The University of Massachusetts Amherst
Graduate Programs

Online DNP - Public Health Nurse Leader Concentration

The UMass Amherst online Doctor of Nursing Practice Online Public Health Nurse Leader (DNP- PHNL) specialization prepares nurses to assume leadership positions in a variety of settings. DNP-PHNL graduates play a major role in:

  • addressing the health care needs of their communities
  • advocating for public policy changes to improve patient outcomes for individuals and populations
  • helping patients manage chronic illnesses
  • providing community education to promote healthy lifestyles and prevent illness

DNP-PHNL courses are 100% online. Students complete practice hours in community settings near their homes.

Critical Need for Public Health Nurse Leaders

The Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted the urgent need for nurse leaders who are trained in population-level health assessment and intervention. The need for public health nurse leaders is expected to grow significantly in the coming decade as our society confronts the impacts of infectious diseases, natural disasters, climate change, growing concerns about health disparities and social justice issues, and an aging population with a growing number of patients with chronic and acute conditions.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that in the next decade, “job opportunities for advanced practice registered nurses are likely to be excellent. APRNs will be in high demand, particularly in medically underserved areas such as inner cities and rural areas.”

The patients served by Public Health NPs are from a variety of backgrounds. Many public health nurses work with underprivileged families.

Public Health Nurse Leader DNP nurses work with patients of all ages, and with individuals, families, and the larger community, in settings such as:

  • Local, state and federal health departments and agencies
  • Community health clinics
  • Services for the homeless
  • Schools
  • Correctional facilities
  • Tribal organizations
  • Home care organizations
  • Military facilities
  • Businesses

Program History

The UMass Amherst College of Nursing (CON) created the online Doctor of Nursing Practice, one of the first in the nation, in 2006. Recognizing the critical need for nursing leadership in public and population health, CON introduced the fully-online Public Health Nurse Leader specialization within the first year after the DNP program was launched. More than 60 students have completed the DNP-PHNL since its inception.   

Program Description

The PHNL curriculum is grounded in evidence-based practice, systems leadership and quality improvement. Students complete coursework in:

  • population health
  • epidemiology
  • health care quality
  • nursing ethics and health care policy
  • biostatistics
  • health disparities and social justice

A capstone project is the culmination of the program. The curriculum provides a sequence of courses to prepare and support students for their capstone project. Students are advised and guided by our skilled faculty throughout the capstone process.

Recent capstone projects by DNP-PHNL students include: 

  • Increasing access to maternity care in rural Georgia through public health advocacy 
  • A Public Health Initiative to Support the Development of a Trauma Informed Care Culture in a Community Organization that Provides Services to Individuals with Developmental and Intellectual Disabilities 
  • Improving Overall Health Outcomes through Public Health Workforce Development  
  • Food Safety and Risk of Foodborne Illness at a Food Center Extension: Toolkit for Front Line Volunteers 
  • Trauma Informed Care in Primary Care Setting Using the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) as a Screening Tool 

BS-DNP and Master’s to DNP Pathways

Students may enter the program from the bachelor’s or master’s level.

  • The BS to DNP-PHNL is usually completed in either 4 yrs (full time) or 5 years (part time)
  • The Master’s to DNP-PNHL plan of study is determined based on a transcript review, usually 2-3 years

Students complete  approximately 69-75 course credits and 504 hours of community placements for a population health project.

Our faculty and staff will work with you to create an appropriate plan of study.  See course descriptions and sample plans of study in the Graduate Student Handbook in the Downloads section below. 

Our Faculty and Staff

Our DNP faculty members are known for excellence as educators, researchers and industry leaders. Our faculty have extensive experience in teaching online and they are proficient in delivering instruction, guidance and support remotely.

Each student is matched with a faculty advisor who provides support and assistance throughout the program. In addition, the College of Nursing’s graduate placement coordinator assists students in finding community placements.

The skilled, caring staff in the College of Nursing’s Student Support Center provide information and support for online students. 

Online DNP-PHNL students have access to the many resources provided at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, including:

  • UMass libraries
  • Center for Counseling and Psychological Health
  • Disability Services
  • Veteran Services*
  • And many more!

*UMass Amherst participates in the Yellow Ribbon program, is a GI Jobs "Military Friendly School, and has been named a "Best for Vets College" by Military Times Edge.


Priority deadline for fall admission: December 15.

We continue to review applications and accept students throughout the year until all slots are filled.

A Master’s degree is not required. The program offers BS to DNP and Master’s to DNP pathways.

GRE test scores are not required.

Applicants must meet the entrance requirements of the UMass Amherst Graduate School and the College of Nursing: 

  • A baccalaureate or master’s degree in nursing, or an associate’s degree in nursing and a non-Nursing baccalaureate degree from a nationally accredited school or college of nursing with a grade point average of 3.0 (B) or higher
  • A current professional license

Apply for the Doctor of Nursing Practice online through the UMass Amherst Graduate School.

Cost and Financial Aid

Cost per credit:  $750

In addition, there is a $47 registration fee per semester.

(Note: cost is the same for both in-state and out-of-state students)

Financial aid for DNP students includes loans and scholarships. Contact the Financial Aid Office for information about aid for graduate nursing students.

Need More Information?

Please complete an information request form and we will reply to you as soon as possible.





Is this program totally online?

Yes. Students take courses online with practice at community locations near their homes. There is no requirement to come to campus, but you are welcome to join us for Commencement if you wish!

What is the cost per credit?

$750. In addition there is a $47 registration fee per semester.

How many credits will I need?

Students may enter the program from the bachelor’s or master’s level. Students complete  approximately 69-75 course credits and 504 hours of community placements for a population health project. Our faculty and staff will work with you to create an appropriate plan of study.

How long will it take to complete the program?

Generally students follow a 4-year or 5-year plan of study.

How many weeks are the classes per term?

Classes follow a traditional 14-week semester schedule.