Top 50 Best Nursing PhD Programs
Everyone knows what nurses do: everyone has encountered a nurse, whether in the primary physician’s office, the emergency room, or the hospital. Nurses provide hands-on care, meet a patient’s immediate needs, and do the grunt work of the healthcare system. But, 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 in the public eye; the nurses who do the research to determine scientifically on what works best for patients on the ground.
The people in those positions are nurses with Ph.D. degrees, who are specifically trained for positions in leadership, research, and best practices. Unlike a DNP – 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 profession – the nursing PhD is designed for academic and scientific exploration, experimentation, and education. The nursing PhD-holders are the research scientists who are developing the knowledge that DNPs use for deciding what practicing nurses does 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. (see our comparison of DNP vs. PhD in Nursing)
The nurse scientist teaches other nurses, conducts research, writes books, takes on leaderships positions in organizations, and influences government policy. They need the highest level of education and experience, and the contemporary healthcare system is in desperate need of them; there are not nearly enough nurse leaders to ensure that the most current research is being communicated to working nurses, and universities are working hard to fill that need.
That’s where Value Colleges can help. There are working nurses out there who know they can help, but 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 – but for those who have that desire, there are an ever-increasing number of options available, and not all of them are reputable. 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.
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 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.
University of Texas at Austin
The #1 Best Value Nursing PhD comes from the University of Texas, the most distinguished public research institution in Texas. One of the original Public Ivies – a public university with the reputation and excellence of the Ivy League – UT is widely recognized as a center of education, research, and culture for the Southwest, influencing and influenced by the bold, creative, entrepreneurial spirit of the city of 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 faculty and students are engaged in some of the most important health research in the nation, with one of the highest rates of federal grant funding, which means major benefits for nursing PhD students. UT’s reasonable tuition rates and market reputability promise students strong returns on their investment.
Cost: $542/credit hour
University of California, Davis
Quite possibly the foremost public higher education system in the world, the University of California system is home to a number of Public Ivies, including UC Davis; the highest number of Nobel Prize winners of any system; and many U.S. News & World Report top-ranked institutions. Not only is UC Davis USN&WR’s #11 public university, it’s also been recognized as one of the greenest, happiest, and coolest schools in the nation – qualities that make it one of the most desirable destinations for students in California and nation-wide.
The Moore School of Nursing at University of California, Davis is serious about research, building upon the single largest grant ever made for nursing education. They are so serious, in fact, that every doctoral student admitted to the nursing PhD program receives tuition fully paid – no PhD student pays a dime for an education at one of the finest nursing schools in the US. The UC Davis nursing PhD is a full-time, four-year program open for students with a BSN; it is a highly rigorous, world-class program designed to prepare graduates for the most demanding positions in leadership, research, and education, so only the most dedicated students need apply.
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. Nebraska gradually added a hospital and other facilities until finally bringing all of their medical and health programs together in the 1960s to create the most significant university health center in Nebraska, a system ranked as #6 in the nation by U.S. News & World Report. The UNMC College of Nursing is an ambitious division on a mission to be counted among the best nursing schools in the world.
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 PhD in as little as four years. Students who already have an MSN can take a more traditional path, part-time or full-time. All UNMC nursing PhD courses are available in a web-based, streaming format; while UNMC does not yet have asynchronous courses, they are on the way. The University of Nebraska system keeps tuition costs low as a way to make nursing education affordable and accessible.
Cost: $447/credit hour
U.S. News & World Report’s #2 public university in the nation, the University of California Los Angeles is one of the most significant public research institutions in the world, 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. With deep connections to the vast system of medical facilities throughout Los Angeles, and some of the most decorated faculty in the world, UCLA’s School of Nursing is more than impressive.
UCLA’s nursing PhD program is 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, all led by dedicated professionals. With all of the resources available to UCLA PhD students, there is no limit to what nursing PhD students can pursue.
Cost: $888/credit hour
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 their first medical school in Galveston to prepare for the needs of the growing state. While the Texas Medical Center in Houston has outgrown the original, UT Medical Branch remains a major influence over the healthcare system of Texas, especially through its large volume of charity work and its care for Texas’ large prison population.
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. The UTMB is using online degree programs to close the gap in nursing leadership, such as the newly online nursing PhD program. With both asynchronous and synchronous models, students can earn the PhD with only one short campus visit per year, receiving top-tier nursing education and performing research in a format that allows them to continue their career uninterrupted. UTMB also has one of the lowest tuition rates available, a further advantage to working nurses.
