Practicing nurses pursuing specialized healthcare studies can benefit from earning a Ph.D. in nursing. This research-based degree prepares graduates for careers as nursing instructors and professors.
Nursing programs continue to thrive, driving demand for qualified faculty. However, since qualified nursing instructors remain in short supply, many nursing schools must admit fewer students. Although enrollment in nursing Ph.D. programs increased nearly 10% from 2009-2019, the need for nursing Ph.D. graduates persists.
Keep reading to learn more about what to expect from an online nursing Ph.D. program, including typical coursework, program costs, and jobs for graduates.
What Is an Online Nursing Ph.D.?
A Ph.D. in or doctorate in nursing prepares graduates for teaching and research careers. In contrast to doctor of nursing practice (DNP) programs, Ph.D. curricula emphasize quantitative and qualitative research methods over clinical practice.
Typically, nursing Ph.D. graduates serve as nursing faculty at colleges and universities. Nursing instructors can further the field and make clinical advancements through conducting research in their areas of interest.
The American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) reports that the national nursing faculty vacancy rate reached 7.2% in 2019. The AACN projects this shortage to increase as more nursing instructors reach retirement age, creating an advantageous teaching job market for Ph.D. graduates.
Why Get an Online Nursing Ph.D.?
A Ph.D. in nursing offers learners the opportunity to advance the nursing profession. Graduates can conduct research that improves patient care. They can also instruct future nurses to help decrease the growing nursing shortage. Consider the following benefits of earning a Ph.D. in nursing:
- Influence the future of nursing
- Nursing Ph.D. graduates often go on to teaching positions, educating future nurses. They can also influence healthcare policy by serving on boards and committees.
- Reduce the nursing shortage
- Many nursing programs turn away qualified applicants due to faculty shortages. Nursing Ph.D. graduates who go into teaching can help ease this gap, allowing schools to admit more students and prepare more nurses for the field.
- Conduct nursing research
- Nursing Ph.D. programs provide opportunities for students to shift from clinical practice to research, exploring new areas of nursing and medicine. Nursing Ph.D. students can research areas that especially interest them.
Jobs for Nursing Ph.D. Graduates
Nursing Ph.D. programs prepare graduates for careers in both clinical and nonclinical settings. This includes positions in healthcare administration, higher education, healthcare policy, advanced practice, and research.
Clinical positions, particularly in the private sector, often pay higher salaries than teaching roles. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, nurse practitioners earned a median annual salary of $117,670 in 2020, with postsecondary instructors garnering a median annual salary of $80,790.
Nursing Ph.D. graduates can pursue many lucrative careers. Explore some common pathways in the list below.
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What to Expect From Online Ph.D. Programs
Online nursing Ph.D. programs feature courses exploring nursing practice’s history, philosophy, and evolution. These programs’ curricula also tackle ethical and social issues in healthcare.
Ph.D. program length varies depending on each student’s academic background. A master’s-educated candidate may complete their doctorate in less time than a student completing a BSN-to-Ph.D. track. Most programs run between 3-5 years and require 45-60 credits.
Degree costs also vary widely based on factors like program length, financial aid, and school type.
Admission to an online nursing Ph.D. program often requires a master’s degree in nursing with a minimum 3.0 GPA. However, MSN-to-Ph.D. programs allow students with a bachelor’s in nursing to earn their master’s and Ph.D. simultaneously. These bridge programs are longer and include extra coursework.
Students must hold current RN licensure and submit official transcripts from all prior colleges or universities. Additional application materials include recommendation letters, personal statements, and resumes or CVs. Though less common, some programs may require GRE scores. Factors that can strengthen a student’s doctoral application include a high GPA, clinical experience beyond the minimum, and research authorship.
Popular Ph.D. in Nursing Courses
Online Ph.D. in nursing programs include courses in research, clinical practice, nursing philosophy, ethics, and healthcare policy. These programs feature required core courses, elective courses, and often a self-directed project or capstone course. Many programs also feature hands-on training or fieldwork.
The list below highlights some common courses typically offered in nursing Ph.D. programs.
How Much Will an Online Nursing Ph.D. Cost?
Earning an online nursing Ph.D. requires a substantial financial investment. Public schools frequently offer lower tuition rates than private institutions, with in-state students paying a lower rate than out-of-state enrollees.
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, graduate tuition for the 2018-2019 school year averaged $12,171 at public institutions and $27,776 at private schools. School prestige also affects cost. For example, a reputable program may carry a higher price tag.
Some schools offer online students flat-rate tuition or allow out-of-state students to pay in-state rates for online coursework. Additionally, graduate students can take advantage of financial aid options like scholarships, fellowships, grants, and student loans to help fund their degrees.
Students should keep in mind that scholarships, fellowships, and grants do not require repayment upon graduation, but student loans do. In addition to tuition, prospective Ph.D. candidates should budget for expenses such as books and technology devices.
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Choosing the Right Nursing Doctorate Program
Although this ranked list serves as a great starting place, students should consider multiple factors when researching and selecting a nursing Ph.D. program.
- Accreditation: Every school on our list holds regional accreditation. Search for schools accredited by organizations approved by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation. Students should also look for nursing programs that hold programmatic accreditation from organizations like the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education and the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing.
- Program length: Students should consider how long they want to commit to a Ph.D. program. Some online programs offer accelerated formats for those with a graduate degree and significant field experience. A part-time program’s longer time frame may suit learners with other professional or personal responsibilities.
- Research opportunities: Consider the research opportunities available within each program. For example, what healthcare facilities are housed on the school’s campus and/or partnered with the school? Does the school feature any unique research initiatives? What specific research areas does the school specialize in?
- Overall cost: Earning a graduate degree requires thoughtful financial planning. Finding a school that fulfills your academic needs and fits your budget are primary considerations when researching programs.
Why You Should Get Your Nursing Ph.D. Online
As universities expand their graduate-level online programs, more working professionals can access flexible learning formats that suit their needs. Online programs offer convenient access for full-time workers and require the same dedication to coursework as on-campus programs.
Online learners must be self-starters, particularly in asynchronous courses. These programs may best suit students with strong organizational and time-management skills. Before enrolling in an online Ph.D. in nursing program, students should assess their learning styles and obligations to determine how online learning fits into their schedule.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is an online nursing Ph.D. worth it?
Yes, earning a graduate degree often leads to wider career opportunities at more advanced levels. Job seekers with graduate degrees typically earn more than those with a bachelor’s alone. Individuals with a Ph.D. often earn more over time than those with a master’s.
How long is an online Ph.D. in nursing program?
The length of a Ph.D. in nursing program varies based on students’ prior education. A program intended for master’s degree-holders generally takes less time than a program intended for students with a bachelor’s. In general, Ph.D. in nursing programs take 3-5 years to complete.
Should I get my Ph.D. or DNP?
Ph.D. and DNP options offer differing paths. Ph.D. programs emphasize research and education. However, the DNP focuses on clinical practice. Students should pursue the degree that best suits their interests and career goals.
What can I do with a Ph.D. in nursing?
Graduates from nursing Ph.D. programs can pursue numerous career options. This advanced degree prepares students to serve in fulfilling and lucrative roles as postsecondary instructors, nursing administrators, and nursing executives.
2021’s Online Nursing Ph.D. Programs
We collected the following accredited institutions from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System. Explore the linked pages to learn more about the online Ph.D. nursing programs offered in 2021.