Doctoral in Nursing

The healthcare industry has become highly complex and competitive over the past few decades. Nurses, doctors, physicians, and pharmacists are leading professionals who ensure smooth delivery of healthcare services. Many factors such as scientific development, technological advancement, changing population numbers, and epidemics have stressed the need for more skilled personnel. Nurses, the largest workforce in the industry, are encouraged to update their skills, pursue continuing education, and advance in their specialty fields to cater to the growing healthcare demands.

Many nurses reach the end of their academic pursuit at masters level. However, medical institutes and commissions are now highlighting the need for doctoral graduates. Various changes such as shortage of doctoral nurses and increased educational expectations have increased the popularity of DNP (Doctor of Nursing Practice) programs.

According  to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, there are approximately 241 DNP programs being offered at schools The student enrollment increased from 11,575 to 14,699 (2012-2013). The growing number of student enrollments reflects the trend for Doctoral in nursing programs.

Doctoral in Nursing

A Doctoral in Nursing is designed to prepare students for highly challenging jobs in the healthcare sector. This program is typically pursued by APRNs, and follows an advanced program structure. Individuals enrolled in the DNP program will develop strong theoretical knowledge and skills necessary to meet the healthcare challenges of today and the future.
The curriculum will entail the following components:

  • Coursework (foundation and core courses)
  • Practicum
  • Proposal development
  • Scholarly project

The coursework is covered during the first few semesters of the program. Individuals are required to develop strong theoretical concepts. The exact curriculum wmay vary from college to college but will generally include subjects such as the following:

  • Theories for Nursing Practice (2-4 units): This is a fundamental course that explains the main theories and concepts of nursing. Students will explore various aspects of nursing and will develop strong conceptual knowledge.

  • Advanced Leadership and Management in Healthcare (2-4 units): Leadership is essential for today’s advanced nursing workforce. The course has been designed to allow students to develop leadership skills. Some of the topics covered in the program include organizational processes, technology, and strategy development.

  • Healthcare Policy and Planning (2-4 units): This course focuses upon the development and implementation of healthcare policies. Students will learn about the role of research in policy-making, and various factors that influence this process.

  • Translating Evidence into Nursing Practice (2-4 units): This course will enable students to develop protocols for nursing practice. Students will also learn how to translate such protocols into practice.

  • Applied Statistics (2-4 units): This course will provide students with an overview of statistical interpretation. Some of the topics covered in the course include data management, statistical analysis, multivariate statistics, and data interpretation.


A practicum is included in many DNP programs and PhD in nursing programs. It is geared towards providing students with clinical work experience. Students can pick an area for clinical experience and work under the supervision of a clinical coordinator. The main purpose of this program component is to help students build clinical skills and acquire experience. A minimum number of academically supervised clinical hours must be covered. The requirement may vary from college to college.

Proposal Development

Students are required to select a field that will be the basis of their evidence-based project. It is recommended that the area a student picks reflects his or her career goals as well interest. The chosen area must address nursing practice issues. These can be relevant to healthcare policies, healthcare institutions, populations, and healthcare systems. Individuals must create a proposal that focuses on prior coursework they have completed.

Scholarly Project

The program can successfully be completed after submitting a project in the form of a thesis or dissertation. This is one of the most important components of the program. The project will allow students to apply quantitative and qualitative research skills and acquire practical experience. Students can pick any area related to healthcare systems and patient improvement. The topic must be approved by the committee and should fulfill all the requirements and standards. Individuals must also pass an oral examination conducted by the supervising committee. This examination is designed to evaluate how prepared the student is.


DNP programs can be completed in various nursing specialties. All individuals are required to pick a field for practice. There are many branches of nursing that have gained popularity and demand, a few include:

  • Oncology nursing
  • Pediatric nursing
  • Healthcare administration
  • Emergency nursing
  • leadership in nursing
  • Adult care nursing
  • Gerontology nursing

Degree Completion Requirements

To complete the degree successfully, all components of the program must be covered. Students must earn the minimum number of credit hours for degree completion, and clear all the qualifying examinations. The requirements may vary slightly from college to college.


The duration of a Doctorate of Nursing Practice can last from 3-5 years. The exact time needed to complete the program will depend upon the institute and the pace of learning.

