Doctor of Nursing Practice Program

Vanderbilt DNP or PhD – Which is Right for Me?

While the Vanderbilt PhD and DNP degree programs share a rich foundation of excellence in teaching, practice and research, it is important for advanced practice nurses who seek doctoral study to recognize and understand the differences in the PhD and DNP degrees to make informed decisions about advancing their education at Vanderbilt School of Nursing. While different, the DNP and the PhD in nursing are not competitive degrees but rather complementary to one another.

The Doctor of Nursing Practice program at Vanderbilt integrates course work with practice immersion experiences to prepare practice scholars to become leaders in bringing evidence-based knowledge into clinical practice, improving health care outcomes and strengthening nursing management and education. The Vanderbilt PhD Program prepares nurses for careers as research scientists in academic, governmental or private entities. Our graduates conduct independent research, participate as interdisciplinary researchers and develop and disseminate knowledge to improve health and the delivery of health care.

The following table provides a comparison of the DNP and PhD degree programs at Vanderbilt. These comparisons are built upon guidelines set forth by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing.

DNP or PhD?

Comparison DNP PhD
Program Objective Prepare the highest level nursing practice scholars for clinical, administrative and academic career; terminal degree in practice Prepare scholars for research and academic careers in public or private sectors of health care; terminal degree in research
Applicant Evaluation Evidence of scholarly ability; professional goals consistent with the advanced practice nursing role and past nursing and leadership experiences Evidence of scholastic preparation and intellectual capability; research/career goals consistent with the School’s research foci/faculty expertise
Course of Study / Competencies Practice integration experience and emphasis on knowledge and skills for applying and translating evidence-based research into practice Two tracks of study: Clinical Research and Health Services Research; opportunities to work in interdisciplinary research teams
Degree Requirements Successful completion of a scholarly project demonstrating the synthesis of the student’s coursework and practice application, culminating in a final manuscript and public presentation. Successful completion of advanced coursework, a qualifying examination paper, an oral qualifying examination and dissertation (including oral defense of the proposal and findings)
Career Focus of Graduates Leadership positions in nursing practice, management, information technology and academia. Developing practice innovations designed to improve health care outcomes. Conduct/disseminate research that responds to regional, national and international priorities. Graduates advance the nursing discipline and practice through research, education and health policy.

Why choose Vanderbilt School of Nursing?

We offer an innovative, technology-rich curriculum in a collegial and supportive environment; our faculty is committed to preparing nurse scholars who can lead the nation in extending the body of knowledge and improve health care outcomes. Our research and practice faculty, experts, mentors and resources in Nashville – a major health care hub – are among the best. Students will have the opportunity to work with scholars from across the campus and the nation.