What Is a Ph.D. Nursing Education Degree?

A Ph.D. nurse educator degree is a doctorate, meaning it's the highest degree level a Nurse Educator can obtain (with equal standing given to other doctorate types, as discussed below). The American Association of Colleges of Nursing endorsed changing the minimum entry-level requirement for nurse educators from a master's to a doctorate in 2004. Since then, it has been more challenging for people with an MSN to secure a nurse educator job due to high competition. Schools in all 50 states now offer nurse educator doctorates.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that nurse educators with the most experience and education earn approximately $125,000 annually. Examples of coursework you will complete at the doctorate level include:

  • Care Systems and Chronic Illness
  • Quantitative and Qualitative Research
  • Research and Development
  • Scientific Inquiry
  • Statistics

All Ph.D. candidates prepare a dissertation they research, write, and defend. The process takes one to three years, depending on your interests and chosen topic.

2024 - Best PhD in Nursing Education Programs

NurseEducator.com's PhD in Nursing Education rankings are based on a methodology that takes into account a variety of important factors, including the completion rates, affordability, competitiveness, variety of programs offered, and the level of faculty experience. The rankings are designed to provide an objective and comprehensive look at the best nursing education programs in the world. We believe that the criteria used in our methodology accurately reflect the quality of the programs, and that our rankings give prospective students the best information available for making an informed decision. To learn more about our methodology, please visit our methodology page.


Nova Southeastern University

Fort Lauderdale, FL

Nova Southeastern University, located in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, is an accredited private university with over 20,000 students. It offers a wide range of degree programs, including a PhD in Nursing Education. It is one of the largest independent universities in the United States, and its diverse student body is composed of students from over 100 countries.


Liberty University

Lynchburg, VA

Liberty University is a private university located in Lynchburg, Virginia. Founded in 1971, Liberty is now the largest Christian university in the world, with over 110,000 students enrolled globally. Liberty offers a wide range of degree programs, including a PhD in Nursing Education. With an emphasis on Christian values, Liberty provides students with an education rooted in faith.


University of Northern Colorado

Greeley, CO

The University of Northern Colorado is located in Greeley, Colorado and is a public university. With 14,902 students, it offers over 100 undergraduate and graduate programs, including a PhD in Nursing Education. UNC has a strong commitment to student success and a tradition of excellence.

Are Online Ph.D. Nursing Education Programs Available?

You have plenty of online enrollment options from the University of Alabama to the University of Wyoming. The hundreds of schools across the United States that offer this degree option typically do so either entirely online or as a hybrid program.

Before enrolling at a school, reflect on how you learn best and your preferences regarding whether to complete courses online or in person. If you work, have a family to care for, or both, you will probably find the online option most convenient due to the flexibility. You can watch lectures and complete assignments whenever it is convenient for you.

A mix between online and traditional on-campus delivery could be ideal if you value face-to-face interactions with professors and other students. Regardless of your chosen option, you should be aware that you must complete your clinical requirements in person.

Nurse Educator Ph.D. Prerequisites

Admissions requirements are usually the same for campus-based and online Nurse Educator Ph.D. programs. Typical prerequisites include:

  • Completion of a BSN or MSN degree from an accredited institution
  • Cumulative GPA of at least 3.0 in all previous college coursework
  • GRE exam score
  • Official transcripts from all previous schools attended
  • Personal statement describing your career goals
  • Unrestricted U.S.RN license
  • Up to three letters of recommendation

Obtaining certification as a nurse educator can give you a competitive advantage. The National League for Nursing offers certification options for nurse educators and clinical nurse educators.

Below is the admissions process at Grand Canyon University, which is typical of schools offering this degree program. The process is the same for online and on-campus students, except for the requirement that students attending in-person classes schedule a campus visit before courses begin.

The first step at any college or university is to submit a request form that indicates the degree you prefer, whether you're interested in the online or hybrid option, and your timeline for starting your studies. Next, you should complete the school's application and attach all the above information. If you need financial aid, researching your options is the next step. It would help if you waited to hear from the school about your official acceptance.

According to the BLS, the demand for nurse educators is higher than average. Thanks to an aging population and increasingly complex health conditions, the agency does not expect the demand to lower anytime soon.

Nursing Education Ph.D. vs. Other Doctorate Degree Types

Students sometimes confuse this degree option with the Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP). The focus of the Ph.D. nurse educator degree is scholarly research and inquiry, with the purpose of expanding knowledge about nursing. In contrast, students pursue the DNP degree to improve patient outcomes. The primary focus is obtaining higher-level skills in nursing.

Regarding coursework, DNP candidates focus on advanced practice nursing, evidence-based nursing, and developing leadership skills. Typical courses in DNP programs include:

  • Administration and Budget Planning
  • Clinical Diagnosis
  • Disease Management
  • Healthcare Policy
  • Healthcare System Transformation
  • Statistics

Besides the Ph.D. and nursing education DNP, students have the option of one other doctorate degree as well: the Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) in nursing education. This degree type is suited for academia, advocacy, and policy, and is not as widely available as the other doctorate degree pathways.

Earning a Nurse Educator Ph.D. doesn't limit you to working only in the field of education. The whole purpose of obtaining the doctorate in the first place is to widen your career options. Here are some popular job titles for people with this advanced credential:

  • Clinical Nurse Educator
  • Nursing Curriculum Coordinator
  • Nursing Education Consultant
  • Nursing Professional Development Specialist

Nurse Educator Ph.D., DNP, and Ed.D. programs offer a terminal degree, meaning you have earned the highest degree available.

Nurse Educator Degree Type Comparison

Degree TypeDescription LengthTypical Career Outcomes
MSN Nurse EducatorA Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) with a specialization in Nurse Education.2-3 yearsNurse educator positions in academic institutions, hospitals, and other healthcare settings. May also pursue leadership positions in nursing education.
Post-Master’s Certificate Nurse EducatorA post-master’s certificate program focused on nurse education.1 year or lessDesigned for nurses with an MSN or DNP who want to specialize in nurse education. Can also be taken as a standalone certificate for those who already have a graduate degree in nursing.
DNP Nurse EducatorA Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree with a specialization in Nurse Education.3-4 yearsAdvanced nurse educator positions in academic institutions and healthcare organizations. May also pursue leadership roles in nursing education or clinical practice.
Ph.D. Nurse EducatorA Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Nursing with a focus on nursing education research.4-5 yearsTenure-track academic positions, research roles in healthcare organizations, and leadership positions in nursing education.
Ed.D. Nurse EducatorA Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) with a specialization in Nursing Education.3-4 yearsDesigned for nurse educators who want to pursue leadership roles in academic institutions or healthcare organizations. May also be useful for those who want to focus on nursing education policy and advocacy.
Note: Program lengths may vary depending on the specific institution and program. These are just general estimates.

List of Ph.D. Nursing Education Degree Programs

In search of an online or campus-based Ph.D. Nurse Educator program near you? Explore our state-by-state listings below.

Jump to Your State Listings


PhD Programs
2915 Rocky Mountain Ave, Suite 100
Loveland, CO 80538
(800) 232-1749


PhD Programs
3301 College Avenue
Fort Lauderdale, FL 33314
(800) 541-6682


4505 S. Maryland Pkwy
Las Vegas, NV 89154
(702) 895-3360


PhD Programs
1971 University Blvd
Lynchburg, VA 24515
(800) 424-9595

Are we missing your school's program or need to update information listed? Please contact us so we can make the necessary changes.

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