Iowa Campus Doctorate in Nursing Programs

Doctorate in Nursing Schools award two doctoral degrees in the field of nursing. These are the PhD in Nursing, and the Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP). In simple terms, a PhD is a research doctorate. A DNP is a professional practice doctorate. Both are terminal degrees but each could entail distinct requirements.

Doctorate in Nursing Schools

Doctorate in Nursing Schools: PhD vs. DNP Schools?

Since the scope of both the coursework and the ultimate applications of a DNP or PhD in Nursing differs, students might look to compare Doctorate in Nursing Schools for one type of degree or the other. For instance, because research is central to a PhD nursing program, it could be important to align one’s personal interests with a nursing school’s active projects.

DNP vs PhD

Scholarship is central to both a DNP and PhD in Nursing, but there are some differences that stand out. It might help to clarify this before one initiates a search for a doctorate degree in nursing program and school. Since, per the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN,2004), both “types of doctorates, research-focused and practice-focused, may coexist within the same education unit”. i

PhD in Nursing

Students who aspire to scholarly research and scientific inquiry might study to earn a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Nursing. In simple terms, a PhD in Nursing is all about nursing research, and PhD in Nursing programs aim to prepare nurse scientists to develop new theory for the science and practice of nursing.

Doctorate of Nursing Practice

Nurses who aspire to advanced nursing practice might study to earn a DNP degree. The aim of a DNP program is to help nurses lead in interdisciplinary health care teams, and to translate evidence gained through nursing research into practice. Hence, DNP nurses could learn how to improve systems of care or measure outcomes of patient groups.


When surveyed, 37 % of Clinical Nursing Instructors said they had a Doctoral degree.

How Do You Earn a PhD in Nursing?

To earn a PhD in nursing, students are required to complete an original research project and defend their dissertation or linked research paper.Additionally, some schools that offer Doctorate in Nursing degrees may require a set number of mentored teaching practicum hours, although clinical hours may not be needed.

Application Information

Applicants to a Nursing PhD program may need to have earned a BSN and/or MSN or related masters degree from a regionally accredited college or university, among other requirements.

PhD in Nursing Curriculums

While degree requirements might vary amongst Doctorate in Nursing Schools, some programs encompass between 45 and 57 credits. This might take a full-time student between four and five years to finish, though this is also variable.

Through a nursing PhD program, students could build a strong base in how to develop and analyze theory. For instance, candidates might examine the theories for client and nurse relationships or for nursing practice.

PhD in Nursing students often take courses that could help them as they conduct research through classes in qualitative and quantitative research methods. Other courses might help students present new knowledge to enhance the nursing profession.

Furthermore, students might develop more in-depth knowledge as they anchor their research in a specific curriculum focus. Trajectories of Chronic Illness and Care Systems is one example.

At a glance, some sample core PhD courses are listed below. Make sure to refer to individual nursing schools to confirm what classes they offer.

Possible core PhD courses:

  • Philosophy of Science & Theory Development
  • Advanced Research Methods
  • Statistics & Data Analysis
  • Longitudinal & Qualitative Research Methods
  • Chronic Illness & Care Systems

MSN to PhD programs typically build on bachelor level nursing education. The master's component often prepares students with a nurse educator role focus. Graduates in this type of program typically first study to earn a MSN degree, which could then prepare them to take national certification exams.

As a result, students could reasonably expect to take courses such as advanced pathophysiology, advanced health assessment and advanced pharmacology. These courses could be stacked onto classes in evidence-based teaching practice, psychology of learning and curriculum theory.

The doctoral component then engages candidates to bring forth new knowledge gained from their disciplined inquiry that could advance the profession of nursing education and its practice.

What Is a Doctor of Nursing Practice Degree?

A Doctor of Nursing Practice degree (DNP for short) is the recommended level of education required for professional nurses who practice advanced nursing.I Consequently, DNP schools usually place greater emphasis on diagnostic and treatment skills with less emphasis on theory and research methodology.

