25 Best BSN to Ph.D. In Nursing Programs (Online & Campus) For 2024

Written By: Darby Faubion BSN, RN

Are you a registered nurse who has achieved your BSN and is interested in pursuing a research-based career in nursing? If so, you could be an excellent candidate for one of the BSN to Ph.D. nursing programs that many colleges and universities offer. A Ph.D. in nursing is one of two terminal nursing degrees that nurses can pursue. While some nursing degrees focus primarily on clinical care, the Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in nursing is a research-focused degree. In this article, I will share information about some of the best BSN to Ph.D. in nursing programs for 2024, tell you what it takes to become a Ph.D. in nursing and answer some frequently asked questions about the degree program.

What Exactly Is the Goal of A BSN to Ph.D. In Nursing Program?

BSN to Ph.D. nursing programs prepare registered nurses with a Bachelor of Science degree in nursing (BSN) for an advanced research-focused nursing career. The overall goal of BSN to Doctor of Philosophy in Nursing programs is to equip nurses with the knowledge and experience needed to pursue various roles as nurse scientists and researchers in the nursing and healthcare industry.

7 Top Reasons to Pursue BSN to Ph.D. In Nursing Programs

Deciding whether to engage in a new education program and pursue a higher degree of learning can be a significant step for anyone. BSN to Ph.D. in nursing online programs, on-campus programs, or hybrid programs, are no exception. If you are considering going from a BSN to Ph.D. in nursing, you need to have a clear vision of what you want to achieve and why. Below are 7 of the top reasons registered nurses may feel that pursuing a BSN to Ph.D. in nursing could be a great career move.


Independent Practice:

According to the American Association of Nurse Practitioners, twenty states in the United States and the District of Columbia allow Ph.D. nurses to practice without direct collaboration with a licensed physician.

You can help resolve the shortage of nursing instructors.

In 2019, the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) reported a lack of nurse educators nationwide. A special survey released by the AACN revealed over 1,600 vacant nursing faculty positions. With a Ph.D. in nursing, you can become a part of the nursing faculty at colleges and universities, preventing enrollment delays in nursing programs due to staff shortages.

Influence Changes in Healthcare Practices and Policies:

Nurse researchers, many of whom are PhD-level registered nurses, are great contributors to the scientific data used to help improve the healthcare practices in hospitals and other healthcare facilities. They are often used to give insight and perspective to lawmakers regarding policy changes that affect nursing and the healthcare industry, which means Ph.D. nurses are often responsible for the advancement of the nursing industry.

Opportunities to Move to an Administrative Role:

Although a Ph.D. in nursing is usually associated with being a research role, many Ph.D.-prepared nurses step into administrative roles. Because a Ph.D. in nursing is a terminal nursing degree, the curriculum generally includes leadership and management courses, which could help secure employment in a management or administrative capacity.

Increase your income.

A Ph.D. in nursing is one of the two highest levels of nursing degrees that nurses can achieve. With increased knowledge and a degree to back it up, you could increase your earning potential significantly.

Job Security:

In addition to the shortage of nursing instructors, the demand for advanced practice nurses in research roles far exceeds the number of nurses who presently occupy those roles. Ph.D.-level nurses are trained to use critical thinking and analysis skills and to implement effective written and verbal communication skills, which makes them an asset in any employment position they take on.

Have a sense of personal accomplishment and satisfaction.

A Ph.D. in nursing is one of two terminal nursing degrees. Earning this credential is proof that you are dedicated to your role as a nurse, healthcare and patient advocate and will give you a sense of personal accomplishment.

How Long Are BSN to Ph.D. Nursing Programs?

BSN to Ph.D. in nursing programs can take a student from three to six years or more to complete. Some factors that may determine the length of time it will take a student to complete the program include the choice of part-time or full-time enrollment and the type of program delivery. For example, some universities offer classes on-campus only. Other colleges and universities may offer hybrid or online courses, as well. For example, the University of Missouri-Columbia and Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis provide the option of BSN to Ph.D. in nursing online programs. The University of Tennessee in Knoxville offers hybrid classes.

Students enrolled in the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s BSN to Ph.D. program can complete the program in as little as three years. At the end of each academic year, students are assigned a year-end milestone. The third year of the program ends with completing a final assignment, the student's dissertation defense. Students enrolled in New York's Columbia University can complete the program in three to four years, depending on their choice of part-time or full-time enrollment.

Although this article is written with a specific focus on BSN to Ph.D. in nursing programs, it is worth mentioning that one of the best schools we found, Indiana University- Purdue University Indianapolis, offers both MSN to Ph.D. and BSN to Ph.D. in nursing online programs. Students enrolled in these programs can expect to graduate in three to four years of full-time study or four to six years of part-time study.

How Much Do BSN to Ph.D. Nursing Programs Cost?

