Top 50 Best Nursing PhD Programs [2024 Guide]

Top 25 Best MSN Program for Nurses

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Without proper guidance and awareness of nursing program rankings, you may end up selecting an institution that fails to meet your academic and career aspirations. This guide aims to help you find the right nursing PhD program for professional growth to drive innovation within the healthcare industry.

Nursing PhD Powerhouse: Nursing PhD Ranking

The University of Texas at Austin, University of Pennsylvania, University of California-Davis, University of Nebraska Medical Center, and Duke University consistently rank among the top DNP programs. These prestigious institutions offer rigorous curricula, top-class instructors, and cutting-edge research opportunities, equipping students with the knowledge and skills to excel in advanced nursing.

Featured Programs

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SchoolCost Per Credit HourNumber of Years
University of Texas at Austin$5424
University of Pennsylvania$16543-5
University of California, Davis$04
University of Nebraska Medical Center$4474.5-5
Duke University$15865
University of California-Los Angeles$8883
University of Texas Medical Branch$3464
University of Washington$9723
Rush University$10504-5
University of Utah$6273-7
Yale University$14005
Arizona State University$6004
Johns Hopkins University$22864-5
Columbia University$18203
University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill$5894
University of South Florida$3484-5
University of Missouri – Kansas City$4005-6
University of Colorado-Denver$18183-8
Vanderbilt University$18184
Boston College$12984
New York University$22233
University of Arizona$7892.5
University of Missouri$4223-5
Emory University$18163
Ohio State University$7833
Pennsylvania State University$8513-5
University of Rochester$14003-6
Oregon Health & Science University$5643-7
University of Cincinnati$8033
University of Oklahoma$4673
Florida Atlantic University$3042
University of Kansas$6005-6
Michigan State University$6984
Villanova University$10813
University of Texas at Arlington$4533-6
Texas Woman’s University$3033
University of Massachusetts Amherst$7505
Washington State University$9863-7
New Mexico State University$2273
George Mason University$6384.5
University of San Diego$14554-5
Florida International University$5644.5-5
University of Massachusetts-Lowell$7662-4
Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis$10004
University of Texas Health Science Center – San Antonio$3543
West Virginia University$6023
East Carolina University$3426
University of California-San Francisco$9624
University of Central Florida$3703
University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth$6994.5-5

University of Texas at Austin

The top doctor of philosophy in the nursing program comes from the University of Texas, the most distinguished public research institution in Texas. One of the original Public Ivies, UT is widely recognized as a center of education, research, and culture for the Southwest, influenced by the bold, creative, entrepreneurial spirit of the city of Austin.

University of Texas at Austin
  • The UT School of Nursing is known for its excellence, especially in bringing top-quality care to the Southwest, a region where poverty, remote rural communities, and chronic illness mean that many residents remain without necessary health care. 
  • UT’s instructors and students are engaged in some of the most important health research in the nation. It has one of the highest rates of federal grant funding, which means major benefits for nursing.

University of Pennsylvania

The University of Pennsylvania, guided by founder Benjamin Franklin’s philosophy, was always oriented toward public service and applied sciences. As such, they became one of the first modern universities, introducing medical and business schools to the US, and they remain one of the most practical and innovative Ivy League schools.

University of Pennsylvania

Kelsey Ludeman, an education expert with 15 years of experience in the education sector, highly recommends this school to pursue your PhD in nursing:

“The University of Pennsylvania is well known for its highly esteemed PHD nursing program. The degree plan is completed in 3-4 years and offers multiple concentrations. Although the university’s tuition totes a high price tag, the school provides robust opportunities for funding and financial aid support, and the prestige and preparedness gained may very well be worth the cost.”

One of only three nursing schools in the Ivy League, and the only comprehensive (from bachelor to doctorate), the Penn School of Nursing is one of the highest-ranked and most prestigious nursing degree schools in the nation.

Penn is a perfect setting for the nurse-scientist training of the nursing doctorate, with all that an Ivy League institution can offer, from research resources to a marketable name and reputation.


University of California, Davis

The Moore School of Nursing at the University of California, Davis is serious about research, building upon the single largest grant ever made for nursing education. Every doctoral student admitted to the doctorate nursing program receives tuition fully paid.

University of California, Davis

The UC Davis nursing program is a full-time, four-year program open to students with a BSN. It is a highly rigorous, high-class program designed to prepare graduates for the most demanding positions in leadership, research, and education, so only the most dedicated students need to apply.

Quite possibly the foremost public higher education system, the University of California system is home to several Public Ivies, including UC Davis; the highest number of Nobel Prize winners of any system.


University of Nebraska Medical Center

The University of Nebraska Medical Center began when a private medical school in Omaha was acquired by the University of Nebraska as a site to build a comprehensive health center. The University of Nebraska system keeps tuition costs low as a way to make nursing education affordable and accessible.

University of Nebraska Medical Center

The UNMC College of Nursing offers a fast-track BSN to PhD track for full-time students, which allows students with a nursing bachelor’s to earn a doctorate in as little as four years. 

