CSU San Marcos Nursing Students and Professor
Story Education

Should You Consider a Doctor of Nursing Practice Degree?

Shelley Levitt

Professor Margaret Brady, coordinator of the DNP program, says the opportunities for graduates are vast: "Advanced practice education is where the future of nursing is going."

CSU San Marcos Nursing Students and Professor

​Campuses across the CSU are collaborating to share expertise in training nurses for the Doctor of Nursing Practice degree, recently signed into law by Governor Brown. Photo courtesy of CSU San Marcos


In November 2017, following a successful five-year pilot program, Governor Jerry Brown signed the California State University's Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree into law. 

Now a permanent CSU program, the DNP will be offered at two CSU consortia across five campuses: the NorCal Consortium, consisting of Fresno State and San José State, and the SoCal Consortium, which includes CSU Fullerton, CSU Long Beach and Cal State LA.

Margaret Brady, Ph.D., professor of nursing at CSU Long Beach and coordinator of the DNP program, answered some questions about the new degree and how it will help prepare students for the rapidly changing field of nursing.

we're going to see a dnp degree becoming a requirement for some specialized areas of nursing." -- Dr. Margaret brady, CSU long beach 

Q: What makes the DNP degree different from a Ph.D. in nursing?

Dr. Margaret Brady: The DNP is a practice-focused degree that's about developing the advanced expertise to improve patient outcomes. A key part of the program is a doctoral project in applied research that's embedded in a clinical setting, such as a hospital or large medical center.

Students involved in our pilot program have done important evidence-based research that included looking at whether annual pelvic exams are still important for women after the age of 40; how a system that notifies nurses of subtle changes in a patient's vital signs can be an early-warning alert of possible life-threatening sepsis; how psychiatric nurse practitioners can better care for patients with mental health issues in an emergency-room setting; and improving end-of-life care in the ICU. 

In many cases, the findings of these research projects have already resulted in new practices and policies.

It's also worth pointing out, that after receiving their bachelor's degree, a nursing student can complete their DNP in an intense three years. It may take four to six years to earn a Ph.D.

Q: What are the employment opportunities once you've earned a DNP?

Dr. Brady: They're vast. Advanced practice education is where the future of nursing is going. There's a demand for DNPs in management positions in health care settings, on college faculties, in research institutions, in public health care. What's more, we're going to see a DNP degree becoming a requirement for credentials in some specialized areas of nursing, such as nurse anesthetists and nurse-midwives.

The DNP is an exciting new change in the delivery of nursing care and it will empower nurses to become an important part of interdisciplinary teams that are bringing the best ideas and practices to the future of healthcare.

Q:  What's the advantage of offering the DNP program across CSU campuses?

Dr. Brady: It's a great use of CSU resources that allows us to build on expertise and scholars on several campuses. 

The setting for the SoCal Consortium is CSU Fullerton, with one of the 15 sessions each semester taking place at  CSU Long Beach, and the faculty of Fullerton, Long Beach and Los Angeles come together for joint sessions and meetings with students.

The NorCal Consortium is an online program that uses Zoom video and web conferencing technology so students and faculty can interact. There's also one executive in-person weekend each semester.

Learn more about CSU Doctor of Nursing Practice Degree Programs.