Accredited Online Schools with Doctoral Nursing Programs: How to Choose

Learn about important considerations when selecting an online accredited doctoral nursing school. Read more to get an overview of the program options, residency requirements, and common topics offered for the field of study.

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Prerequisites, length and residency requirements are just a few of the factors that separate the different online doctoral programs in nursing. Here we discuss these differences and look at a few of the available accredited program options.

How to Select an Online Accredited Doctoral Nursing School

Doctoral nursing programs lead to a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Nursing or Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP). Many programs require some on-campus attendance or participation in clinical rotations. Training often focuses on leadership and research, and students can often specialize their studies to include an advanced nursing concentration, such as nursing informatics, administration or family nursing. Students should then consider the duration and residency requirements with the prerequisites.


Typically, a doctoral program in nursing requires applicants to hold either a bachelor's or master's degree in nursing. Quite often, candidates must be certified and licensed nurses. Some schools require completion of specific coursework and graduate testing prior to acceptance.

Duration and Residency Requirements

During on-campus participation, students meet with instructors and may be assigned a program adviser or mentor. The length of a doctoral nursing program varies by school, often depending on a student's previous academic history. Those with a bachelor's degree usually take four years of full-time study to complete the program, while students entering with a master's degree can take two or fewer years to graduate.

List of Online Doctoral Nursing Programs

Online Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Nursing

Studies in an online Ph.D. program in nursing focus primarily on research and leadership methodologies. The program generally fosters skills to prepare graduates for careers in scientific exploration or academia. Residency requirements are more flexible for online learners, though campus attendance is usually required at least once a year during the program. Courses may cover topics in:

  • Illness self-management
  • Behavioral neuroscience
  • Practical approaches to advanced nursing

Online Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP)

Doctoral programs in nursing practice include specialized training in advanced nursing and leadership options. They may also focus on the development of analytical, leadership and managerial skills in preparation for careers in administration. Graduates of a DNP program with specialized studies typically qualify to obtain national certification within the specific profession. Some schools remove the admission limitations for online students that are often found in traditional classroom-based programs, allowing more students to participate per year. Possible concentrations include:

  • Health systems transformation
  • Budget and financial management
  • Quantitative methods
  • Effective leadership

Schools With Online Doctorate Programs in Nursing

Chamberlain College of Nursing offers an online Doctor of Nursing Practice program that can be completed in 6 semesters. Coursework is fully online and students complete a four-part practicum at a location of their choice. The school also offers a DNP Healthcare Systems Leadership track for nurses with a master's degree.

Walden University has an online PhD in Nursing program with five available specializations. Students can specialize in education, leadership, healthcare administration, public health policy or interdisciplinary health. Students complete a dissertation and participate in four residencies for a total of at least 16 days. Students also take courses in research and analysis in their designated area.

Kaplan University provides an online Doctor of Nursing Practice program that allows current nurses to continue working as they earn their degree. Students participate in supervised practice hours and complete a capstone project. Students in Delaware, Indiana, or Minnesota may have additional state-specific curriculum requirements.

Online Doctor of Philosophy and Doctor of Nursing Practice programs are available to interested students, but vary in their prerequisite requirements, duration and residency requirements. Students need to keep in mind any additional time or financial requirements these differences may cause.

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