Students with an MSN can take a more traditional path, part-time or full-time. UNMC nursing courses are available in a web-based, streaming format; while UNMC does not yet have asynchronous courses, they are on the way. 


Duke University

Duke’s School of Nursing is one of the most elite in the South, attracting the most dedicated and innovative faculty and most promising students. Duke nursing degrees benefit from the ample opportunities provided by Duke’s ground-breaking and well-funded research facilities.

Duke University
  • The South’s answer to the Ivy League is renowned for its medical programs, centered around the Duke University Medical Center, one of the most significant academic medical campuses.
  • Students with a BSN or MSN can apply, and teaching assistantships are available for qualifying students. The Duke name is known everywhere, giving doctorate graduates a highly valuable advantage over their competition.

University of California-Los Angeles

The University of California-Los Angeles is one of the most significant public research institutions and an integral part of the UC system. UCLA is also central to healthcare in Southern California, with the UCLA Medical Center ranked as the third best in the nation. 

University of California-Los Angeles

With deep connections to the vast system of medical facilities throughout Los Angeles and some of the most decorated instructors on the planet, UCLA’s nursing programs are more than impressive.

UCLA’s nursing programs are designed to prepare the nation’s premiere nurse scientists for education and research in the most cutting-edge aspects of the nursing profession. Research pursuits include everything from chronic and communicable diseases to protection for at-risk populations, led by dedicated professionals.


University of Texas Medical Branch

At a time when medical care in Texas was weak and most doctors lacked any university training, the University of Texas established its first medical school in Galveston to prepare for the needs of the growing state. UT Medical Branch remains a major influence over the healthcare system of Texas.

University of Texas Medical Branch

The UTMB School of Nursing is still working to alleviate suffering and provide care where it is needed by educating some of the most distinguished nurses in the region. UTMB is using online degree programs to close the gap in nursing leadership.

With both asynchronous and synchronous models, students can earn the doctorate with only one short campus visit per year. They can receive top-tier nursing education and perform research in a format that allows them to continue their careers uninterrupted.


University of Washington

An original Public Ivy, the University of Washington has a nationally acclaimed commitment to access that has made it one of the most generous public universities for providing tuition breaks and financial aid, with as many as 1/3 of undergraduates eligible for free tuition. That community mission extends throughout UW’s policies.

University of Washington

UW has some of the most acclaimed medical programs in the nation, with its medical and nursing programs ranked in the top 5 by U.S. News & World Report. The UW School of Nursing has been dedicated to providing for the medical needs of the Pacific Northwest, and that tradition continues with the nursing doctorate programs. 

The doctorate is thorough, with a concentration on research, teaching, and theory, designed to produce well-rounded scholars who can carry the nursing profession into the future.


Rush University

Named for Dr Benjamin Rush, physician to George Washington, and the first nationally prominent doctor in the new United States, Rush University’s reputation in medical education is unassailable as one of the first medical schools in the Midwest. 

Rush University

As part of the Rush University Medical Center, the College of Nursing is one of the best-ranked programs in the nation, with a long history of excellence that dates back to the 19th century and continues until today.

Rush’s College of Nursing benefits from its intensive research environment, giving students access to the most current work being done in the field today.


University of Utah

Located in Salt Lake City, the University of Utah is the state’s foremost public research institution, a space-grant university that dominates education and study in medicine. With the state’s only medical school, Utah’s healthcare system depends on the University of Utah’s instructors and researchers to provide the care professionals and educators the state needs.

University of Utah

The UU College of Nursing is the finest in Utah, with numerous programs for the health and well-being of Utahans, including women’s health and birthing, mental health counseling, and other services. It also offers a doctorate designed to meet the educational needs of working nurses. 

Using a cohort model (for students to support one another), the program offers synchronous online courses year-round. Students can work around their demanding professional schedules. Costs are also kept low so students can trust that they will see rewards from their investment.


Yale University

Yale’s reputation, as the third university founded in the American colonies and one of the globally renowned Ivy League institutions, really needs no introduction. Yale’s history in medicine and nursing, however, may be less known than their reputation in politics and business. 

Yale University

Yale was the first nursing school within a university, treating nursing education as a professional pursuit alongside physicians, lawyers, and businesspeople. As a pioneer in graduate nursing education and nursing research, Yale continues to set standards for advanced clinical practice.

The Yale School of Nursing prompts students to research and practice in any number of areas, from chronic sleep disorders to global healthcare policy, preparing for a career as an educator of nurses, advocate for nurse research, or nurse scientist. With the Yale name, graduates can go anywhere with confidence.


Arizona State University

An influential New American university, Arizona State University has been a major force in updating the higher education model for the 21st century through its entrepreneurial, risk-taking innovations. By improving access and using unconventional delivery models, especially by embracing online degree programs, ASU has grown into the largest student body in the US.

Arizona State University

The ASU College of Nursing & Health Innovation is known for its top-quality education. It focuses on community service, including partnerships with numerous clinics and facilities in Tempe and the surrounding region. 