Pursuing a terminal degree such as a Doctor of Philosophy in Nursing can cost a student anywhere from $30,000 to well over $100,000 in tuition and program-associated fees. If you are considering achieving this degree, you will undoubtedly want to find one of the best BSN to Ph.D. in nursing programs available. A few things to remember include the following.

1. Just because a college costs more does not mean it is better than a less expensive one.
2. There are opportunities for tuition assistance for students who enroll in BSN to Ph.D. in nursing online programs, hybrid programs, and on-campus programs.

Below are some examples of what it may cost you to earn a Ph.D. in nursing at some of the best BSN to Ph.D. nursing programs available.

• At the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, in-state tuition costs $700 per credit hour and $775 per credit hour for out-of-state students. With eighty-three credit hours required, BSN to Ph.D. students can expect to pay from $58,000 to $65,000 in tuition.
Florida Atlantic University’s website offers an estimated tuition breakdown by credit hour. Florida residents pay $369.82 per credit hour, while out-of-state students pay $1,024.81 per credit hour. The university offers four pathways of study for BSN to Ph.D. students. Each average eighty-four required credit hours for completion of the program, which means FAU students enrolled in this program pay from $31,000 to over $86,000 in tuition.
Barry University in Miami Shores, Florida, has a tuition rate of $1,125.00 and requires students to complete 62 credit hours totaling $69,750 for program tuition.


At Duke University, Ph.D. in Nursing students must complete a minimum of 48 credit hours before the dissertation. The coursework includes 36 credits in core nursing science and research methods. Core classes include Philosophy of Science and Theory development, Overview of Chronic Illness and Care Systems, Statistics, Qualitative Research Methodology, and Leadership in Science. The remaining twelve credits include elected statistics and research methods and one semester each of research practicum and teaching practicum.

The University of Pittsburgh was one of the first universities in the U.S. to offer a Doctor of Philosophy program for nursing. The program continues to be ranked among the best BSN to Ph.D. nursing programs in the country. The BSN to Ph.D. track requires students to complete at least seventy-two credits. There are twenty-two research core credits, including Philosophical Underpinnings of Nursing Research, Research Design and Methods, Intervention Development, and Responsibilities and Activities of Scientists. Additionally, students must complete nine credits in Statistics Core and forty-one personalized scientific inquiry, including a Ph.D. dissertation and apprenticeship practicum.

The University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences offers two BSN to Ph.D. in nursing paths. Prospective BSN to Ph.D. students must select a Nursing Science or Administration specialty at master's level and complete the required credit hours.

• Students who choose the Nursing Science pathway will complete courses including Advanced Physiology and Pathophysiology, Changing Health Behavior: Theory and Research, Human Genetics, Qualitative and Quantitative Methodology, and Culture of Health.
• On the other hand, those who choose the Administration pathway must complete coursework including Organizational Behavior, Research Methodology, Quantitative Epidemiology, Preliminary Studies, Grant Development, and Leadership in Healthcare Systems.

Clinical Training

Unlike other nursing programs, students enrolled in BSN to Ph.D. nursing programs are not required to participate in hands-on patient care for clinical training. Individuals who complete a Doctor of Philosophy in Nursing degree program typically conduct their work outside traditional clinical settings. Instead of the clinical practice that nurses in other programs may be required to complete, Ph.D. in nursing students typically take several courses on research methods and dissertation preparation. These courses help guide the student through the process of writing the dissertation. To complete a Ph.D. in nursing track, students must defend their dissertation before their assigned dissertation committee. The dissertation defense involves answering questions about their findings and research and, if necessary, making changes related to the committee's feedback.

Admission Requirements

Colleges and universities may require applicants of BSN to Ph.D. in nursing programs to meet admission requirements that vary from one school to another. There are, however, some admission criteria that are commonly required of any applicant to a doctorate program. For example, most schools that offer BSN to Ph.D. in nursing programs require the following minimum admission criteria.

• Possess a current, unencumbered license to practice as a registered nurse with a BSN-level degree from a regionally accredited college or university
• Two or three letters of professional reference from doctorate-prepared nursing work supervisors or nursing school faculty
• Curriculum vitae or resume’
• Official transcripts from all post-secondary educational institutions attended

Prospective students applying to The Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing at Emory University must submit a personal statement that provides an in-depth description of the applicant's vision and thoughts regarding what they want to study and with whom they wish to study. The personal statement should include why the applicant feels the BSN to Ph.D. program at Emory is the best choice for them. Applicants must also demonstrate research interests that match the faculty's experience, World Education Services report, and satisfactory TOEFL scores, if applicable.

The University of Florida College of Nursing requires applicants to its BSN to Ph.D. in nursing program to have a BSN grade point average of 3.5 or higher on a 4.0 scale from a nursing program that the ACEN or CCNE has accredited. Further, GRE scores of at least 160 in the verbal section of the test and 148 in the quantitative section are required. Prospective students should possess licensure to practice as an R.N. in Florida or have proof of eligibility for licensure in the state.

