As a nurse or medical practitioner, the desire to constantly learn and enhance your understanding of how to help others is a constant motivating factor in your personal and professional endeavors.
Sometimes, this outlook can serve as the driving force that sends you back to school to pursue a graduate degree.
With this in mind, let’s spend a few minutes talking about what comes with the pursuit of a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Nursing, as well as what you need to consider as you mull over this potentially life-changing decision.
What is a PhD in Nursing?
Usually spanning between 64 and 79 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.
Differences between a PhD in Nursing and a Doctor of Nursing Practice
In terms of 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 defend your dissertation.
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. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), PhD students that become professors can expect to earn around $88,000 in annual salary.
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. In return, the BLS points out that this degree often equates to compensation that can range from $73,469 as an advanced practice registered nurse, to $100,000 per year as a family nurse practitioner.
How Do You Get an Online PhD in Nursing?
Earning a PhD in Nursing requires committing to one of two major learning paths – either distance/online learning or the traditional on-campus experience. Naturally, deciding between each of these routes requires an understanding of your current responsibilities. However, the convenience of completing coursework and research on your own stands as a highly enticing attribute of the online variation of this PhD program for many potential cohort applicants.
Online PhD in Nursing Program Curriculum
Before rushing to sign-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 once the semester gets underway:
- 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.
It is important to note that this is just a small sample of what comes in the average study path for a PhD student. Depending on your chosen school, this list can – and will – shift and change to accommodate the desired learning experience at this institution.
Doctor of Philosophy in Nursing Concentrations
Like most other PhD 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
A concentration can help enhance your understanding of a unique portion of the PhD coursework, thereby increasing your value and competency when it comes time to apply this learning in a professional setting.
Earning a spot in an upcoming PhD in Nursing cohort requires passing over multiple admissions hurdles. Generally, you’ll need to provide a complete transcript of your undergraduate and master’s level learning, as well as a goal statement that explains why you deserve an entry in the program.
Some schools will accept students who haven’t completed their master’s coursework, but this often comes with the caveat of having an exceptional GPA at the undergraduate level, as well as stellar scores in the various portions of the Graduate Record Examination (GRE.) Additionally, letters of recommendation and professional references can also serve as admissions benchmarks for this kind of PhD program.
PhD 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 percent 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.
Is a Doctor of Philosophy in Nursing worth it?
Obviously, answering this question requires an in-depth look at your personal motivations and aspirations as there is no objective way to determine the truth “worth” of a PhD in nursing.
Do you plan on using this degree as a stepping stone toward future professional opportunities? Is your current employer able to offer financial support as you tackle this major undertaking? Perhaps you simply want to test the boundaries of your academic capabilities via a new learning challenge?
Figuring out the answers to these questions now can ensure that you make a smart decision when the time comes to commit to this advanced learning opportunity.