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Doctor of Nursing Practice - Clinical Nurse Specialist (onsite & online)

Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) Clinical Nurse Specialist (online)

Now Online!

Diversifying Your Nursing Career


Become a DNP-prepared Clinical Nurse Specialist while taking advantage of resources found only at Johns Hopkins.  With a DNP, you’ll gain the analytical skills, evidence-based practice principles, and leadership expertise to drive health care innovation forward. The CNS track will develop your competencies in clinical theory and nursing practice, providing you with the tools to improve the delivery of patient care, manage resources while controlling costs, and promote education for the future nursing workforce.


Earn your DNP Clinical Nurse Specialist degree online at the Johns Hopkins School of Nursing with the added benefit of onsite course immersions. The online DNP CNS track includes three mandatory and two optional onsite course immersions that position students to take advantage of the rich and varied learning opportunities found only at Johns Hopkins. The immersions will specifically support the development of the DNP scholarly project, encouraging a thorough understanding of problem solving, translation of evidence, and evaluation methods to maximize the impact of the project outcomes. 


World renowned faculty, who have broad experience in advanced clinical practice, leadership, and patient safety, have developed a curriculum and sequence of clinical experiences to provide students with a well-rounded education in comprehensive, coordinated first-contact, and longitudinal patient care. Through our immersive learning approach, get the professional development guidance you need to emerge as a nursing leader. Our faculty have identified superb mentors and will work with you to identify DNP projects that build upon work currently being done at Johns Hopkins and partner institutions. 

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Program Overview

The Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) Clinical Nurse Specialist Track at Johns Hopkins School of Nursing prepares nurses for advanced roles as clinical and health care leaders. You’ll build competencies in clinical theory and research-based nursing practice. Through the program’s broad education and holistic approach, you can anticipate professional roles as varied as your interests.

DNP-prepared Clinical Nurse Specialists will be able to:

  • Serve as educators, outcomes managers, consultants, researchers, change agents, and case managers, as well as clinical nurses
  • Lead and collaborate in an interdisciplinary health care team that can include pharmacists, physical therapists, social workers, physicians, and advanced practice nurses
  • Provide guidance and support to patients and their families in navigating the complex health care delivery system

Students have options that facilitate flexible learning. Stay where you are, complete coursework online, and travel to Baltimore for onsite course immersions, or move to Baltimore and immerse yourself in the Johns Hopkins community (we call this the online local experience). If you choose to live in Baltimore, you’ll complete coursework online and faculty will work with you to set up clinical learning experiences within the Johns Hopkins network of partners, including settings such as Henderson Hopkins (a JHU community partnership school), the House of Ruth (a Baltimore domestic violence center), or in a Johns Hopkins Health System hospital or practice.

Get Certified

Students are prepared for licensure exams through the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) or the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (AACN).

Track Options

  • Adult-Gerontological Health      
  • Adult-Gerontological Critical Care
  • Pediatric Critical Care

Online Availability

Check out the chart to see the online availability of the track that best fits your career goals.

Online Availability Chart

DNP Final Project

DNP graduates remain in practice, leading cross-professional teams in the improvement and provision of informed quality healthcare. The knowledge, skills, and abilities to conduct such work is developed across the program and applied in the conduct of the DNP final project.  The DNP final project is the student’s original work that establishes them as a Hopkins Nursing clinical scholar.

Project Requirements       DNP Projects

Johns Hopkins School of Nursing Faculty Associate Lola Coke describes the Clinical Nurse Specialist role, job opportunities, and the strengths of the Johns Hopkins program.

Additional Information

View the recording of the DNP Clinical Nurse Specialist Track virtual information session.

Watch Now


What are the differences between a Nurse Practitioner and Clinical Nurse Specialist?

Nurse Practitioner vs. Clinical Nurse Specialist 

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Priority Application Deadlines

Fall Entry
November 1, January 1

Apply Now


Request Information

Speak with an admissions officer to learn more about our program.

Get Started

View Other DNP Tracks

Would you like to learn more about the other DNP Advance Practice Tracks?

