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Ph.D Degree Requirements

Students may enter the program directly from a B.S. in nursing or following completion of a master’s degree (nursing or non-nursing). A dual-title Ph.D. in Nursing and Bioethics, a minor in Nursing, and a B.S.N.–Ph.D. program are also available.

Students entering with an M.S. degree in nursing will complete a minimum of 42–51 credits. In addition to course work, all students are required to complete a series of examinations: candidacy, comprehensives (written and oral components), dissertation proposal defense, and final oral examination. Students also are required to fulfill a residency requirement. This entails being registered as a full-time student (9 credits minimum) engaged in academic work over the course of two semesters within a twelve-month period (summer sessions are not included). For additional information, please see the doctoral degree requirements in the Penn State Graduate Degree Programs Bulletin.

The course work is organized within four components:

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

The core of required nursing courses is designed to address the philosophical base, the essence of nursing science, and research. The core provides 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 (15 credits minimum)

The research methods component is designed to enable graduates to critically evaluate and extend published research within a well-defined specialty area. Competency is expected in qualitative and quantitative research methods and statistics as well as in-depth knowledge of specific research methods for pursuing the student’s individual research program.

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. Courses for Individual Specialty (9 credits minimum, 15 credits for a minor)

The student will be expected to develop in-depth knowledge of the area of specialization through course work and independent study in nursing and/or other disciplines within the University. The student’s specialty courses build on the nursing core and the methodology/statistics component in any of the following ways: (1) a minor in an interdisciplinary field; (2) mix of nursing and interdisciplinary courses; or (3) nursing electives or independent study with a nurse researcher to develop a specific interest area.

D. Dissertation (2 credits minimum)

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

Additional Requirements

All nursing science courses begin with a one- to two-day pre-semester intensive, which meets at University Park campus in the fall and the Hershey Medical Center campus in the spring. The intensive consists of an introduction to the classes, a meeting of the Doctoral Student Organization, and other workshops or seminars.

Throughout the semester, biweekly seminars are sponsored by the Center for Nursing Research and the Center of Geriatric Nursing Excellence. Times vary, but most are video conferenced to a number of Penn State campuses or recorded for future viewing.

For More Information

Marsha Freije, M.S.N.
Graduate Adviser
203 Nursing Sciences Building
University Park, PA 16802