Nurses and Nursing students
Doctor of
Nursing Practice - Leadership

Doctoral Benchmarks

During the course of the Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program, no matter which option you choose, you will be required to reach certain benchmarks similar to those of a resident doctoral student: Qualifying Examination, Comprehensive Examination, and a Final Oral Presentation. Your doctoral committee will support you, monitor your progress, and evaluate your performance throughout the program.

Although your courses are online, you will be required to attend a handful of in-person intensive sessions at Penn State University Park campus or Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center during the program. You will work closely with your academic adviser to determine your exact plan of study, but for full-time students, you can expect to meet in-person at the following times:

DNP–Leadership option (two separate 3- to 4-day intensive sessions):
Track Intensive I (August)
3 days
Intensive II (February)
4 days
Comprehensive Examinations
MSN to DNP Semester 1 Semester 2
BS to DNP Semester 3 End of semester 4
DNP–NP options (three separate 3- to 5-day intensive sessions):
Intensive I
3 days
Intensive II (February)
4 days
Comprehensive Examinations
Intensive III
5 days
August of year 1 July/August after year 1 May after year 2

These intensive sessions will provide you with the opportunity to interact in person with your doctoral committee, other faculty, and fellow students.


The Ross and Carol Nese College of Nursing will conduct an orientation to the DNP program. The purpose of the orientation is to help you become familiar with the program details and your academic advising team and to begin to identify a DNP project based on your area of interest.

Qualifying Examination Portfolio

The qualifying portfolio review for DNP students will be used to evaluate your past performance and potential for successfully completing the program. Your portfolio will include: 

  • Narrative statement/career goals
  • Unofficial transcripts of all graduate study at Penn State completed prior to examination
  • DNP project plan

Comprehensive Examination

The comprehensive examination will mark your progression into your DNP project after the completion of appropriate course work. You will submit a written project proposal to your doctoral committee and do an oral presentation of your proposal at an in-person intensive session. Your proposal will include letters of support from the agency where you plan to implement your DNP project.

Final Oral Presentation

The final oral presentation marks your completion of the program and is administered by your doctoral committee. You will work closely with your faculty advisers throughout the program to successfully develop and implement your DNP project.

You will not be required to come to Penn State for this final presentation. The presentation will be done synchronously using video streaming technology. In addition, the public will be invited to view the presentation along with the doctoral committee. The public oral presentation of the project will be followed by a private session of questions and responses.

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