Best Online Ph.D. in Nursing Programs – 2024

Written By: Editorial Staff @

Nursing professionals who choose to enroll in online Ph.D. in Nursing programs discover that there are a wealth of positions available for them to serve in. Nurses with this educational distinction have proven that they have a strong understanding of essential health care practices that are used in hospitals, medical clinics, and senior care centers. With this degree, a person is now eligible to assist with research, serve as a nursing manager and work on health care teams to change or initiate new policies that increase the effectiveness of the care that they provide. The majority of nurses complete this degree while they are working, which makes choosing an online program the ideal way to advance their careers. Nurses with this highly regarded degree will find that their new skills and knowledge makes it possible to find high paying positions that also hold a strong level of authority and influence. If you’d like to know about the Best Online Ph.D. in Nursing Programs for 2024, continue reading.

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Academic Quality30%
Editorial Team Rating25%
Online Education Presence20%
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Following are the 10 Best Online Ph.D. in Nursing Programs in the Nation for 2024

1) University of Central Florida - Orlando, FL

If gaining knowledge and expertise in nursing research interests you, then pursuing an online Ph.D. can be a fruitful decision. The University of Central Florida offers two online Ph.D. tracks that can be completed without keeping your current work assignments on hold. So, there is BSN to Ph.D. track that requires completing 75 credit hours post-BSN, whereas, if you have completed a master’s in nursing, your coursework for the MSN to Ph.D. track demands finishing 60-credit hours. Except for two intensives that require few days of campus visits per year, all courses are offered through the web.

Upon completion of this program, you will be able to explore promising employment opportunities, such as the director of nursing research, nurse scientist, nursing faculty, and research scientist.

Key Highlights

• UCF’s College of Nursing is highly ranked by the U.S. News and World Report in recognition of its innovative and pathbreaking online education.
• The college has the expertise of offering quality web-based programs for the last 20 years that are well supported by its experienced faculty.

2) Vanderbilt University - Nashville, TN

Specializations Offered:

Clinical Research & Health Services Research

Vanderbilt University’s online Ph.D. in nursing science prepares you for a career in nursing research and education. Depending on your career goals, you can choose from either Clinical Research or Health Services Research. If you are inclined towards improving health outcomes by researching treatments that involve physical, psychological, and educational therapies, then the clinical research specialization is better suited. Whereas, the health services research specialty is focused on designing systems that evaluate treatments administered, their costs, and what happens to the patient, after that.

The coursework requires completion of at least 57 credit hours and is delivered completely online, with some parts being synchronous and some asynchronous. Out of the 57 credits, 32 are core courses, 15 credits are to be completed in your specialty-specific courses, and ten credits are towards your research thesis. To participate in experiential learning and interactive sessions with faculty, you must visit the campus for around 15 to 20 days per academic year.

Key Highlights

• Vanderbilt University offers Ph.D. students multiple opportunities to interact with research scholars across the university and the nation.
• You will be taught by a faculty that is nationally recognized and actively participates in research in your chosen specialty.
• Eligible students can transfer 15 credits from their master’s degree towards this Ph.D.

3) Walden University - Minneapolis, MN

Specializations Offered:

Education, Healthcare Administration, Interdisciplinary Health, Leadership, & Population Health

If you are keen on positively impacting the future of healthcare by actively participating in research, teaching, and policymaking, then completing your Ph.D. in any of the tracks offered by Walden University can be given a thought. One of the sought-after Ph.D. in Nursing online programs in MN, you need at least a master’s degree to be eligible for this program. Acknowledging your past education, the college allows a transfer of up to 40 credits towards the Ph.D. With five tracks in education, healthcare administration, interdisciplinary health, leadership, and population health, you can opt for the one that matches your career aspirations.

Regardless of what specialization you choose, the degree requires completing a total of 81 credits, comprising 20 credits of research courses, 25 credits in core courses, and 15 credits in courses of your chosen specialization. The curriculum culminates with a research thesis of 20 credits. Upon completion of this Ph.D. in your chosen specialty, you can go on to work as either a nursing professor, head a research organization, or become a health policymaker in a health organization.

Key Highlights

• If you have completed your DNP, you can opt for the DNP to Ph.D. Bridge program where you can transfer 26 credits and save considerable time and tuition costs.
• With Walden’s Sigma Theta Tau chapter, you can network with other nurses and share your nursing research ideas and gain a broader perspective.

