Doctoral education is the highest level of attainable education in the U.S. For any subject, earning a doctoral degree can be a strenuous process, but nursing education has an additional wrinkle: there are actually two different types of doctoral degrees that nurses can earn: the Doctor of Philosophy in nursing (PhD) and the Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP).

For nurses who want to conduct research, a PhD in nursing can help them learn how to design and execute studies, interpret data, and present the results to other professionals. In contrast, those who want to learn how to deliver the highest levels of patient care may be more interested in a DNP. These programs focus on a specialized segment of the nursing profession, going into that aspect in great depth so students can understand it inside and out.
To learn more about nursing degrees on the doctoral level, continue reading this page.

Getting Started With Doctoral Programs in Nursing

People who apply to a doctoral-level nursing program are expected to meet high admissions standards. Although each nursing school has its own criteria, admissions prerequisites may include maintaining at least a 3.0 grade point average in previous degree programs, earning above a minimum score on the GRE, and holding a current RN license. In addition, applicants may be required to participate in an interview with nursing school faculty, submit a written statement outlining goals, and/or obtain letters of recommendation from academic and professional references.

Consult with the school you wish to attend in order to learn more specific information about what you may need to do in order to enroll in your chosen doctoral program. Either the admissions office or the academic healthcare department are good places to start asking.

Best Schools Offering Doctoral Programs in Nursing

A doctoral degree in nursing can be a huge step toward certain career goals, so it’s critical that students choose a doctoral program that can help them get where they want to go. In order to help nurses make this decision, we have put together a list of the best schools offering nursing doctorate programs by using data collected by the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS). Information on the methodology we used to create our list can be found at the bottom of this page.

01
New York University
Number of Doctoral nursing programs offered
12
Graduate tuition
$39,936
Number of Doctoral nursing programs offered through distance education
0%
02
University at Buffalo
Number of Doctoral nursing programs offered
7
Graduate tuition
$10,870
Number of Doctoral nursing programs offered through distance education
6%
03
University of Iowa
Number of Doctoral nursing programs offered
7
Graduate tuition
$8,856
Number of Doctoral nursing programs offered through distance education
1%
04
Wayne State University
Number of Doctoral nursing programs offered
10
Graduate tuition
$14,746
Number of Doctoral nursing programs offered through distance education
0%
05
Stony Brook University
Number of Doctoral nursing programs offered
6
Graduate tuition
$10,870
Number of Doctoral nursing programs offered through distance education
6%
06
Winona State University
Number of Doctoral nursing programs offered
5
Graduate tuition
$6,720
Number of Doctoral nursing programs offered through distance education
4%
07
SUNY at Binghamton
Number of Doctoral nursing programs offered
6
Graduate tuition
$10,870
Number of Doctoral nursing programs offered through distance education
0%
08
Seattle University
Number of Doctoral nursing programs offered
8
Graduate tuition
$19,353
Number of Doctoral nursing programs offered through distance education
0%
09
University of Rochester
Number of Doctoral nursing programs offered
7
Graduate tuition
$36,912
Number of Doctoral nursing programs offered through distance education
0%
10
East Carolina University
Number of Doctoral nursing programs offered
2
Graduate tuition
$4,656
Number of Doctoral nursing programs offered through distance education
2%

Overview of Doctoral Programs in Nursing

DNP and PhD programs both have the goal of building on the knowledge and skills that students have already gained from their work and previous educational experience. However, the learning outcomes of these two kinds of programs are somewhat different.

  • Students enrolled in a Doctor of Nursing Practice program may find themselves diving deep into the mechanics of health policy, informatics, and leadership. They may also have the chance to specialize in certain areas of healthcare, such as nurse anesthesia, acute care, pediatrics or gerontology.
  • For those earning a PhD in Nursing, coursework is more likely to focus on designing and conducting research, creating and testing nursing theories, collaborating with other researchers, and disseminating study results both verbally and in writing.

