The majority of nurse practitioners currently practicing are educated at the master’s level. We hold MSN degrees as this was the standard when we completed our nurse practitioner programs. The DNP concept was probably being developed in a boardroom somewhere when I began my NP program but the idea had not yet trickled down to a practical level. When the requirement for a DNP degree to practice as a nurse practitioner is implemented, will master’s level nurse practitioners be replaced by more educated NP’s? Will those of us with a simple MSN still be able to find work?
Not to worry MSN’s, even long after the DNP transition we will be just fine. First and foremost, it is important to know that we will all be allowed to continue to practice as nurse practitioner’s with an MSN degree even after the DNP requirement is implemented. We will not have to return to school, take additional certification exams or be relegated to dusting the desks of DNP graduates. Our lives as NP’s will remain the same. No one will be demoted, fired or lose their certification.
This being said, will employers prefer to hire DNP graduates over master’s level nurse practitioners? No. Although the DNP will become the standard for NP practice, if you are currently a practicing NP, you hold the secret to easily obtaining employment- experience. Unless you plan to work in the academic world, employers don’t care how many letters you have behind your name, the number of research articles you have published or how well-rounded you are. They want to know that you can see patients quickly, efficiently and safely and that you have proven this in your past nurse practitioner positions. A solid reference and a few years of experience will place you above new DNP graduates.
What about the future? Eventually, there will be a more even blend of nurse practitioners holding DNP and MSN degrees. As students continue to graduate after the DNP requirement is implemented, more highly educated NP’s will enter the job market and they will gain practice experience as well. Then, will holding only an MSN degree be a strike against you in a job interview? Nope, I don’t think so (unless you want to teach or work for an academic institution). A recent article in TIME titled ”So Much for Qualifications: Employers Hire People They Like”discussed research examining how employers choose among qualified candidates. This study showed that the most important quality to employers is that job candidates fit into the workplace culture. Employers want to hire someone they can stand to be around all day (or night); they value your cultural fit and personality over your degree.
So, rest easy MSN’s. Unless you are ultra-motivated you can save your time and money and forgo the DNP degree. The DNP transition will not affect your ability to find future employment. Unless you enjoy being a student, focus on improving in your current position and continue gaining valuable practice experience.