Is a DNP to Ph.D. in Nursing Program Right For Me?

DNP to Ph.D. bridge programs cater to advanced practice nurses who aspire to pursue careers in nursing research, leadership, and academia. These programs are designed for individuals who have already earned a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree and wish to further their expertise in research and scholarship.

Nurses who complete DNP to Ph.D. programs are well-prepared for leadership roles in healthcare, nursing education, and research. Many institutions now offer integrated DNP to Ph.D. options, enabling graduates to earn both degrees concurrently.

Several DNP to Ph.D. bridge programs are available, and they provide a unique opportunity to blend advanced clinical practice knowledge with high-level research and scholarship skills. These programs can enhance your prospects for roles such as nurse researcher, healthcare leader, nursing faculty member, or policy influencer in the field of nursing.


Varieties of DNP to Ph.D. Bridge Programs Available

DNP to Ph.D. programs are typically focused in a specialization of the student’s choice. Here are a few of the specialty-specific DNP to Ph.D. programs often available:

What Are the Prerequisites for a DNP to Ph.D. in Nursing Bridge Program?

Nurses with a DNP degree who are determined to advance their careers in specialized nursing areas can consider enrolling in a DNP to Ph.D. bridge program. Keep in mind that prospective students should take care to select a program that offers their specialization of choice. Common prerequisites include:

  • Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree from an accredited program and school
  • Current, unencumbered nursing license or eligibility for licensure in the state where the program is located
  • Personal Interview: Some programs may require applicants to complete an interview with program faculty and staff as part of the admissions process
  • Personal essay: Many programs request a personal statement or essay describing the applicant’s career goals and motivations for pursuing a DNP to Ph.D. bridge program

Are Clinical Hours Required for the DNP to Ph.D. in Nursing Program?

Because DNP to Ph.D. programs are usually focused on research rather than clinical practice, you generally won’t see clinical requirements in these programs. Instead, DNP to Ph.D. students will typically engage in research projects, seminars, and teaching experiences and complete coursework focused on research methodologies, nursing theory, and advanced nursing concepts.

Are Online DNP to Ph.D. Programs in Nursing Available?

Online DNP to Ph.D. programs are somewhat common. These programs typically offer a more flexible schedule, allowing students to go at their own pace and complete the program as quickly as they like in their own time. While this may be a great option for some, for others it might not be ideal. Hybrid programs, which mix online coursework with some on-campus visits, can offer an ideal solution for those who want the best of both worlds. Consider your own specific needs and the program’s requirements to determine if an online option is right for you.

How Long Do DNP to Ph.D. Programs Take to Complete?

Generally speaking, you can expect to finish the DNP to Ph.D. in less than six years – in fact, around three years is common for this type of program. The exact amount of time will ultimately be determined by your prior educational credits, the concentration chosen, and whether you are a full-time, part-time, or online student. It’s imperative that students check all credit requirements, as well as any research project timelines, to get a more accurate snapshot of how long their particular program may take to complete.

How Much Will Tuition Cost for a DNP to Ph.D. Program?

Tuition costs for DNP to Ph.D. programs can vary significantly between institutions and states. These costs typically include tuition, fees, and required course materials. Online programs eliminate additional expenses such as commuting and parking costs. Tuition fees may be higher for students who don’t reside in their school’s state. Here are some examples of tuition and fees for DNP to Ph.D. programs as of 2023:

Texas Women’s University

Total Online Tuition Cost: $19,461.60

Program Duration: 42 Credits

Duquesne University

Total Online Tuition Cost: $64,562

Program Duration: 38 Credits

What Is the DNP to Ph.D. Curriculum Like?

The curriculum for a DNP to Ph.D. program in nursing is carefully designed to provide advanced practice nurses with high-level education in nursing research, theory, and scholarship. The curriculum is research-intensive, preparing students for careers in academia, research, leadership, and policy development within the nursing field. While specific courses and requirements can vary between institutions and programs, here is a general overview of what you might find in a DNP to Ph.D. curriculum:

  • Core Nursing Courses: These include advanced-level courses in general nursing theory and evidence-based practice.
  • Research Methodology: Students acquire diverse research methods and techniques encompassing quantitative and qualitative research, data analysis, and research design, enabling them to conduct nursing research that is original and innovative.
  • Statistics: Statistics courses prepare students to analyze research data and interpret findings, cultivating essential skills for both conducting and evaluating research studies.
  • Specialty Courses: These courses will be based on the program’s concentration, and often include research projects in the student’s area of interest.

Are Any Ph.D. Exams Required Before I Start My Career?

Exams required to obtain a DNP to Ph.D. in Nursing may vary based on the program and concentration. The following are some examples:

Qualifying Examinations

Qualifying examinations evaluate your preparedness for your dissertation, potentially encompassing your research proposal and methods.

Nursing Certification Exams:

Depending on your program concentration, advanced nursing certification in specialties may be required. These certifications may require national board exams administered by organizations like the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) or the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP).

Where Can I Work With a Ph.D. in Nursing?

Completing a DNP to Ph.D. in Nursing program can open the door to exciting careers in academia, research, and beyond. Graduates may find employment in places like:

  • Academic Institutions: A popular route for DNP to Ph.D. grads is academia, where they can serve as faculty members educating nursing students, engaging in research, and actively shaping nursing curricula and programs.
  • Research Institutions: Ph.D. in Nursing graduates excel in research environments, conducting innovative studies, analyzing data, and contributing valuable insights to advance the field of healthcare.
  • Hospitals and Healthcare Systems: Nurses with Ph.D. degrees play pivotal roles in hospital and healthcare environments, leading evidence-based practice initiatives, shaping healthcare policies, educating fellow nurses, and enhancing patient outcomes through their advanced expertise and research-driven approaches.
  • Government Agencies: Ph.D. nurses employed by the government contribute to shaping public health policies, conducting research to inform healthcare strategies, and driving evidence-based decision-making to enhance the population’s overall well-being.
  • Nonprofit Organizations: With a Ph.D. degree, nurses in healthcare-related nonprofits spearhead research initiatives, design community health programs, and advocate for healthcare equity, striving to improve the lives of underserved populations through evidence-based interventions and compassionate care.
  • Nursing Education and Continuing Education Providers: Nurses with a Ph.D. play a vital role in nursing education, developing curriculum, conducting research, and mentoring future healthcare professionals, fostering a generation of skilled and knowledgeable nurses.
  • Pharmaceutical and Biotechnology Companies: With their high-level research skills, Ph.D. in Nursing graduates in pharmaceutical and related companies contribute to innovative research and development, ensuring the safety and efficacy of healthcare products, and collaborate on interdisciplinary teams to enhance pharmaceutical solutions and patient care.
  • Nursing Associations and Professional Organizations: Nurses with Ph.D. degrees can be hired by nursing associations and organizations to drive policy advocacy, conduct research, and foster professional development initiatives, thereby contributing significantly to the advancement of nursing practice and healthcare standards.

How Much Will I Make With a Ph.D. in Nursing?

The salary you can expect with a DNP to Ph.D. in Nursing can vary widely depending on several factors, including your specific job role, location, years of experience, and the type of employer. In general, Ph.D.-educated nurses tend to earn in the $100,000 range annually in research, education, and academic roles, though this can fluctuate from around $85,000 to $125,000. DNP nurses, by contrast, may have opportunities to earn up to $200,000 per year in clinical roles depending on their specialty, its demand, and the hospital system they work for, though this is on the higher end.

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