The curriculum of nursing doctoral programs commonly includes the following class topics, although the way these topics are approached and studied is likely to be different depending on whether you are in a DNP program or a PhD program:

  • Qualitative and quantitative research methods
  • Data-driven nursing care
  • Health care ethics and policy
  • Nursing leadership principles
  • Nursing across the lifespan

Bridge Programs

Bridge programs exist to help students earn a degree without duplicating work they have already completed. For example, nurses who hold master’s degrees can enroll in MSN-to-DNP or MSN-to-PhD programs, where applicable courses they took in their master’s programs can be transferred into the doctoral program. Because of this function, bridge programs can save nursing students both time and money as they work to earn their doctoral degrees.

The ultimate dedication to nursing education may be completion of a DNP-to-PhD bridge program. As you might be able to tell from its name, this program is meant to be taken by students who have already gone through a doctoral program to earn a DNP. Graduates of such a program can add a PhD program’s research expertise to the advanced practical knowledge they already have from their DNP program.

Our bridge program page has more details on the various kinds of doctoral bridges.

Sources & Methodology
  1. Doctoral Programs, Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing, Accessed June 2018, https://nursing.jhu.edu/academics/programs/doctoral/index.html
  2. DNP – PhD Program Comparison, Duke School of Nursing, Accessed June 2018, https://nursing.duke.edu/academics/programs/dnp/dnp-phd-program-comparison
  3. Online Nursing Doctoral Programs, US News & World Report, Accessed June 2018, https://www.usnews.com/education/online-education/nursing-doctorate-degree
  4. Why Get a Doctorate of Nursing DNP Degree?, 2018 NurseJournal.org, Accessed June 2018, https://nursejournal.org/dnp-programs/why-get-a-dnp-degree/
  5. PhD in Nursing, School of Nursing at Johns Hopkins University, Accessed June 2018, https://nursing.jhu.edu/academics/programs/doctoral/phd/index.html
  6. PhD Admissions, Vanderbilt University, Accessed June 2018, https://nursing.vanderbilt.edu/admissions/phd/index.php
  7. Outcomes: PhD in Nursing, Barry University, Accessed June 2018, https://www.barry.edu/nursing/doctoral/phd-in-nursing/outcomes.html
  8. PhD Student Outcomes, The University of Iowa, Accessed June 2018, https://nursing.uiowa.edu/academics/phd/outcomes
  9. PhD in Nursing Purpose and Outcomes, University of Mississippi, Accessed June 2018, https://www.umc.edu/son/Degree%20Programs/PhD%20in%20Nursing/Purpose-and-Outcomes.html
  10. PhD Program Outcomes, The Ohio State University, Accessed June 2018, https://nursing.osu.edu/sections/academic-programs/phd-overview/phd-program-outcomes.html
  11. Program Goals and Outcomes, Duke School of Nursing, Accessed June 2018, https://nursing.duke.edu/academics/programs/dnp/program-goals-and-outcomes
  12. DNP Program Outcomes, The Ohio State University, Accessed June 2018, https://nursing.osu.edu/sections/academic-programs/dnp-overview/dnp-program-outcomes.html
  13. DNP Curriculum, Columbia University School of Nursing, Accessed June 2018, http://nursing.columbia.edu/academics/academic-programs/doctoral-programs/doctor-nursing-practice/dnp-curriculum
  14. Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP), Duke School of Nursing, Accessed June 2018, http://nursing.duke.edu/academics/programs/dnp/doctor-nursing-practice
  15. DNP Program Tracks Doctor of Nursing Practice, University of San Francisco, Accessed June 2018, https://www.usfca.edu/nursing/programs/graduate/doctoral/dnp
  16. Doctor of Nursing Practice Programs, Johns Hopkins School of Nursing, Accessed June 2018, https://nursing.jhu.edu/academics/programs/doctoral/dnp/index.html
  17. PhD in Nursing, School of Nursing at Johns Hopkins University, Accessed June 2018, https://nursing.jhu.edu/academics/programs/doctoral/phd/index.html
  18. PhD School of Nursing – Vanderbilt University, Accessed June 2018, https://nursing.vanderbilt.edu/phd/index.php
  19. DNP to PhD Bridge, Texas Woman’s University, Accessed June 2018, https://twu.edu/nursing/graduate-programs/dnp-to-phd-bridge/
  20. Nursing, DNP to PhD – Graduate Programs, Indiana University of Pennsylvania, Accessed June 2018, https://www.iup.edu/rn-alliedhealth/grad/nursing-dnp-phd/