These settings allow the college to do well and perform research that benefits their programs, especially students who are dedicated to research and leadership. On-campus and online delivery formats allow students to choose the method best for them, their work schedules, and their families.


Johns Hopkins University

While Johns Hopkins University is best known for its medical and health research and publication, historically, Johns Hopkins is notable as the first research university in the US, to combine scientific research and instruction in one institution. 

Johns Hopkins University

That foresight led to Johns Hopkins University becoming one of the most respected and elite institutions on the planet, including the creation of one of the first university nursing schools, developed by Florence Nightingale.

The JHU School of Nursing‘s incredibly auspicious beginning was just the beginning of a long, illustrious history, which continues today. It has access to some of the field’s finest researchers and research centers.


Columbia University

An Ivy League institution and one of the nine Colonial Colleges founded before the American Revolution, Columbia University is the kind of university people mean when they say “Ivy League quality”. From engineering to political science, Columbia has excelled and led higher education.

Columbia University

The Columbia School of Nursing‘s emphasis on research and scholarship, along with its supreme academic job market value, make it an obvious choice for students entering careers as nurse scientists. Columbia accepts both BSN and MSN holders.

The program is only available full-time, and students are expected to complete research-intensive, rigorous work. Most instructors are grant-funded researchers, giving students ample access to research mentors and thorough preparation for academic life.


University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill

The UNC Health Care System, which consists of the UNC Hospitals, medical school, nursing school, and numerous other partners, is considered one of the best academic healthcare systems in the nation, and graduate students glean much from its research centers.

University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill

The UNC School of Nursing is one of the leading lights in nursing research and scholarship, and its students are active participants. UNC’s diverse student body benefits from over 100 interdisciplinary research centers and highly decorated instructors, giving new scholars strong support and mentoring from established academic researchers. All of this makes for one of the best nursing doctorate programs available – truly an Ivy League education at a public university price.


University of South Florida

In only six decades, the University of South Florida has grown from a small regional institution to a major research university with three campuses and a major economic presence in the Tampa, FL, metropolitan region. 

University of South Florida

Much of USF’s success has been due to its spectacular online presence and its concentration on professional education programs geared toward working adults. USF has also been named one of the most military- and veteran-friendly institutions in the nation.

The USF College of Nursing has had particular success, reaching the top 25 institutions in NIH grant funding and building relationships with the healthcare system in Tampa. USF offers a nursing doctorate program with tracks for BSN and MSN holders, allowing graduate students to draw on the first-rate research being done by USF instructors.


University of Missouri - Kansas City

University of Missouri-Kansas City is a mid-sized public research university on the rise. UMKC’s extensive research instructors and strong research budget translate into useful knowledge and applicable data that directly improve the lives of Missourians.

University of Missouri - Kansas City

UMKC’s School of Nursing and Health Studies plays a large role in that research culture. It uses its grant funding and top-notch instructors to meet the needs of the community and contribute to the overall knowledge of nursing science. 

With fully online courses and only two short summer residencies each year, students can complete their degree in only two years without sacrificing their current jobs.


University of Colorado Denver

The University of Colorado Denver has become one of the premiere medical and healthcare educators across the globe. The Anschutz Medical Campus encompasses the former University of Colorado Health Sciences Center, the schools of medicine, nursing, pharmacy, and other healthcare fields, and the University of Colorado hospitals.

University of Colorado Denver

Not only is CU Denver a national leader in productivity, medical programs, and value. It’s also recognized as one of the top online educators thanks to the growth of CU Online.

The University of Colorado School of Nursing includes fully online courses and a few short, intensive campus visits. CU Denver’s tuition is reasonable, its education is top-of-the-line, and its faculty includes some of the most respected scholars in the field, making it a win for any Colorado nurse who wants to take on research and leadership.


Vanderbilt University

Like other institutions of its size and significance, Vanderbilt operates the Vanderbilt University Medical Center. It’s home to the top hospital in Tennessee, one of the nation’s top children’s hospitals, and Vanderbilt’s highly-ranked medical and healthcare schools.

Vanderbilt University

Vanderbilt’s School of Nursing has long been a leader in nurse education and scholarly nursing research. Vanderbilt offers an online doctorate that delivers Vanderbilt’s signature quality with synchronous and asynchronous classes. 

There are two possible tracks: Clinical Research and Health Services Research, focused on researching best practices and approaches to delivering medical care. With Vanderbilt’s name and reputation, a doctorate from Vanderbilt puts graduates in control of a competitive job market.


Boston College

Boston College is a private, Catholic university regularly ranked as one of the top national universities across the globe by publications. As a major Jesuit university, Boston University upholds the traditional Jesuit values of educational rigor, community service, and excellence. 

Boston College

The Connell School of Nursing exemplifies this holistic approach to education and service with its numerous partnerships and broad community engagement throughout the Boston metropolitan area.

BC’s nursing doctorate emphasizes knowledge production, research, and nursing expertise, preparing students to become dedicated nurse scholars and scientists. Many students accepted to receive a full fellowship with paid tuition, making Boston College a top value.