Cost: $346/credit hour
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; UW has some of the most acclaimed medical programs in the nation, with their medical and nursing schools ranked in the top 5 by U.S. News & World Report.
From its founding in 1918, to combat the world-wide flu epidemic, 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 PhD. UW is unique in not requiring a nurse’s degree to enroll in the nursing PhD program, only a bachelor’s degree, so nursing PhD students come from a diversity of backgrounds. The UW Nursing PhD is thorough, with concentration on research, teaching, and theory, designed to produce well-rounded scholars who can carry the nursing profession into the future.
Cost: $972/credit hour
University of Pennsylvania
Unlike most of its fellow Ivy League schools, which were founded as theological or liberal arts institutions, 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 the medical school and business school to the US, and remain one of the most practical and innovative Ivy League Schools.
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 schools in the nation. As a school based in the real-world use of applied research, Penn is a perfect setting for the nurse-scientist training of the nursing PhD, with all that an Ivy League institution can offer, from research resources to a marketable name and reputation.
Cost: $1654/credit hour
The South’s answer to the Ivy League, Duke University is renowned world-wide for its medical programs, centered around the Duke University Medical Center, one of the most significant academic medical campuses in the world. As one corner of the Research Triangle, Duke’s role in medical research and education is often mentioned alongside Johns Hopkins and the Mayo clinic.
The U.S. News & World Report #6 nursing school, 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. The Duke nursing PhD benefits from the ample opportunities provided by Duke’s ground-breaking and well-funded research facilities. Students with a BSN or MSN can apply, and teaching assistantships are available for qualifying students. The Duke name is known everywhere, giving PhD graduates a highly valuable advantage over their competition.
Cost: $1586/credit hour
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. 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 Rush’s intensive research environment, giving PhD nursing students access to the most current working being done in the field today. U.S. News & World Report ranks Rush as one of the the best graduate nursing schools in the nation, with many individual programs in the top 10. Rush offers a fully online nursing PhD for both full-time and part-time students, adding convenience to excellence to make a top-10 best value.
Cost: $1050/credit hour
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, engineering, and law, as well as related fields. With the state’s only medical school, and the top nursing school, Utah’s healthcare system depends on the University of Utah’s faculty and researchers to provide the care professionals and educators the state needs.
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 PhD program designed for meeting the educational needs of working nurses. Using a cohort model (for students to support one another), the Utah PhD program offers synchronous online courses year-round so 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.
Cost: $627/credit hour
Yale’s reputation, as the third university founded in the American colonies and one of the world-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. The Yale School of Nursing 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 nursing practice.
The Yale School of Nursing offers a top-5 ranked Nursing PhD program with the Graduate School of Arts & Sciences. With access to all of the resources available to an institution like Yale, nursing PhDs may research and practice in any number of areas, from chronic sleep disorders to global health and policy, preparing for a career as an educator of nurses, advocate for nurse research, or nurse scientist. With the Yale name, graduates can literally go anywhere with confidence.
Cost: $1400/credit hour
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 their 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, not sacrificing – in fact, continually improving – their standing and reputation in the process.
The ASU College of Nursing & Health Innovation is known for their top-quality education and for their focus on community service, including partnerships with numerous clinics and facilities in Tempe and the surrounding region. These settings allow the college to do good and perform research that benefits their programs, especially the PhD 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.
Cost: $600/credit hour
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, combining scientific research and instruction in one institution. That foresight led to Johns Hopkins University becoming one of the most respected and elite institutions in the world, 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. JHU’s nursing school is consistently ranked at the very top of U.S. News & World Report and other ranking agencies. With access to some of the finest researchers and research centers in the fields, Johns Hopkins nursing PhD students have the very best preparation, and, importantly for the Best Values list, almost all full-time students receive full funding.
Cost: $2286/credit hour
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; that includes the School of Nursing, one of the first in the nation and still one of the best (#11 on U.S. News & World Report).
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 for the nursing PhD program; the program is only available full-time, and students are expected to complete in 3 years of research-intensive, rigorous work. Most faculty are grant-funded researchers, giving students ample access to research mentors and a thorough preparation for academic life.
