What is the PhD in Nursing and how is it different from the Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP)?

The PhD in Nursing is a research-focused degree that enables the student to gain the knowledge and skills needed to conduct independent research. The PhD is about the discovery of new knowledge and how to apply this knowledge. 

The PhD differs from the Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) in that the DNP is the terminal clinical degree, which focuses on evidence-based practice, quality improvement, and systems leadership.

If I obtain a PhD in Nursing, what types of positions will be open to me?

Only 1% of nurses currently hold a PhD. Therefore, the demand for PhD-prepared nurses is very high. Today’s PhD-prepared nurses can secure positions in academia, industry, the government, and policy organizations. Many career paths exist beyond academia.

How long is the program? Do you admit part-time students?

Full-time students may graduate in 3 years, including summer enrollment. Students should apply to the program with ideas of the research they would like to pursue and the faculty member with whom they see alignment. We encourage students to review our research faculty’s areas of expertise before applying to the program.

We admit part-time students as well. Many of these students are not able to leave employment but are motivated to complete the PhD. Part-time students’ time to degree completion varies, but must follow the Purdue University Graduate School policies. 

Why have an “on-site” program when there are so many online degrees available?

The faculty at the School of Nursing believes that an on-site program is a strength. It is an opportunity for students to learn in an immersive manner, surrounded by mentors, faculty, and the culture of a research-intensive university. Several colloquia and seminars further provide for a rich experience that can only be obtained by being on-site. 

What is meant by “transdisciplinary”?

Research is no longer conducted by single individuals but in teams. We define transdisciplinary work as a holistic approach to discovery where each discipline, be it from the natural, social, or health sciences, extends beyond their traditional boundaries and limits. Our program aims to prepare the PhD in Nursing graduate with the skill set to lead and participate in transdisciplinary research teams. 

What are mentors and what is meant by primary and secondary mentors?

In any PhD program, mentors are critical to the student’s learning and experience. A primary mentor is an individual who is tenured/tenure-track at the School of Nursing. This is the individual who will guide your path in the program, provide you with feedback, assist in obtaining a secondary mentor, and support timely completion of the degree.

A secondary mentor is an individual who conducts research from an area outside of the School of Nursing. This may even be an individual who is outside of Purdue University (the individual must be approved by the Graduate School). The secondary mentor works with you and your primary mentor so that you may gain a transdisciplinary research focus. 

Must I hold a registered nurse license in the state of Indiana?

Domestic applicants must hold a valid, current nursing license in a U.S. state. International applicants must be licensed as a nurse in their country of origin if licensure is available. However, if students will be involved in any direct patient care activities, they must obtain a valid current nursing license in the state in which patient care activities will occur.

When is the application deadline?

Completed applications are reviewed as they are received or until the program is full. The priority deadline for funding determinations is January 15 prior to the fall semester. Final application deadline for fall admission is April 15 and final application deadline for spring admissions is October 15. The PhD Program Committee of the School of Nursing reviews completed application materials. The School forwards its recommendation to the Graduate School in West Lafayette for review and final action. Students receive official notification of the action taken from the Graduate School.

What about funding the program?

There are many potential avenues to assist in funding full-time students pursuing the PhD in Nursing. These include: scholarships, fellowships, research assistantships, teaching assistantships, student loans, employer tuition reimbursement and others. Each student has unique circumstances and needs; discussions regarding awards made by the School of Nursing are performed on a one-on-one basis.

Where can I obtain more information?

For questions about the admission procedure and to request written materials, send inquiries to our Graduate Program Administration Specialist at Gradnursing@purdue.edu. For questions about the plan of study and curriculum, as well as other aspects of the PhD in Nursing program, send inquires to Libby Richards, PhD, RN, CHES, Director of PhD in Nursing Program. 

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