4) University of Kansas - Kansas City, KS

Specializations Offered:

Health Systems, Symptom Science, & Education

The University of Kansas has been offering Ph.D. education since 1983, and its over 125 graduates are successfully working as nurse educators and research scholars in various educational and healthcare organizations. Graduates are trained in the skills and advance art and science of nursing, with emphasis on critical thinking and evidence-based decision making. On average, students complete this online program in three years on a full-time basis.

Well, you can enter this program after your bachelor’s or upon completion of your master’s in nursing. With the master’s, you will require six fewer credits, whereas as a post BSN student, you must complete additional courses in theories for practice research and healthcare research as part of your Ph.D. curriculum.

The curriculum involves completing 52-credit coursework plus 15 credits of thesis, and there are three areas of specialization to choose from - Health Systems, Symptom Science, and Education. Well, to enhance your chances of admission into this or for that matter any other Ph.D. in Nursing online programs, ensure you earn a minimum GPA of 3.50 in your BSN or 3.25 in your MSN, apart from holding an active nurse license and demonstrating an aptitude for leadership and research activities.

Key Highlights

• You will be able to select up to 11 credits of your total coursework in the topic related to your research thesis.
• You can opt to be mentored by a graduate faculty who shares your research interests.

5) University of Arizona - Tucson, AZ

Specializations Offered:

Precision Science, Health Determinants Science, & Data and System Science

University of Arizona College of Nursing offers several pathways to Ph.D. aspirants. You can enter this program either post your BSN or MSN. Alternatively, you can also opt to complete your Ph.D. along with a DNP or even earn a Ph.D. after completing the DNP. Whichever path you choose, you can complete this program online, both on a part-time and full-time basis. Besides the online courses, you are required to attend a mandatory one week of on-campus orientation, where you will collaborate with peers and faculty to explore the Ph.D. curriculum.

This online Doctor of Philosophy in nursing is offered in three areas of focused study-Precision Science, Health Determinants Science and Data and System Science, out of which you must choose one. This study constitutes 12 credits of your Ph.D. coursework and helps gain specialized knowledge in your area of focus. The total Ph.D. curriculum requires completing 64 credits. The coursework includes an 18-credit dissertation that is completed over multiple terms.

Key Highlights

• The college is among the top nursing schools in receiving funding from the NIH. As a potential student, you will certainly benefit from the school’s dynamic research profile.
• The school’s stellar faculty is accomplished, and they engage in research and scholarly activity in all the three areas of focused study.

6) Indiana University - Bloomington, IN

Specializations Offered:

Clinical Nursing Science & Health Systems

Indiana University’s online Ph.D. training prepares you for a career in private or public organizations as nursing faculty, director of clinical research, and director of clinical services. The program is grounded in nursing science and offers concentration options in Clinical Nursing Science and Health Systems. Clinical Nursing Science is ideal if you are inclined towards the research of prevention and early detection of diseases and disabilities across the lifespan, whereas Health Systems emphasizes on informatics, nursing education, and public health policy.

You can enter this program, either after your BSN or post an MSN. While the former requires completing 90 credits, the latter is shorter and requires just 60 credits as 30 credits are automatically transferred from the MSN towards your Ph.D. While most of the courses are offered online, you require attending two campus intensives per year. These visits can be enriching as you get the opportunity to network with mentors and other experts from the field. The curriculum is well balanced, covering courses in nursing science, biostatistics for public health, data analysis, and quantitative research. The coursework ends with a 16-credit thesis in nursing.

Key Highlights

• If you are a resident of Indiana, you can complete this program at only one-third of the tuition cost that out of state students incur.
• As an online student, you will be taught by the same faculty that teaches on-campus. Moreover, didactic sessions are synchronous in nature, so you practically land up in a virtual classroom with your peers, taking classes through videoconferencing.

7) University of Colorado - Denver, CO

Specializations Offered:

Health Care Systems Research, Caring Science, & Behavioral Sciences.

If you are looking at a career in nursing education, nursing administration, or nursing research, then the University of Colorado’s nursing Ph.D. can be considered. You can enter this program, either after completing a BSN or MSN. Depending on professional interests, you can choose from any of the three areas of focus - Health Care Systems Research, Caring Science, and Behavioral Sciences. Although all courses are offered via the internet, however, you must be prepared to travel to Denver once every semester for the on-campus intensives.