Cost: $1820/credit hour
University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill,
As a part of the Research Triangle – a global hub for scientific, industrial, and academic research in North Carolina, along with Duke University (#8) – the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has the history of excellence and influence to be named among the original Public Ivies. 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 health care systems in the nation, and graduate students glean much from its research centers.
The UNC School of Nursing is one of the leading lights in nursing research and scholarship, and its nursing PhD students are active participants. UNC’s diverse student body benefits from over 100 interdisciplinary research centers and a highly decorated faculty, giving new scholars strong support and mentoring from established academic researchers. All of this makes for one of the best nursing PhD degree programs available – truly an Ivy League education at a public university price.
Cost: $589/credit hour
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. Much of USF’s success has been due to their spectacular online presence, and by concentrating 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 institution in NIH grant funding and building relationships with the healthcare system of Tampa. USF offers a nursing PhD program with tracks for BSN and MSN holders, allowing graduate students to draw on the first-rate research being done by USF faculty. For PhD students, access and excellence, plus one of the lowest tuition rates in the US, adds up to a smart investment.
Cost: $348/credit hour
University of Missouri - Kansas City
Regularly cited as a best value for the Midwest, the University of Missouri-Kansas City is a mid-sized public research university on the rise. Many of UMKC’s individual programs are solidly ranked by U.S. News & World Report, but UMKC’s focus isn’t on national fame, but on regional service, an area in which it excels. UMKC’s extensive research faculty and strong research budget translate into useful knowledge and applicable data that directly improves the lives of Missourians.
UMKC’s School of Nursing and Health Studies plays a large role in that research culture, using their grant funding and top-notch faculty to meet the needs of the community and to contribute to the overall knowledge of nursing science. Nursing PhD students take direct part in that work, even through UMKC’s online degree program, which is designed for working adults. With fully online coursework and only two short summer residencies each year, UMKC nursing PhD students can complete their degree in only two years without sacrificing their current jobs.
Cost: $400/credit hour
University of Colorado Denver
With the Anschutz Medical Campus, encompassing the former University of Colorado Health Sciences Center, the schools of medicine, nursing, pharmacy, and other healthcare fields, and the University of Colorado hospitals, the University of Colorado Denver has become one of the premiere medical and healthcare educators in the world. Not only is CU Denver a national leader in faculty 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 is recognized by U.S. News & World Report as having one of the nation’s top 25 graduate programs, including an online PhD in nursing. With designs for BSN and MSN nurses, the CU online PhD includes fully online courses and a few short, intensive campus visits (mainly during dissertation research and writing). CU Denver’s tuition is reasonable, their education is top-of-the-line, and their 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.
Cost: $550/credit hour
Like Duke University (#8), Vanderbilt University, in Nashville, TN, is one of the Southern states’ Ivy League rivals, founded by tycoon Cornelius Vanderbilt to bring educational excellence to the post-Civil War South. Like other institutions of its size and significance, Vanderbilt operates the Vanderbilt University Medical Center, home of the top hospital in Tennessee, one of the nation’s top children’s hospitals, and Vanderbilt’s highly-ranked medical and healthcare schools.
Vanderbilt’s School of Nursing has long been a leader in nurse education and scholarly nursing research, a history reflected in its nursing PhD program. Vanderbilt offers an online PhD degree program that delivers Vanderbilt’s signature quality with synchronous and asynchronous classes and two possible tracks: Clinical Research, focused on research into methods of diagnosing and treating patients; or Health Services Research, focused on researching best practices and approaches to delivering medical care. With Vanderbilt’s name and reputation, a PhD from Vanderbilt puts graduates in control in a competitive job market.
Cost: $1818/credit hour
Boston College is a private, Catholic university that is regularly ranked as one of the top national research universities in the world by publications like U.S. News & World Report, Forbes, and others. As a major Jesuit university, Boston University upholds the traditional Jesuit values of educational rigor, community service, and excellence. 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.
PhD nursing students at the Connell School gather knowledge from Boston College’s world-class faculty, all of whom are accomplished, respected scholars and educators. BC’s nursing PhD emphasizes knowledge production, research, and nursing expertise, preparing students to become dedicated nurse scholars and scientists. Many students accepted receive a full fellowship with paid tuition, making Boston College a top value.
Cost: $1298/credit hour
New York University
One of the most renowned universities in the world, regularly ranked at the top by U.S. News & World Report, the Economist, and others, New York University is a private research institution that dominates academic life in New York City. As one of the largest universities of its type, with one of the highest research budgets of any institution, NYU has produced winners of the Nobel Prize, MacArthur Grant, and virtually every other major intellectual award in the world.