Learn More

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Faculty Leadership

Faculty with leadership roles


School of Nursing supports three community based health centers in Baltimore City

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Admission Criteria

  • Bachelor of Science degree in nursing or an entry-level nursing master’s degree (from an accredited college or university)
  • Scholastic GPA of at least 3.0 on a 4.0 scale
  • Applicants must submit evidence of current nursing license. Online students must have or obtain RN license from an authorized state.
  • One year of related full-time RN experience preferred
  • Three Letters of Recommendation (both academic and professional references)*
  • Official Transcripts (from all previous colleges/universities)
  • Current Resume/CV
  • Goal statement
  • GRE scores are accepted but not required
  • Interview with faculty (if moved forward by admissions committee)
  • TOEFL or IELTS if English is not your first language

Information for applicants with international education

Admissions Application

*References should be recent, written for the purpose of your application to this program and from professors who know you as a student or employers who know you as a professional in a job setting preferably in a supervisory role. Personal references from colleagues, friends, or family members do not meet the requirement.


Undergraduate Statistics  Take at Hopkins Nursing. Course must be completed at a regionally accredited college or university with a letter grade of B or better.

State-Specific Information for Online Programs

Students currently cannot conduct clinical activities in Louisiana, Minnesota, New York and Oregon. For more information, please contact an admissions representative. Students should be aware of additional state-specific  information for online programs.

For students residing in the state of Georgia, please contact the Office of Admissions at to discuss your clinical site options.

Student Sponsorship

This program does not qualify for F-1 or J-1 student sponsorship. Legal Permanent Residents and non-immigrants who are otherwise physically present in the U.S. and in a status that allows for full or part-time study, may pursue this program.

Transfer of Credit

Transfer of credit is granted on an individual basis. Please see the transfer of credit policy and complete the form to make a request.

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This program is offered in the online with onsite immersions format.

Program may be completed in 75 credits and provides 672 clinical nurse specialist clinical hours and 336 DNP practicum hours. Students have the option to take the Diagnostics Skills and Procedures for APN course as a 2 credit elective. Please note that this course requires an onsite immersion.

Please note below the semesters in which an onsite visit is required.

On-Site Course Immersion Dates

Spring 2020 Semester Dates*

  • March 17-20, 2020 8am-6pm: Advanced Health Assessment (NR.210.601)Students Admitted in Fall 2019 3-Year track only; CNS track on-site optional, attendance required

* = Dates do not include remediation dates.

Plan of Study

4 Year Plan

  • Fall I (8 Credits)
    • Biostatistics for Evidence-Based Practice (3)
    • Context of Healthcare for Advanced Nursing Practice (3)
    • Health Finance (2)
  • Spring I (7 Credits)
    • The Research Process and Its Application to Evidence-Based Practice (3)  
    • Advanced Pathophysiology/Physiology (4)
  • Summer I (6 Credits)
    • Health Promotion and Risk Reduction Across the Lifespan (2)
    • Clinical Pharmacology (4)
  • Fall II (6 Credits) *** - Optional Onsite Immersion, Dates TBD
    • Philosophical, Theoretical & Ethical Basis of ANP (3)  
    • Advanced Health Assessment and Measurement (3)
    • Human Growth and Development (1) ***
  • Spring II (6 Credits)
    • Organization and Systems Leadership (2)  
    • Advanced Nursing Health Policy (2)
    • Health Information Systems and Patient Care Technology (2)
  • Summer II (5 Credits, 56 Clinical Hours) - Required Onsite Immersion, Dates TBD
    • Clinical Judgement I (3)
    • Problem Identification  (1)
    • DNP Practicum (1, 56 cl)
  • Fall III (9 Credits, 168 Clinical Hours) - Required Onsite Immersion, Dates TBD
    • Nursing Inquiry for EBP (3)
    • Clinical Judgement II (3)
    • Clinical Practicum I (3, 168 cl)
  • Spring III (8 Credits, 224 Clinical Hours) - Required Onsite Immersion, Dates TBD
    • Translating Evidence into Practice (3)
    • Clinical Practicum II (3, 168cl)
    • Project Development (1)
    • DNP Practicum (1, 56cl)
  • Summer III (9 Credits, 168 Clinical Hours)
    • Analysis and Evaluation of Individual & Population Health (3)
    • Clinical Judgement III (3)
    • Clinical Practicum III (3, 168cl)
  • Fall IV (6 Credits, 280 Clinical Hours)
    • Clinical Practicum IV (3, 168cl)
    • Project Implementation (1)
    • DNP Practicum (2, 112cl)
  • Spring IV (5 Credits, 112 Clinical Hours) - Optional Onsite Immersion, Dates TBD
    • Clinical Data Management (2)  
    • Project Evaluation (1)
    • DNP Practicum (2, 112cl)


* Curriculum, credit hours, and sequencing are subject to change.

