What Can You Do With a PhD in Nursing?

If you are considering advancing your nursing education with a PhD, you will find several career options available to you. Getting a solid background in nursing theory and research methodologies will prepare you for a variety of medical careers.

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A PhD in nursing will set you up for advanced practice registered nursing positions, in addition to research and academic opportunities. While some careers ask that you have a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP), these careers can be undertaken with the Doctor of Philosophy degree counterpart as well, so long as the certification requirements are met.

Job Options for a PhD in Nursing

Job Title Average Salary (2017)* Job Growth (2016-2026)*
Nurse Practitioner $107,480 36%
Nursing Professor $77,360 24%
Nurse Anesthetist $169,450 16%
Nurse Midwife $103,640 21%
Medical and Health Services Manager $111,680 20%
Health Educator $59,010 14%
Medical Scientist $96,070 (medical scientists, except epidemiologists) 13% (medical scientists, except epidemiologists)

Source *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

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  • Clinical Nursing
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  • Nurse Midwife
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  • Operating Room and Surgical Nursing
  • Pediatric Nursing
  • Public Health Nurse or Community Nurse
  • Registered Nurse

Career Descriptions

Nurse Practitioner

In order to become a nurse practitioner (NP), you must earn at least a master's degree in nursing. Beyond that, a PhD would prepare you for research as a nurse practitioner and to study a medical specialty. Often, PhD and post-master's certificate programs look at a specific area of medicine, such as radiology, pediatrics, or nephrology. As a nurse practitioner, you'll see patients as a doctor does. You'll review their history, examine, diagnose, and treat them. Depending on the state in which you practice, you may also be licensed to prescribe and distribute medicine.

Nursing Professor

As a professor, you'll train the next generation of nurses. You'll run labs and lectures about the nursing skills that students need to know to become LPNs, RNs, and NPs. A PhD is the most common degree for university professors, because this degree looks at the theory side of nursing and prepares workers for research and academia. You will also be provided time to research your own papers about nursing, possibly helping the medical field.

Nurse Anesthetist

Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists (CRNA) have earned at least a master's degree specializing in nurse anesthesiology. This career is for those who want to work with patients to help manage pain before, during, and after procedures and treatments. You'll work with patients to find them the best medicines to work as anesthetics and pain relief. You will also monitor them during the surgeries and afterwards to make sure they are recovering properly. A PhD in nursing will give you even more theoretical basis for nursing and working with medicines.

Nurse Midwife

At least a master's degree is required for this role, and certification is available through the American Midwifery Certification Board. With a PhD in nursing, nurse midwives could be even better prepared to deal with the issues that can happen during pregnancy and labor. As a midwife, you'll meet with the mothers during pregnancy, help them during labor and aid doctors during cesareans. You may also provide care to mothers and babies for the first few weeks after birth and provide reproductive advice to parents.

Medical and Health Services Manager

Earning your PhD in nursing would prepare you for a leadership position in the health service industry, specifically nursing. Along with keeping records on the facility, you'll lead a group of nurses in a facility or department, setting up their scheduling, checking on their work, and completing reviews and progress reports on them. You may help in the hiring process of nurses and in their training. Depending on your position, you may work with the finances as well. Although a master's degree may be sufficient, having a PhD could make you even more competitive for advancement opportunities.

Health Educator

Health educators can work in healthcare facilities, the government, nonprofits, colleges, and businesses. Overall, you'll evaluate programs that are already put in place and make any changes and updates as necessary. Along with evaluating programs, you'll create programs where none are present. You will look into the lacking areas and adjust any deficiencies or issues you will find. If you work in the community, you'll help to educate the community about proper health practices, collect data, and create outreach programs. Some positions require a PhD, and that training can help you find the deficiencies and problem areas to come up with problem solving methods.

Medical Scientist

A PhD is usually required for this profession. As a medical scientist, your work will involve research and creating experiments. You'll observe the outcomes and also look at statistics and data to create research reports and papers. You may create programs and studies to better the nursing field. With a PhD, you'll also write up grant proposals for research and studies, looking for more funding for the medical science team.

As you can see, there are many career opportunities for those with a PhD in nursing. We took a look at the different types of advanced practice registered nursing career options, in addition to the academic and research fields. You can also seek a business leadership role in the medical field.

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