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Online Ph.D. in Nursing Program

Lead Nursing Research and Theory

The Catholic University of America online Ph.D. in Nursing gives you the clinical research and investigation skills to develop, validate, and refine nursing theory. Health care needs researchers to advance the boundaries of nursing science in today’s complex, collaborative, and technology-rich environment. Catholic’s online Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Nursing was one of the first degrees of its kind offered in the country, and teaches you to create, implement, and evaluate strategies to improve health care as a nurse scientist and nurse scholar.

Up to 24 transfer credits from your master’s degree may be available.

The online Ph.D. in Nursing coursework focuses on live situations and clinical practice, emphasizing the skills needed to function at the highest levels of nursing research. The curriculum is faculty designed to give nurse practitioners and clinicians the career skills to develop, implement, and test research initiatives aimed at improving the health care sector.

The program culminates with a dissertation that explores a specific patient care issue that matches your professional goals and interests. You’ll complete your dissertation under the close guidance of Catholic’s dedicated faculty members. To learn more about the curriculum and the dissertation, request information from the admissions team here

The program covers topics including:

  • Nursing leadership within health systems and communities
  • Ethical decision-making within clinical practice
  • Identification, formulation and legitimation of health policy
  • Clinical problem identification
  • The relationship of theory to practice and research
  • Statistical, qualitative and quantitative research and methods

CUA’s online nursing Ph.D. program requires 79 credit hours. Students may transfer in 24 hours of credit from graduate coursework after successfully passing comprehensive exams, allowing you the opportunity to complete the degree in less time. Ask an admissions representative for more information here

After successfully completing the Doctor of Philosophy in Nursing program, you will be able to:

  • Develop, apply, and test theories
  • Conduct nursing research to support the development of nursing science
  • Design, implement and evaluate interdisciplinary research programs and policies for the improvement of health care
  • Assess the impact of social, political, and ethical issues in health care on the discipline of nursing science

New Demand for Nurses with Doctorates

Only one percent of nurses have a Ph.D.1 More are needed as hospital systems, drug companies and other health-care-related businesses are actively seeking nurses who can direct and conduct research and apply their findings to clinical settings.

Higher education also offers many career opportunities. A report by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) found that an aging workforce in nursing education may result in a wave of retirements in the near future.2 Another AACN report found that nursing schools in the U.S. turned away nearly 70,000 qualified applicants in part due to a lack of faculty.3 Read more about Ph.D. in Nursing careers here

Find an Engaging Community of Learners and Innovators

Catholic’s Ph.D. in Nursing program dates back to the 1960s and was one of the first such degrees to be offered in the country. Throughout the years, the School of Nursing, founded in 1935, has been awarded many competitive federal grants, a recognized marker of excellence and a testament to our commitment to research and discovery in the field. The professors at Catholic’s School of Nursing take their roles as mentors and guides very seriously, and they’ll be ready with encouragement and insights to make sure you stay on track to complete your degree. 

Help push the frontiers of nursing science and make a real difference in patient care with a Doctor of Philosophy in Nursing. To learn more, call us at 855-295-5711 (toll free), or 202-635-5019 (direct), or you can simply request more information here.


The Catholic University of America’s online Ph.D. in Nursing is currently accepting international applicants for the Fall 2017 term. To learn more about international student admissions, contact an admissions representative.

Institute of Nursing, “The Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health”; excerpt available at

AACN, “2011-2012 Enrollment and Graduations in Baccalaureate and Graduate Programs in Nursing,” available at

AACN, “2010-2011 Salaries of Instructional and Administrative Nursing Faculty in Baccalaureate and Graduate Programs in Nursing,” available at