New York University

One of the most renowned universities on the planet, regularly ranked in the Economist, and others, New York University is a private research institution that dominates academic life in New York City. NYU has produced winners of the Nobel Prize, the MacArthur Grant, and virtually every other major intellectual award in the world.

New York University
  • The Rory Meyers School of Nursing is no less decorated, having been a major influence in the formation of modern nursing scholarship. That spirit is overarching in the NYU nursing doctorate. 
  • Part-time nursing programs are available, and both BSN and MSN nurses can apply.

University of Arizona

Arizona’s first higher education institution, the University of Arizona, is still the leading public research university in the state, ranked as a top public university and one of the best for Hispanic students, especially in the medical field. The University of Arizona College of Nursing is one of the most diverse schools.

University of Arizona

Those top-ranked online nursing degrees include the UA nursing doctorate. You can complete UA’s doctorate program completely online, except for a short on-campus orientation each year. There are paths for nurses with undergraduate and graduate school degrees, as well as options for part-time and full-time students. 

Arizona also offers a dual DNP/PhD degree for qualified students. The University of Arizona keeps tuition reasonable, making UA a nationally recognized best value.


University of Missouri

The University of Missouri has been on the front lines of education ever since it was founded as the first public university west of the Mississippi River. The University of Missouri Health Care System is renowned as one of the most comprehensive, quality academic medical complexes in the Midwest.

University of Missouri

The Sinclair School of Nursing is one of the most scholarly and rigorous nursing schools in the region, with a great deal of first-rate research for doctorate students to take part in. 

Mizzou offers a distance-mediated program, mixing traditional and online modes of course instruction. This makes the program more convenient for working nurses while maintaining the formal integrity of the traditional doctorate.


Emory University

Emory University represents the Southern Ivy League, as an elite private research institution with the influence, funding, and reputation to stand confidently alongside Harvard, Yale, or Princeton. Emory operates Emory Healthcare, Georgia’s most prestigious medical system, which includes seven nationally recognized hospitals and hundreds of clinical partners. 

Emory University

With one of the largest endowments, the highest level of research production, and copious grants, Emory is an exemplary research university.

Woodruff School of Nursing at Emory gained a distinct advantage from the highest caliber of research. This includes work on some of the most pressing public health concerns – Emory was the first institution in the US to treat Ebola, for instance. 


Ohio State University

Ohio State University has shown a level of foresight and innovation that has seen it grow from a small regional college to the third-largest research university in the US. Few institutions can match OSU’s entrepreneurial expertise and ambition, especially in online education, where Ohio State has made its mark in recent years.

Ohio State University

OSU’s College of Nursing has risen to prominence through its top-ranked online degree programs and high level of scholarly research. Ohio State offers both full-time and part-time plans for the nursing doctorate program, with the number of required credits varying depending on specialization and prior experience. 

While most of OSU’s graduate nursing courses are available in an online format, the full program cannot be completed online.


Pennsylvania State University

One of the major public research institutions in the Northeast, Pennsylvania State University holds all four of the major federal research grants (land, sea, space, and sun), and is recognized as a Public Ivy. With over 10,000 students in its graduate programs alone, Penn has a global reputation as a research giant.

Pennsylvania State University

The Penn State nursing PhD engages terminal degree students in the research life of the university. Students will take part in the knowledge-creation and development that will be part of their career as nurse scientists and leaders, giving them a considerable advantage. 

Assistantships with stipends are available, and a dual PhD in nursing and bioethics is also offered for nurses who are interested in designing and guiding institutional research.


University of Rochester

The University of Rochester is a private research university with a reputation that stands high above its small size: having produced numerous Nobel Prize winners. UR also operates the University of Rochester Medical Center, made up of the schools of medicine, dentistry, and nursing, as well as the Strong Memorial Hospital.

University of Rochester

The University of Rochester School of Nursing is guided by a philosophy integrating research, education, and practice, dedicated to leading students into the nursing field with all the components that make a great care-giving leader.

The Health Practice Research program is designed for students who already have an MSN to focus on building their research skills. Meanwhile, the MS-PhD accelerated nursing programs are for BSN students who want to complete both an MSN and PhD in an intensive, accelerated full-time program.


Oregon Health & Science University

For the entirety of the 20th century, and the first decade of the 21st, Oregon Health & Science University was the only medical school in the state of Oregon. It’s a rather surprising fact that has given OHSU a considerable level of domination over Oregon’s healthcare system. 

Oregon Health & Science University

OHSU has been dedicated to the state to an exceptional degree, supplying a large proportion of Oregon’s doctors and nurses. The School of Nursing stands firm as the #7 graduate nursing school in the nation – major numbers for a school with fewer than 5000 students.

OHSU’s top-ranked School of Nursing offers a research-focused doctorate in nursing degree program that brings together all of OHSU’s resources to develop nurses into scientists and leaders. This real-life program is taught on OHSU’s state-of-the-art Portland, OR, campus by an instructional body steeped in the most current research, collaborative projects, and actual practice.