Hahn School of Nursing and Health Science at the University of San Diego applicants must show proof of completion of an introductory statistics course, a minimum GPA of 3.0 on a 4.0 scale from an approved and accredited BSN program, an example of scholarly writing such as a thesis, paper, or article and an interview with admissions faculty.

7 Things To Consider When Applying For Top BSN To Ph.D. In Nursing Programs

If you want to reach a higher level in your nursing career and plan to pursue a BSN to Ph.D. in nursing, there are several things to think about to make sure you are ready and stay focused on your goal. A few things to consider when applying for top BSN to Ph.D. in nursing programs include, but are not limited to, the following.

1. Do you have a good support system?

The best BSN to Ph.D. in nursing programs can be rigorous. It is a lengthy process that takes dedication and a great deal of time to accomplish. If you have a home and family and/or plan to continue working your current job, do you know how you will juggle all your responsibilities and still contribute the necessary time to the demands of your education? Simple things like meal-prepping or paying someone to help with your laundry and household chores could free up your time so you can be devoted to studies.

2. How do you plan to pay for your Ph.D.?

As previously mentioned, graduate school can be quite expensive. However, there are resources available that may help relieve the stress of financing your degree. You can apply for personal loans, federally backed student loans, grants, or employer-sponsored education incentives are a few ways to help fund your degree.

3. What learning environment do you prefer?

Among the best BSN to Ph.D. in nursing programs, you will find that you have the option to choose from different learning environments, depending on what suits your learning style. If you are the type of learner who likes close interaction with instructors and peers, choosing a program that offers on-campus or hybrid courses would probably be the best option for you. On the other hand, if you are more of an independent learner and like the idea of having the freedom to choose when and where you will study and work on assignments, a school that offers online courses could be a great option.

4. Even online learners need to have access to instructors or advisors from time to time.

If you are considering an online BSN to Ph.D. program, be sure to discuss with admissions advisors how communication between faculty and students is facilitated. Although you may not need daily or even weekly contact, you need to know that someone will be available in a timely manner if you do need help.

5. Is the program accredited?

One of the most important things to verify when choosing a nursing program (of any level) is whether the program is accredited or not. Accreditation helps to ensure that nursing schools and programs are held to the same standards of high-quality. When a nursing program is accredited, it means students are equally well-prepared for their careers, and patients can expect to get the same level of quality care no matter where they are. Faculty qualifications and course content must meet the accrediting agency's strict guidelines, which means you will be provided with the essential tools to be successful in your career.

6. Who will you use as professional references for your application process?

Choosing professional references who have already been through a graduate nursing program is a smart move. Graduate-level nurses know what it takes to be successful in the program, and they can tell whether they think you will be successful in a BSN to Ph.D. program. Be sure that the people writing your letters of reference include their credentials, what type of clinical experience they have, how they know you, and why they think you will be a good candidate for the program.

7. You can apply to more than one school (and you should).

Doctorate programs require hard work and dedication. Therefore, the process of being admitted to programs such as the BSN to Ph.D. in nursing programs is quite selective. Because admission is not always guaranteed at the school of your first choice, prospective students should research different schools and submit applications to more than one. Although you may have a top preference regarding which school you want to attend, you may be offered acceptance into another school's program at an earlier time. If this happens, it is up to you whether you want to accept an invitation to enroll or want to wait for another school to accept you. At least by applying to multiple schools, you will open yourself up for more options.


1. Duke University - Durham, NC

2. The University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill - Chapel Hill, NC

3. Emory University - Atlanta, GA

4. University of Pittsburgh - Pittsburgh, PA

5. University of Florida - Gainesville, FL

6. Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis - Indianapolis, IN (Online)

7. University of San Diego - San Diego, CA

8. University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences - Little Rock, AR

9. Columbia University - New York, NY

10. University of Virginia - Charlottesville, VA

11. University of Tennessee-Knoxville - Knoxville, TN (Hybrid)

12. University of Missouri-Columbia - Columbia, MO (Online)

13. Florida International University - Miami, FL

14. Florida Atlantic University - Boca Raton, FL

15. University of Texas Medical Branch - Galveston, TX

16. Barry University - Miami Shores, FL

17. Johns Hopkins University - Baltimore, MD

18. University of Illinois at Chicago - Chicago, IL

19. The Ohio State University - Columbus, OH

20. Rush University - Chicago, IL (Online)

21. Case Western Reserve University - Cleveland, OH

22. University of Michigan - Ann Arbor, MI

23. Rutgers University-Newark - Newark, NJ

24. University of Iowa - Iowa City, IA

25. University of Maryland - Baltimore, MD (Hybrid)


Career Opportunities

After completing your education from any one of accredited BSN to Ph.D. nursing programs, career opportunities can seem limitless. A few examples of possible jobs someone with a Ph.D. in nursing might find include the following.

