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Ph.D. Degree Program

The Ph.D. program, the dual-title Ph.D. program in nursing and bioethics, and the dual-title Ph.D. program in nursing and clinical and translational sciences prepare nurse scientists to provide leadership in nursing education, practice and research. Individualized curricula prepare nursing graduates to assume positions as faculty, researchers and leaders in educational, community, governmental, or institutional settings.

Ph.D. Degree Requirements

Requirements listed here are in addition to requirements stated in the DEGREE REQUIREMENTS section of the Graduate Bulletin.

Students may enter the program directly with a B.S.N. degree (and may receive an M.S. degree en route to the Ph.D. or a concurrent M.S.N. (nurse practitioner option) or following completion of a B.S.N. and a Master’s degree (either in Nursing or non-Nursing). A dual-title Ph.D. degree in Nursing and Bioethics and a dual-title Ph.D. degree in Nursing and Clinical and Translational Sciences are also available.

Students entering with an M.S.N. will complete a minimum of 43 credits. The curriculum is composed of 3 components:

  1. Nursing Science Core: minimum of 16 credits, consisting of NURS 580 (3), NURS 582 (4), NURS 583 (3), NURS 587 (1), NURS 588 (3), and NURS 590 (2). NURS 596 (3) will also be required of students who are not research assistants on an active faculty research study.
  2. Research Methodology and Statistics: minimum of 15 credits approved by the student’s adviser and/or doctoral committee.
  3. Courses for Individual Specialty: minimum of 12 credits; minimum of 15 credits for a minor.

For specific plans of study and course sequencing see the PhD handbook:

In addition to course work, all students are required to complete a series of examinations: the Qualifying Examination, the Comprehensive Examination (written and oral components), the Dissertation Proposal Defense, and Final Oral Examination. Students are required to pass the Final Oral Examination, have the dissertation approved and submitted, and graduate within five years of passing the candidacy examination.
Qualifying Examination: All students must satisfactorily pass the qualifying examination, which is designed to confirm the student’s mastery of basic nursing theory and research methods. For students entering the doctoral program with a master’s degree, the candidacy examination must be taken at the end of the first year of full-time study or the equivalent. Students who fail the qualifying examination on the first attempt may repeat it once. Students who fail the examination the second time are terminated from the program.

Comprehensive Examination: The comprehensive examination is designed to test the student’s mastery of and ability to synthesize and integrate the theoretical basis for nursing science, advanced research methods, and the chosen specialty area. This examination is taken when a candidate has substantially completed all course work. Students who fail the examination on the first attempt may repeat it once. Students who fail the examination the second time are terminated from the program.

Dissertation and Final Oral Examination (the Dissertation Defense): Upon completion of the doctoral dissertation, the candidate must pass a final oral examination (the dissertation defense) to earn the Ph.D. degree. Each student is required to conduct an original and independent research project which adds to nursing’s body of knowledge, and to communicate the research report in a written dissertation. A written dissertation proposal is required and must be approved at a proposal hearing by a majority vote of the student’s doctoral committee. A majority vote is also required for approval of the completed written dissertation at the Final Oral Examination (the dissertation defense). The dissertation must be accepted by the doctoral committee, the head of the graduate program, and the Graduate School.

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, required weekly seminars are sponsored by the Center for Nursing Research and the Center of Geriatric Nursing Excellence.


For More Information

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