From registered nurses to nurse practitioners to nurse educators, the need for nursing professionals of all stripes is surging in America today. Experienced nurses who want to soar to the top of their profession and work in nursing academia, research and/or leadership may consider obtaining their Ph.D. in nursing.
What Is a Ph.D. in Nursing?
A Ph.D. in nursing is the highest possible degree that can be earned in the field. It is recognized primarily as preparing the highly experienced nurse for a career in teaching, research and leadership. It is understood that if you want to teaching nursing at the university level, a Ph.D. in nursing is required.
This degree may be appropriate for nurses with several or many years of clinical experience who want to influence healthcare policy and practice, as well as teach and conduct research. This work can be incredibly important to improve patient care.
For example, it was doctoral level nursing researchers who learned that a 10% increase in nurses with a BSN leads to a 5% decrease in patient mortality after medical procedures and surgeries. This discovery has led healthcare facilities and hospitals to require its nurses to earn their BSN within several years of being hired with a lesser degree.
According to nursing professionals who have earned this elite degree, a Ph.D. program can connect nursing research to clinical practice in a meaningful way. This type of advanced education in nursing will provide you with insights that you can share with nursing students in your teaching.
Achieving a Ph.D. in nursing will provide you with a strong base of knowledge to understand how nurses can pinpoint clinical questions in their daily work, and make important contributions to improve patient outcomes and nursing practice.
Your curriculum will vary tremendously based upon the school you choose. However, below is the current Ph.D. in nursing curriculum at Johns Hopkins University:
- Philosophical Perspectives in Health
- Scientific Perspectives in Nursing
- Quantitative Research Design and Methods
- Qualitative Research Design and Methods
- Mixed Methods Research Design
- Grant Writing Seminar
- Measurement in Health Care Research
- Responsibilities and Activities of the Nurse Scientist Statistical Methods in Public Health I
- Statistical Methods in Public Health II
- Statistical Methods in Public Health III
Salary Outlook for Ph.D. in Nursing
Bureau of Labor Statistics
The Bureau of Labor Statistics or BLS reports that the median salary for all advanced nursing practice professionals (which includes nurse educators), was $107,460 as of May 2016. The top 10% earned more than $175,000 per year. That number would likely include highly experienced nurses with their DNP or Ph.D.
BLS also states that the mean annual wage for nursing instructors and teachers is $75,030. Those professionals who work at colleges, universities and professional schools earn a mean annual wage of $76,480.
States with the highest mean annual wages for nurse educators and instructors are New York, with a wage of $91,700, and California, with a wage of $105,000.
This website states that the median salary for nurse educators across the US is $72,020 per year.
Indeed.com states that the average salary for clinical nurse educators is $97,756 per year.
Career Outlook for Ph.D. in Nursing
The career outlook for nurses with a Ph.D. is excellent. There is strong growth in the need for nurses at all levels, from regular clinical nurses to nurse practitioners to nurse educators.
This growth is being caused by an overall increase in demand for healthcare services across the US. As more people are being covered by health insurance with the recent federal healthcare reform, there are more patients seeking various medical services.
The US population also is aging and living longer than ever, and they want more medical services to prolong their lives and to live more comfortably.
As a result, demand for all nurses and nurse educators is on the upswing. BLS indicates that demand for all advanced nursing practice nurses will soar by 31% by 2024. This is much faster than average when compared to other professions.
All of those new nurses need nurse educators and professors to teach them. But, according to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, there is a serious shortage of nurse educators. More than 64,000 nursing students had to be turned away from US colleges of nursing because of a lack of professors to teach them.
All of the above factors provide a strong career opportunity for nurses with their Ph.D. The most common career paths for these nurses include the following:
Nursing Faculty Member
With your Ph.D., you can educate nursing students in associate’s, bachelor’s, master’s or doctoral programs as a professor of nursing. Nursing faculty professionals are typically responsible for creating, implementing and evaluating curricula for nursing programs and providing mentorship to young nurses. In addition to teaching, these professionals will usually perform research on advanced nursing topics. This research is then discussed in nursing scholarly journals and at nursing conferences.
Nursing Research Director
As a director of nursing research, you would serve as an administrator of the nursing research department of a healthcare facility. The director may be in charge of supervision of other nursing research professionals. Or, he or she may handle the oversight of all nursing research projects that are done in the healthcare facility.
The nursing research director usually is the point of contact in the healthcare facility for questions pertaining to the design of a clinical study. You may or may not be responsible for disseminating the findings of the nursing research you conduct and oversee.
Clinical Services Director
A clinical services director is responsible for oversight of daily operations of patient care for various departments in a healthcare facility. He or she is the primary liaison between executive management and the managers of the various departments. The director is not typically involved in the care of patients. But he or she is well aware of the work flow for each clinical department that is involved in patient care.
The director may be responsible for generating or receiving reports that assess the efficiency of each department. That data then is shared with the manager of each department, with the end goal of increasing patient satisfaction and efficiency.
Advanced Practice Nurse
It is true that the Ph.D. in nursing is primarily an academic and research degree. Most nurses who become nurse practitioners, nurse midwives and nurse anesthetists earn their Master of Science in Nursing (MSN), or increasingly, their Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP).
Still, some nurses with their Ph.D. work as advanced nursing practice professionals, and may even open their own private practice. The management and administrative skills learned in a Ph.D. program are very useful for private practice nursing professionals.
Experienced nurses who want to reach the top of their profession, earn a great salary, and influence nursing practice and policy are well served by getting their Ph.D. in nursing. Earning this elite degree also affords many opportunities to teach and mentor future nurses, which allows you to greatly increase your impact upon the future of healthcare and patient outcomes.
- Types of Nursing Degrees
- DNP Degree Salary + Best Jobs After
- Why Get a Masters in Nursing Degree?
- MSN Degree Options
- MSN Nurse Practitioner Degree No GRE
- Online Doctorate PhD Programs without GRE
- Ph.D. in Nursing Explained. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://nursinglink.monster.com/education/articles/189-phd-in-nursing-explained
- Nurse Anesthetists, Nurse Midwives, and Nurse Practitioners. (2015, Dec. 17). Retrieved from https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/nurse-anesthetists-nurse-midwives-and-nurse-practitioners.htm
- What Do You Do With a Ph.D. in Nursing? (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.reflectionsonnursingleadership.org/features/more-features/Vol38_4_what-do-you-do-with-a-phd-in-nursing
- Johns Hopkins University. Ph.D. in Nursing Curriculum. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://nursing.jhu.edu/academics/programs/doctoral/phd/index.html
- American Association of Colleges of Nursing. Nursing Shortage. (2016). Retrieved from http://www.aacn.nche.edu/media-relations/fact-sheets/nursing-shortage