50 Best Online PhD Nursing Programs [2020 Guide]

We've ranked the 50 Best Online PhD Nursing Programs for 2020. Compare PhD vs. DNP and see which Doctoral Nursing Program is the best fit.

We’ve ranked the 50 Best Online PhD Nursing Programs for 2020. Compare PhD vs. DNP and see which doctoral nursing program is the best fit.

online phd nursing programs

With your Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Nursing or Doctor of Nursing Practice, you’ll be set to earn over $90,000 per year.

Types of Online PhD Nursing Programs

These are the three most common degrees for a doctoral degree in nursing. Click on the one that most interests you to jump to that section.

  • PhD in Nursing Education
  • PhD in Healthcare Leadership
  • Doctor of Nursing Practice

Each one prepares you for a different career in the medical field.

PhD in Nursing Education

head nurse talking to  fellow nurses in hospital

A doctor of philosophy (PhD) in Nursing Education prepares you to teach nursing at the university level.

As a practicing nurse yourself, you have the experience and expertise for delivering high-quality care in a clinical setting. Your doctorate coursework will help you become an expert teacher as well so that you can pass on what you’ve learned to upcoming nurses.

Your curriculum will focus on learning theories and teaching strategies, curriculum development, how to evaluate nursing students, and the ethics of nursing.

After you graduate, you can become a professor, a professional trainer at a hospital, or a dedicated researcher who presents new findings to the nursing world. In any of these roles, you will be shaping the future of the medical field as you teach or otherwise inform nursing professionals.

PhD in Healthcare Leadership

nurses having an administrative meeting

With a PhD in Healthcare Leadership or Healthcare Management, you could either teach at a university or continue working in a clinical setting as an administrator.

Your courses will likely focus on setting a vision for your institution, monitoring and evaluating your organization’s performance, financial management, patient care, and applicable laws and regulations.

You could also take classes that address specific issues or help you to develop certain skills, such as opioid medicines, environmental safety, health management information systems, research methods and statistics, and public speaking.

If you enjoy the business side of the medical world and want to make a real difference in your institution, this is the track for you.

Doctor of Nursing Practice

nurse and doctor discussing in hospital lobby

The two main options for graduates with this degree is to become a hospital or office administrator or to become a nurse practitioner. You may also serve as a trainer in your organization.

If you choose to go in the direction of administration, you might be a nurse manager or help to set policy for your organization. Your coursework will focus on delivering excellent patient care, management, and financial responsibility.

The second popular option is to study to be a nurse practitioner. While this degree doesn’t qualify you to be a doctor per se, you can perform many functions that a doctor does, including seeing and diagnosing patients, administering anesthesia, and delivering babies as a nurse midwife.

You’ll work under a doctor who approves any medicine prescriptions or certain treatment plans.

What Is the Difference between a DNP and a PhD in Nursing?

The main differences between a PhD and DNP include the following:

PhD in Nursing Doctor of Nursing Practice
Focuses on research or teaching Focuses on administration or patient care
Average of 60 credit hours Average of 90 credit hours
Minimal clinical requirement Strong emphasis on work history or clinicals
Dissertation likely Capstone project
Average salary of $92,000 Average salary of $94,000

As you can see, the salary is fairly close on average. The difference between a PhD in Nursing and a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP), the gap between these two areas of study boils down to what you plan on doing once you complete your coursework and how long your program will take.

PhD students focus on research and the development of nursing theory, as well as how to communicate with students and other parties once these graduates take on positions within the educational field. Though the coursework is shorter, PhD students will likely need to write a dissertation to demonstrate their research skills and expertise over the subject matter.

On the other hand, DNP students plan to put this research and exploration of theory to practice in a more hands-on manner. Members of this group specialize in the application of their learning via clinical practice and administration. They might manage other nurses or serve as a family nurse practitioner in a doctor’s office.

DNP students will spend longer in their programs, but their final project won’t be as time-consuming as writing a dissertation.

Online PhD in Nursing Program Curriculum

Online PhD in Nursing Program Curriculum

Before signing up for classes, it’s a good idea to review the required curriculum for the average PhD in a nursing program. You can expect to cover the following topics and subject matter :

  • Philosophical Perspectives in Health
  • Activities and Responsibilities of the Nurse Scientist
  • Quantitative Research Design and Methods
  • Scientific Perspectives in Nursing
  • Statistical Methods in Public Health

Typically, a PhD in Nursing requires a dissertation. However, some universities offer a Doctor of Nursing Practice with no dissertation.