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 the NYU nursing PhD program, which actively seeks the most dedicated, adventurous, and ambitious nurses for intensive, demanding research in the field. Part-time options are available, but full-time work is recommended; both BSN and MSN nurses can apply.
Cost: $2223/credit hour
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 medical fields. The University of Arizona College of Nursing is one of the most diverse schools, and has been recognized by U.S. News & World Report as a top 25 program for online nursing degrees.
Those top-ranked online nursing degrees include the UA nursing PhD. UA’s nursing PhD can be completed completely online, except for a short on-campus orientation each year. With paths for nurses with bachelor’s and master’s degrees, as well as full-time and part-time options. Arizona also offers a dual DNP/PhD degree program for qualified students. The University of Arizona keeps tuition reasonable, making UA a nationally-recognized best value.
Cost: $789/credit hour
University of Missouri
The leading public research institution in 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, with the School of Medicine and the Sinclair School of Nursing performing research and providing care.
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 nursing research for PhD students to take part in. Mizzou offers a distance-mediated program, mixing traditional and online modes of course instruction to make the program more convenient for working nurses while maintaining the formal integrity of the a traditional PhD. With a number of specialty options, and a very low tuition rate, the University of Missouri nursing PhD prepares students well for nursing science.
Cost: $422/credit hour
Alongside Duke (#8) and Vanderbilt (#19), 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, including seven nationally-recognized hospitals and hundreds of clinical partners. With one of the largest endowments in the world, the highest level of research production, and copious grants, Emory is an exemplary research university.
It is in this climate that the Woodruff School of Nursing at Emory can claim its status as one of the top nursing schools in the nation, #10 on U.S. News & World Report. Woodruff PhD students gain a distinct advantage from the highest caliber of research being done by Emory faculty, including work in some of the most pressing public health concerns in the world – Emory was the first institution in the US to treat Ebola, for instance. Only the most qualified students need apply, but for those accepted, an Emory PhD is a door to the future.
Cost: $1816/credit hour
Ohio State University
A land-grant institution that began as an agriculture and mechanical engineering school, the 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 really made its mark in recent years.
OSU’s College of Nursing has risen to prominence through their top-ranked online degree programs and high level of scholarly research. Ohio State offers both full-time and part-time plans for the nursing PhD 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. However, with the Ohio State reputation and quality, students can count on the OSU nursing PhD to be time and money well spent.
Cost: $723/credit hour
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. Penn State is ranked in the top 50 nationally, and the top 15 public universities, by U.S. News & World Report, and with over 10,000 students in its graduate programs alone, has a world-wide reputation as a research giant.
While Penn State is well-known for their online degree programs, the Penn State nursing PhD is not available fully-online, the better to engage terminal degree students in the research life of the university. While this plan may not be as convenient as an online degree, it ensures that 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 offers for nurses who are interested in designing and guiding institutional research.
Cost: $851/credit hour
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; made major advances in lasers and optics, as well as social science; and built the leading music school in the US, the University of Rochester has been named a New Ivy and promises more greatness in the future. 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, one of the most respected hospitals in the region.
In that spirit, 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 and leader. The University of Rochester offers two nursing PhD options: the Health Practice Research program is designed for students who already have an MSN to focus on building their research skills; the MS-PhD accelerated programs is for BSN students to complete both an MSN and PhD in an intensive, accelerated full-time program. Both are supported by Rochester’s top-tier research to prepare graduates for excellence in leadership and learning.
Cost: $1400/credit hour
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, a rather surprising fact that has given OHSU a considerable level of domination over Oregon’s healthcare system. Because of this tremendous responsibility, OHSU has been dedicated to the state to an exceptional degree, with the vast majority of students coming from Oregon, and supplying a large proportion of Oregon’s doctors and nurses. With such focus, OHSU’s programs have regularly been cited among the top 10 by U.S. News & World Report, with the School of Nursing standing firm as the #7 graduate nursing school in the nation – major numbers for a school with fewer that 5000 students.
OHSU’s top-ranked School of Nursing offers a research-focused PhD in nursing degree program that brings together all of OHSU’s resources to develop nurses into scientists and leaders. This real-world program is taught on OHSU’s state-of-the-art Portland, OR, campus by a faculty body steeped in the most current research, collaborative projects, and actual practice. With all that OHSU has to offer, and a reasonable tuition rate, PhD graduates are prepared to shape the future of medicine and healthcare in the Pacific Northwest.