University of Cincinnati

The University of Cincinnati plays a major role in the health and wealth of Cincinnati, contributing significantly to both the Cincinnati economy and the healthcare system with the UC Academic Health Center. The University of Cincinnati boasts medical and health schools, research centers, hospitals, and clinics.

University of Cincinnati

The UC College of Nursing takes an active part in Cincinnati’s ambition to be a top-tier urban research university. Its research directly impacts and improves health in Cincinnati and throughout the Midwest.

Students can count on doing real service while earning a research-focused degree that will prepare them for key roles wherever they go.


University of Oklahoma

The premiere public research institution in Oklahoma, the University of Oklahoma has been bringing education and nationally-recognized research to the Great Plains since the days of the Oklahoma and Indian Territories. Online courses allow students to earn their degrees without sacrificing their current positions, and OU’s low tuition makes for a painless investment.

University of Oklahoma

While the University of Oklahoma’s original campus remains in Norman, the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, which houses OU’s medical and healthcare schools, is a top-class medical center in Oklahoma City. That includes OU’s hospital, children’s hospital, veteran’s hospital, and numerous specialist clinics

The Fran and Earl Ziegler College of Nursing offers a fully online doctorate program through the OU Health Sciences Center, a research-heavy plan of study. One plan is designed for MSN students; an accelerated plan helps students with a BSN power through the master’s and doctorate courses, though full-time work is required.


Florida Atlantic University

Florida Atlantic University is a top college for social mobility and a strong online educator. FAU was founded as a non-traditional institution for degree completion and graduate education. They retain that focus on quality programs for working adults, non-traditional students, and underrepresented populations.

Florida Atlantic University

The FAU College of Nursing is dedicated to producing the best caregivers and health system leaders through its highly respected programs. 

The FAU nursing doctorate is taught in a web-assisted format, with once-monthly on-campus classes and online coursework. Working nurses can pursue their future in a flexible schedule at one of the lowest prices in the nation.


University of Kansas

The University of Kansas is a major public research university, the foremost institution of its kind in Kansas. The KU Medical Center, in Kansas City, is made up of the university’s schools of medicine, nursing, and health professions, along with the University of Kansas Hospital. 

University of Kansas

This is the setting for KU’s extensive medical research, especially for KU’s research-centered nursing programs. In the top 25 for NIH funding, the KU School of Nursing is the ideal setting for earning a PhD in nursing – in fact, the only nursing doctorate in Kansas.

The nursing doctorate has been offered online since 2006, when many schools were just beginning their doctorate nursing programs. It’s a quality, affordable doctorate from a nursing pioneer.


Michigan State University

As the first land-grant institution, Michigan State University’s curriculum has been defined by programs emphasizing research and development that can have real-life consequences, from agriculture to engineering to health. MSU’s profile has particularly risen in the 21st century with a concentrated effort to build its research experience and reputation.

Michigan State University

Michigan State’s College of Nursing is a research-centered school that has made strides in recent years with work on cancer, nutrition, obesity, and other population-wide health crises. 

Students are a critical part of that work, engaging in valuable nursing research alongside instructors and working to become renowned nurse scientists in their own right. This on-campus program (with some online or hybrid courses available) puts students in contact with mentors and role models to inspire and guide them to their futures.


Villanova University

Villanova is a mid-sized private research institution in suburban Philadelphia, PA. As one of the oldest Catholic universities in the US, Villanova has a long history of excellence, including the College of Nursing, one of the most respected in Pennsylvania.

Villanova University

The College of Nursing offers a nursing doctorate program designed to prepare nurse educators and researchers for the future of the nursing field. While an on-campus option is available for international students, the Villanova PhD is an online program with on-campus summer sessions, oriented toward personal connection and nurse education. 

The most important aspect of nurse education is providing the best care and service, making Villanova College of Nursing a perfect choice for nurses who want to make the community a better home.


University of Texas at Arlington

A top regional university for the West, the University of Texas at Arlington is quickly outgrowing its regional status to become a major research institution on its own merits. UT Arlington’s emphasis on applied sciences, professional programs, and health has marked it as a model for the future of higher education.

University of Texas at Arlington

The UTA College of Nursing offers a PhD degree program that uses blended online/on-campus courses to provide more flexibility for working nurses’ schedules while maintaining personal networking and mentorship. 

Students may begin with a BSN or MSN, full-time or part-time, and UT Arlington’s nursing program, as suits a program in a major metropolitan area, exemplifies diversity and inclusion.


Texas Woman's University

Texas Woman’s University is one of the nation’s most innovative, vanguard research institutions for women. TWU has been one of the most renowned educators of nursing and health sciences, with the largest nursing program in the US.

Texas Woman's University

The TWU College of Nursing offers a fully online nursing doctorate program through its original Denton campus. It adapts TWU’s rigorous standards for research excellence and professional responsibility to the flexibility of an online format. 

