking loans, relying on family and friends, or rearranging your routine to manage your household. With this being said, if you are unable to decrease hours or stop working altogether, we suggest you look at all options to free up time for school, which could include looking at working in a different area, capacity, weekends only, etc.
  • From a practical stand point, when you enter clinical you are committing to over a day a week in clinical in addition to your school work and other outside of school commitments. It is very important to discuss the amount of time you will need to be successful in school with your family and friends and your management at work. Rely on any help you can get from family and friends to free up more of your time. After you complete the program in two-three years, you will have a lot of time to catch up with friends and family. So if you miss a few soccer games or school events, it is okay. Allow yourself forgiveness knowing you are working towards bettering yourself and your family by successfully completing this program.

9) How much time should I expect to devote to the DNP program each week?

  • Doctoral programs require a minimum of three-four hours per credit hour per week. So if you are taking three courses, you should expect to spend around 27-36 hours per week on studying and doing coursework. You may spend more depending on your methods of studying and your learning style. It is important for your success in the program that you allow yourself this time to prepare, complete assignments, etc. Once you start into clinical practicums and/or DNP projects, this time will increase. Please keep that in mind. 

10) Do I have to find my own clinical sites for the NP concentrations and also for the DNP project?

  • We offer assistance with finding clinical placement but we place a great importance on empowering the students to seek clinical placement. We find that the relationships they have built go farther in helping secure placement. We encourage students even before starting the program to begin fostering relationships with NPs, PAs and MDs in primary care settings. We encourage students to think broadly about where their placements will be. This could mean identifying friends or family you would be willing to stay with while in your clinical site. 

Career Opportunities

11) What jobs are available to students after graduation for UNCW graduates?

The DNP program prepares graduates to be leaders in their fields. FNP graduates are prepared to sit for the Family Nurse Practitioner certification exam and work primarily in family practice or primary care. FNP students are prepared as generalists, so if they decide to go into a specialty field, it may require more education or training to be proficient in those specialties. They are prepared to care for patients across the lifespan. PMHNP graduates can sit for the Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner certification. PMHNP graduates are prepared to work in most areas of mental health care, including telehealth. Post APRN DNP graduates usually continue to work in their advanced practice fields, but may advance into more leadership roles in their practices or in healthcare systems. Nurse Executive Leadership graduates may work in many different healthcare settings and leadership roles.

January 2021