7 Best Dual DNP-Ph.D. Programs For 2023

Written By: Darby Faubion BSN, RN

Are you a registered nurse who is looking for a challenge in your career? Have you ever wondered what it would be like to become a leader in nursing? Perhaps earning a terminal degree in nursing (or two) sounds like the kind of challenge for you. DNP-Ph.D. dual degree programs are an excellent way for nurses who want to merge clinical nursing and research in their careers. If this sounds interesting to you, the best dual DNP-Ph.D. programs for 2023 featured in this article are an excellent place for you to find information that can lead you to an amazing career as a dual degree holder.

What Exactly Is A DNP/Ph.D. Dual Degree Program?

Dual DNP-Ph.D. Programs allow registered nurses who wish to combine leadership in advanced practice with research used to develop nursing science. These programs combine the curriculum for both Doctor of Nursing Practice and Doctor of Philosophy in Nursing degrees, allowing students to earn a dual degree that prepares them for roles as both advanced practice nurses and nurse researchers.

How Long Are Dual DNP/Ph.D. Programs?

DNP-Ph.D. dual degree programs differ in the amount of time it takes for completion. Most programs take an average of five years of full-time study to complete. However, some students may take seven years or longer. The chart below provides information about each of this article’s featured programs.

School Minimum Nursing Degree Required for Admission Part-time or Full-time Enrollment Average Length of Program
University of Utah BSN Part-time or Full-time 5-7 years
University of Tennessee BSN Full-time 5 years
Arizona State University BSN Part-time or Full-time 5-7 years
Case Western Reserve University BSN Full-time 5 years
Johns Hopkins University BSN Full-time 5 years
University of Pittsburgh BSN Full-time 4 years
The University of Arizona BSN Part-time or Full-time 5-7 years

How Much Do Dual DNP/Ph.D. Programs Cost?

Costs associated with attending the best DNP-Ph.D. dual degree programs vary, sometimes significantly. Students may be paying as little as $75,000 for a dual doctorate. On the other hand, there are some programs that cost over $300,000.

Tuition at Johns Hopkins University is billed at $2,084 per credit hour and averages $55,324 annually for DNP-Ph.D. students. First-time students at JHU are required to pay a one-time matriculation fee of $500. All students must have a health coverage program. The school offers a health insurance plan that costs $4,179 annually; however, participation in the school’s health insurance plan is optional. The DNP-Ph.D. dual degree program costs full-time students $276,620. Room and Board, books and supplies, loan fees, personal and travel expenses are estimated to average $11,000 yearly and are not included in the estimated program cost of $276,620.
Students enrolled in Arizona State University’s DNP-Ph.D. program pay from $32,436 (resident) to $44,260 (non-resident) per year. The program takes five to seven years to complete, costing up to $309,820.
The University of Pittsburgh offers a DNP-Ph.D. program with a DNP concentration in Adult-Gerontology Clinical Nurse Specialist. Tuition per credit hour is $1,122 for Pennsylvania residents and $1,345 for non-residents. The program includes one hundred four credits of didactic coursework and 17 credits (1,020 hours) of clinicals. Therefore, students pay $135,762 to $165,745, depending on residency.


Accredited dual DNP-Ph.D. Programs combine leadership in advanced nursing practice with research that provides leadership in advanced practice. The curriculum in these programs prepares graduates to succeed as nurse researchers, executives in healthcare delivery systems, and nursing faculty careers, to name a few. This dual doctorate program involves a rigorous curriculum requiring a deep dedication to academic and professional goals.

The following are samples of coursework from some of the best DNP-Ph.D. dual degree programs featured in this article.

The Johns Hopkins University DNP-Ph.D. program includes both a research and structured teaching residency. Students complete coursework in the following classes.