Doctor of Philosophy in Nursing Concentrations

Like most other doctoral programs, there’s plenty of opportunities to further refine your learning experience via coursework specializations. Some of the most common concentrations include:

  • Nursing Education
  • Nursing Leadership
  • Nursing Administration
  • Health Policy
  • Specializations for Nurse Practitioners

A concentration can help enhance your understanding of a unique area in the field, thereby increasing your value and competency when it comes time to apply this learning in a professional setting.

Doctorate in Nursing Career Outlook and Salary Information

Doctorate in Nursing Career Outlook and Salary Information

Considering the near-constant need for reliable medical professionals and academic luminaries, it’s no surprise that the BLS reports a healthy career outlook for members of the nursing community. Specifically, job opportunities in the nursing field are expected to grow by an average of 19% over the next several years.

With the average professor salary starting at $88,000 – and resting at a mean of $102,399 – it’s safe to say that this job growth also comes with a healthy level of compensation.

Here are some job titles and average salaries that a PhD in Nursing or Doctor of Nursing Practice graduate might hold.

Job Title Average Salary
Chief Nursing Officer (PhD) $165,000
Dean of Nursing (PhD) $127,000
Nurse Practitoner, Acute Care $98,000
Nurse Practioner, Geriatrics $98,000
Professor (PhD) $97,000
Nurse Practioner, Internal Medicine $96,000
Nurse Practitioner, Cardiology $96,000
Nurse Practioner, Family Practice $92,000
Medical Writer (PhD) $82,000
Nursing Instructor (PhD) $71,000

Again, the average salary for each degree holder is between $92,000 and $94,000.

Accreditation for Doctoral Nursing Programs

logos of accreditation boards for nursing programs

When you’re looking for a university to attend, make sure that it is properly accredited. Accreditation by an independent third-party ensures that your university and nursing program meets the highest standards. Your university as a whole should be accredited by one of these six regional boards.

  • Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
  • Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE)
  • New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE)
  • Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU)
  • Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)
  • WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC)

The university’s nursing program could also be accredited by either the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) or the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing, Inc. Note that it is not necessary to have these program-specific accreditations.

Financial Aid for Students in Online Nursing PhD or DNP Programs

screenshot of FAFSA website

Financial aid is not just for undergrads. Doctoral students can take advantage of it as well. And earning your degree online or on campus doesn’t affect the aid that you qualify for.

When you fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), you’ll see what grants and loans you qualify for. You can then look for scholarship opportunities at your university or through private organizations. Your university may also offer you a fellowship.

Talk to your employer about possible tuition assistance or tuition reimbursement programs.

Questions Related to Earning Your PhD in Nursing

Here are our answers to a few more questions you might have about earning your doctorate in nursing.

What Is a PhD in Nursing?

Usually spanning between 60 and 80 credit hours of coursework, most PhD in nursing programs cover the research of nursing best practices in the clinical, academic, and scientific environments. However, the application of managerial theory and administrative concepts also serves as a building block of this graduate-level learning experience.

PhD in nursing programs cater to nursing students and established practitioners alike. While returning to the medical industry is definitely a possibility, most recipients of this degree remain in the academic world, seeking tenure at accepting institutions and teaching others via experiential learning.

How Much Does a Nurse with a PhD Make?

How much a nurse PhD makes is $92,000 on average. Salary differences are mainly a result of a person’s experience, medical organizations or universities that a person works for, and the location where they live.

Do DNP Get Paid More than NP?

No, a DNP does not get paid more than an NP because they are essentially the same thing. DNP stands for Doctor of Nursing Practice and is the degree that a Nurse Practitioner (NP) holds.

Is a Doctor of Philosophy in Nursing Worth It?

happy nurse assisting a female patient

Yes, a doctor of philosophy is worth it. After graduation, you can expect to make between $71,000 and $165,000 for your expertise. It may take a lot of hard work completing the classes and writing your dissertation, you’ve come this far in your education and career, so you’re sure to have the ability to finish your doctoral degree as well.

You can start by deciding which degree you want – a PhD in Nursing Education, a PhD in Healthcare Leadership, or a Doctor of Nursing Practice. Then, narrow down your choice of schools by degree offering and possible concentrations. Apply to your top 3-5 choices and research financial aid opportunities.

In 3-5 years, you should be finished with your degree and making top dollar as an expert in your field.

This article is brought to you by
Stephen Wilson
Stephen Wilson
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