A hybrid program is also available at the TWU Houston campus for students who prefer more personal contact. TWU’s tuition is one of the lowest rates in the US, a superior bargain for the high quality.


University of Massachusetts Amherst

The University of Massachusetts Amherst is the leading public university in New England. UMass is noted by the Carnegie Foundation for its contributions to the community, its dedication to sustainability, and its leadership in the higher education field.

University of Massachusetts Amherst

The UMass College of Nursing is a key part of UMass’ research culture, with students and instructors working in numerous healthcare facilities throughout the region. The UMass nursing doctorate is oriented toward making nurse scholars and leaders for the future of healthcare. 

Nursing doctorate courses are offered at Amherst in a hybrid format, with weekly class meetings and online coursework. In a region dominated by expensive private institutions, UMass keeps tuition reasonable, making it possible for nursing professionals to afford a career-making degree.


Washington State University

Washington State University has been commended by the Carnegie Foundation for community engagement. Educating over half of Washington’s nurses, the WSU College of Nursing has a major impact on the state’s well-being.

Washington State University

The College of Nursing is gaining a reputation as a research school, with grant-funded projects and a respected staff. Students complete their courses through synchronous online classes, except for a low-residency summer session of three weeks. 

With this hybrid format, WSU can provide students with models of scholarly work and personal attention, while still working around their professional obligations. It’s a well-organized system that prepares tomorrow’s leaders for Washington’s healthcare.


New Mexico State University

As the first university in New Mexico, New Mexico State University is the only designated Hispanic-serving major public research university in the US, a status that drives much of NMSU’s curriculum and community outreach. NMSU is New Mexico’s land-grant university, giving it the mission of bringing useful education to as many citizens as possible.

New Mexico State University

It offers a fully online nursing doctorate (with just one 1-week visit to campus once a year) to help meet the healthcare needs of New Mexico. Plus, NMSU’s unbelievably low tuition promises students that they will get their degrees without a lifetime of debt to hold them back.

NMSU sees its job as reaching out to the economically and ethnically diverse population of the state with educational opportunities, and the best health care they can provide, and the nursing doctorate is a key tool in doing that job. 


George Mason University

Students get drawn to George Mason University’s high reputation, reasonable tuition rates, and proximity to Washington, DC, along with the networking opportunities that proximity provides.

George Mason University

George Mason’s College of Health & Human Services offers a PhD in nursing that draws on GMU’s strong partnerships with the healthcare system of the northern Virginia region. It gives students ample opportunity for research and clinical work in a variety of populations, urban, rural, high-risk, and so on. 

Unlike other nursing programs, this is taught in a hybrid format, with approximately half the courses online, and half on-campus. Nurses preparing for a career in academia or research leadership can count on the George Mason University name.


University of San Diego

The University of San Diego looks over the city of San Diego – literally, from its high placement on one of the most beautiful hilltop campuses on the west coast, and figuratively, as it takes part in city life by educating ethical, responsible leaders in business, education, and health. 

University of San Diego

USD emphasizes the Catholic values of educational excellence and humanitarian service throughout its programs, especially in the Hahn School of Nursing and Health Science.

Students with a DNP degree may transfer as much as 11 credits toward a doctorate, much like a dual degree program, to combine the clinical experience of a DNP with the research expertise of the PhD. 


Florida International University

Part of the State University System of Florida, Florida International University is the college of choice for Florida high-school valedictorians. FIU has proven itself to be one of the most entrepreneurial and forward-looking public research universities out there.

Florida International University
  • FIU’s Wertheim College of Nursing & Health Sciences has one of the most diverse student bodies in the US, including 20% international students. 
  • The program emphasizes research that improves nursing practices and healthcare conditions for diverse, underserved people.

University of Massachusetts Lowell

The University of Massachusetts Lowell has practical, socially responsible professional education and research built into its DNA. As an urban research university, UMass Lowell focuses on fields that make everyday life better for modern people, from business and education to engineering and health sciences.

University of Massachusetts Lowell

With productive, respected instructors and a vision to be one of the leading lights of nursing education in New England, UMass Lowell’s School of Nursing offers a doctorate emphasizing health promotion at all levels, from general practice to health policy.

For the convenience of working nurses, the program is a trim of 48 credits, with online and weekend executive-format courses. It’s also one of the best values in New England.


Indiana University - Purdue University Indianapolis

Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis is a unique animal. Many colleges and universities collaborate on dual degree programs or offer individual degrees that neither have the resources for alone.

Indiana University - Purdue University Indianapolis

The IUPUI nursing program is led by the Indiana University School of Nursing, a century-old institution that has quickly grown into one of the largest in the nation. The program is fully online, except for a short intensive course at the beginning of each year which requires campus residency. 

Coming from an urban research university, emphasizes health systems and the leadership of such efforts, preparing students for research and vision.


University of Texas Health Science Center - San Antonio

The University of Texas Health Science Center is the most important medical university in South Texas. As the only top-tier research institution in the region, it’s responsible for the health care of an extremely large, extremely diverse population, from rural to urban, from the most underprivileged to the wealthiest, and everyone in between. 

