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How to Choose a DNP Specialization

Sync your doctorate in nursing studies with your professional goals.

Are you considering an online Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree, academia’s highest clinical nursing degree? Earning a doctorate degree in nursing can help you become the type of leader the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) says is needed: “The changing demands of this nation’s complex healthcare environment require the highest level of scientific knowledge and practice expertise to assure quality patient outcomes.”1

When choosing an online DNP degree program to help you meet those challenges, you will want to look for specializations that mesh with your career goals. Walden University, the leader in doctoral nursing education,2 offers a DNP Program as well as six specializations, five of which can help academically prepare you to seek nurse practitioner certifications. These specializations can also help prepare you for some of today’s in-demand nursing careers. If you are trying to decide on a DNP specialization, this guide may give you the information you need to make that choice.


  1. Decide if an Executive Leadership specialization is right for you.
    Choose this DNP specialization if you want to pursue leadership roles in areas such as operations, staff development, strategy, financial outcomes, and resource allocation.
    • DNP Pro Tip: In practicum experiences, you’ll work with administrative and executive leaders.
    • Topical Coursework: Evidence Based Practice for the Executive Leader

  2. Understand what an Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner (AGACNP) specialization offers.
    If you want to be a leader who improves the quality of care for patients with acute and complex medical conditions, this may be the specialization for you.
    • DNP Pro Tip: You’ll be academically prepared to sit for the national AGAC nurse practitioner certification exam.
    • Topical Coursework: Advanced Practice Care of Adults in Acute Care Settings

  3. Compare the Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner (AGPCNP) specialization to your other choices.
    Consider this course of study if you want to provide continuous healthcare to patients from adolescence to older adulthood. AGPCNPs manage disease prevention, health promotion, health maintenance, and restorative care.
    • DNP Pro Tip: Walden’s specialization offers an emphasis on women’s and seniors’ health.
    • Topical Coursework: Advanced Nurse Practice in Reproductive Health Care

  4. Consider a Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) specialization.
    If improving primary and preventive care to individuals and families across the life span fuels your career passion, this specialization may offer the DNP path you seek.
    • DNP Pro Tip: Focus your studies on disease prevention, health promotion, and restorative care in patients of all ages.
    • Topical Coursework: Primary Care of Adolescents and Children

  5. Decide if a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner (PNP) Primary Care specialization matches your goals.
    Consider this specialization if you want to transform the treatment of patients from birth through adolescence. This DNP course of study educationally prepares RNs to become advanced practice nurses who can assess, diagnose, and treat patients 21 and younger.
    • DNP Pro Tip: You’ll build clinical, leadership, and organizational skills to help improve well-child care.
    • Topical Coursework: Management of Complex Pediatric Conditions

  6. Review what the Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (PMHNP) specialization offers.
    Choose this DNP specialization if you want to help transform the evaluation and treatment of mental health and study how to assess, diagnose, counsel, and prescribe medications for patients across the life span.
    • DNP Pro Tip: In the PMHNP specialization, you’ll learn to create, assess, and refine educational materials that serve the populations in your community.
    • Topical Coursework: Psychotherapy With Multiple Modalities

A Doctor of Nursing Practice Your Way

Still unsure of your DNP path? An Enrollment Specialist can discuss your options and tell you more about admission requirements. Some Walden DNP specializations offer two tracks: BSN-DNP if you’re a registered nurse (RN) with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree and MSN-DNP if you’re an RN with a Master of Science in Nursing degree.

Walden’s online DNP degree program is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE), with curriculum aligned to the latest standards from the AACN and National League for Nursing. And all of Walden’s online DNP specializations allow you to earn a degree while continuing to work and enjoy family life.

When you’re ready to lead nursing into the future, choose a doctorate in nursing specialization that can help you realize your career ambitions.

Walden University is an accredited institution offering an online Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree program. Expand your career options and earn your degree in a convenient, flexible format that fits your busy life.

1Source: www.aacnnursing.org/News-Information/Fact-Sheets/DNP-Fact-Sheet
2Source: National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) IPEDS database. Based on the most recent year of completions survey data available, using CIP code family 51.38 “Registered Nursing, Nursing Administration, Nursing Research, and Clinical Nursing” for Doctoral degrees (Award level 17). Available at https://nces.ed.gov/ipeds/use-the-data. (Retrieved January 2021; may consist of or include provisional release data.)

Walden University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission, www.hlcommission.org.

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