Best Online PhD Degrees in Nursing 2021

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As America ages and nursing practice continues to expand, the Institute of Medicine has stressed the need for more doctoral-trained nurses. To date, however, only 1% of nursing program grads in the U.S. hold a doctorate in nursing. 

A salary and compensation study conducted by the American Organization for Nursing Leadership (AONL) reveals that chief nursing executives with a doctoral degree in nursing earn an annual salary of about $300,000. 

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Admission requirements for Ph.D. in nursing programs vary between schools. However, common requirements include a master’s degree in a nursing field from an accredited institution, a minimum 3.0 GPA, and professional experience. 

This guide ranks the best online Ph.D. degrees in nursing. It also covers other important information for prospective students, including scholarship opportunities for doctoral nursing students.

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Top 10 Best Online Schools for a PhD in Nursing

? This represents the average net price of attendance for full-time students as gathered by the National Center for Education Statistics. Individual costs may vary. Costs per credit hour may also vary by program or degree.
Rank School Avg Net Price ? This represents the average net price of attendance for full-time students as gathered by the National Center for Education Statistics. Individual costs may vary. Costs per credit hour may also vary by program or degree.
1 Ashland University $5713
2 Boise State University $6232
3 Clarion University $11592
4 Delta State University $6298
5 East Carolina University $4656
6 Florida International University $8912
7 Georgia College $5187
8 Georgia Southern University $6636
9 Hampton University $10776
10 Idaho State University $6789

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Nursing Graduates Ask These Questions Frequently

  • How many years is a Ph.D. in nursing?

    It typically takes 3-5 years of full-time enrollment to earn a Ph.D. degree in nursing.

  • How much does a doctorate of nursing make?

    Salaries for doctoral-trained nurses largely depend on the career path they pursue after graduation. According to AONL, 57% of nurse leaders report an annual salary between $90,000-$170,000.

  • What can a nurse do with a doctoral degree?

    Nurses with a Ph.D. in the field qualify for top-level positions such as nurse educator, director of clinical services, and lead researcher.

  • What qualifications do you need to become a nurse?

    Many nurses begin their careers as RNs, which requires the completion of an accredited associate or diploma program in nursing and passing the NCLEX.

Best Online Ph.D. Degrees in Nursing 2021

  • Ashland University

    Ashland, OH



    A Doctor of Nursing Practice for certified nurse practitioners is offered at Ashland University. This program focuses on leadership development, practice management, evidence based practice, informatics and advocacy. It consists of 32 to 38 credit hours as well as courses such as Principles of Practice Management, DNP Role and Interprofessionalism and Health Informatics. Students must complete a DNP project in addition to all required courses. Prospective students must be advanced practice nurses with a master's degree and a minimum GPA of 3.0. Additionally, they are required to submit 3 letters of recommendation, complete an undergraduate or graduate level statistics course, write a 2- to 3-page paper that describes their clinical area of interest and participate in an interview. A maximum of 9 graduate level credits may be transferred into the DNP program. Only courses in which students earned a 3.0 or higher are transferable.

  • Boise State University

    Boise, ID



    Nurses who hope to become leaders in nursing may benefit from the online Doctor of Nursing Practice in Leadership at Boise State University. This program consists of a variety of courses that can help nurse leaders succeed. These courses are related to finance, information systems, policy and advocacy, organizational leadership and project management. At the start of the program, students will need to select a scholarly project, which will directly or indirectly improve the practice of nursing and health outcomes. All of the courses they take throughout the program will allow them to complete the project successfully. Prospective students must hold a master's degree in nursing or a master's degree in a related field and a bachelor's degree in nursing. In addition, they are required to have a cumulative GPA of 3.0 in their undergraduate and graduate coursework. The Doctor of Nursing Practice in Leadership is available to students from all states except Georgia, Louisiana, Tennessee and West Virginia.

  • Clarion University

    Clarion, PA



    Clarion and Edinboro Universities have partnered together to offer a Doctor of Nursing Practice. This online program is accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing or ACEN. It consists of 27 credit hours and involves core courses such as Leading Nursing in Health Care Systems, Advanced Topics in Population Health and Analytical Methods of Evidence Based Practice. Students will also be required to take elective courses such as Clinical Teaching Strategies in Nursing, Advanced Evaluation Strategies in Nursing Education and Advanced Care of the Individual and Family. In addition, students must complete a clinical internship and dissertation. Students can take courses on a part-time basis over 5 semesters. They will be admitted in cohorts and start the program in May of each year. Graduates of the Doctor of Nursing Practice program will be well-versed in policy, leadership, population health and clinical practice.