** Up to 16 credits can be applied from the JHSON MSN (Entry into Nursing) Program to the DNP Advanced Practice Track.

*** Human Development Across the Lifespan is a required course for CNS Pediatric Critical Care students only.

**** A minimum of 1000 practice hours is required for DNP.

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Tuition & Other Costs

Billed Expenses

(September 2019 - August 2020)

Tuition: $48,3211 (full-time per year)
Health Fee: $552
Matriculation fee: $500 (one time only fee for first-time enrolled JHU students)
Health Insurance: $4,0912
Total Billed Expenses: $53,464

Estimated Other Expenses3

Room and Board: $19,800
Books & Supplies: $1,500
Loan fees: $1,581
Personal Expenses: $2,700
Travel Expenses: $4,800
Total Expenses: $83,845

1Full-time: 9 credits per semester. Tuition is billed at $1,772 per credit and is less for students enrolling in less than full-time.

2All students must have health coverage.  Purchase of the School’s plan is optional.

3Amounts for other expenses vary based upon student's selection of books, supplies, and living arrangements.

Billed expenses are subject to change without prior notice. Changes to a student’s program or course load may result in additional tuition charges and fees.

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Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is a DNP?

    The DNP is a doctoral degree focused on the clinical practice of nursing. The degree represents the highest academic preparation for nursing practice. The DNP curriculum focuses on the knowledge needed to provide comprehensive direct care across settings. It can be conferred in conjunction with any specialty in advanced practice.

  • What academic preparation is preferred in a DNP Advanced Practice candidate?

    A strong foundation in courses such as anatomy and physiology, microbiology, pharmacology, and physical assessment with a grade of B or above is one key to success.

  • What is the program of study?

    The curricular content will enable the graduate to make complex diagnoses, provide evidence-based treatment modalities, utilize sophisticated informatics and decision-making technology, and assimilate in-depth knowledge of biophysical, psychosocial, behavioral and clinical sciences.

  • How is this different from current APN practice?

    The expanded competencies of the Doctor of Nursing Practice enable graduates to independently provide complex care across all settings including ambulatory, acute, community and home settings. For example, the expanded curriculum will focus on the utilization of evidence-based decision-making to admit and co-manage hospitalized patients, to provide advice and treatment initiated over the phone, and to initiate specialist referrals and evaluate the subsequent advice and initiate and participate in co-management.

  • How long will it take?

    There are three and four year plan options. A part time plan of study is not available.

  • Can I work while in the program?

    The DNP Advanced Practice Track is completed over a 3- or 4-year period.  Students who are enrolled in the 4-year plan may be able to work in the first year as a Registered Nurse in settings that offer flexible scheduling.  As students begin to take specialized courses that prepare them for the respective role (i.e., NP or CNS), they will be engaged in settings to learn their future role and in which the DNP Scholarly Project is situated. Hence, it will be challenging to maintain employment that is not flexible beyond the first year.

  • How does the DNP differ from the PhD or other research doctorates?

    The DNP, or clinical doctorate, prepares the graduate to practice independently with the most complex patients, in any setting where the patient requires care, utilizing complicated informatics and evidence-based decision-making. Research doctorates prepare graduates to initiate and conduct sophisticated research projects, serving as the principal investigator.

  • How many credits can I transfer?

    The school accepts up to six credits of transfer from outside the Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing. Once admitted into the program you can request to transfer credits by completing the transfer of graduate credit form.

  • What academic terms do students attend?

    The School of Nursing follows the regular academic schedule (prospective students should note that these courses are not self-paced). Students are enrolled for the fall, spring, and summer terms. Prospective students should refer to the plans of study found on the curriculum pages for each specialty.

