What is a Ph.D. in Nursing?
A Doctor of Philosophy in Nursing (Ph.D.) degree prepares nurses to conduct and publish original research that will advance knowledge in a particular area. These research activities are performed while you work in positions such as a university professor, a high-level healthcare administrator, or a policy developer in the private or public sector.
There are approximately 124 Ph.D. nursing programs in the U.S. The academic program curriculum will vary according to the university’s focus and policies, and the candidate’s research goals and specialty. Depending upon the complexity of your research, you can typically complete a program in two to three years.
Many Ph.D. programs are online or hybrid courses designed to help students balance work, study, and family duties. A survey by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) found that enrollment in these programs increased by over 10 percent from 2009 to 2010.
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How you need to prepare
You need a Bachelor of Science and Master of Science degree in Nursing to be considered for entry into a Ph.D. program. An excellent GPA and a good Graduate Record Exam (GRE) score helps. Many programs want candidates who have already published scholarly articles in their area of expertise, or have demonstrated skills in obtaining grants or other funding for research.
Make it or break it: your dissertation
Ph.D. programs are approximately 60 credits, many of which are dedicated to your dissertation—an academic project in which you conduct original research on a particular topic. You must write the dissertation and defend it in front of an academic committee. It can be used in your future academic career, or be the basis for more articles or a book. Because it is such a large and central portion of a Ph.D. program, many candidates complete all of the other requirements quickly but then take additional months or years to complete a dissertation.