Admission Criteria

In order to enroll in a Doctorate of Nursing Practice Program, students need to fulfill the admission requirements of the institute which may vary from place to place. The admission requirements typically include:

  • Completion of a masters degree in nursing
  • Exceptional conceptual skills
  • Must meet the minimum CGPA requirement that can range between 3.0 and 3.5, depending upon the institute
  • Must be a state-certified nurse
  • Must have work experience in advanced nursing
  • Must fill out and submit an admission form
  • Submit at least two letters of documentation
  • Submit an essay that reflects personal goals

Online DNP Programs

Individuals can pursue a doctoral degree in nursing through distance learning programs. Online education is gradually replacing the traditional mode of learning, proving to be more flexible, accessible, and cost-effective. A majority of graduate students are working full-time, making it difficult for them to pursue campus-based studies. Online doctoral programs can be covered from any location, without having to worry about attending classes on campus.

Career Prospects

Students who are able to get a Doctoral in Nursing can improve their academic standing and pursue challenging job opportunities in the healthcare sector. The program will qualify nurses to work at executive and leadership levels. The most common work settings that can be a suitable place for launching a career with a DNP qualification are:

  • Public health offices
  • Surgical and medical hospitals
  • Research facilities
  • Physicians’ offices

Individuals can also start their own practice and offer clinical services. Independent practice is becoming more popular nowadays. The income level will depend upon factors such as specialization area and state, but will generally be higher as compared to MSN degree holders.

How Long Does It Take to Complete a Doctoral Degree in Nursing?

Several universities in the U.S. such as the Johns Hopkins University, the University of San Francisco and the University of Virginia  offer a doctoral degree in Nursing. A doctoral degree in Nursing is typically referred to as ‘Doctor of Nursing Practice’(DNP) and takes almost 4 to 5 years to complete. Graduates of this degree are required to take the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) and obtain a license to practice in the field.

What Are the Requirements for Completing a Doctoral Degree in Nursing?

The requirements to complete a doctoral degree in Nursing vary for each university. Generally, students of a doctoral degree in Nursing are required to take lectures, perform lab practicals, gather hands-on experience through hospital work, pass written exams and defend a written thesis. The credit hour requirements may also vary from one institution to another. For example, students of the DNP Advanced Practice degree offered at the Johns Hopkins University must complete 125 credit hours to graduate.

How Much Can I Make after Completing a Doctoral Degree in Nursing?

After completing a doctoral degree in Nursing, graduates must obtain a license by passing the NCLEX exam. Those with a valid license can practice in public/private hospitals, clinics, elderly homes, etc. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported the annual median salary for the following careers in 2018 as follows:


Median Salary

Postsecondary Nursing Instructors and Teachers

$73,490 per year

Medical and Health Services Managers

$99,730 per year

Nurse Anesthetists, Nurse Midwives and Nurse Practitioners

$113,930 per year

Frequently Asked Question(s)

Q:Where can I find easy nursing Doctorate program?

A:There are no easy nursing Doctorate programs. Doctorate of Nursing has an extensive curriculum that discusses every subject in detail. However, there is an option of online education that can help students study at their convenience and pace. These programs are just as extensive but allow students to study from home. Online educational programs are relatively inexpensive as well with students saving money on travel and accommodation. Prospective students interested in online programs are advised to search our website for more information.

Q:What degree do I need to complete first to be eligible for a PhD in nursing?

A:To be eligible for a nursing degree at doctorate level, you need to first complete a BSN degree and then a MSN degree. A PhD is a post graduate qualification and is the most advanced qualification one can earn in nursing. Having a thorough understanding of nursing and all its concepts is mandatory to be ready for PhD degrees.

Q:What are the benefits of a Doctoral in Nursing?

A:A doctoral degree in nursing is the highest level of education you can achieve. The program will equip you with research skills and advanced knowledge about nursing healthcare. With a doctorate degree, you can apply for executive and upper managerial job positions in the healthcare industry. He income potential for doctorate degree holders is higher.

Q:What is the admission criterion for nursing doctoral programs?

A:The specific admission criterion for nursing doctoral programs usually varies from institution to institution. Generally, students need to have a master's degree in a relevant. Moreover, some institutions also prefer those students who have some prior work experience in the field. To find the exact admission requirements, you should visit the website of the school you wish to enroll in.

Q:What can you do with a phd in nursing?

A:With a phd in nursing, you can prepare for leadership positions in the healthcare and research industry. The program is designed to help students develop research skills and clinical skills. You can seek work as a nursing faculty member, director of nursing research, director of clinical services, and more. The income level will vary from job to job.

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