DNP or PhD?

Which path is right for you?

Featured Article | March 29, 2015 | By Donna Tyrpak (MS '99) 


Choosing a program for doctoral education in nursing is an important step in advancing your education. The Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) and Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Nursing are complementary advanced nursing doctorates that culminate in a path to advancing nursing practice and science.

While both programs share foundational components in teaching, practice and research, it is important to understand the distinct differences in doctoral preparation between the PhD and DNP degree programs in order to make an informed decision in choosing the degree path that is right for you.

Description Doctor of Nursing Practice PhD in Nursing
Degree objectives

Prepare nurse leaders at the highest level of nursing practice to improve patient care outcomes and translate research into practice. Engage in advanced nursing practice, provide leadership for innovations in health care and health care delivery and development of health policy.

Prepare nurse scientists who will contribute to development of new knowledge, theory generation and hypothesis testing to advance the science and theoretical foundation of nursing. Dissemination of research discoveries by nurse scientists develops the evidence base that improves health care and guides health policy.
Curriculum focus

Develop new knowledge to promote change in advanced clinical practice:

  • Health promotion, health care quality improvement and evidence-based practice
  • Health care policy and advocacy
  • Information systems and technology
  • Organizational and systems leadership


Develop the science:

  • Communicate research findings to the scientific and social policy communities
  • Steward the discipline
  • Integrate the components of scholarship: research, teaching, mentoring and service to the profession
  • Educate the next generation by contributing to the formal and informal education of future nurses through discovery, application and integration
Core coursework Teaching techniques, scientific writing, epidemiology, evaluating research evidence, applied informatics and advanced clinical practice Grant writing techniques, evaluating and interpreting research evidence, theory construction, designing and testing interventions and innovations, quantitative and qualitative research methodologies, and faculty development
Employment opportunities A DNP is for those who wish to pursue a career in advanced nurse practitioner practice, clinical nurse faculty, leadership positions in health care organizations, and positions in industry and government agency policy. A PhD in nursing is for those who wish to pursue a career as academic faculty, principal research investigator, research scientist in health care organizations and policy maker.


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