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Requirements for the Doctor of Nursing Practice Degree, DNP

Type: University Requirements
Effective Date: 2/16/2017

The following general requirements pertain to all students pursuing the Doctor of Nurse Practice (D.N.P.) degree. Additional program and discipline-specific requirements not addressed by this policy may be found in the program/department/school graduate handbook as well as the Academic Catalog. 

General Degree Requirements – Doctor of Nurse Practitioner (D.N.P.)

The D.N.P. is a terminal degree in nursing and is a post-master’s degree designed for nurses who hold a master’s degree in nursing. It is a clinical doctorate with emphasis on enhancing leadership expertise in rural and underserved populations. The D.N.P. consists of approximately 70-79 units and requires one thousand hours (1,000) of clinical practice with a minimum of 240 hours completed at NAU. Students must complete a minimum of 30 units of coursework at NAU that directly supports the D.N.P. requirements. 

To graduate with the D.N.P. degree, the student must meet following requirements: 

Academic Requirements

Students must complete all courses in an approved Program of Study (POS) totaling the number of units specified for the program and meet all academic requirements and standards set by the academic unit for the doctoral program. The POS must be approved by the student’s major advisor and other appropriate academic unit administrators designated by the program. Students must maintain a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.00 (on a scale where 4.0 = “A”). 

All graduate students must adhere to the academic requirements and criteria outlined by their program, Graduate College, and NAU. See NAU Policy 100319: Academic Continuation, Probation, Dismissal, and Readmission - Graduate for more detailed information.

Graduate students must, at a minimum, meet the “Academic Requirements for Continuation in a Graduate Program” found in NAU Policy 100319: Academic Continuation, Probation, Dismissal, and Readmission - Graduate, in order to graduate. To begin the graduation process, please see NAU Policy 100334: Applying for Graduation, Graduate Students.  

Minimum Admission Requirements

Applicants must:

  • have completed a Master’s degree in nursing from a regionally accredited University and a nationally accredited nursing program. If the institution and the program are outside of the US, equivalent accreditation standards must be met;
  • have a current Registered Nurse License in good standing;
  • present letters of recommendation from three professional persons knowledgeable about the applicant’s potential to work effectively in advanced professional and scholarly roles;
  • prepare a comprehensive statement about their experiences, interests, and goals. 


  • there are no required admission exams, such as the GMAT or GRE;
  • there is no foreign language requirement for this degree;
  • a structured interview with faculty may be required;
  • following admission, an advisor will analyze prior academic credit and will develop an individualized plan of study.   

Curriculum and Competencies

The curriculum has been designed to fulfill the eight foundational end-of-program competencies deemed essential by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN), for all graduates of a D.N.P. program, regardless of specialty or focus:

  • Essential I: Scientific Underpinnings for Practice
  • Essential II: Organizational and Systems Leadership for Quality Improvement and Systems Thinking
  • Essential III: Clinical Scholarship and Analytical Methods for Evidence-Based Practice
  • Essential IV: Information Systems/Technology and Patient Care Technology for the Improvement and Transformation of Health Care
  • Essential V: Health Care Policy for Advocacy in Health Care
  • Essential VI: Interprofessional Collaboration for Improving Patient and Population Health Outcomes
  • Essential VII: Clinical Prevention and Population Health for Improving the Nation’s Health
  • Essential VIII: Advanced Nursing Practice 

Candidacy - Application and Admission/Designation

There is no discrete candidacy stage associated with this degree. 

Scholarly Project

Rather than a dissertation or thesis, the culmination of this degree is a scholarly project, which includes an oral presentation, and demonstrates an integration and translation of research evidence for the purpose of enhancing the clinical practice. 

Each student is expected to participate in a real-time final oral presentation of the completed project. Student projects are guided by a faculty member assigned by the School of Nursing. 

Time Parameters to Complete Degree

Students who are admitted to the D.N.P. program have eight years to complete all requirements for the doctoral degree. The eight-year period starts with your first semester of doctoral study at Northern Arizona University. If you do not complete the degree in eight years, you may petition the Graduate College for one extension of this time limit.

Transfer Credit:

D.N.P. students may transfer up to 41 credit hours of coursework that were completed as part of their advanced practice specialty master’s degree. Acceptance of transfer credits is subject to approval by the School of Nursing Graduate Committee and the NAU Graduate College.

Appeal eligible: Yes

Students can appeal or petition for exception

Graduate students may petition for an exception to any academic, non-grade-related, graduate regulation for which no specific appeal or petition process exists. Petitions should be submitted, in writing, to the Associate Dean of the Graduate College. When applicable, the student’s advisor and department chair may endorse the petition letter. In some specific instances, utilizing the Academic Appeal and University Graduate Committee Hearing Panel is more appropriate. 

Students should contact the Associate Dean of the Graduate College for clarification on which process to initiate.

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