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Doctor of Philosophy in Nursing Science

The Doctor of Philosophy in Nursing Science program is designed to educate nurse scientists. Applicants are admitted to the College of Graduate Health Sciences (CGHS) upon recommendation by the nursing faculty. Students have the opportunity to learn and network with CGHS students from other disciplines while enrolled in biostatistics, health policy, and medical ethics courses in addition to their nursing course work.

Students work closely throughout their program of study with a faculty mentor with whom they share a common research interest. The two main areas of faculty research concentration are bio-behavioral interactions and interventions, and improving patient outcomes.

The mission of the Ph.D. Program in Nursing Science is to prepare nurse scientists to generate and apply knowledge locally and globally. Nurse scientists are visionary and transformative leaders in scientific inquiry, health care, health policy, and education. This is achieved through an educational program that emphasizes (1) excellence and integrity; (2) bold inquiry, innovation, and translational research; (3) community engagement; (4) diversity, equity, inclusion, and authenticity; and (5) interdisciplinary research and respect.

Application Information

Program Term begins Application Open Date Application Deadline
PhD in Nursing Science Fall August 15 February 1

PhD Program Outcomes

  1. Apply, test, and generate theory that contributes to new knowledge in nursing;
  2. Design and conduct innovative, rigorous, and ethical research that advances knowledge in nursing and the health sciences;
  3. Analyze, synthesize, articulate, disseminate, and translate research and scholarly work;
  4. Engage in research and scholarship that is guided by diversity, equity, and inclusion principles;
  5. Lead the integration of nursing knowledge and the translation of evidence from research into practice and policy.

PhD Course Requirements

Post-BSN Admissions

Year 1


Course ID Title Credits
BIOE 811 Biostatistics I 4
NSG 910 Philosophy of Science and Theory in Nursing 4
NSG 913 Qualitative Research Methods 3
NSG 919 Nursing Science Seminar 1
  Total 12


Course ID Title Credits
BIOE 821 Biostatistics II 4
NSG 876 Leadership and Health Policy 3
NSG 934 Theoretical and Methodological Issues 2
IP 801 Integrity in the Conduct of Scientific Research 1
  Total 10

Year 2


Course ID Title Credits
BIOE 865 Linear Regression Methods* 2
NSG 912 Theory Construction and Analysis 3
NSG 919 Nursing Science Seminar 1
NSG 923 Quantitative Research Methods 3
NSG 960 Directed Study or Elective 3
  Total 12


Course ID Title Credits
NSG 900 Dissertation 3
NSG 924 Scientific Dissemination 3
NSG 960 Directed Study 3
  Elective 3
  Total 12

Year 3


Course ID Title Credits
NSG 900 Dissertation 6
NSG 960 Directed Study 3
  Elective 3
  Total 12


Course ID Title Credits
NSG 900 Dissertation 9
  Total 9

Year 4


Course ID Title Credits
NSG 900 Dissertation 9
  Post-BSN Admissions Total Credits 76

NOTE: This is a draft plan of study. Courses selected for advanced statistics, electives, and directed study are based on developmental needs of the student and decided in conjunction with the faculty advisor and the student’s dissertation committee. 

*Students may enroll in this advanced statistics course or another course in advanced statistics that is approved by the Faculty Advisor.


PhD and Dual DNP/PhD Programs FAQ

Which program is right for me?
  • The PhD degree (with a focus in nursing) prepares nurse scientists who contribute to the development of scientific knowledge.
  • The DNP program prepares nurses for the practice degree in nursing. Options include: Adult-Gerontology Acute Care, Family Nursing, Psychiatric-Mental Health Nursing, Pediatric Primary Care Nursing, Pediatric Acute Care Nursing, Neonatal Nursing, and Nurse-Midwifery.
  • The dual DNP/PhD program provides highly motivated and qualified students with an integrated advanced clinical and research program of study. Students focus on a clinical research area in the PhD program and a clinical specialty area in the DNP program.
  • The combined program: 1) reduces the time normally required to complete both degrees and 2) yields expert practice leaders who are prepared to contribute to the development of scientific knowledge.


What are the PhD admissions requirements?
  • Application materials must be submitted by February 1st.
  • Be prepared to have identified three individuals who will provide written references on letterhead addressing your research capabilities.
  • Write an essay on your research and clinical interests, courses, or projects that have prepared you for this PhD program.
  • This essay should include a description of prior research experiences, courses, or projects that have prepared you for this PhD program.
  • The essay should also explain the research area you would like to contribute to. That is, specify at least one area or method you would like to learn in depth
  • Give an example of a research project you are excited about. This can be a project you have conducted, you would like to conduct, or you have read about.
  • Address issues that could potentially impact your admission status such as poor grades one term/course, switching schools, gaps in employment.
  • Copy of an unencumbered RN license (scan/upload into NursingCas).
What is the application process?
  • Applications materials are submitted through NursingCAS.
  • Additional packet components include:
      1. Official transcripts (must use NursingCAS transcript form)
      2. Official test scores ( are not required but may be provided by applicants)
      3. Copy of unencumbered RN license (scan/upload into NursingCAS)
      4. Current CPR card (scan/upload into NursingCAS)
  • If accepted for admission, UTHSC will require official transcripts also be sent to the Office of Enrollment Services.
  • Applicants must obtain transcripts from every institution to enter courses AND request transcripts for NursingCAS to verify coursework.
  • If applying to the dual DNP/PhD program, applicants must be accepted first into the DNP program concentration (e.g., adult-gerontology acute care, family nursing, psych-mental health nursing, nurse anesthesia, pediatric primary care, pediatric acute care, and neonatal nursing.)
  • Applicants may be accepted into DNP but not PhD.
  • If not accepted into DNP program, applicants may request to be  considered for PhD program.
  • Consider personally contacting DNP concentration coordinator and PhD program director before applying to the dual program.
How many students are accepted each year?
  • 6-10 students are accepted yearly, based on match and availability of faculty advisor.
  • Each faculty advisor mentors 3-5 students throughout their program.
  • Number of students in the Nursing Science PhD Program ranges from 18 to 25 students per academic year.
How long can be expected before graduation?
  • PhD students can be full or part-time.
      1. Majority graduate in 4 years or less.
      2. MSN prepared: 3 year curriculum
      3. BSN prepared: 3.5-4 year curriculum
  • DNP/PhD students can be full or part-time.
      1. Reduces time to complete both programs separately by ½ to 1 year (1-2 terms)
      2. Students entering with post-BSN and post-MSN have varying sequence of courses
How much time will be spent on campus?
  • Throughout program: on-campus week beginning and end of term (DNP, PhD, DNP/PhD programs).
  • PhD courses: courses in first two terms meet Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays face to face of each week or every other week; distance technology available for classes.
  • Research can be conducted in Memphis or other location.
  • DNP advanced practice clinical/selective experiences in proximity where student resides.
What are the expectations with regards to graduation?
  • Candidacy exam after core PhD courses completed (4th or 5th term)
  • Presentations and publications on literature reviews, pilot studies
  • Dissertation proposal
  • Dissertation research (24 credits minimum)
  • Dissertation defense (final exam)
  • Advanced practice credentialing exam (DNP/PhD graduates)
Are there RA/TA opportunities?
  • Tuition waived for 6-8 hours of service weekly
  • Research assistant/Teaching assistant (RA/TA) duties on a non-class day
  • Examples of RA activities:
      1. recruit/participate in research of faculty
      2. data entry
      3. literature reviews
      4. developing posters, abstracts, presentations assist with on-line or face-to-face course
Mar 6, 2024