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Why Get A Doctoral Degree in Nursing?

Nursing doctoral degrees are in high demand. But is getting a PhD in Nursing or Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) the right move for you? Explore some of the top reasons to pursue a nursing doctoral degree.

If you’re thinking about taking your nursing career to the next level, a PhD in Nursing or Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) may be right for you. Here are some facts to help you figure out if you should enroll in a nursing PhD or DNP program.

The demand for nurses educated at the doctoral level is higher than ever.

Why Get A Doctoral Degree in Nursing?

According to the Institute of Medicine’s landmark report The Future of Nursing, fewer than 1% of American nurses hold a doctoral degree in their field.1

"The changing demands of this nation’s complex healthcare environment require the highest level of scientific knowledge and practice expertise to assure quality patient outcomes," the experts at the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) say.2

What does that mean for you? It means that armed with a nursing PhD or Doctor of Nursing Practice, you can strengthen your skills, build your expertise, and take your career further.

There’s a shortage of doctoral-level nurses who are trained to teach the next generation of nurses.

If teaching is your calling, a nursing PhD or Doctor of Nursing Practice can prepare you to meet the growing demand for nursing instructors. According to the AACN, American nursing schools turned away more than 75,000 qualified applicants from baccalaureate and graduate nursing programs in 2018, mainly due to faculty shortages.3

In October 2018, the AACN reported over 1,715 faculty vacancies in a survey of 872 nursing schools with baccalaureate and/or graduate programs nationwide. More than 90% of those vacancies were positions requiring or preferring a Doctor of Nursing Practice, according to the AACN.3

And with one-third of the nursing faculty workforce expected to retire by 2025, the demand for nurses with PhD or doctoral degrees becomes even more urgent.3

The need to improve the quality of patient care is a top priority.

Whether you’re interested in a nursing PhD or DNP program, both doctoral degrees will enable you to improve patient care.

Research from the AACN continues to prove that a highly educated nursing workforce leads to improved patient outcomes, including but not limited to lower mortality rates, shorter lengths of stay, and lower readmission rates. A practice-based Doctor of Nursing Practice degree program can provide you with the knowledge and leadership skills to lead nursing teams to provide optimum patient care.

On the other hand, a PhD in Nursing program will enable you to conduct original research that could shape the future of healthcare, from the halls of hospitals to the halls of Congress. A nursing PhD will also help you develop the skills to collaborate with interdisciplinary healthcare teams to promote positive change in patients’ lives, throughout local communities, and around the globe.

Take your nursing career to the next level.

While working bedside is instrumental for patient care, both a PhD in Nursing and a Doctor of Nursing Practice can qualify you for high-level positions that can transform the field of nursing.

With a nursing PhD , you’ll be able to reach your career goals as a nurse researcher, policymaker, or educator training the next generation of nurses. Graduating from a DNP program opens up a wide variety of career options in areas including administration, informatics, policy, management, safety, education, and more. Nurses are increasingly represented in CEO roles within health systems and at hospitals.4

With a PhD in Nursing or Doctor of Nursing Practice you’ll stand at the vanguard of the most trusted profession,5 ready to build healthier communities and reap the rewards of career advancement and job satisfaction.

Interested in exploring nursing PhD or DNP programs? Walden University offers online PhD in Nursing and CCNE-accredited DNP programs that can help you make a difference in your career, your life, and the lives of others.


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 U.S. 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.