April 14, 2024

The Beginner’s Guide to a Nursing Ph.D.

  • March 17, 2023
  • 5 min read
The Beginner’s Guide to a Nursing Ph.D.

Are you interested in influencing nursing policies and positively impacting the new nursing generation? Then, a Ph.D. in nursing is the right choice for you. Ph.D. holders can land higher job roles in the nursing industry as the degree prepares students to use knowledge and experience to create a major impact.

Students are also able to understand how they can make use of self-confidence and the right tone of voice to deliver what they believe in. The best part is that working individuals can also opt for a PhD nursing online program to study from the comfort of their homes at their own pace. Today, we shall take an in-depth look at the Ph.D. in nursing to help you decide if it is the right choice for you.

What Is a Ph.D. Nurse?

Individuals with a Doctor of Philosophy in Nursing (Ph.D.) degree are considered Ph.D. nurses. A Ph.D. differs from a DNP (Doctor of Nursing Practice). A DNP focuses on advanced clinical practice whereas a Ph.D. is largely focused on scientific research that students can partake in future lab research. A Ph.D. nurse can also opt to become a teacher at the college or university level.

Ph.D. Nurse Qualities 

Students need to have completed the entire Ph.D. nursing education and have obtained a degree to be eligible to practice. Education takes 4 to 6 years to complete, and candidates should be interested in medical/nursing research or teaching future nurses. Other qualities that must be present in a Ph.D. nurse include strong leadership skills, supervision/mentoring abilities, and the ability to manage nurses and provide useful feedback for scientific research.


Educational Requirements to Enroll in a Ph.D. Nursing Program

A Ph.D. in nursing is a terminal degree and the highest level of nursing education that can be acquired. Nurses must have a BSN (Bachelor of Science in Nursing) degree are eligible to apply for the program. They must also have passed the NCLEX-RN exam and obtained certification.

Some institutes may even require candidates to have an MSN (Master of Science in Nursing) degree to be eligible. An MSN degree is also an advanced nursing degree focused on clinical practice, pharmacology, and pathophysiology.

Educational prerequisites can vary based on different institutes. Some even offer hybrid or online programs for student convenience. A hybrid degree offers a few courses that must be completed in a classroom setting, while the rest can be completed online. An online degree can be completed mostly (full-time or part-time) from the comfort of your home.

Curriculum for a Ph.D. in Nursing 

  • Scientific research principles 
  • Advanced quantitative research methods
  • Statistical measurement
  • Data analysis
  • Qualitative research methods
  • Advanced health policy and advocacy
  • Research team leadership
  • Advanced statistical methods for nursing research
  • Advanced study design and methods
  • Original research project and dissertation

Ph.D. Nurse Job Role and Responsibilities

Most Ph.D. nurses enter either the research or teaching fields. They may be hired to work at a hospital, clinic, research facility, laboratory, university, school, or college. Ph.D. nurses can also be hired to work as public health nurses by the government or as research scientists to help resolve public health issues as well. Job roles and responsibilities, therefore, depend on the career they pick:

Nurse Researcher

  • Conduct and plan medical research
  • Work with scientists and medical professionals from various fields
  • Understand research questions and look for answers
  • Publish reports with detailed findings
  • Analyze scientific data
  • Devise proposals and apply for grants to obtain funds
  • Maintain and establish quality assurance programs to ensure data credibility in findings
  • Supervise and train lab staff, nurses, and scientists

Nurse Educator

  • Study nursing courses and create, plan, and revise the syllabus
  • Lecture graduate and undergraduate nursing students
  • Supervise lab and clinical experiments performed by students
  • Grade students’ clinical performance, classwork, and lab performance
  • Advise and mentor students on working in the nursing field

Nurse Administrator

  • Hire and supervise faculty members
  • Track the performance of everyone on board
  • Assist professors with class schedules
  • Go over the departmental syllabus and courses to ensure quality control
  • Review material and content being used in nursing courses

Ph.D. Nurse Salary and Career Outlook 

The salary of a Ph.D. nurse varies based on the career path they opt for once they graduate. Nurse researchers earn an average annual salary of $81,500, while those part of the teaching field can earn around $82,040 per year. Career duration, experience level, geolocation, and other factors can affect the annual salary.

The good news is that no matter what field a Ph.D. nurse opts for, they can make a significant income. The United States BLS (Bureau of Labor Statistics) has reported that the employment rate of registered nurses or RNs will increase by 9% between 2021 and 2031. Plus, there is a huge demand for nurses with advanced qualifications, which has raised the importance of Ph.D. and DNP degree holders.


Obtaining a nursing Ph.D. not only makes you highly qualified and sought after, but you are also able to earn a hefty salary when you practice in either the nursing, research, or teaching fields. The best part is that you can be a leader, input insight, and improve the world through your findings and expertise.

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