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What Can You Do With a Doctoral Degree in Nursing?

Nursing doctoral degree programs are primarily designed for registered nurses and include the Doctor of Philosophy in Nursing and the Doctor of Nursing Practice. Review details about these degree programs and their typical career outcomes. View article »

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  • 0:03 Nursing Jobs for…
  • 0:42 Salary Information
  • 1:46 Doctor of Philosophy…
  • 2:25 Doctor of Nursing Practice

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Video Transcript

Nursing Jobs for Doctorate Holders

Discover some of the career options for students who pursue a doctoral degree in nursing. We also discuss the differences between the two available doctoral degree programs in the field.

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Nursing and Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree programs are for registered nurses who want to advance in the field. Career options will vary based on the type of degree program completed, but typical career paths are as follows:

  • Nursing or medical profession researcher
  • Postsecondary nursing instructor
  • Nurse practitioner
  • Clinical nurse specialist
  • Nurse midwife

Salary Information

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual salary for postsecondary nursing instructors and teachers was $69,130 in May 2016. Colleges, universities, trade schools, junior colleges, and hospitals were among the industries employing the highest levels of nursing instructors and teachers, though specialty hospitals offered the top salaries.

The BLS reported that nurse practitioners earned a median salary of $100,910 as of May 2016. Nurse midwives made a median annual wage of $99,770 during the same time. As of March 2017, Payscale.com listed that entry-level clinical nurse specialists earned a median annual salary of $80,107. Data from that same year showed that experienced clinical nurse specialists with over 20 years in the field made a median annual salary of $91,378.

Doctor of Philosophy in Nursing

Nursing Ph.D. programs prepare students to conduct research, teach at the university level, or develop nursing health care strategies. Like most doctoral degree programs, a dissertation might be required to graduate. This program takes 3-5 years to complete, depending on whether students have already earned their master's degrees and if they are working as full-time nurses while completing program requirements. Students are required to complete coursework in the following areas:

  • Qualitative research methods
  • Theoretical development
  • Nursing philosophy
  • Epidemiology
  • Biostatistics

Doctor of Nursing Practice

The DNP program usually takes three years to complete and prepares students for both clinical and administrative positions in the health care field. The programs differ from the Ph.D. in Nursing in that they are designated for students who are interested in advancing their clinical skills. Degree programs offer specializations for aspiring nurse practitioners, midwives, and clinical nurse specialists, among others. After earning their degree, graduates will likely pursue careers in advanced practice nursing and provide primary care to patients and work alongside physicians in hospitals and other health care facilities.

Students can pursue a Ph.D. in nursing or a DNP degree to work in careers as nursing instructors, nurse practitioners, nurse midwives, or clinical nurse specialists. Each program takes at least three years to complete and prepares students to work with their patients and other physicians.


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