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This interdisciplinary terminal degree program is designed to develop nursing scholars in gerontology – faculty researchers who can teach as well as provide leadership through scientific inquiry and innovative practice relevant to the health care of older adults. An individualized plan of study allows each student to develop depth of expertise and research capability in a specialized area. Doctoral students select a plan of study that emphasizes the concerns of older adults and their families and/or caregivers.

Degree Requirements

The doctoral program may be pursued by highly qualified B.S.N. nurses after consultation with the associate dean of graduate education. More commonly, students enter the Ph.D program with an M.S. degree in nursing and complete a minimum of 42–51 credits across four areas of study:

A. Nursing Science Core (16–19 credits required)

The core of four required nursing courses is designed to address the philosophical base and essence of nursing science, as well as provide students with the requisite knowledge to conceptualize and operationalize nursing science and practice.

  • NURS 580: Epistemology of Nursing Science (3 credits)
  • NURS 581: Developing Theoretical Constructs Relevant to Nursing (3 credits)
  • NURS 582: Scientific Basis for Nursing Practice (3 credits)
  • NURS 583: Advanced Seminar in Nursing Science (3 credits, repeatable)
  • NURS 587: Ethics in Nursing Research (1 credit)
  • NURS 590: Colloquium—Nursing Research Seminar (minimum 3 credits)
  • NURS 596: Independent Study on a faculty-mentored research project (minimum 3 credits required of students who are not research assistants on an active faculty research study)

B. Research Methodology and Statistics Core (15 credits minimum)

The research methods component is designed to equip doctoral graduates to critically evaluate published research and extend it within a well-defined specialty area. Competency is expected in both qualitative and quantitative research methods. In-depth knowledge of specific research methods for pursuing the student’s individual research program also is expected. Required core research courses include:

  • Research Methods

    • NURS 585: Qualitative Methods in Health Research (3 credits)
    • NURS 586: Quantitative Methods in Health Research (3 credits)


    • STAT 500: Applied Statistics (3 credits)
      STAT 501: Regression Methods (3 credits)
      PHS 520: Principles of Biostatistics (3 credits)
      PHS 521: Applied Biostatistics (3 credits)
    • Research methods or statistics elective (3 credits)

C. Individual Specialty (9 credits minimum, 6 of which must be non-nursing credits; 15 credits for a minor)

Geriatric Center doctoral students are expected to develop in-depth knowledge in an area of specialization relevant to the care of older adults and/or the education of gerontological nurses. Through course work and independent study in the College of Health and Human Development or other colleges at the University, the student’s specialty area builds on the nursing core and the methodology/statistics core in any of the following ways:

  • a minor in an alternate discipline
  • an interdisciplinary mix of courses
  • nursing electives and/or independent study with a nurse researcher that develops a gerontological nursing specialty area of expertise

D. Dissertation (2 credits minimum)

The dissertation will focus on a well-defined researchable problem relevant to the knowledge domain of gerontological nursing. The dissertation research topic originates from the student, who writes a research proposal and presents it to the doctoral committee in a formal hearing.

For information on preparing your application for doctoral study in the Geriatric Center, go to the Apply tab. You may also go to Admission Requirements and to How to Apply on the College of Nursing website. For additional information, please refer to the Ph.D. Handbook.