◦ Health Information Systems & Patient Care Technology
◦ Health Promotion & Risk Reduction Across the Lifespan
◦ Quantitative Research Design and Methods
◦ Philosophical Perspectives of Health
◦ Statistical Methods in Public Health
◦ Measurement in Healthcare Research

The University of Pittsburgh accepts baccalaureate-prepared nurses to its DNP-Ph.D. dual degree program. The program requires students to complete a minimum of one hundred twenty-one credits, including one hundred four credit hours of didactic courses from the Adult/Geriatric Clinical Nurse Specialist DNP and Nursing Ph.D. curriculum and seventeen credit hours or 1,020 hands-on clinical hours.

Students who have maintained alignment with the established curriculum plan should be prepared to sit for their Preliminary Exam during the third term. This exam is used to assess the student's potential ability to independently apply research methods and their knowledge of the discipline of nursing. Students whose scores are not satisfactory may be required to take remedial courses to proceed further in the program.

Sample coursework for the University of Pittsburgh DNP-Ph.D. dual degree program includes the following classes.

◦ Philosophical Underpinnings of Nursing Research
◦ Applied Parametric and Non-Parametric Statistics
◦ Applied Regression for Health Science Research
◦ Introduction to Genetics and Molecular Therapeutics
◦ Differential Diagnosis Theory Across the Lifespan

Case Western Reserve University students complete a Ph.D. dissertation and a DNP project. The DNP project may be used as a pilot study to prepare for the Ph.D. dissertation. The first year of study is for academic preparation only. During this year, students study Research Methods, Applied Statistics, Theory Development, Leadership in Healthcare Organizations, and Epistemology. In the second and third years of the program, research courses are added. The final two years of the program include Proposal Development, Scholarly Project, Integrated Practicum, and Dissertation.

◦ Theories for Practice and Scholarship
◦ Qualitative Research
◦ Practice Focused Research
◦ Multivariate Analysis
◦ Curriculum & Instruction OR Management in Advanced Practice
◦ Testing & Evaluation OR Advanced Leadership and Management
◦ Translating Evidence into Practice

The final two years of the program include Proposal Development, Scholarly Project, Integrated Practicum, and Dissertation. Courses for both programs are taken simultaneously, and overlap of up to eleven credits is allowed.

The University of Arizona prepares individual study plans for each degree in the DNP-Ph.D. Study plans are designed around the student's academic experience. Students complete one hundred thirty-eight to one hundred forty-two credits. Below are some examples of courses included in the curriculum.

◦ Philosophy of Nursing Science and Practice
◦ Influential Leadership in Health Systems
◦ Advanced Statistics for the Health Sciences
◦ Evaluation Methodologies for Safety and Quality Improvement

University of Tennessee Health Science Center's dual DNP-Ph.D. program is designed for master's-prepared registered nurses. The program, which can be completed in five years of full-time study, includes one hundred twenty-two total program hours of course instruction, including the following classes.

◦ Integrity in the Conduct of Scientific Research
◦ Theory Construction and Analysis
◦ Theoretical and Methodological Issues
◦ Health Economics
◦ DNP Advanced Practice Role

Clinical Training

According to guidelines outlined by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, all DNP students must complete a minimum of 1,000 post-baccalaureate clinical practice hours. Some colleges or universities offering dual DNP-Ph.D. programs may allow transfer of some clinical hours from master's nursing programs. The decision to allow the transfer of any clinical hours is at the discretion of each school. Because previous clinical hours must be verified and are subject to approval, applicants to any program should address their clinical requirements with an advisor before enrollment.

Although 1,000 post-baccalaureate clinical practice hours are sufficient to meet AACN guidelines, students may be required to complete more hours depending on their program track. For example, at Johns Hopkins University, DNP Advanced Practice/Ph.D. clinical practicum requirements range from six hundred seventy-two to seven hundred eighty-four post-master's clinical hours. The Dissertation Seminar and Dissertation courses provide additional practice hours that can be used to meet clinical requirements. DNP/Ph.D. students complete the following requirements, depending on their study track.