Medical Scientist:

Medical scientists research and conduct experiments. They observe data and statistics used to create research papers or reports used to develop programs that promote and improve the nursing profession.

Nursing Instructor:

As a member of a college or university's nursing faculty, you will educate new generations of nurses. Some PhD-level nurses may be employed in community colleges and teach in practical nursing programs. However, most PhD-educated nurses who teach nursing are employed as university professors. A Ph.D. in nursing prepares a nurse to investigate the theory of nursing and to work in both academia and research fields, making them a perfect candidate for this employment position.

Health Services Administrator:

Earning a Ph.D. in nursing can open the door for opportunities in leadership positions within the healthcare industry, especially nursing facilities. While they can delegate specific jobs to some qualified personnel, Health Services Administrators are responsible for ensuring departments and/or facilities are running smoothly. This means ensuring enough staff is available to care for patients if working in a clinical setting, creating employee work schedules, and completing reviews.

Other jobs that PhD-prepared nurses may choose to pursue include working with

• Pharmaceutical companies
• Healthcare-related publishing companies (such as writing content for nursing textbooks or research papers)
• Healthcare information technology corporations
• Healthcare advocacy organizations

Average Salary

The career path that a Ph.D. nurse pursues has the most significant influence on the salary that he or she may be offered. The average annual wage of a PhD-prepared nurse is $97,259, approximately $48 per hour. In addition to the career path a Ph.D. nurse chooses, the geographical location of work and cost of living may impact the salary. Naturally, the more experience a person has in their chosen field, the higher pay they can expect to negotiate.

Hourly $46.76
Monthly $8,100
Annual $97,259
(Source: payscale.com)

Job Outlook

Doctorally-prepared nurses such as graduates of some of the well-known BSN to Ph.D. nursing programs seem to be poised for a positive employment outlook. One of the most critical issues related to nursing today is the shortage of nurse educators. Nurses who graduate with a Doctor of Philosophy in Nursing can fill the gap in the lack of nursing faculty that has forced many nursing schools to turn away qualified applicants. Further, because a Ph.D. in Nursing is research-focused, graduates of this program can play a crucial role in improving patient care and outcomes by conducting research and providing supporting evidence to enhance healthcare services as a whole.


Choosing a BSN to Ph.D. in nursing program that is right for you can feel a bit challenging, especially when there are so many schools and programs available for your choosing. In this article, we have shared some of the best BSN to Ph.D. in nursing programs for 2024 to give you an idea of what to expect from admission criteria, curriculum, and long-term employment opportunities. Take your time and research what is best for you and your personal goals and needs before choosing a program. When you have found one or more schools that you think would be a good match for you, it's time to start applying and working toward your goal. Remember, with a Ph.D. in nursing, the sky is the limit!!


What is the difference between BSN to DNP and BSN to Ph.D. in nursing programs?

Both Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) and Doctor of Philosophy in Nursing (Ph.D. in Nursing) programs are terminal nursing degrees. What this means is, there are no higher degree levels in nursing you can pursue. A BSN to DNP program prepares registered nurses at the baccalaureate-level to seek a doctorate in nursing that focuses on clinical practice and hands-on patient care. On the other hand, BSN to Ph.D. in nursing programs educate and equip BSN-prepared nurses for research-related nursing roles.

Can I continue to work while I am enrolled in a BSN to Ph.D. nursing program?

While it is not impossible to continue working while enrolled in a BSN to Ph.D. nursing program, it is a good idea to look at your options for program length and how much time you need to work to remain financially stable throughout the program. For example, the shorter the program or if you plan to enroll as a full-time student, the more time you will need to dedicate to studies. Therefore, maintaining full-time employment could be more difficult. Therefore, if you enroll in a 3-year program but need to continue working, you may want to consider part-time employment. A 4-year program may be a little more flexible, allowing you to devote some extra time to work as well as school and personal obligations.

Do all BSN to Ph.D. in nursing programs require GRE scores?

Not all nursing programs require students to submit GRE scores. However, because doctorate programs are selective when choosing applicants, if you have taken the GRE and scored well, it may benefit you to submit the scores along with your program application.

Are students who enroll in online BSN to Ph.D. in nursing programs ever required to go to the school's campus?

Although all schools do not, some colleges and universities require online students to attend seminars or other engagements conducted on-campus. If the school requires this of students, notification is customarily given well in advance so that students can prepare for attendance.

Darby Faubion BSN, RN
Darby Faubion is a nurse and Allied Health educator with over twenty years' experience. She has assisted in developing curriculum for nursing programs and has instructed students at both community college and university levels.