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Accreditation for Doctoral Nursing Programs: Info for Aspiring Students

Doctoral programs in nursing award the highest degrees that a student can earn in the nursing fields. Those looking to get a doctoral degree in nursing, such as the Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) or Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Nursing, are nurses interested in clinical, academic or research-based careers in the field.

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Aspiring doctoral students in nursing should look for programs that have been accredited by reputable organizations. They should also consider admissions requirements, prerequisite degrees and licensing, as well as the program's delivery method.

Accreditation Information for Doctoral Degree Programs in Nursing

There are several accrediting agencies throughout the United States that focus solely on nursing. The Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) accredits nursing programs at the bachelor's, master's and doctoral levels, as well as residencies. Similarly, the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing accredits clinical doctoral programs, master's programs, graduate certificate programs, and undergraduate programs.

These associations are recognized by the U.S. Secretary of Education and ensure that schools offering doctorates in nursing, as well as other degree programs, comply with certain standards. Graduation from an accredited program is required by the regulatory agencies in some states, and students must be in an accredited program to be eligible for many types of financial aid. Nursing degree programs are accredited according to a number of factors, including:

  • The missions and goals of the university
  • The difficulty of admissions
  • Academic policies
  • Overall quality of education

When considering potential colleges or universities, students may check the university's website for proper accreditation. Most schools accredited by this agency will mention it on their websites in order to maintain credibility and make their schools more desirable to competitive students.

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Doctoral Degree in Nursing: Overview

The DNP program is designed for nurses who wish to remain in clinical practice, while the Ph.D. is aimed at those pursuing research and academic careers. However, students in both these programs will be taught to conduct independent research, which is significant for accredited programs because the research will follow certain protocols recognized in the field. Some programs are available online, and many offer flexible scheduling to accommodate the schedules of working nurses.

Students admitted to an accredited DNP or Ph.D. in Nursing program are expected to meet the educational prerequisites, such as a master's degree in nursing or a certain number of years working in the field. Many programs also accept students with just a bachelor's degree. Registered nurse (RN) licensure is also required for program entry. Degree programs often take four or more years to complete, but this can vary depending on whether the student is enrolled in a program that requires a master's degree. Coursework from an accredited master's degree program in nursing can typically be transferred to a doctoral program.

Common Coursework

Most accredited nursing programs at this level cover similar nursing subjects, including nursing science theory and research, statistics and analytical tools analysis. Coursework within these subjects may include the following topics:

  • Theoretical development in nursing
  • Diverse populations
  • Philosophy of nursing
  • Quantitative nursing methods
  • Research practicum or capstone

There are two major accrediting bodies for DNP and Ph.D. in Nursing programs. Students in these programs can expect to conduct research and/or take advanced courses in topics such as nursing philosophy and data analysis.

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