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Question: Are There Online Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) Programs that Waive or Do Not Require the GRE?

Answer: Yes, there are many online Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) programs that do not require applicants to submit GRE tests scores and other programs that provide GRE waivers to qualified applicants.

GRE scores are just one of many factors used to evaluate applicants to DNP programs, and candidates who have completed a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) program typically are not required to submit GRE scores. However, admissions policies and procedures vary by program and some online DNP programs, particularly BSN-to-DNP programs, may require applicants to submit GRE scores. Some programs that require the GRE allow applicants to apply for a GRE waiver if they meet certain academic and/or professional qualifications, such as an undergraduate GPA of 3.0 or higher and/or several years of professional experience as a Registered Nurse (RN).

Types of Online DNP Programs and GRE Policies

Online DNP programs generally require all applicants to be licensed RNs as a baseline for admissions. Some online DNP programs are designed for RNs who have already completed an MSN program, while others are set up to accommodate RNs who hold a bachelor’s degree in nursing (BSN). There are also a limited number of programs that accept RNs with an associate degree in nursing (ADN), some of which may require applicants to have a non-nursing bachelor’s degree. DNP programs can typically be categorized as follows:

  • RN-to-DNP: Designed for RNs who earned an ADN. May require the GRE.
  • BSN-to-DNP: Designed for BSN program graduates who have an RN license but have not completed a graduate-level program in nursing. These programs offer MSN training and a DNP curriculum and may require the GRE.
  • MSN-to-DNP with a new NP certificate: Designed for RNs who hold an MSN degree and who wish to earn a new NP certificate while pursuing a DNP degree. Many of these programs do not require the GRE.
  • MSN-to-DNP: Designed for RNs who hold an MSN degree and who want to earn a doctorate in nursing without adding a new NP specialty. These programs may offer a general DNP curriculum, a DNP curriculum with an emphasis in nursing administration or nursing education, or a clinical DNP curriculum. Clinical MSN-to-DNP programs may require applicants to be licensed in an APRN specialty. Many MSN-to-DNP programs do not require the GRE.

Online DNP Program Admissions Requirements

The application process for online DNP programs generally involves submitting official undergraduate transcripts and, if applicable, graduate program transcripts, as well as other materials that may include one or more of the following: a professional resume or CV; two or three formal references or letters of recommendation; a written personal goals statement; and answers to one or more essay questions. Some programs may have a minimum preferred or required GPA for applicants, generally in the 2.75-3.5 range on a four point scale. And some programs require applicants to have one or more years of professional experience as an RN.

Finally, there are online DNP programs that require applicants to submit GRE test scores. Some programs that require the GRE will waive this requirement for applicants who have several years of professional experience, a graduate degree in a particular field or specialization, and/or an undergraduate or master’s GPA of 3.0 or higher. RNs and APRNs who wish to pursue a DNP should research programs carefully in order to find programs that align with their qualifications and meet their professional needs.

Examples of GRE Requirements for Online DNP Programs

Schools offering online DNP programs that do not require applicants to submit GRE include: Maryville University, Regis College, and Baylor University. Duke University’s School of Nursing offers an online DNP program that requires BSN-to-DNP candidates to submit GRE scores but that will waive this requirement for qualified applicants. The following examples provide an overview of what online DNP programs that do not require the GRE or that will waive the GRE commonly ask candidates to furnish as part of the application process.

Maryville University offers an online BSN-to-DNP program with five specializations: Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner (AGACNP); Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner (AGPCNP); Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP); Pediatric Nurse Practitioner (PNP); and Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (PMHNP). Applicants to the program must meet the following criteria: a minimum cumulative undergraduate GPA of 3.25; valid RN license; and one year of full-time experience as an RN. In addition to college transcripts and an up-to-date resume, applicants must submit three letters of recommendation and a three-page, double-spaced personal essay. GRE scores are not required.

Regis College offers an online MSN-to-DNP program with a nurse education specialization. Applicants must have an MSN degree from an accredited nursing school, an active and unencumbered RN license, and a minimum GPA of 3.0. In addition to college and graduate school transcripts, applicants must submit two letters of recommendation, answers to two essay questions, and an up-to-date resume. GRE scores are not required. Regis also offers an online BSN-to-DNP program that does not require applicants to submit GRE scores. The online BSN-to-DNP program has five areas of concentration: Pediatric Nurse Practitioner (PNP); Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP); Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (PMHNP); Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner (WHNP); and Adult Gerontology Nurse Practitioner (AGNP). Applicants to the online BSN-to-DNP program must have a BSN degree, an active and unencumbered RN license, and a minimum undergraduate GPA of 3.0. They must also furnish the admissions committee with a resume, answers to two essay questions, and two letters of recommendation.

Baylor University offers an online DNP program with three tracks: Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP); Neonatal Nurse Practitioner (NNP); and Nurse-Midwifery. All three tracks have two entry options: BSN-to-DNP and post-master’s/MSN-to-DNP. Applicants must hold a minimum of a BSN degree from an accredited school of nursing, a 3.0 cumulative GPA, and an unencumbered RN license. The Baylor program prefers candidates who have one year of clinical practice experience, but this is not a requirement. Along with academic transcripts, applicants are asked to provide a writing sample and three letters of recommendation (one from a direct supervisor, one from a peer nurse, and one from a nurse with a graduate degree). GRE scores are not required.

Duke University has an online DNP program with BSN-to-DNP and MSN-to-DNP tracks. Applicants must hold either a BSN or MSN degree from an accredited nursing program and an active RN license. A cumulate undergraduate GPA of 3.0 or higher is required for the BSN-to-DNP track, as are valid GRE test scores. However, applicants who achieved a cumulative undergraduate GPA of 3.4 or higher are eligible for a GRE waiver, and applicants who hold an MSN degree are not required to submit GRE scores. In addition to college transcripts and an up-to-date resume, applicants are asked to furnish three letters of reference and a personal statement.

Note: Applicants to online DNP programs that offer GRE waivers should be aware that a waiver may not be automatically granted. Programs typically require applicants to request or apply for a waiver. In the event that a waiver is not granted, applicants should be prepared to submit GRE scores if they still want to apply to the program.


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