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.

Characteristics of DNP versus PhD in Nursing
Characteristic Doctor of Nursing Practice PhD in Nursing
  • Nursing practice
  • Nursing research
Degree Objective
  • Prepare nurse leaders to improve patient care outcomes
  • Engage in advanced nursing practice
  • Provide leadership for innovations in health care, delivery and development of health policy
  • Prepare nurse scientists who will contribute to development of new knowledge, theory generations 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
  • Promote change in advanced clinical practice
  • Health promotion, health care quality improvement and evidence-based practice
  • Information systems and technology
  • Organization and system leadership
  • Communicate research findings to the scientific and social policy communities
  • Steward discipline
  • Integrate the components of scholarship: research, teaching, mentoring and services to profession
  • Educating the next generation contributing to the formal and informal education of future nurses through discovery, application and integration
Core Course Work
  • Teaching techniques
  • Scientific writing
  • Epidemiology
  • Evaluating research evidence
  • Applied informatics
  • Advanced clinical practice
  • Quantitative and qualitative research methodologies
  • Faculty development
  • Grant writing techniques
  • Evaluating and interpreting research evidence
  • Theory construction
  • Designing and testing interventions and innovations
Employment Opportunities
  • Advanced Nurse Practitioner
  • Clinical Nurse Faculty
  • Leadership positions in health care organizations
  • Leadership positions in industry and government agency policy
  • Academic faculty
  • Principal research investigator
  • Research scientist in health care organizations and policy maker