Ph.D./Doctoral Nursing Degree

There are two terminal, doctoral-level degrees in the field of nursing: the Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) and the Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Nursing. The DNP is a practice-oriented degree, whereas a Ph.D. in Nursing is a research-oriented degree.

There actually are other doctoral-level nursing degrees. However, these are currently being phased out and turned into either the Ph.D. in Nursing or the DNP. For example, the Doctor of Nursing (ND) degree, being more practice-oriented, is being converted into the DNP. The Doctor of Nursing Science (DNSc, DSN or DNS) degree, being more research-oriented, is being converted into the Ph.D. in Nursing.

Ph.D. in Nursing programs train nurses in the areas of scientific research and theory, which is used to improve our current understanding and application of nursing science. Students of Ph.D. in Nursing programs often go on to successful careers as nursing researchers and educators.

There are several key differences between DNP and Ph.D. in Nursing degrees. Their objectives differ. The objective of a DNP program is to train practicing nurses to apply and translate the most advanced nursing research into clinical practice. The objective of a Ph.D. program, on the other hand, is to train the nurses who conduct that research and lay the empirical and theoretical groundwork for the nursing industry.

The two programs impart different knowledge to their students, and develop different competencies. The DNP program, being practice-oriented, provides the skills necessary for administering treatments, disseminating new knowledge, and applying and implementing that new knowledge in real situations. The Ph.D. program provides training in methodological, theoretical, and analytical methods necessary for scientific research.

DNP graduates go on to become advanced practice nurses (APNs) or into practice leadership positions such as healthcare management or administration. Ph.D. graduates go on to careers in research-intensive environments, academia, or testing facilities.

As a final project, DNP students are required to complete a practice-oriented capstone project, whereas Ph.D. students are required to complete and defend an original research project.

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