The 60-credit Ph.D. coursework includes 18 credits of dissertation. On a full-time basis, you can complete this program in three years. As a pre-requisite to this program, you must complete a graduate-level course in statistics. Upon completion of core and specialization courses, you will demonstrate the expertise of developing new knowledge and findings through your nursing research.

Key Highlights

• You are eligible for in-state tuition costs if your permanent residence address happens to be in any of the 15 states that include Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming.
• Eligible Ph.D. students can also avail scholarships that the college offers twice a year.

8) Villanova University - Villanova, PA

If you are looking at an online Ph.D. in Nursing program to attain the highest nursing degree, then you could consider Villanova University’s Ph.D. that prepares you to conduct clinical and educational based nursing research towards better nursing practice and education. This advanced credential will help you climb the career ladder in the academic field by preparing you to take up leadership positions in the higher education arena. With flexible schedules, you can complete this program in as little as two years or stretch it to three to four years. An additional two years are required for the completion of the nursing thesis.

The curriculum entails completing 51 credits; however, the exact number of credits may vary, depending on your past education. The coursework is designed to equip you with the practical and theoretical understanding required to create new knowledge of culturally relevant nursing practice and education. You will also learn to collaborate with members of other health disciplines to enhance your research.

Key Highlights

• This Ph.D. program at Villanova is known for the personalized study experience it offers students.
• Year after year, the National League for Nursing has honored the college’s Nursing School as being the Center of Excellence in Nursing Education, a testimony of the quality nursing education it offers.

9) Duquesne University - Pittsburgh, PA

The Ph.D. program being offered by Duquesne University since 1994 has trained over 100 graduates who are currently well established in their careers as nurse scientists. Primarily offered as a post MSN course, there is also a post-DNP track that can be completed in 2.5 years as it requires fewer credits. The Ph.D. program at Duquesne is mainly focused on preparing you for nursing research in addressing the health needs of the vulnerable and underserved populations that are economically backward and belong to racial or ethnic minorities.

To be eligible for this program, you must have earned a master’s, preferably in nursing, with a minimum GPA of 3.50. There is a three year and four-year track to choose from. The three-year track is rigorous and will hardly leave you any time for other commitments, whereas with the four-year track, you will be completing your coursework at a comfortable pace, typically taking six credits per semester, unlike the 6-10 in the three-year track. Both tracks require a graduate-level statistics course as a pre-requisite. The 53 credits curriculum includes 12 credits of a dissertation that takes place during the last year of your coursework.

Key Highlights

• Residency requirements in this program include visits to the college campus, and as part of the Methods of Scientific Inquiry course, you will take part in a 10-14 day international trip to locations such as Dublin, Ireland, where you will be provided with housing at the college’s campus.
• The program enjoys the distinction of being the first online Doctor of Philosophy in nursing program in the country.

10) University of Missouri - Columbia, MO

Specializations Offered:

Innovations to Improve Health and Health Systems, Health Improvement of the Vulnerable Population, & Symptom and Behavior Science

University of Missouri’s Ph.D. in Nursing prepares you for an advanced career in nursing, either as a scholar, educator, or clinical researcher. Due to its interdisciplinary approach, even non-nursing students can enter this program. To pursue this degree, you have three pathways; post-BSN, post-MSN, and post-DNP. Regardless of the pathway you choose, you will be taught by a faculty that comes from diverse academic backgrounds, bringing in their interdisciplinary experiences and knowledge.

This Ph.D. is offered in a hybrid mode, requiring few campus visits while taking the majority of your coursework online. There are three focus areas to choose from; innovations to improve health and health systems, health improvement of the vulnerable population, symptom, and behavior science. The post-BSN track requires completion of about 77 credits, whereas, the post-MSN and post-DNP require 56 and 48 credits, respectively.

Key Highlights

• One of the few military-friendly online Ph.D. in Nursing programs in the nation, military personnel, veterans, and their eligible family members can avail of a 10% reduction in tuition costs.
• You can benefit from the nursing school’s research connections across its various departments that include social work, public health, human development and family science, education, and health informatics.

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