Top 10 Pros and Cons Of Ph.D. In Nursing

Written By: Jennifer Schlette MSN, RN

A Ph.D. in Nursing is considered a prestigious accomplishment, but is having one all that they say it is cracked up to be? Are you not sure if this is the path you want to go down regarding your nursing career? I think the first thing that you need to look at is, is what are the pros and cons of a Ph.D. in nursing? It is a lot to think about, so don’t worry, I took the work out of it for you. Below you will find the top 10 pros and cons of a Ph.D. in nursing. This article will definitely help you decide whether this is the right career path for you.


(The following are the top 10 cons of Ph.D. in Nursing.)

1. The cost of tuition

A Ph.D. in nursing is not a cheap degree to earn. The University of Pennsylvania, for example, will cost $42,652 per year. John Hopkins University will cost you around $47,538 per year. Keep in mind that these figures do not include other costs such as food, housing expenses, and transportation, to name a few. It can really add up.

2. Debt

So, unless you have some money saved up and set aside for earning your Ph.D. in Nursing, you may end up putting yourself in a considerable amount of debt. Accruing debt is one of the top cons of a Ph.D. in nursing. Keep in mind that when you take out a loan for anything, you will be expected to pay interest on the money you borrowed. This will increase the total amount you will pay over time.

3. You will not be able to practice in the hospital setting as a provider

If your dream is to be able to work in a hospital and treat patients at the doctoral level, then I’m sorry to say that this is not the degree for you. A Ph.D. in nursing is not a practice doctorate. A Ph.D., on the other hand, is a research and science-focused degree that prepares nurses for careers conducting research that will advance the nursing profession and for teaching nursing at the college level. If you wish to diagnose and prescribe at the doctoral level, then the DNP degree is for you.

4. Length of the program

A Ph.D. in nursing is a pretty lengthy degree to earn. On average, the program can take three and half years to six years to complete. For example, Stony Brook University’s Ph.D. in nursing program will take two and half years to complete with an additional year for your dissertation. Duke University’s Ph.D. in Nursing program is anywhere from three to four years. Now keep in mind that this is the full-time option. If the school you choose gives a part-time option, your time spent in school will drastically increase.

5. You will have to write a dissertation

A dissertation will be your final research project for your Ph.D. We are not talking about writing a couple of pages and being done with it. This work of art will require chapters upon chapters. Oh, and let’s not forget about the research that needs to be conducted for this project.

6. You must successfully defend your dissertation

In order to earn the prestigious title of being called Doctor, you must successfully defend your dissertation. If you do not pass your dissertation portion of the program after all the work you put into it, you may have to continue to revise it till it is acceptable. The worst-case scenario is that you may not be allowed to modify it to perfection and end up being dismissed from the doctoral program. Ouch! This really is one of the top disadvantages of a Ph.D. in nursing.

7. You may not be able to work full-time

Earning a Ph.D. is exceptionally rigorous. This terminal degree is like having a second full-time job. All the coursework demands for this degree may be so grueling that you will need to find an alternative to working full-time at your current job. This could also mean more debt.

8. Tenure is not guaranteed

Yes, earning your Ph.D. in nursing is quite an accomplishment but, it does not automatically entitle you to get a tenured job. In reality, obtaining tenure is pretty difficult, especially in the field of nursing.

9. No more free time

If you are a person who values your free time, well, you won't be able to appreciate it anymore because you won’t have any. Earning your Ph.D. in nursing is highly time-consuming, and any free time you once had will be consumed by your coursework.

10. It is not a necessary degree

Depending on what career path you choose in the world of nursing, a Ph.D. in nursing may not be necessary. It becomes a nice to have and not a necessity to have for some people. Keep in mind there is no such expectation that you have a Ph.D. in nursing at this current time to enter into the profession.


(The following are the top 10 pros of Ph.D. in Nursing.)

1. Increased Salary

Those who earn their Ph.D. in nursing can expect to earn a higher salary. A pay increase is one of the top advantages of a Ph.D. in nursing. The average salary for those with their Ph.D. in nursing is around $98,619/year. That is not too shabby.

2. No more 12-hour shifts

Those who have their Ph.D. in nursing tend to work in either academia or research. Some may choose administration. These jobs are typically 9-5, which means you no longer have to work 12-hour shifts. This will help your work-life balance.

3. No more weekends or holidays to be worked

One really nice aspect of working in academia, research, or administration is that you will no longer have to work weekends or holidays. This will give you ample time to spend with family and friends. Another bonus if you work in academia is that you will get to have summers off and the official school breaks.

4. You have earned a prestigious title

If you have earned your Ph.D. in nursing, you should pat yourself on the back. Earning this prestigious degree is quite a feat and is another one of the top pros of a Ph.D. in nursing. You have now earned the right to call yourself a Doctor. Not many people can say that.

5. You can juggle anything

If you stepped up to the challenge of earning your Ph.D. in nursing, you have also acquired some pretty impressive time management skills. This degree takes a tremendous amount of work to complete. This workload will demand that you be well organized in your life to get it all done. So, when you finally resurface from all of this, you can time manage anything.

6. You have earned the highest degree

A Ph.D. in nursing is a terminal degree. This means you cannot earn any higher of a degree. Earning this top degree is another one of the top advantages of a Ph.D. in nursing. You did it! You reached the end. Way to go!

7. You can influence policy and practice change

Can you see yourself as an instrument of change? A Ph.D. in nursing will be one way to become this instrument. By earning this terminal degree, you can influence policy change and practice to affect patients and future students.

8. Can you see yourself as Chief Nursing Officer

If you have aspirations of being the chief nursing officer at an institution, earning your Ph.D. in nursing can help you reach that goal. Earning a Ph.D. in nursing administration will be the first step. You can find such programs at Walden University.

9. You can earn a prestigious job

Having a job that can only be filled with somebody with your expertise and degree is pretty prestigious and is one of the top pros of a Ph.D. in nursing. Think about it, this is not like an entry-level position where anybody can apply for it. When you have your Ph.D. in nursing, you join a whole new rank with a whole new type of job opportunity only somebody with your degree can fill.

10. You will be regarded as an expert in your field

You have completed an extensive educational career. You have earned the right to be acknowledged as an expert in the field of Nursing. Earning this degree should really make you feel confident since you are now regarded as an expert.

The Bottomline

Ok, I will pose this question again, what are the pros and cons of a Ph.D. in nursing? Well, now that we have looked at the top 10 pros and cons of a Ph.D. in nursing, I am pretty sure you probably feel much more confident in making this decision about your career path. Just remember, at the end of the day, you need to choose what is suitable for you and what will fit best with your life and career goals. If you decide to pursue this degree, there are many top Ph.D. in nursing programs out there that can help you accomplish your goal.

Jennifer Schlette MSN, RN
Jennifer Schlette is a registered nurse in pediatric critical care in New York City. She is the former Director of Undergraduate Nursing at a college located in New York. After obtaining her BSN from the College of Mount Saint Vincent, she went on to complete her MSN.