Online PhD in Nursing Education

By the year 2015, the American Association of Colleges of Nurses will require all entry-level nurse practitioner educational programs to transition from the Master of Science in Nursing degree to the Doctorate of Nursing Practice (DNP). The American Association of Nurse Anesthetists has followed suit, requiring the DNP degree for entry-level nurse anesthetists programs by the year 2025. Due to this transition to higher education, the need for skilled nursing educators has increased. As a result, online doctoral programs in nursing education, which focus on enhancing the knowledge of nursing and improving patient outcome in the ever-changing field of medicine, are an excellent choice for nurses that want to advance their careers. The programs take, on average, four to five years to complete. During enrollment, students will take coursework in areas such as teaching strategies and nursing theory. Students will also take a comprehensive exam over everything they have learned and prepare a research paper known as a dissertation. The result of all of this hard work is an online PhD in nursing education, which provides the online PhD nursing education graduate with the knowledge and leadership skills necessary for securing management and education positions within the nursing field.

About Online PhD Programs in Nursing Education

The nursing education PhD online curriculum provides a strong grounding not only in areas such as nursing theory and ethical practice, but also in curriculum design and evaluation. Online nursing education PhD students go on to be the future educators of the nursing profession and therefore need to know more than the fundamentals of nursing. Those students also need to know how to teach, assess and evaluate the future generations of nurses. The online doctorate in nursing education is designed to allow students to complete all coursework and related research from the comfort of their own homes, with the utilization of digital resources. As the online nursing education doctorate is based around preparing students to be educators, there are no laboratory requirements. However, the available accredited online doctorate programs in nursing education do have residency components in their curricula, which require students to attend a colloquia period on the physical campus. These allow students to stay in touch with faculty and network with other students. Aside from that exception, all coursework is completed online. Below are some examples of the coursework provided by nursing education doctorate degrees online, as taken from Capella University's PhD in Nursing Education program.

Year One:

  • Foundations of Theory and Practice in Doctoral Studies. This introductory course provides students with a grounding in the doctoral-level research they will perform throughout enrollment.
  • Theory and Methods of Educating Adults. As an overview of the top methods of educating adults, this course will prepare students for careers as professors of nursing.
  • International and Multicultural Perspectives in Postsecondary and Adult Education. It is very important for nursing education professionals to create an inclusive classroom. This course explores the methods for encouraging cultural sensitivity.

Year Two:

  • Classroom Assessment in Education. There are many methods of assessing student learning and achievement. This course explores the ways in which educators can evaluate student achievement.
  • Evaluating the Effectiveness of the Educational Process. Broader than its Classroom Assessment class counterpart, this course encourages students to view education as a whole process in order to boost learning.
  • Advanced Nursing Theory and Concepts. Going beyond undergraduate nursing techniques, this course encourages students to thoroughly research contemporary theories behind nursing methods.

Year Three:

  • Curriculum Design and Evaluation in Nursing Education. Educators must know how to develop an effective curriculum and a functional method for evaluating student learning. This course instructs students in the design and employment of curriculum.
  • The Nurse Educator: Faculty Roles and Responsibilities. Educators are responsible for cultivating ethical and effective nurses that are prepared to positively impact healthcare. This course explores the role of the nurse educator in the classroom and beyond.
  • Teaching Strategies in Nursing Education. This course provides an overview of teaching strategies that are specifically oriented toward the education of nurses.

Year Four:

  • Research Sequence. Students will take coursework that prepares them for the in depth research that writing the dissertation will require.

Once students have completed their coursework, they take a comprehensive examination that reviews the concepts, theories and methodologies they have learned. Comprehensive examinations in the field of nursing education usually review nursing theory, teaching strategies, and classroom assessments. After students pass the comprehensive exam, they then move on to work on their dissertations. Past dissertations in the field of nursing education include Competing Discourses of Nursing Education: An Explication Based on Seung and Liszka by Helen Frishe Hodges and “Leaving Home” Patriarchy, Nursing Education and the Nurse Veterans use of the GI Bill by Nancy Barnum. There are many potential topics that bridge both nursing and education for upcoming online PhD nursing education students to pursue.