  • What is the cost per credit hour?

    Please visit School of Nursing’s Tuition and Fees page for the current program costs.

  • How are courses delivered?

    The CNS track is only available online.

  • How will I get clinical experience if I don’t have experience working as a RN?

    The DNP program requires a minimum of 1000 practice hours.  The majority of these hours will be in the clinical practicum where you will apply what you learn in the theory courses to gain the competence required for your particular specialty.  The balance of the practice hours are devoted to the DNP practicum which focuses on the DNP Scholarly Project. Ideally, you will have one-year of RN experience before starting the first specialty clinical.

  • How many students are in a class?

    Many of the core courses will be taken by all DNP Advanced Practice students at the same time. This could be as many as 60 students. However, the track specialty courses will be taken with only students in that specific specialty. In clinical courses, there is a ratio of 1 to 6 students per clinical instructor with each student assigned to a preceptor.

  • Do we attend the same classes with our cohort?

    Students in the same specialty and the same plan of study (3- or 4-year) will move through as a cohort. 

  • If I have a specific area that I would like to focus in, for example oncology, are there additional electives I can take or other opportunities where I could gain more insight and experience in that particular area? 

    It is possible for students to negotiate a clinical site within their area of interest, but these cannot be guaranteed. The DNP Scholarly Project could allow students to identify a problem within a specific area and bring that together with the specialty role. 

  • What is the difference between a Nurse Practitioner and a Clinical Nurse Specialist? 
  • How are clinical sites for clinical practicum determined? 

    Clinical practicum experiences are determined by the student’s NP or CNS focus area, student interest, site and preceptor availability, and the student’s programmatic needs. The specialty track coordinator and clinical course coordinator select clinical sites and clinical preceptors for the clinical practicum experiences and student learning needs.  These decisions are based on the competencies required for each specialty for the Nurse Practitioner (NP) and Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS).  CNS students provide preceptor names to the CNS track coordinator and clinical course coordinator for potential clinical sites. The CNS track coordinator will make the final decision on the preceptor based on appropriate fit for the course. NP students can suggest particular clinical sites and preceptors with the NP track coordinator and clinical course coordinator making the final section decision. Flexibility is key as students are expected to meet the clinical preceptor/site availability.

  • What is included in a DNP Project?

    The American Association of Colleges of Nursing requires that all DNP Projects should:

    1. Focus on a change that impacts healthcare outcomes either through direct or indirect care.
    2. Have a systems (micro-, meso-, or macro- level) or population/aggregate focus.
    3. Demonstrate implementation in the appropriate arena or area of practice.
    4. Include a plan for sustainability (e.g. financial, systems or political realities, not only theoretical abstractions).
    5. Include an evaluation of processes and/or outcomes (formative or summative). DNP Projects should be designed so that processes and/or outcomes will be evaluated  to guide practice and policy. Clinical significance is as important in guiding practice as statistical significance is in evaluating research.
    6. Provide a foundation for future practice scholarship.
  • What is the process for the DNP practicum?

    There are four DNP Scholarly Project courses that sequentially reflect the stages of evidence based practice quality improvement: Project Identification, Project Proposal, Project Implementation, and Project Evaluation. Each of the four courses has an associated practicum. The first course for the DNP Scholarly Project, DNP Problem Identification has an accompanying DNP practicum.  The DNP Scholarly Project is situated in the clinical setting where the student will carry it out.  As the project is a quality improvement focus, key stakeholders in the practice setting are necessary to identify clinical problems they want to address and for which they want to partner with a student or team of students.  See your plan of study for the number of practicum hours associated with each course associated with the DNP Scholarly Project. 

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Funding Opportunities

Scholarships & Grants

Grants are awards based on financial need that do not have to be repaid. Many students also benefit from scholarships and awards based on merit.

Scholarships & Grants


Many students will avail themselves of loans to help finance their School of Nursing Education. If necessary, we encourage you to borrow only what is absolutely essential to cover your educational costs.



Many students locate part-time employment to help pay education expenses. Numerous positions are available on campus and within various community based organizations. These jobs provide students with opportunities to gain practical work experience. Most positions are funded through the Federal Work-Study Program. 


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