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Professional Degree Policies

GCAC-700-L Doctor of Nursing Practice Degree Requirements

Purpose: to define the minimum requirements for obtaining a Doctor of Nursing Practice (D.N.P.) degree.

Academic Goal: to ensure that students pursuing the Doctor of Nursing Practice (D.N.P.) have sufficient academic training and assessment to be able to assume leadership roles in nursing practice settings.

Scope: all graduate students in a Doctor of Nursing Practice (D.N.P.) degree program.



The Doctor of Nursing Practice (D.N.P.) degree prepares nurse administrators and advanced practice nurses to assume leadership roles in practice settings in the community, governmental agencies, or healthcare institutions.



Professional Doctoral Degree Program: an integrated program of study combined with understanding of research literature to support application of knowledge to practice at the highest level, culminating in a project, portfolio, or performance that demonstrates expertise in professional practice. Students successfully completing a professional doctoral degree program are awarded the appropriate doctoral degree; professional doctoral degrees at Penn State include D.Ed., D.M.A., D.N.P., and Dr.P.H.

Research Doctoral Degree Program: an integrated program of study combined with investigation of a significant problem, question, or issue in the discipline, culminating in the completion of an original scholarly contribution (in the form of a dissertation) that expands the frontiers of knowledge. Students successfully completing a research doctoral degree program are awarded Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) degree.

Policy Statement

  1. The D.N.P degree requires a minimum of 61 total credits, 1000 hours of practicum time, and a capstone project as the culminating experience. The curriculum is individualized based on previous course work and number of practicum hours completed during the master’s program.
    1. For students who have completed a master's degree in nursing, a minimum of 30 post-master’s credits completed at Penn State is required.
    2. A maximum of 550 practicum hours from the previous master’s program will be accepted to fulfill the 1000 hours of required practicum hours.
    3. The culminating experience of the program is an evidence-based project focusing on an aspect of nursing practice. Students will identify a problem and use evidence-based research to develop a proposal to implement and evaluate a practice change initiative to improve either practice or patient outcomes.

Revision History

Adapted from the Graduate Bulletin: June 2018

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