University of Texas Health Science Center - San Antonio

UTHSC has many of the highest-ranked programs in the region and is the top medical school for Hispanic students, a severely underrepresented group in medicine. The UTHSC offers the only nursing PhD in the region and is making great efforts to alleviate the shortage of qualified nurse educators and leaders in Texas. 

They offer a fast-track plan for BSN holders to complete master’s and doctorate courses in an accelerated time frame and students who come from an MSN program are sent along an advanced track. The UT Health Science Center keeps one of the lowest tuition rates around, making it a respectable value.


West Virginia University

West Virginia University has the most prominent role in the state’s medical and health system. Students are required to submit and publish an article in a peer-reviewed journal.

West Virginia University

WVU’s research in neuroscience and biometrics is among the most innovative and productive in the nation. The Byrd Health Sciences Center is quite possibly the most important health institution in the region. It provides critical care and education throughout the rural regions of the West Virginia mountains.

The program is almost completely online, except for a short introductory meeting and one day a semester campus visit. 


East Carolina University

A growing regional research institution, East Carolina University has long been recognized as the state’s leader in nursing research and education. ECU’s reputation is built on medical and health sciences, and it is one of the most significant institutions providing quality care to the low-income, largely rural eastern North Carolina region.

East Carolina University

Much of ECU’s research is directed toward improving care for rural areas lacking proper medical facilities, an approach that informs ECU’s nursing PhD. Students take part in key interdisciplinary projects combining practice with social and political knowledge.

ECU offers a streamlined BSN to PhD track, a traditional MSN to PhD track, and a DNP to PhD track that allows students to apply for as many as 21 credits from the DNP to the PhD for one of the lowest tuition rates in the region.


University of California, San Francisco

The University of California-San Francisco is the only University of California system university solely dedicated to medical and healthcare education. Nursing students at UCSF, then, have access to some of the most current opportunities that students get nowhere else.

University of California, San Francisco

UCSF has the highest rate of funding by the NIH. Instructors and students make breakthroughs in psychology and mental health, women’s health, and global health (including HIV/AIDS and pregnancy/childbirth).

Students engaged in original research that makes a tangible contribution to nursing practice, theory, and knowledge.


University of Central Florida

The University of Central Florida has spent the 21st century becoming one of the dominant research universities in the south and the second-largest university in the nation. Ranking UCF in the top 100 public institutions recognizes it as an up-and-coming institution and one of the best values in the nation.

University of Central Florida

The UCF College of Nursing is also recognized as a top value, as well as one of the best online nursing programs in the US. With their connections to the US government, UCF Nursing is also recognized as a top choice for veterans. 

For UCF students, choices for research include Gerontology, Health Systems, and the most cutting-edge Simulation & Technology. This quality, with UCF’s low tuition, makes UCF a top investment.


University of Massachusetts Dartmouth

Part of the respected UMass system, the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth is a small, regional branch that is steadily growing in status and recognition as it adds programs and research initiatives. 

University of Massachusetts Dartmouth

In particular, UMD is best known for its sustainability efforts, being the first university to perfectly meet global sustainability standards. UMD’s goal is to become a nationally-ranked university by 2020, a goal it is successfully reaching.

The UMD College of Nursing has been providing commuting students, non-traditional working adults, and first-generation students with the means to make their careers with nursing programs.

Methodology for Nursing PhD Rankings

Value Colleges features only the most trustworthy, proven universities and colleges with Nursing PhD programs that will deliver on their promises with meaningful jobs and lifelong careers.

Two people wearing medical scrubs, conversing while doing admin duties together

We consider only regionally-accredited (and mostly AACN-accredited) programs and rank them according to solid data:

  • Reputability – US News 2017 Best Nursing Schools (at MSN level- no PhD avail.)
  • ROI – mid-level salaries of Alumni reported by Payscale
  • Cost – Actual tuition per credit as reported by the institution

From our formula, we determine which institutions offer the best balance between quality, job market reliability, and affordability, adding up to a respectable ROI.

What to Expect in a PhD in Nursing Program

A doctoral program in nursing is designed to equip students with advanced research skills and a deep understanding of nursing scholarship. Throughout the program, you’ll develop the expertise to conduct and publish evidence-based research that can shape nursing practices and healthcare policies for generations to come.

What Will You Learn in a PhD in Nursing Program?

PhD nursing programs will teach you the core elements, focusing on:

  • Historical and philosophical foundations of nursing
  • Nursing theories, methods, and processes
  • Research methodology and data management
  • Academic, research, practice, and healthcare policy development
  • Leadership strategies and mentoring
  • Dissertation and immersion experiences

How Long Do PhD in Nursing Programs Take?

Most nursing programs offering a doctorate typically take between four to six years to complete. The exact duration varies on factors such as your prior educational background and whether you pursue the degree on a full-time or part-time basis.

What Can You Do With a PhD in Nursing?

