What Can I Do with a PhD Degree in Nursing?

There are three doctorate degrees available for nurses: the Doctor of Nursing Science (DSN), the Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) or the Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Nursing. Graduates of Ph.D. degree programs generally teach nursing to advanced practice nurses at the master's or doctoral degree level. They also perform research meant to further the field of nursing. Learn more about these nursing career options here. Schools offering Nursing degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

About Nursing Ph.D. Degree Programs

A nursing Ph.D. program normally takes between three and five years to complete. Doctoral students perform original research, usually with the guidance of faculty members, and then write dissertations. Therefore, when choosing a Ph.D. degree program, make sure the research being done by the faculty suits your interests. Following is a discussion of potential career paths you can pursue after earning a doctoral degree in nursing.

Important Facts About Career Options for Nursing Ph.D. Careers

Nursing Professor Medical Scientist Medical and Health Services Manager
Median Salary (2018) $73,490 $84,810 $99,730
Job Outlook (2016-2026) 24% growth 13% growth 20% growth
Work Environment Colleges, universities, and professional schools; junior colleges; technical and trade schools Research and development in the physical, engineering, and life sciences; colleges, universities, and professional schools; hospitals Hospitals; nursing and residential care facilities; offices of physicians
Similar Occupations Career and technical education teachers; postsecondary education administrators; chemists and materials scientists Biochemists and biophysicists; microbiologists; physicians and surgeons Human resources managers; insurance underwriters; social and community service managers

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics


Colleges and universities prefer that their faculty hold doctoral degrees. This is particularly important if you want to train advanced practice nurses, because those entering the field now must have master's degrees and in the future new nurse practitioners may be required to hold doctorate degrees. Professors should have at least as high a degree as the one their students are seeking.

Conduct Research

Does providing support and education to reduce family members' anxiety improve outcomes for surgery patients? What factors contribute to 'burnout' for nurses? How do primary-care outcomes differ between the patients of physicians vs. the patients of advanced registered nurse practitioners? Ph.D.-level nurses design and perform studies to answer questions like these.

Advise on Policy

As think-tank members and article writers, nurses who hold doctoral degrees inform and influence healthcare policy decisions. They might be employed by international organizations to guide health intervention policy in developing nations, or they could provide information for politicians as a result of their work for special interest groups. Through their affiliations with insurance companies, they might determine coverage for various services.

Direct Large Healthcare Institutions or Divisions

A nurse who holds a Ph.D. might serve as the chief executive of visiting nursing agencies that have hundreds of nurses on staff. She or he might head nursing departments in large city hospitals, or they might help businesses or agencies resolve complex healthcare delivery issues through their work for consulting firms.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

  • 1. Degree Options:
The schools in the listing below are not free and may include sponsored content but are popular choices among our users. Tuition and costs will vary across programs and locations. Be sure to always request tuition information before starting a program.

Popular Schools

  • Purdue University Global

    Purdue University Global responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at Purdue University Global:

    • Doctoral

    Online Programs Available

  • Regent University

    Regent University responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at Regent University:

    • Doctoral

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  • Grand Canyon University

    Grand Canyon University responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at Grand Canyon University:

    • Doctoral

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  • Capella University

    Capella University responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at Capella University:

    • Doctoral

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  • Northcentral University

    Northcentral University responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at Northcentral University:

    • Doctoral

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  • Michigan State University

    Campus Locations:

    • Michigan: East Lansing
  • The University of Tennessee

    Campus Locations:

    • Tennessee: Knoxville
  • University of Florida

    Campus Locations:

    • Florida: Gainesville
  • University of Connecticut

    Campus Locations:

    • Connecticut: Storrs