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PhD vs DNP

By: Erik P. Southard, DNP, RN, FNP-BC


  • The doctor of nursing practice (DNP) is a terminal degree designed to prepare experts in nursing practice.
  • The doctor of philosophy (PhD) is a terminal degree designed for the research-focused nursing professional.
  • PhD and DNP programs prepared nurses to work in complimentary ways to improve healthcare outcomes.

Nurses have two options for pursuing a terminal degree—doctor of philosophy (PhD) and doctor of nursing practice (DNP). Use the table to compare the two so you can make an informed decision about which option is best for you.

Erik P. Southard is a professor and DNP program director at the School of Nursing, Indiana State University in Terre Haute.

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