Pros & Cons of a PhD in Nursing

When considering a PhD in nursing as your next education step, you should consider all pros and cons of earning that degree. In this article, we'll break down some common thoughts.

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A PhD in nursing is just one of the nursing degree options available for those interested in joining the medical field. Many who decide to continue their nursing education seek a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) instead of a PhD, but some professionals do choose to pursue a PhD. There are many pros and cons to consider when deciding whether a PhD is right for you.

Pros of Earning a Nursing PhD

A nursing PhD is one of the possible doctorate degree options available to those studying nursing. You'll study nursing theories and research methodologies to better the nursing field.

Become an Educator

A PhD in any topic is the appropriate education level for a college professor. Should you choose to seek the PhD in nursing, you'd be ready to teach the next generation of nurses and health educators. A PhD gives you the prestige and the research basis needed for a teaching position with a university. You'll also be able to conduct studies and run labs at the university.

Good Outlook

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts what the outlook for all industries will be in the coming years. The most recent survey, 2016-2026, looks very favorable for careers where PhD holders could apply. In the list below, medical scientists and nursing professors both need PhDs, but a master's degree should be sufficient for a nurse practitioner and health service manager.

Position Job Outlook (2016-2026)*
Nurse Practitioner 36%
Nursing Professor 24%
Medical Scientist 13%
Health Service Manager 20%

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Good Pay

For those who earn a PhD in nursing, higher pay comes with the addition of a good outlook. As your degree increases, so do your chances of advancement, leadership positions, and a higher pay. Looking again at the above mentioned careers, we can see that they are quite nicely paying.

Position Average Salary (2017)*
Nurse Practitioner $107,480
Nursing Professor $77,360
Medical Scientist $96,070
Health Service Manager $111,680

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

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Cons of Earning a Nursing PhD

The cons of earning a PhD in Nursing are often very personal rather than fact-based. While you will earn more as a PhD candidate, there are reasons that a PhD can hold you back.

Unnecessary Degree

As mentioned before, a PhD is not the typical choice for those in the nursing field. This degree looks at the theoretical basis behind nursing and healthcare. Should you want to advance your career with a nursing specialization, you may want to consider earning the DNP in the specialty. For instance, nurse practitioners who want to specialize in anesthesiology will typically seek out a master's degree in nurse anesthesiology. Though, the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists (AANA) is calling for all CRNAs to have a doctorate, they suggest a DNP or a Doctor of Nurse Anesthesia Practice (DNAP).

More Debt

If you want to become a nurse practitioner, you may have decided to continue on for your master's degree. A master's degree can be earned in roughly two years after your bachelor's in nursing (BSN). If you wish to continue with a PhD, even a bridge or accelerated program that goes from the BSN to the PhD will take roughly three years. That additional year may seem small, but costs can accrue quickly and lead to more student-loan debt.

Though there are both pros and cons to earning your PhD in nursing, you must decide which are more important to you. If you want to earn a research degree that can open up academia positions, a PhD is for you. If you prefer to save money or be more hands-on with patients, you may want to think twice.

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