  • Delta State University

    Cleveland, MS



  • East Carolina University

    Greenville, NC



    At East Carolina University, students have the opportunity to enroll in a Doctor of Philosophy in Nursing that is delivered in an online and hybrid format. Admission requirements include a nursing degree from a school that is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education or National League for Nursing Accrediting Commission and a minimum GPA of 3.2 on all graduate work. Prospective students are also required to submit a written essay explaining why they wish to pursue a PhD in nursing, a curriculum vita and 2 written professional references. The 3 paths of this program include BSN to PhD, MSN to PhD and DNP to PhD. Students are required to maintain an overall grade point average of 3.0 and closely follow the plan of study as courses are only delivered once a year. After graduating with a Doctor of Philosophy in Nursing, students will be able to work as researchers, policy makers, analysts, university faculty or administrators in public and private health care organizations.

  • Florida International University

    Miami, FL



    Florida International University allows students to earn a Doctor of Philosphy in Nursing. This program prepares nurses for research and leadership positions in health care as well as government and health care-related private organizations. It involves 6 components including program of study, candidacy examination, dissertation proposal and defense, dissertation research, dissertation writing and dissertation defense. Students who enroll on a full-time basis can graduate in 4 years. Those who wish to earn this degree must hold a master's degree in nursing, a cumulative graduate GPA of 3.3 or higher and a Florida RN license. They are required to complete a master's level statistics course and submit their GRE scores as well. Students who hold a Bachelor of Science in Nursing may also earn a Doctor of Philosophy in Nursing as long as they have an overall undergraduate GPA of 3.0, a RN license in the state of Florida and take the GRE. All students will work with an academic adviser to plan their program of study.

  • Georgia College

    Milledgeville, GA



  • Georgia Southern University

    Statesboro, GA



  • Hampton University

    Hampton, VA



  • Idaho State University

    Pcatello, ID



What Are the Goals of a Nursing Degree?

Students can pursue a nursing degree at the associate, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral levels. At the doctoral level, nurses can enroll in a research-focused doctor of philosophy program or a more practice-oriented doctor of nursing practice program.

A broad professional arena, nursing students can specialize in areas such as emergency, cardiac, or critical care. They can also specialize in working with specific populations, such as infants or adults.

Why Get a Nursing Degree?

Nurses with a doctoral degree in nursing enjoy many benefits, several of which we outline below.

Fulfill Job Requirement
Some top-level positions in the healthcare field require candidates to hold a doctorate.
Expand Knowledge
Ph.D. in nursing programs give students advanced knowledge and skills, preparing them for top-level roles in the field.
Increase Salary
Doctoral-level nurses typically earn higher salaries than practitioners without a doctorate.
Career Security
The BLS reports that the unemployment rate for doctoral-trained professionals sits at only 1.1%.
Professional Credibility
A doctoral degree indicates that the holder possesses advanced expertise in the field, promoting professional credibility.

What Are the Requirements for a Nursing Degree?

Typical application requirements for a Ph.D. degree in nursing include a master’s in nursing (MSN), satisfactory completion of advanced statistics and research coursework, professional experience, and a current unencumbered RN license.

Once enrolled, most schools require doctoral nursing candidates to complete at least 90 credits. Thirty of these credits can come from an accredited MSN program. Programs may require students to culminate the degree with a dissertation on a topic of professional interest.

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Professional Organizations for Nursing Students

Nursing associations keep members informed about the latest developments and research findings that can inform and improve their practice. They also provide networking and collaboration opportunities through online discussion groups and regional and national conferences. The three professional organizations described below deliver these benefits and more to their members.

  • American Nurses Association ANA members gain access to professional development resources, a mentorship program, and a career center. The organization publishes several industry-recognized journals that keep members informed about the latest nursing research findings and regulatory changes at the state and national levels.
  • National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners NAPNAP members can access live online certification review courses at special members-only prices. The organization also offers continuing education opportunities and publishes journals, books, and newsletters containing the latest developments in pediatric nursing.
  • National Association of School Nurses NASN connects members through weekly news digests and regular email communications. Members also gain access to monthly and quarterly journals with industry-relevant news and developments.

Scholarships for Nursing Students

Colleges and universities offering graduate-level nursing degrees often maintain fellowship and grant programs for admitted students. Nursing students can also pursue funding from state and federal agencies, nonprofits, private companies, and professional associations. The following list outlines two scholarship opportunities for graduate nursing students.

  • March of Dimes Scholarships

    Who Can Apply: RNs enrolled in a master’s or doctoral program with a focus on maternal-child nursing can apply for this scholarship. Applicants must show proof of membership to a professional organization invested in the field of neonatal nursing.
    Amount: $5,000


  • Nursing Economic$ Foundation Scholarships

    Who Can Apply: Nurses pursuing an accredited master’s or doctoral program with an emphasis in nursing administration or management can apply for this funding opportunity. Applicants must demonstrate a commitment to a career in nursing administration, leadership, or education. Applicants must also hold a valid RN license and U.S. citizenship.
    Amount: $5,000


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