◦ Clinical Nurse Specialist, Pediatric Primary Care NP, and Adult-Gerontology Primary Care NP tracks require 672 hours.
◦ Adult-Gerontology Acute Care NP and Family Primary Care NP tracks include 784 clinical hours.

The University of Pittsburgh requires students to complete seventeen credits or 1,020 hours of clinical practicum. Students at Case Western Reserve University and the University of Arizona must meet 1,000 clinical hour competencies. Each of these schools considers post-baccalaureate clinical experience for transfer credit on a case-by-case basis.

Admission Requirements

Admission requirements for DNP-Ph.D. dual degree programs are determined by each school or program. However, general admission criteria are similar among programs. Prospective students who wish to enroll in the best dual DNP-Ph.D. programs

◦ Possess a current, unencumbered license to practice as a registered nurse
◦ Official transcripts from all previously attended colleges/universities
◦ Current Resume or Curriculum Vitae
◦ Three letters of professional recommendation

Case Western Reserve University requires prospective students to submit separate applications to both the DNP and Ph.D. Programs.

Admission requirements include providing:

◦ Statement of DNP project Interest- The Statement should be in essay form answering two questions:

1. What are your professional and educational goals, both long-term and short-term, and how will the DNP program help you achieve these goals?
2. What topic would you like to pursue for the DNP Scholarly Project, and what is one clinical problem in that specialty area that your project will address?

◦ Statement of Proposed Study
◦ Two interviews with faculty are required of all applicants either by phone or at the School of Nursing
◦ Curriculum Vitae including all previous presentations or publications

Johns Hopkins University gives preference to applicants with at least one year of full-time experience working as a registered nurse. Other admission criteria.

◦ Bachelor of Science in nursing or an entry-level nursing master’s from an accredited college or university
◦ Preference is given to applicants with one year of full-time RN experience
◦ Provide a written statement of research goals and Advanced Practice role, including the reason for choosing Johns Hopkins
◦ Submit a sample of personal writing such as a graded paper or publication

Arizona State University

◦ Complete the online University of Arizona Graduate College application and the NursingCAS application
◦ Resume’ indicating educational and employment experience to date
◦ Statement of Intent describing why the applicant wishes to enroll in the program and what they believe the outcome of their doctoral study will accomplish
◦ Interview with members of the DNP and Ph.D. faculty may be required
◦ Computer literacy

5 Things You Must Do Before Joining the DNP/Ph.D. Dual Degree Program of Your Choice

If you are considering enrolling in any accredited DNP-Ph.D. dual degree programs, it is vital to make sure you are well-prepared. There are some things to keep in mind and things you should do before you join a program.

1. Ask tons of questions.

Dual DNP-Ph.D. programs involve heavy coursework, clinical hours, and completion of a Scholarly Project and/or Dissertation. To be successful, you must find out as much information as possible about each program. Talk to academic advisors as well as former students.

2. Make a financial plan to carry you through the program.

No one can predict unexpected illnesses or other emergencies, but they happen. Even without the added expense of the unpredictable, doctorate programs can be expensive, especially dual doctoral degree programs. If you plan to apply for financial aid, scholarships, or other types of assistance, do it ahead of time, so you know how much of your savings or current income you may need to use to supplement your degree. Make a list of your current financial obligations and the estimated cost of your education, then create a budget that can help you stay on track.

3. Decide on a few topics you can submit for approval to use for your DNP Scholarly Project and Ph.D. Dissertation.

Accredited dual DNP-Ph.D. Programs require students to complete a DNP Scholarly Project and a Ph.D. dissertation. Applicants to programs may be asked to submit a statement with their proposed interest along with their college application and other admission criteria. As mentioned above in the Case Western Reserve University curriculum, some programs allow students to use their DNP project as a pilot study for their Ph.D. dissertation.

