Is 54 too old to get a doctorate degree?

  1. Dear Nurse Beth,

    I am 54 years old and wondering if I'm too old to get either a DNP or
    PhD in nursing. I graduated with my ADN at the age of 40, my BSN at age 50 and my MSN in Nursing Education at 53. I'm currently a lecturer at a university, but I still feel like I don't know what I want to do for the rest of my life.



    Dear Am I Too Old,

    If your question is "Am I too old to have the intellectual capacity to complete my doctorate?", then no, You are definitely (repeat, definitely) not too old to do this.

    If your question is " Am I too old to have it make a difference in my career?" the answer depends on how many more years you plan to work.

    While you are not too old, part of the question is, what is your motivation? A burning desire? An item on your bucket list? Are you wanting to qualify for a higher position?

    I would first figure what you want to do, and then decide if pursuing a doctorate aligns with your goals. A doctorate comes with high costs of time and money.

    There was a time when I also struggled with deciding if I should go on to get my doctorate, but doing so would have meant giving up my writing career or at least putting it on hold.

    It's always about choices.

    I just had to choose from two paths that were both appealing to me. Would you regret not getting your doctorate, or be able to make peace with it? Good luck with your decision.

    Best wishes,

    Nurse Beth



    Author, "Your Last Nursing Class: How to Land Your First Nursing Job"...and your next!
    Last edit by tnbutterfly on May 31
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    About Nurse Beth, MSN, RN

    Joined: Mar '07; Posts: 1,382; Likes: 4,124

    25 Comments

  3. by   not.done.yet
    I agree with Beth. Very little of whether or not you can/should get a doctorate has to do with your age.
  4. by   CKPM2RN
    Why would you think that you are too old? Go for it.
  5. by   Southpawdown
    No - 54 is not too old - what is "too old" anyway? I know people in their 90's who are "young" and have enthusiasm for life and learning and I know people in their 20's who are "old" and have little to no interest or excitement in anything. Age is just a number and one that does not ever have to be a road block - especially in ones own mind. Now go get that doctorate!
  6. by   Oldmahubbard
    At your age, or really any age, I would question the job market, and the financing of the education.

    Otherwise, no, you are not too old, but consider the ROI.
  7. by   SpankedInPittsburgh
    I'm 56 I get my DNP in July. Age is just a number. You are gonna be whatever age you are gonna be. The only question is whether you will have a DNP when you get there
  8. by   Jules A
    Thank you NurseBeth for a thoughtful and practical approach to a question that seems to get weighed down in rose colored glasses and or countertransference. Of course age should be a consideration, not the only one, but a consideration. I'm not sure if it is our current politically correct culture that espouses everyone can be a super model or flat out delusions when people disregard the fact that age is more than a number. There are quantitative studies indicating the effects on brain mass, processing abilities, strength etc. so to cheer people on to make emotional not practical decisions, especially later in life, doesn't make sense to me. I have to wonder if decisions based on flawed logic such as age being of no concern isn't a contributor to so many Americans being unable to retire due to financial reasons?
  9. by   Oldmahubbard
    Quote from SpankedInPittsburgh
    I'm 56 I get my DNP in July. Age is just a number. You are gonna be whatever age you are gonna be. The only question is whether you will have a DNP when you get there
    But your degree was paid for!
  10. by   meanmaryjean
    I started my doctorate at 60.

    Lord willing, it extends my career another decade or more.
  11. by   AngelKissed857
    You know when you're too old? When you're dead! That's it! Went back to get my RN at 57, ADN at 59, BSN at 60 (accelerated program). Starting FNP this fall, I work 32 hours a week, and I'm hoping to be done with school by the time I die, but I won't be done learning until at least that time. You are never ever EVER too old, and shame on anyone too stupid to think you might be.
  12. by   SpankedInPittsburgh
    Quote from Oldmahubbard
    But your degree was paid for!
    True!!!! Like I said in other posts I never would have done it otherwise. I simply answered the question if age was a barrier to getting a DNP in this post. It is not. Recouping your investment is another question. People make dumb financial decisions all the time. Its their right and since I don't pretend to know a person's finances or motivations via the internet I'll stick with my statement. Age is just a number. So is a balance sheet but they are different numbers
  13. by   onthego782
    Go for it. You will be doing that or not doing it..time passes either way.
  14. by   AcuteMaleRN
    Dear "Too Old"...

    Is 54 too old to get a Doctor Degree? Lets examine what I am have in my life and then you decide. AT 17 I joined the US Army to get the GI Bill to go back to school. I served from Vietnam to 4 tours in Afghanistan, in 32 years I rose from Private and retired as a Major. Within my 32 years while being in the military at night I earned my BA in Political Science and my Masters in Business. After leaving active duty, but staying in the Army Reserves, I was hired as Federal Law Enforcement Officer (Civil Service) I was sent back to school and was trained to be a Special Agent, Interrogator, then was trained to give Polygraphs and served 20 years a a Special Agent. Two years before my second retirement as a Special Agent I used my Vacation Time to go back to school to learn to be a RN. After four years I graduated with Honors from University of Southern Maine as a RN (BSN). Then I returned back to graduate school and in three and a half years graduated with honors as a Family Nurse Practitioner. Then I returned back to school at 65 for my Doctor of Nursing Practice.... So in retrospect looking at my back ground compared to your background....I think you should pick up the pace quit being lazy and get that doctor degree.... =)

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