Cost: $564/credit hour
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 to the healthcare system with the UC Academic Health Center. Comprising the University of Cincinnati’s medical and health schools, research centers, and hospitals and clinics, UC Health makes an indelible mark on the city of Cincinnati and the state of Ohio.
The UC College of Nursing takes an active part in Cincinnati’s ambition to be the top-tier urban research university that U.S. News & World Report’s “up-and-coming” ranking promises. The College of Nursing is engaged in research that directly impacts and improves health in Cincinnati and throughout the Midwest, and the on-campus nursing PhD program is designed to put PhD students front and center in that work. Students can count on doing real service while earning a research-focused degree that will prepare them for key roles wherever they go.
Cost: $803/credit hour
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. 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 world-class medical center in Oklahoma City. That includes OU’s hospital, children’s hospital, veteran’s hospital, and numerous specialist clinics, all of which help the Fran and Earl Ziegler College of Nursing in their research pursuits.
The Fran and Earl Ziegler College of Nursing offers a fully online PhD program through the OU Health Sciences Center, a research-heavy plan of study tailored for the modern work of research in nursing science. One plan is designed for MSN students; an accelerated plan helps students with a BSN power through the master’s and PhD coursework, though full-time work is required. In whatever case, online courses allow students to earn their degree without sacrificing their current positions, and OU’s low tuition makes for a painless investment.
Cost: $467/credit hour
Florida Atlantic University
Florida Atlantic University has met the 21st century head-on, growing in the last decade from a small regional institution to one of the largest public research universities in the south, with a steadily rising reputation and national recognition as a best value, 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, and they retain that focus on quality programs for working adults, non-traditional students, and underrepresented populations.
The FAU College of Nursing is dedicated to producing the best caregivers and health system leaders through their highly respected programs. FAU knows the importance of diversity in nursing and nurse leadership, and the nursing PhD program explicitly recognizes their role in making diversity and inclusion happen. The FAU nursing PhD is taught in a web-assisted format, with once-monthly on-campus classes and online coursework, so working nurses can pursue their future in a flexible schedule at one of the lowest prices in the nation.
Cost: $304/credit hour
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, a U.S. News & World Report top national hospital. This is the setting for KU’s extensive medical research, especially for KU’s research-centered School of Nursing.
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 PhD in Kansas. It’s one of the oldest nursing doctoral programs in the US, started in 1983, so students can trust that it is not only established, but groundbreaking; further, the nursing PhD has been offered online since 2006, when many schools were just beginning their PhD programs. It’s a quality, affordable PhD from a nursing pioneer.
Cost: $600/credit hour
Michigan State University
As the first land-grant institution, Michigan State University’s curriculum has always been defined by programs emphasizing research and development that can have real-world 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 endowment and reputation, one that has paid off as Michigan State has risen sharply in its rankings and standing in the Big 10.
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. The College of Nursing’s PhD students are a critical part of that work, engaging in crucial research alongside faculty 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.
Cost: $698/credit hour
The U.S. News & World Report #1 regional master’s 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. As a Catholic university, Villanova’s College of Nursing is committed to providing nursing education and service as ministry.
The College of Nursing offers a nursing PhD degree 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. For the Villanova philosophy, the most important aspect of nurse education is providing the best care and service, making the Villanova College of Nursing a perfect choice for nurses who want to make the world a better home for all.
Cost: $1081/credit hour
University of Texas at Arlington
A top regional university for the west, the University of Texas at Arlington is quickly outgrowing regional status to become a major research institution on its own merits, a growth largely owing to its home in suburban Dallas-Ft. Worth, one of the most dynamic metropolitan areas in the US. UT Arlington’s emphasis on applied sciences, professional programs, and health have marked it as a model for the future of higher education, and the College of Nursing in particular is one of the five largest and most recognized nursing schools in the nation.
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, but maintains 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. Tuition is part of UT Arlington’s accessibility, and nursing PhD’s pay a very reasonable rate for an excellent education.
Cost: $453/credit hour
Texas Woman's University
Texas Woman’s University is one of the nation’s most innovative, vanguard research institutions for women (men are admitted, but the student body remains overwhelmingly women). Throughout its history, TWU has played a prominent role not only in educating women, but to bringing conventionally disregarded “female” professions into academic standing. As such, TWU has been one of the most renowned educators of nursing and health sciences, with the largest nursing program in the US.
