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What’s the Difference Between a PhD in Nursing and a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP)?

If you’re passionate about nursing, you may want to pursue a doctoral-level nursing degree. But which should you choose? A PhD in Nursing or a Doctor of Nursing Practice?

If you’re considering a doctoral-level degree in nursing, you’re faced with one looming question: nursing PhD or Doctor of Nursing Practice? Both are scholarly pursuits, each with the ultimate goal of improving the future of healthcare. But which is right for you?

Nursing PhD vs. Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP)

Choosing the right nursing PhD or Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program begins with narrowing down your interests and career goals. It also begins with knowing the difference between a PhD in Nursing and a DNP. Below we compare the degrees so you can know the facts before you start your search.

What’s the Difference Between A PhD in Nursing and A Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP)?

PhD in Nursing

What is a PhD in Nursing?

A Doctor of Philosophy in Nursing, commonly known as a PhD in Nursing, is a research-focused doctorate in which students conduct research to advance the science and practice of nursing.

What will I study in a nursing PhD program?

When you enter a nursing PhD program, your coursework will focus on research methods, research theory, and nursing science. You’ll choose a focus area based on your career interests, then develop, write, and defend a dissertation.

What can I do with a PhD in Nursing?

After graduating with a nursing PhD, you’ll be equipped to assume leadership roles in academic and healthcare settings and have the background to help shape the future of healthcare as a nurse researcher, educator, or policymaker. A PhD in Nursing will also provide you with the skills and knowledge to lead and/or collaborate with interdisciplinary healthcare teams to positively affect the nursing profession and the communities and populations nurses serve.

Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP)

What is a Doctor of Nursing Practice?

With a goal of enhancing quality of care, a Doctor of Nursing Practice, commonly referred to as a DNP, is a practice-focused doctorate that focuses on applying research in clinical settings.

What will I study in a DNP program?

The curriculum found in many DNP programs focuses on a combination of healthcare policy and advocacy, information systems and technology, healthcare quality improvement, evidence-based practice, and organizational and systems leadership.

What can I do with a Doctor of Nursing Practice?

DNP programs will equip you with the background you need for higher-level leadership and education roles across the healthcare industry. As a doctor of nursing practice, you’ll be able to improve the quality of patient care and enhance the training of nursing professionals. You’ll also be able to translate research findings into clinical settings, implement healthcare information technology across healthcare settings, and much more.

Another interesting fact is that once you earn your DNP, you can have a shorter path toward earning your PhD in Nursing, should you choose to do so. With Walden University, students who already hold a DNP can enter an accelerated program that builds on your current knowledge and experience with scholarly research and relevant coursework. Walden applies up to 26 DNP credits toward your doctoral program, significantly reducing the time to completion and your total costs.

Interested in learning more about online nursing PhD and DNP programs? Explore Walden University’s PhD in Nursing and CCNE-accredited DNP programs.

Walden University’s DNP, MSN, and BSN programs are accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE), One Dupont Circle, NW, Suite 530, Washington, DC 20036, 1-202-887-6791. CCNE is a national accrediting agency recognized by the US Department of Education and ensures the quality and integrity of baccalaureate and graduate education programs in preparing effective nurses. For students, accreditation signifies program innovation and continuous self-assessment.