Value and Criticisms of a PhD in Nursing Education

The online doctorate in nursing education is an excellent choice for nurses that want to advance their careers. Online nursing education doctorate programs are recommended for individuals that want to help shape future nurses into superior healthcare providers. Candidates that are not interested in going beyond practice into establishing a career in education would not benefit from online PhD programs in nursing education, nor would candidates that do not harbor an interest in research or nursing theory. Nursing education doctorate degrees online provide a nice alternative to campus-based programs, as students can take all coursework online. However, there are few programs that specialize in nursing education. Many of the nursing PhD programs are general degrees and do not address curriculum and assessment. The universities that do offer nursing education have residency requirements that students need to fulfill, which can be inconvenient for students that are currently employed. If these requirements can be met, and if students are happy with the choices that they have, then online doctoral degrees in nursing education are an effective method of obtaining a doctoral-level education. Students will even gain exposure to the technology often employed as an instruction tool by higher education institutes, which will aid the transition into the classroom.

Application & Admission Requirements

The best candidates for an online doctorate in nursing education are detail-oriented, caring, patient and flexible. Online nursing education doctorate candidates should have well honed leadership and negotiation skills as well. Applicants should have previous nursing experience, and many programs expect applicants to have an RN license and a Masters degree in Nursing. Applicants are also required to have maintained at least a 3.0 grade point average during their graduate education. There are, however, programs that exist for students that do not have a Masters agree, but they are not available online. Online PhD programs in nursing education require that applicants submit transcripts, resumes, and a statement of purpose in addition to the actual application. These give admission departments a sense of the applicant's academic achievements, relevant experience, and writing ability. As a final step, some admission departments may request that students take the Graduate Record Exam or Miller's Analogy Test and report their scores, though this criterion varies among programs.

Career Options & Job Market

It goes without saying that graduates from online doctoral programs in nursing education forge careers in the education field. Most go on to teach nursing in colleges and universities. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, nursing professors make an average of $66,010 annually. As aforementioned, nursing educators are in demand, which makes nursing education an excellent field for nurses seeking to advance their careers. Teaching is not the only career option for online nursing education PhD graduates. Nursing education experts can also secure positions in healthcare administration and management, as online PhD degrees in nursing education involve coursework on leadership. Healthcare administrators make an average of $84,390 annually, though the field is experiencing average growth and competition. Nursing education professionals can also become researchers and health policy analysts. As a result of the advanced experience that doctoral-level education provides, there are many good career options for graduates that hold PhDs in nursing education.

Where to Find Information

How to Get Funding

Education is expensive. Even the cost of online courses, which are usually cheaper than their campus-based counterparts, can add up over time. For instance, Capella charges $4,485 per quarter for its online PhD in nursing education, an expense that does not cover books and residency fees. Vanderbilt University charges $1,088 per credit hour for its nursing science PhD. Most courses are four to five credit hours and students take more than one course a semester. Clearly, the cost of online doctoral degrees in nursing education accumulates over time. As a result, applying for financial aid is a very important step in the admissions process. Fortunately, many schools offer funding opportunities for enrolled students. There are also a number of outside aid opportunities as well, some of which are provided below. With the help of financial aid, pursuing online doctorate degrees in nursing education will not empty students' pockets.

  • Nursing Education Research Grant. Research grants provided by the National League for Nursing in an effort to promote the advancement of research that seeks to further nursing education.
  • Nursing Scholarship Search. Provided by Johnson & Johnson, this is a resource that nursing students can use to search for financial aid opportunities.
  • Nursing Education Scholarship Program. This program provides aid to Illinois students currently enrolled in a nursing degree program, doctoral programs included.

Essential Advice

  • Don't apply for nursing education programs until after you have a significant amount of nursing experience. Your resume is an important part of your application, and universities prefer to employ candidates with experience in the field.
  • Join a professional association to gain access to professional development opportunities and contemporary research in the field of nursing education. Doing so will help your resume stand out.
  • Don't be afraid to get into contact with professors in order to learn about their research interests. By talking to professors, you can get a good idea of whether your education goals will be well-met.
  • Talk to current and former students to get a better idea of what will be expected of you as a student enrolled in nursing education PhD programs online.