Earning a Ph.D. in Nursing Online

What You’ll Learn & What You Can Do After Graduation

Earning a Ph.D. in nursing online can advance your career or add value to your current position in healthcare. This degree prepares students to work in medical research. Graduates can pursue jobs as lead nurses, advanced practice registered nurses, researchers, and nurse educators at a college or university.

Choosing to advance your nursing career can bring about many education options. Earning a Ph.D. in nursing online provides an easy way for students to advance in their field without leaving their current occupation.

What Can You Do With a Ph.D. in Nursing?

Earning a Ph.D. in nursing online allows graduates to pursue higher paying positions as postsecondary teachers, deans of nursing programs, and advanced practice registered nurses. These positions cater to individuals who love leading, possess strong organizational skills, and can motivate others to perform well. Some graduates pursue positions as postsecondary teachers, while others prefer one-on-one patient interaction working as an advanced practice registered nurse.

Postsecondary Teacher

Median Annual Salary: $78,470
Expected Growth Rate: 15%

Dean of Nursing

Median Annual Salary: $114,831
Expected Growth Rate: N/A

Advanced Practice Registered Nurse

Median Annual Salary: $113,930
Expected Growth Rate: 31%

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics / PayScale

Salary by Experience Level

Postsecondary teachers can enjoy steady pay increases with experience. The longer professionals teach, the more knowledge and experience they obtain. The table below demonstrates the salary growth within the first 20 years of teaching at the postsecondary level.

  • Entry-Level (<1 Year):

  • Early-Career (1-4 Years):

  • Mid-Career (5-9 Years):

  • Experienced (10+ Years):

Source: PayScale

The Top-Paying Industries for Ph.D. in Nursing Graduates

Online Ph.D. nursing programs prepare students to work in varying industries. With this degree, graduates may work in hospital services, education services, or scientific research and development services.

Hospital Services

  • Employment: 6,049,990

  • Percent of Industry Employment: 0.6%

  • Annual Mean Wage: $65,930

Education Services

  • Employment: 13,149,990

  • Percent of Industry Employment: 0.4%

  • Annual Mean Wage: $56,710

Scientific Research and Development Services

  • Employment: 674,020

  • Percent of Industry Employment: 1.1%

  • Annual Mean Wage: $99,610

Traits of a Successful Ph.D. in Nursing Graduate

In order to succeed as a nursing Ph.D. student, online learners must demonstrate specific skills. Hard skills include knowing how to properly add up research results, while soft skills include abilities more difficult to quantify, such as active listening. Prospective students should familiarize themselves with the top three skills needed to succeed during Ph.D. in nursing studies.

Active Learning
This skill involves taking in new information, relating it to current information, and applying knowledge to problem solving and decision making. Active learning involves looking for ways to use knowledge outside the classroom.
Active Listening
Active listening involves giving full attention to a patient and pausing to understand before asking questions and responding.
Critical Thinking
In order to succeed in healthcare, nurses must use logic to determine the possible pros and cons that could result from any decisions made.

Certifications and Licenses a Ph.D. in Nursing Prepares For

  • Nurse Practitioner License: To become a nurse practitioner, learners must earn a bachelor's degree, become a registered nurse, and earn a graduate degree. After an individual meets all these requirements, he or she can take a licensing exam approved by the state they wish to practice in.
  • Certification in Nursing Education: Professionals who want to educate and inspire other nurses can earn a certification in nursing education. Before earning this certification, individuals should gain experience working as a registered nurse. A certification typically only takes one year to complete, and busy working professionals can even seek an online certificate option.
  • Clinical Research Certificate: A clinical research certificate can compliment a Ph.D. in nursing. Professionals who complete this certificate learn how to oversee complex medical research to advance the medical field.

Steps to Earning a Ph.D. in Nursing Online

Choosing a school to complete an online doctorate in nursing at requires thorough consideration and preparation. Although each school offers its own unique requirements for acceptance and completion, there are some commonalities in the process.

number one

Find the Right Program for You

Research the different online programs available and make a detailed pros and cons list. Some online programs still include in-person requirements, such as supervised exams. In addition, certain online programs progress in a synchronous format, meaning they require logging into a virtual classroom during set hours. Prospective students should also take into consideration the school's accreditation status.

number two


In order to apply for a Ph.D. in nursing, most schools require an online application, recommendation letters, an essay, and official transcripts from all previous institutions attended. Some schools also require test scores, such as the GMAT. Applicants should allow at least two to three days to complete the application and a month to receive official transcripts.

number three

Capstone, Dissertation, or Thesis

Most Ph.D. nursing programs online include either a capstone, dissertation, or thesis. Doctoral degrees typically require a dissertation that includes a lengthy paper and a rigorous exam, whereas master's programs typically require a thesis or capstone. A thesis is similar, but often shorter than a dissertation, while a capstone is more project and writing based. Many colleges require students to partner with professors who guide them through the process.

number four

Fellowship or Internship

Fellowships and internships remain similar in nature, but graduate and postgraduate students typically earn fellowships, while undergraduate students earn internships. Both internships and fellowships allow students to gain hands-on experience in a professional setting. Students can acquire paid or unpaid internships, but most fellowships are merit-based scholarships for research purposes. Internships help students develop job skills, while fellowships allow students to refine project-based research skills.

Curriculum for an Online Ph.D. in Nursing

  1. Theories of Science: Although requirements differ, most Ph.D. in nursing online programs include a theories of science course. This traditional foundations course teaches students about the central theoretical and philosophical issues in science. Learners also develop skills for evaluating scientific research and claims. Any nursing professional can benefit from this course.

  2. Health, Healthcare, Research, and Public Policy: In this class, students analyze theoretical and empirical approaches and learn how they relate to research and public policy. Students examine how medical advancements and studies can both help and hinder the community's overall health. This program best suits individuals who wish to actively engage in healthcare politics or research.

  3. Current Topics in Health Services Research: This class caters specifically to people who wish to conduct medical research. Learners discover which healthcare industry topics need more research. Students also learn how to apply scholarly, organizational, theoretical, and methodological resources to their research.

  4. Ethical and Legal Issues in Research: This class is a common component for doctorate degrees in nursing online. Conducting research about healthcare can change a person's life. Any individual who wishes to engage in medical research should educate themselves on the ethical and legal issues surrounding this practice.

  5. Conceptual Foundations for Clinical Research: Before research professionals can make a ground-breaking health discovery, they must first understand how to critically analyze theories, concepts, and research related to health. In this course, learners typically conduct a critical analysis of existing and emerging scientific knowledge in a chosen field.


Public Health
This concentration suits students who want to educate the local and global public on how to avoid preventable diseases.
Aging and Dementia Care
Individuals who wish to conduct research related to older populations can benefit from an aging and dementia care concentration.
Conducting research about children's health requires different knowledge than conducting research about adult health. This concentration benefits those specifically interested in pediatric research.

Take the next step towards your future with online learning.

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