4. Prepare an admission packet/portfolio.

After you have identified the DNP-Ph.D. dual degree programs you would like to apply to, make lists of each one's admission criteria, deadlines, and necessary documents that you will be asked to submit. Copies of certifications, licenses, or resumes can be easily duplicated and kept in multiple folders labeled for each school. Other necessary documents, such as letters of recommendation, should be planned for in enough time that you receive them well before the deadline for submission. Periodically check admission criteria for the programs that interest you to ensure no changes have been made to the list of things you should provide to the school.

5. Prepare for your interview with the admissions faculty.

It is common for applicants to dual DNP-Ph.D. Programs to be required to participate in an interview with the faculty of each program. Have a clear understanding of what is required of students in the program and your professional and academic goals, as you can count on being asked about them. Consider how you will answer questions about your chosen research interest, such as why you have chosen that topic and what you hope to achieve by pursuing it. Pay close attention to your reasons for choosing a school's program. Faculty who interview you will likely ask why you chose their school and why you feel they should select you for admission.

Following Are the 7 Best Dual DNP/Ph.D. Programs in the Nation for 2023

1. Johns Hopkins University - Baltimore, MD

2. University of Pittsburgh - Pittsburgh, PA

3. Case Western Reserve University - Cleveland, OH

4. University of Utah - Salt Lake City, UT

5. The University of Tennessee Health Science Center - Memphis, TN

6. The University of Arizona - Tucson, AZ

7. Arizona State University - Phoenix, AZ


7 Advantages of Pursuing DNP/Ph.D. Dual Degree Programs

Pursuing a DNP/Ph.D. dual degree is no small feat. To succeed, it will take solid determination and unwavering dedication. Even the most rigorous programs, like the best DNP-Ph.D. dual degree programs can be advantageous for the right person. The following are advantages of pursuing a dual degree path that you may find encouraging if you are still undecided.

1. Experience the best of both worlds.

DNP-Ph.D. programs combine the mission of preparing expert clinical nurses to develop leaders in the development of nursing science. The power-packed curriculum you will be engaged in gives you outstanding clinical practice and research experiences by integrating two doctorate programs.

2. You can help improve the delivery of patient care and shape health care policies.

As a graduate of one of the best dual DNP-Ph.D. programs, you can participate in research efforts that lead to changes in healthcare and educational policies in healthcare settings, public health, and college or university programs. By promoting changes in current policies, you can help improve the experience of students in healthcare-related studies, the patients they care for, and the healthcare industry overall.

3. Increased Income Potential:

Doctorally-prepared nurses typically earn about $10,000 more each year than nurses with a master’s degree. When you pursue dual roles such as a DNP-Ph.D., you position yourself for even higher earning potential.

4. Earn the respect of other healthcare professionals.

Graduates of DNP-Ph.D. dual degree programs are highly regarded among healthcare professionals from all levels. The knowledge and experience you will gain from this dual degree program will be helpful as you collaborate with your peers on issues related to healthcare education, policy, administration, and research.

5. You can impact nursing education by teaching future nurses.

Although there are expected to be over 400,000 new nursing positions by 2026, one of the biggest challenges facing healthcare today remains the shortage of qualified nurses. With a dual DNP-Ph.D., you will have a wealth of knowledge that can benefit nursing education and help prepare qualified nurses to serve generations to come.

6. You will become a leader in the nursing industry.

The field of nursing offers many opportunities for advancement. As a DNP-Ph.D. dual degree holder, you can influence nursing on many levels in both clinical and research areas, making you a leader in the industry.

7. You can enjoy a sense of personal accomplishment.

Being able to say you have accomplished a dual doctorate is something anyone would be proud of. You will have every right to feel a sense of self-satisfaction when you achieve this goal because you completed two terminal degrees in a fantastic career field.

Career Opportunities After Graduating with This Degree

After graduating from accredited dual DNP-Ph.D. programs, there are endless possibilities for finding the perfect career. The following are a few examples of career paths you may choose from.