Admission Information

Applicants to DNP schools might enter through one of several pathways to a DNP degree: (1) BSN to DNP, (2) MSN to DNP, and (3) APRN to DNP. However, some students may find DNP programs they could apply to even with a non-nursing background.

These programs do typically take longer and may entail some foundational nursing courses and other things like a Registered Nurse (RN) license. Ultimately, whatever entry point is suitable to a student, their program is usually designed to provide any DNP competencies not previously attained. i

Possible DNP programs:

  • BSN to DNP programs are intended for students who have a current unencumbered RN license and a Bachelors degree in nursing. Students might first study to earn an MSN in a program where the degrees roll into one another.
  • MSN to DNP programs are typically for RNs who have already earned their Master of Science in Nursing but do not necessary have their Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN) license.
  • APRN to DNP programs are sometimes called ‘post-masters’ since they are usually designed for students who have earned an MSN and an initial APRN license. Students in these programs typically have fewer courses to take because of their educational background and prior work experience.

Each type of program entails specific courses, clinical practicums and degree requirements, though students typically do need to complete a DNP project to earn their degree.

Also, some Doctorate in Nursing Schools might offer accelerated programs, so there are several options aside from the three mentioned above. Admissions counselors could be helpful and may provide more information.

DNP Curriculums

Doctorate in nursing programs curriculum in accredited DNP schools typically build off a set of eight competencies called ‘DNP Essentials’ by the AACN. While the depth to which each competency is addressed depends on the specific program focus, all DNP programs must prepare graduates in the following areas regardless of their nursing specialty.

Note: Course names could vary between Doctorate in Nursing schools.i

DNP Essentials:

  1. Scientific foundations for practice
  2. Organization and systems leadership
  3. Clinical scholarship and translational science
  4. Healthcare policy for advocacy in health care
  5. Inter professional collaboration
  6. Clinical prevention and population health
  7. Information systems for patient-care technology
  8. Advanced nursing practice

Apart from the above core, candidates typically take nursing specialty-specific courses. To that end, interested students could refine their search for DNP schools based on their career goals and nursing clinical focus. Not all nursing schools offer the same emphases, so use the ones below as examples, then look for others.

Possible DNP degree programs:

DNP – Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP): Family nurse practitioner coursework could help students prepare to licensure specific to this role. FNPs are primary and specialty care providers who offer their advanced nursing services to individual patients and their families. They are well-versed in how to perform physical exams, make diagnoses, prescribe medication (in states where this is allowed) and interpret diagnostic tests.ii

DNP – Administration: A focus in administration could aim to help students develop leadership skills, learn to write grants and apply change theories to organizational and clinical problems. Other courses cover how to strategize, make administrative decisions, design and implement quality initiatives.

DNP – Public Health: Public health courses stress topics like health promotion and disease prevention. Students take courses in public health law, ethics and public health policy. Other courses tackle how to plan and evaluate public health programs.

Why Study to Earn a Nursing Doctorate on Campus?

Campus Doctorate in Nursing programs provide a traditional classroom-based experience for students who strive for either a DNP or PhD in Nursing. In this format, students travel to their campus to attend courses and participate in any training labs.

Some Doctorate in Nursing schools offer classes in the evenings or on weekends. Thus, many schools want their programs to work for busy professionals who need to continue their full-time employment while they pursue their degree.

Campus-based programs could be a good fit for students who prefer to learn in an in-person classroom structure. Class meetings may enhance learning through face-to-face interaction and open dialogue with instructors and classmates.

Accreditation for Doctorate in Nursing Schools

Doctorate in Nursing Schools might have programs that are accredited by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) and/or by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE).

Get Program Matches Now

Advanced Practice Registered Nurses may choose to earn a Doctor of Nursing Practice or a PhD in Nursing.ii Easily compare Doctorate in Nursing schools to find a program that you want to apply to. Then, use the on-page form to contact PhD or DNP schools right away.

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