PhD in Nursing

A PhD in Nursing for the future of health care

Are you a nursing professional looking to make a larger impact on your profession? Maybe you’ve just graduated with your BSN and are interested in focusing on the theoretical and research-oriented side of nursing. Whatever your background, earning a PhD in Nursing from East Carolina University will give you the advanced research skills and philosophical knowledge to influence national, system-level change in health care and public health policy.

A nursing PhD program designed with you in mind

Whether you’re a working professional or a recent graduate who wants to join one of the top nursing PhD programs in the country without relocating, our 100% online PhD in nursing program lets you create a course of study that works with your life and work schedule without sacrificing practical experience.

When you join our nursing PhD program, you’ll enjoy the flexibility and freedom of fully online courses and hands-on learning during annual on-campus immersion experiences in your first and second years.

Why earn a Nursing PhD at ECU?

You’re probably asking, “What is a PhD in nursing?” Well, earning a PhD in Nursing lets you go beyond patient care settings to study the discipline of nursing from a theoretical perspective. You will dive into articles and literature written by researchers who survey the field of nursing and propose possible improvements or paths for the future. As one of the top-ranked online schools for nursing in the country — according to U.S. News and World Report — we give you the resources, support, and real-world experience to make lasting impacts on the world of health care.

Experienced faculty

Take advantage of our small class sizes to work closely with distinguished faculty mentors who have decades of experience as nurses, nurse educators, advanced practice registered nurses, and researchers. Courses are carefully designed to allow the flexibility of online delivery while providing opportunities for real-world practice through directed research and research practicums in your community.

Experiential learning

In addition to the integrated research projects in your courses, you’ll also get to travel to campus during summer for immersion sessions consisting of several days on campus. Not only will you get access to the cutting-edge resources and classrooms on campus, but you’ll also get to meet and spend one-on-one time with your professors and peers.

Commitment to social good

We at ECU pride ourselves on our values and dedication to fostering inclusion, diversity, and equity. Earning our PhD in Nursing will let you continue that mission as you influence and inspire others in health care to adopt new, socially conscious strategies and methods for caring for patients of all backgrounds.

Courses you will take in the nursing PhD program

What is a PhD in nursing without expertly created courses that prepare you to apply the latest theories to real-world settings? When you join the PhD in nursing program at ECU, you’ll benefit from several degree options, depending on your educational and professional background.

If you are coming into the nursing PhD program directly from a BSN program, you get to choose between two pathways that each blend doctoral curriculum with an MSN concentration that aligns with your professional goals. Choose either a nursing education concentration for a path to higher education or a health systems leadership concentration to take on more managerial and executive roles in health care.

Depending on your concentration, some of the courses you’ll take as you earn your Nursing PhD might include:

  • Education Concepts, Theories, and Strategies in Nursing
  • Nursing Philosophy and Knowledge Development
  • State of the Science

View PhD in nursing program paths and curriculum

Hear from our nursing PhD program students

“I was afforded opportunities to develop leadership skills through campus organizations, engage in various research activities through a research assistantship, educate the next generation of nurses by teaching an OB simulation for baccalaureate students, and collaborate with students in my cohort for enrichment and support. I was mentored by wonderful faculty members who invested in me, genuinely cared about my well-being and success, and prepared me for my next steps.”

– Taylor Nelson Richardson, PhD, RN ‘22

What can you do with your PhD in Nursing?

You may still be wondering, “What is a PhD in nursing and what can I do with it?” Briefly put, graduating from ECU’s nursing PhD program will let you take an active role in helping nurses assist patients efficiently and caringly. You will have the skills and knowledge to go into higher education or take on leadership positions in hospitals and other healthcare institutions.

Achieve your career goals with ECU’s PhD in nursing program

By the time you graduate with your PhD in Nursing from ECU, you will have advanced mastery of essential skills to start making impacts on nursing and public health policy. You will also be qualified to:

  • Teach nursing in higher education
  • Increase your salary potential in your current job
  • Begin an exciting career as a scholar and researcher
  • Take on more responsibilities in your current organization or community

Where are Nursing PhD graduates working?

The expertise and experience our students gain at ECU help them to stand out from other job candidates and find the rewarding careers they desire. Past graduates work as:

  • Military nurse leaders
  • Deans of nursing programs
  • Nursing program directors
  • Directors of advanced clinical practice

Professional nurse researchers earn an average annual salary of $81,500, according to

Nursing instructors and teachers in colleges and universities earn an average annual salary of $83,340, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

With a PhD in Nursing from ECU, you will also enjoy great job security, since the BLS predicts that health care will remain one of the fastest growing career fields in the country.

Get started on your Nursing PhD

Take the next step toward earning your Nursing PhD. Still asking, “What is a PhD in Nursing at ECU?” Want to learn more about how our PhD in nursing program prepares you to change the direction of health care? We have the resources to answer all your questions and help you get started.

Degree programs related to our nursing PhD program

If you are interested in a clinical or professional doctorate, you may be interested in learning more about our Doctor of Nursing Practice programs.