Professional Nurse Researcher:

With a DNP-Ph.D. your clinical experience and love of research make you the perfect fit to be a professional nurse researcher. As a researcher, you can help generate evidence supporting current nursing practices and help guide changes in nursing practice that help improve patient outcomes.

Nursing Faculty:

The American Association of Colleges of Nursing works diligently with universities, policymakers, and nursing organizations to draw attention to what they believe is a crisis related to the shortage of qualified nurses in the work field. As a graduate of accredited DNP-Ph.D. dual degree programs, you could choose from theory or clinical teaching positions in nursing programs. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the projected job growth between 2018 and 2028 is sixteen percent for nursing faculty positions.

Health Care Lobbyist:

In this position, you can use your research and clinical nursing skills to impact health care policies. The Bureau of Labor Statistics does not give projections for this specific field. However, in comparison, political scientists earn an average of $99,800 yearly.

Earning Potential for Graduates of This Degree

Graduates of accredited DNP-Ph.D. dual degree programs can begin their careers making over $88,000 yearly, and with experience, earning potential increases. In some settings, DNP-Ph.D. nurses earn as much as $300,000 annually. One thing to keep in mind when negotiating salary with a potential employer is whether they are offering a benefits package in addition to salary. Benefits packages may include employer-sponsored retirement plans, health, vision, dental, and/or life insurance, paid vacation, and sick days. Some benefits packages can be quite valuable and may make up for a lower starting salary.

Hourly $42.51
Monthly $7,370
Annual $88,427
(Source: payscale.com)

Job Outlook for Graduates of This Degree

The potential for continued job growth for graduates of the best dual DNP-Ph.D. programs is encouraging. Some factors believed to contribute to the positive job outlook for these degree holders include the need for nurse educators, an aging population of "baby boomers" who require care for acute and chronic illnesses, and issues affecting public health such as the COVID-10 pandemic.


While pursuing a dual doctorate is not for the faint-hearted, it is an excellent opportunity for nurses who want to impact nursing with their clinical and research skills. If you have read this article and feel you can see yourself stepping into this role, I encourage you to reach out to some of the best dual DNP-Ph.D. programs for 2023 featured here and begin your journey to achieving this dual doctorate degree. The best time to start your career journey is now!

Frequently Asked Questions Answered by Our Expert

What is the difference between a DNP and a Ph.D. in nursing?

A DNP in nursing is a terminal nursing degree focused on advancing a nurse's leadership skills and clinical practice. A Ph.D. in nursing is also a terminal degree, but it focuses on research and prepares graduates for careers in scientific inquiry.

Can students in DNP-Ph.D. programs get financial aid?

Absolutely! There are several types of financial assistance available to students. The first thing any college applicant should do is fill out a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The information used on the FAFSA is used to determine an applicant’s eligibility for federally funded grants and loan programs. Additionally, some employers may offer programs that assist with tuition and fees for professional studies in exchange for the student’s promise to work with their company after graduation.

Can I get a DNP-Ph.D. online?

Some schools offer the option of online or distance learning. However, because students in DNP-Ph.D. dual degree programs must participate in clinical assignments and research studies, the programs are not exclusively online. An academic advisor from any school you are interested in can provide you with information about which classes you can take online.

Do DNP-Ph.D. dual degree applicants need to apply for the two programs separately?

Most schools that offer dual degree programs, such as the DNP-Ph.D. program, require students to apply to both programs separately. Admission to the dual-degree program is contingent upon acceptance to both programs.

If separate applications for DNP and Ph.D. are required for admission to a dual degree DNP-Ph.D. program, can I submit them at different times?

Some colleges or universities offer the dual degree program for DNP-Ph.D. that allow applicants to apply to one program first and apply for the second program at a designated time to qualify for the dual degree. School policies differ; therefore, it is important to speak with an admissions advisor for clarification when you have chosen school(s) where you would like to apply.

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.