Best Online Ph.D. Degrees in Nursing

Earning a Ph.D. in nursing can lead to new and exciting career opportunities. Here, we list the best online nursing programs.

January 27, 2022 , Modified on March 24, 2022

Reviewed by ACO Rankings Team
Best Online Ph.D. Degrees in Nursing is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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Nursing Doctorate Programs

Online Ph.D. degrees in nursing focus heavily on nursing research. Enrollees take advanced classes in research design and methods. They may also take classes in grant writing, statistical methods, and nurse scientist leadership. Degree-seekers complete a dissertation.

Applicants to nursing Ph.D. programs need nursing experience and a registered nurse (RN) license. Some Ph.D. programs only consider applicants with an accredited nursing master's degree and a 3.0 GPA. Prospective students typically submit writing samples, a statement of research goals, and recommendation letters.

Online Ph.D. degrees in nursing support advanced careers that shape the nursing field. Nursing Ph.D. graduates may work in nursing research, education, or policy.

This page lists the most affordable online nursing degrees. Read on to learn about Ph.D. curriculum and how to become a nurse.

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Questions About Nursing Degrees

Q. What can I do with a Ph.D. in nursing?

This terminal degree prepares graduates for careers as researchers, nurse educators, and policy experts.

Q. How long does it take to get a Ph.D. in nursing?

Students can complete an online Ph.D. program in nursing in 5-7 years. The timing depends on learners' prior coursework and how quickly they complete their dissertation.

Q. What's the difference between a Ph.D. in nursing and a doctor of nursing practice (DNP)?

DNP programs include clinical experience. These programs prepare learners for clinical careers. A Ph.D. in nursing usually appeals to aspiring researchers or teachers. These programs focus on research rather than clinical work.

Why Get a Ph.D. in Nursing?

Ph.D. enrollees study the science that shapes nursing theory and practice. Pursuing an online Ph.D. degree in nursing lets RNs move from clinical careers to research and teaching careers. Ph.D. in nursing graduates earn an average of $67,000 annually, according to Jan. 2021 Payscale data.

Online nursing programs provide flexibility. Working nurses can often earn a Ph.D. while continuing their career. An online format lets degree-seekers attend the most affordable program without relocating.

How Much Does a Nursing Degree Cost?

A Ph.D. costs an average of $98,800, according to However, costs vary by school, learners' residency status, and financial aid offerings. Public, in-state schools usually charge less than out-of-state and private universities.

Some Ph.D. students receive at least partial funding in exchange for teaching or research duties. Many degree-seekers must still take out loans to supplement this income and cover their living expenses.

Online Ph.D. programs sometimes cost less per credit. However, these programs may not offer graduate assistantships. View our nursing programs page to learn more about online Ph.D. in nursing degree costs.

Additional Online Student Fees

Online degree-seekers save money on commuting and campus housing. However, they should budget for supplies, books, and university fees. Some schools charge graduation and technology fees. Online learners may need to travel to campus. Students should budget for commuting, lodging, and time off work.

Learners pursuing a nursing degree online may need to buy a new computer or upgrade their internet. Nursing graduates should also budget for costs for professional exams and licenses.

How Much Do Nursing Majors Make?

Many factors influence salary, including nurses' employer and geographic location. Licensed practical and vocational nurses need a nursing diploma or associate degree. These professionals earn a median annual salary of $48,820, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). RNs need a bachelor's degree and earn an annual median salary of $75,330.

Nurse educators earn a median annual salary of $75,470, according to the BLS. Ph.D. in nursing graduates may qualify for high-paying work as researchers or administrators. Some nurses get promoted to medical and health services management roles. These professionals earn a median $104,280 annually.

Courses in a Ph.D. Nursing Program

Ph.D. in nursing programs usually require 45-70 credits. Programs feature core courses in nursing science and research methods. Degree-seekers must complete a dissertation that shows advanced skills in analysis, critical thinking, and writing.

Nursing Ph.D. programs may feature specializations or tracks. Students who focus on nursing education may take classes on evidence-based teaching and nursing curriculum design. Learners who choose a research track may learn about interdisciplinary research methods and healthcare intervention research methods.

See below for three common classes in online Ph.D. in nursing programs. Keep in mind that classes vary by program.

How to Become a Nurse

Most nurses care for patients in healthcare facilities or patients' homes. Tasks vary widely by field, position, and facility. Nurses often provide direct care, gather patient information, and give medical instructions.

Nurses need licenses to practice. Licensure requires passing a professional exam. Nursing candidates first complete an accredited nursing preparation program. These programs focus on fundamentals of microbiology, physiology, and anatomy. Candidates also complete social and behavioral science and nursing courses. Aspiring nurses complete clinical experience.

Nurses can begin their careers by earning a nursing diploma or an associate of science degree in nursing, an associate degree in nursing (ADN), or a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN). Nurses seeking research, administrative, or teaching careers often pursue advanced degrees such as a master of science in nursing, DNP, or Ph.D. in nursing.

Licensure for Nursing

Practicing nurses need a license such as an RN. Each state's nursing board establishes nursing licensure requirements. All candidates must complete a state-approved nursing preparation program to qualify for professional examination. Many states accept ADN graduates. Some states require a BSN for licensure.

The National Council of State Boards of Nursing creates the National Council Licensure Examination, which nursing candidates must pass to become licensed. To qualify for examination, aspiring nurses need around 400 clinical experience hours. Most board-approved nursing preparation programs include clinical experience hours that meet licensure requirements. Experience requirements vary by state.

Nursing licensure may range from $100-$400, depending on the state. These costs usually include fingerprinting and background check fees. Nurses must complete around 30 hours of continuing education every two years to renew their licenses. Licensure renewal costs around $100 in many states.

Best Online Ph.D. Degrees in Nursing

  • 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


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