Nursing PhD Program Information

Essential Information

Admission requirements vary, but most doctoral nursing programs require that applicants hold a current registered nursing (RN) license. Most students have already earned a master's degree in nursing, but some schools combine the master's and doctoral studies into one program available to students with a bachelor's degree in nursing.

Students enrolled in the Ph.D. program are encouraged to begin pursuing a research topic during the first year of study, since the program lasts roughly four or more years. Concentration areas are available but vary from school to school. Some possible areas of study include aging and chronic illness, vulnerable populations and health promotion, nursing systems, women's health and prevention of biological injury.

Nursing Ph.D. Program Information

An RN license is required for admission into most nursing Ph.D. programs. Applicants will also have to submit scores for the Graduate Record Examination. Some Ph.D. programs are combined with master's degree programs in nursing and are open to applicants who hold a bachelor's degree in nursing. Students enrolling in stand-alone Ph.D. programs in nursing usually need to have already earned a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN). Applicants must also submit letters of recommendation and a statement of purpose.

Classes in the first and second years focus on building a foundation in nursing science. Concurrently or soon after the core courses are finished, students begin taking courses in their area of interest. Courses can include nursing and advances in technology, health care informatics, and the following topics:

  • Nursing science foundations
  • Health care ethics
  • Nursing education
  • Clinical nursing leadership
  • Adult health nursing clinical
  • Emergency management in nursing

Popular Career Options

Many graduates of these Ph.D. programs pursue careers as nurse educators and teach at schools of nursing. Other graduates enter into careers in research.

  • Nurse educator (professor)
  • Nurse scientist
  • Nurse researcher
  • Health policy analyst or consultant

Continuing Education Information

A Ph.D. in Nursing is the terminal degree in the field of nursing science; however, many graduates often pursue post-doctoral programs soon after completing the degree. Schools of nursing that offer post-doctoral study grants often accept a limited number of applicants each year. Applicants are encouraged to apply to only those programs that reflect their research interests.

Entering a Ph.D. program in nursing typically requires RN licensure and either a bachelor's or master's degree, depending on the school. Depending on students' interests, they may conduct research in numerous sub-areas of nursing, from healthcare technology to medical ethics. A doctoral degree can lead to work as a professor or researcher, among other careers.

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