The TWU College of Nursing offers a fully online nursing PhD program through its original Denton campus, one that 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.
Cost: $303/credit hour
University of Massachusetts Amherst
One of the most recognizable public research institutions in America, the University of Massachusetts Amherst is the leading public university in New England, a confident rival to the many Ivy League and private colleges in the region. Located in Amherst, a top-10 most popular college town, 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.
The UMass College of Nursing is a key part of UMass’ research culture, with students and faculty working in numerous healthcare facilities throughout the region, and the UMass nursing PhD is oriented toward making nurse scholars and leaders for the future of healthcare. Nursing PhD 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.
Cost: $750 /credit hour
Washington State University
Like UMass, Washington State University has been commended by the Carnegie Foundation for community engagement; few institutions have done more for the people of Washington and the Pacific Northwest than Wazzu, from intensive research in agriculture and applied sciences, to the healthcare contributions of the College of Nursing. Educating over half of Washington’s nurses, the WSU College of Nursing has a major impact on the state’s well-being.
The College of Nursing is gaining reputation as a research school, with grant-funded projects and a respected staff. Nursing PhD students complete their coursework 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.
Cost: $986/credit hour
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, as well as taking part in southwestern culture in a productive way. NMSU fulfills that mission with service to the people of New Mexico, and excellent degree programs, many of them online to increase accessibility.
The School of Nursing offers a fully online nursing PhD (with just one 1-week visit to campus once a year) to help meet the healthcare needs of New Mexico. The NMSU School of Nursing sees its job as reaching out to the economically and ethnically diverse population of the state with educational opportunity, and the best health care they can provide, and the nursing PhD is a key tool in doing that job. Plus, NMSU’s unbelievably low tuition promises students that they will get their degree without a lifetime of debt to hold them back.
Cost: $227/credit hour
George Mason University
It’s not often that a college’s regional extension campus outgrows its founding school, but that is indeed the case with George Mason University. Originally a branch campus of the University of Virginia, GMU has become the largest student body in Virginia, with students drawn to GMU’s high reputation, reasonable tuition rates, and proximity to Washington, DC, along with the networking opportunities that proximity provides.
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, giving students ample opportunity for research and clinical work in a variety of populations, urban, rural, high-risk, and so on. The PhD program 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.
Cost: $638/credit hour
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. As a top 100 national university, and one of the most elite, rigorous institutions in California, USD emphasizes the Catholic values of educational excellence and humanitarian service throughout its programs, especially in the Hahn School of Nursing and Health Science.
The Hahn School offers a highly reputable nursing PhD program with tracks for BSN and MSN students, as well as a rare DNP to PhD program; students with a DNP degree may transfer as much as 11 credits toward a PhD, much like a dual degree program, to combine the clinical practice of a DNP with the research expertise of the PhD. The USD nursing PhD puts a premium on a true-to-life model of research, allowing publishable articles and grant proposals as alternatives to traditional dissertations.
Cost: $1455/credit hour
Florida International University
Part of the State University System of Florida, Florida International University is the college of choice for Florida high-school valedictorians and the 4th largest university in the US (following Arizona State [our #12], neighbor University of Central Florida [our #49], and Ohio State [our #25]). That’s competitive company, and in its 50 years of existence FIU has proven itself to be one of the most entrepreneurial and forward-looking public research universities out there.
FIU’s Wertheim College of Nursing & Health Sciences has one of the most diverse student bodies in the US, including 20% international students, and as such the largest area of research for students and faculty is in health disparities, from the US to global settings. The PhD in nursing program emphasizes research that improves nursing practices and healthcare conditions for diverse, underserved peoples. It’s a position that is at the heart of nursing, and Florida International is a pace-setter.
Cost: $564/credit hour
University of Massachusetts Lowell
With its roots in the merger of a state college and a technological institute, 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. The UML College of Health Sciences, and especially the School of Nursing, is rising in reputation and recognition.
With a productive, respected faculty and a vision to be one of the leading lights of nursing education in New England, UMass Lowell’s School of Nursing offers a nursing PhD emphasizing health promotion at all levels, from clinical practice to policy-making. For the convenience of working nurses, the program is a trim 48 credits, with online and weekend executive-format courses. It’s also one of the best values in New England.
