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Should I get my DNP or go PhD in Nursing


Specializes in Utilization Review. Has 11 years experience.

Currently I only have my MSN in Administration. I am not an advaced practice Nurse and do not want to be an NP. Leadership and Administration is my goal. There are a few Online DNP in Executive Leadership programs that don't require you to be an NP, but most DNP Programs require an NP. I live in Texas and can't afford out of state tuition. I am planning to start the PhD in nursing at UTMB in Galveston. I am not at this point planning on a research job, I enjoy research, but Nursing administration is my plan as of right now. Does anyone have any insight to the DNP vs PhD issues?

llg, PhD, RN

Specializes in Nursing Professional Development. Has 44 years experience.

I think it is a highly individual situation -- dependent on the details of the person, job market, and schools involved. If a good DNP program with an appropriate track is available to you, that's what I would recommend. But if not, and you don't mind the philosophy/theory/research focus of a PhD program, then that's OK too.

I have a friend who build an MBA into her nursing PhD program. That's a combination that might work for you, too. Or a combo with either nursing doctorate and Master's in Health Administration.

Good luck with whatever you decide.


Has 3 years experience.

You might take a look at University of New Mexico's DNP program. They have developed their DNP program for Nurse Executives and it is completed entirely online. In fact, it is not open to advance practice nurses for admission. When you completed a online program at UNM, I believe that you pay in-state tuition. It might be a good fit for your professional objectives. Here is a link to the program:

Program Overview :: nursing.unm.edu | The University of New Mexico

juan de la cruz, MSN, RN, NP

Specializes in APRN, Adult Critical Care, General Cardiology. Has 27 years experience.

I would look at your long term goals as well. You said you "only" have an MSN (in Administration). Are you in a leadership role now? I ask this because I've worked in different hospitals and I don't always see a nurse executive with a doctoral degree. Even the CNO in my current workplace (a large academic medical center) has an MSHA but has completed a prestigious fellowship in hospital/nursing service administration from an institution on the East Coast. I've known other nurse executives whose entry into the CNO role was via a fellowship rather than a doctoral degree. The business schools say that doctoral education in the business world is usually designed for those interested in an academic career. Is that what you also want?

Have you considered earning an MHA (Master of Health Administration) degree? If you're interested in healthcare administration, you might want to check out this specialty, as it offers training on how to administrate specifically in the healthcare setting, rather than a broader knowledgebase of business offered with something like an MBA.


Has 10 years experience.

As others have said, it really depends on the goals of the individual. PhD's are theory and research-intensive. Several schools now offer a DNP in leadership and education that bypass the nurse practitioner role. American Sentinel is one that comes to mind. AT Still also offers a doctorate in healthcare leadership which looks interesting. Good luck on your search!


Specializes in CICU, Moderate Sedation, Cath Lab. Has 5 years experience.

If you don't want to do research, you really need to take a serious look at a PhD. In my DNP program I've had the opportunity to work with a lot of PhD's and that's what they're all about. The students working toward their PhD are living and breathing research. Once they're done, they've got to write grants to get funded - that's how they get paid and justify their contribution to the university that they work for. I didn't want anything to do with research either, I wanted to be a provider. Now that I'm almost done with my DNP-FNP, I'm finding that while I still want to be a provider, I really want to find a way to make some sort of bigger contribution in terms of primary prevention and community service. I don't want an academic career though... so I'm not sure what my "job" will end up looking like when all is said and done.

In your case, I think you can rule out a few paths:

You don't want to do research - PhD should be last on your list

You don't want to be a provider - FNP, PMHNP, ACNP are off your list

As others have mentioned, what will a DNP add for you? What about an MBA?

Edited by NerdDoc


Specializes in Outpatient Psychiatry.

I think you need to look beyond nursing at this point and examine an additional master's such as the MBA or MHA.

So, what did you decide to do? I, too, am considering the nursing leadership route, but do plan to become an NP first. Right now I am completing my BSN, but I am thinking of doing a dual degree in MSN/MPH with a focus on healthcare management and then eventually getting a doctorate, OR entering a BSN-PhD then following with an FNP post-masters (because my top 2 options BSN-PhD programs don't include an MSN), OR finding a BSN-DNP program in which I can also earn an MSN along the way (specifically, Duke U). PhD or DNP (and do I need an MPH?), that is the question. Looking at the Houston-area CNOs, I see a mix of DNPs, PHDs or just stopping with an MHA, MBA, MSN or some mix thereof. Something tells me that it's wise to get some sort of doctorate, though, because I think in ten to fifteen years, when I start trying to look for some of these leadership positions, more of the competition will have some sort of doctorate.

I dunno. Help!


Specializes in public health. Has 5 years experience.

PhD=research, teaching, publishing

DNP=can be whatever you want it to be.