Getting to the top level in nursing puts you in an interesting place. You’ll have two options for taking your education forward. Though they might seem similar on the surface, they’re actually very different. Understanding how they differ could help you to identify the best fit for you.
What you need
First of all, let’s look at what you’ll need to get on one of these courses. In both cases, you’ll need to have a master’s degree in nursing, clean nursing licenses, extensive clinical experience, and, if English is not your first language, a TOEFL or IELTS assessment. For a PhD, however, you will also need to provide a written statement describing your research goals, and you’ll need to find a faculty member who can supervise you.
The work involved
In a DNP, the focus is on practical skills, which means you’ll need to put in at least 1,000 hours of clinical practice. A Ph.D., it’s primarily focused on research, and there’s no such requirement. If you compare DNP to PhD students, you’ll find that the latter spend much of their time working from home. Indeed, online Ph.D. courses are available at Wilkes University, which is much more practical for people based in remote locations and domestic care responsibilities. Ph.D. students do, however, have to be good self-starters.
What it takes
Both DNP and Ph.D. programs can be taken on either a part-time or a full-time basis. As a rule, the former takes between one and four years and the latter between three and six years to complete. A Ph.D. requires completing a dissertation, and it’s important to get to grips with this early on to stay on top of the work. A DNP, meanwhile, is less flexible and can be quite physically demanding but works well when it can be fitted in with your day to day working practice.
What you’ll qualify for
DNPs are centered on building up leadership skills and advancing the quality of nursing on a practical level, so they’re an excellent choice if you see yourself running a department someday or if you want to take a leading role in designing and developing clinical trials. PhDs focus more specifically on academia and are ideal if you want to do more theoretical work or move into a career with a heavy focus on research.
The good news is that graduates of both types are in high demand at present, but it’s usually slightly easier to find employment with a Ph.D. in leaner times. What’s more, you get to keep your qualified status with a Ph.D. for the rest of your life, whereas a DNP needs to be renewed every five years and tends to lapse if you stop working or take a break (for instance, if you want to raise children). Overall, however, DNPs lead to higher salaries.
With both the qualifications offering great prospects, there are many good reasons to take the plunge – make sure that you choose the one that will work best for you.