Cost: $766/credit hour
Indiana University - Purdue University Indianapolis
Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis is a unique animal; many colleges and universities collaborate on dual degree programs, or to offer individual degrees that neither have the resources for alone, but it’s quite exceptional for two major research universities to work together to create an entire university. But when the city of Indianapolis called for a major urban research university in the city, Indiana and Purdue came together in an institution that may provide a model for what future universities look Ike.
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 nursing PhD program is fully online, except for a short intensive course at the beginning of each year which requires campus residency. The IUPUI nursing PhD, as coming from an urban research university, emphasizes health systems and the leadership of such efforts, preparing students for research and vision.
Cost: $1000/credit hour
University of Texas Health Science Center - San Antonio
As the most important medical university in south Texas, and the only top-tier research institution in the region, the University of Texas Health Science Center is 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. 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 both master’s and doctorate courses in an accelerated time frame, either full-time or part-time, and students who come in with an MSN are send along an advanced track. To sweeten the deal, the UT Health Science Center keeps one of the lowest tuition rates around, making it a respectable value.
Cost: $354/credit hour
West Virginia University
West Virginia’s foremost public research university, West Virginia University has the most prominent role in the state’s medical and health system. WVU’s research in neuroscience and biometrics is among the most innovative and productive in the nation, and the Byrd Health Sciences Center is quite possibly the most important health institution in the region, with the School of Nursing in particular providing critical care and education throughout the rural regions of the West Virginia mountains.
To further their essential work, the WVU School of Nursing offers a first-rate nursing PhD program. Making the program as widely-available as possible to meet West Virginia’s nursing education needs, the PhD is almost completely online, except for a short introductory meeting and one day a semester campus visit. In addition to exams and a dissertation, nursing PhD students are required to submit and publish an article in a peer-reviewed journal, meaning every graduate comes out of WVU as a published scholar, a level of rigor comparable to the most elite schools. WVU takes nursing seriously, and is a serious value because of it.
Cost: $602/credit hour
East Carolina University
A growing regional research institution, East Carolina University is not nationally-known like the flagship in Chapel Hill (#15), but it 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. In all, ECU’s College of Nursing graduates more nurses than any other mid-Atlantic university – if you’ve been in a hospital in North Carolina, you had a nurse from ECU.
Because of its location and mission, much of ECU’s research is directed toward improving care for rural areas lacking in proper medical facilities, an approach that informs ECU’s nursing PhD as well. Students take part in key interdisciplinary projects combining nursing practice with social and political knowledge, with students and faculty collaborating to establish the best care. 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 as much as 21 credits from the DNP to the PhD for one of the lowest tuition rates in the region.
Cost: $342/credit hour
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, with a top 5 medical school, the #2 nursing school in the nation, and the #8 best hospital in the US, according to U.S. News & World Report. The UCSF School of Nursing has the highest rate of funding by the NIH, with faculty and students making major breakthroughs in psychology and mental health, women’s health, and global health (including HIV/AIDS and pregnancy/childbirth).
Nursing PhD students at UCSF, then, have access to some of the most current, most world-changing work going on in their field, opportunities that students get nowhere else. The UCSF nursing PhD typically takes four years to complete, with students engaged in original research that makes a tangible contribution to nursing practice, theory, and knowledge. With UCSF’s world-renowned faculty and resources, it’s an investment not only in your own career, but the future of medicine.
Cost: $962/credit hour
University of Central Florida
Founded near Cape Canaveral and the Kennedy Space Center to meet the needs of the space program in the 1960s, 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, U.S. News & World Report recognizes it as an up-and-coming institution and one of the best values in the nation.
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 nursing PhD students, choices for research interests abound, including Gerontology, Health Systems, and the most cutting edge Simulation & Technology. This quality, with UCF’s low tuition, makes UCF a top investment.
Cost: $370/credit hour
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. In particular, UMD is best known for it 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 so far successfully reaching.
UMD’s solid College of Nursing is what places them in the Top 50 Best Values ranking. Developed in the 1960s, when the state recognized a need for higher-degree nursing education in the area, 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 a degree, including the nursing PhD. With a cohort structure and dedicated mentoring, PhD students receive ample support and are expected to finish in two years of full-time study. It’s a top-notch education from a school that may not be a household name, but deserves to be.
Cost: $699/credit hour
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