Earning a doctorate nursing degree opens up diverse career opportunities in research, academia, healthcare administration, and health policy. With this advanced credential, you can pursue roles such as nurse scientist, nurse educator, and healthcare administrator, or contribute to shaping influential healthcare policies and regulations.

What Is the Average Salary for a Professional With a PhD in Nursing?

Professionals with nursing degrees who have obtained a PhD can expect to earn a lucrative salary, with the average annual income reaching approximately $100,000 or $60.45 per hour. However, your exact earnings may vary depending on factors such as your specific career path, employer, location, and level of experience

Woman with a stethoscope on her neck, scrolling her tablet while taking notes

What Are the Requirements for PhD Nursing Programs?

Requirements for PhD nursing programs may vary, although you expect to prepare the following:

  • Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN), Master of Science in Nursing (MSN), or a non-nursing graduate degree
  • Personal statement outlining research interests and goals
  • Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores
  • Minimum GPA (grade point average) of 3.0 or higher
  • Successful completion of an admissions interview
  • Writing sample demonstrating academic and research abilities
  • Updated resume or curriculum vitae
  • Professional letters of recommendation
  • Active and unencumbered Registered Nurse (RN) license
  • Official transcripts from all previously attended post-secondary institutions
  • For international applicants, TOEFL or IELTS scores to demonstrate English proficiency
  • Other nursing programs may have additional requirements specific to their doctoral program

How Much Does a PhD in Nursing Degree Cost?

The cost of pursuing a PhD in nursing science can vary significantly, with tuition ranging from $400 to over $2,300 per credit hour at prestigious institutions. However, many universities offer funding opportunities, such as covering tuition fees or providing federal research grants.

Is a PhD in Nursing Degree Right for Me?

A nursing PhD is the right degree for you if you want to be specifically trained for positions in leadership, research, and best practices. Outside of the nursing profession itself, very few people think about the other side of nursing:

  • The nurses who have charge over all the other nurses; 
  • The nurses who advocate for other nurses in the board room, in front of Congress, and the public eye
  • The nurses who research to determine scientifically what works best for patients on the ground.

A working nurse can only help their immediate patients. A nurse educator, nurse scientist, or nurse leader can help many more through their influence. 

The nursing PhD isn’t for everyone – only those with high grades and more of an interest in research than patient care are suitable. For those who have that desire, there are an ever-increasing number of options available, and not all of them are reputable.

DNP vs PhD in Nursing Practice

Unlike a DNP degree– a relatively new degree type that is designed for advanced practice, for using the insights of scientific research in the nitty-gritty of the nursing science profession – the nursing doctorate is designed for academic and scientific exploration, experimentation, and education. (see our comparison of DNP vs. PhD in Nursing)

Nursing students wearing their face masks on their way to their medical internship
  • The nursing PhD-holders are the research scientists who are developing the knowledge that DNPs use for deciding what practicing nurses do on a day-to-day basis. 
  • They are the professors, the scientists, and the advocates who may not spend their days in the ER or the hospital floor, but who figure out what those nurses need to best do their jobs.
  • The nurse scientist teaches other nurses, conducts research, writes books, takes on leadership positions in organizations, and influences government healthcare policy. 
  • They need the highest level of education and experience, and the contemporary healthcare system is in desperate need of them.

Related Questions

Which PhD Is Best After Nursing? 

The Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree is often considered the best option after nursing. The DNP is a terminal degree focused on clinical practice, making it a great choice for advanced clinical expertise and leadership opportunities.

Which Country Is Best for a Doctorate in Nursing? 

The United States is generally considered one of the best countries for pursuing a PhD in nursing, as it offers many reputable and well-established doctoral programs at top universities. However, the best country for a doctorate in nursing ultimately depends on your professional goals and the specific program offerings that align with your research interests.


By thoroughly researching and understanding the rankings of nursing doctoral programs, you can make an informed decision that aligns with your academic goals and career aspirations. Choosing a highly-ranked program can provide you with a top-notch education, valuable networking opportunities, and increased credibility in the job market, setting you up for success in your future endeavors.

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Aya Andrews


Aya Andrews is a passionate educator and mother of two, with a diverse background that has shaped her approach to teaching and learning. Born in Metro Manila, she now calls San Diego home and is proud to be a Filipino-American. Aya earned her Masters degree in Education from San Diego State University, where she focused on developing innovative teaching methods to engage and inspire students.

Prior to her work in education, Aya spent several years as a continuing education consultant for KPMG, where she honed her skills in project management and client relations. She brings this same level of professionalism and expertise to her work as an educator, where she is committed to helping each of her students achieve their full potential.

In addition to her work as an educator, Aya is a devoted mother who is passionate about creating a nurturing and supportive home environment for her children. She is an active member of her community, volunteering her time and resources to support local schools and organizations. Aya is also an avid traveler, and loves to explore new cultures and cuisines with her family.

With a deep commitment to education and a passion for helping others succeed, Aya is a true inspiration to those around her. Her dedication to her craft, her community, and her family is a testament to her unwavering commitment to excellence in all aspects of her life.

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