A PhD in nursing is a serious commitment that takes years to fulfil. You need to not only be able to show your strength in leadership, but also exhibit exceptional research-based skills in order to succeed. A nursing PhD program is usually a thought-out choice, in that the people who pursue it are doing it for a reason and have a background in healthcare and nursing. This article explores the career paths available once a PhD is complete and what you can expect from them.
PhD Nurse vs. Regular Nurse: What’s the Difference?
A PhD nurse is an expert in all things nursing. They have spent years researching and learning all the different aspects. A regular nurse is one who works in the hospitals or healthcare settings and fulfils all the regular nursing duties alongside other medical staff. A PhD nurse differs from a DNP nurse though both routes are doctorate level qualifications. A PhD nurse is more of a research-based program as opposed to the DNP which has a practical focus.
What is the GRE?
The GRE is otherwise known as the Graduate Records Exam. It puts a variety of skills to the test to determine whether or not the test taker will be successful in a graduate program of study. It is a common prerequisite for many PhD nursing qualifications; however, there are some courses that do not demand it. There is always a verbal reasoning section, a written essay section, and a quantitative research section. It is a grueling test that requires hard work, pre-planning and a tremendous amount of focus and motivation. This is not something you can pass without preparing for, nor is it something that anyone sails through with ease. It is designed to push boundaries and test thought processes to their extreme. It is a good measure of whether or not you are suited for further educative ventures, and it can help you prepare for the style of the PhD programs.
PhD Programs for Nursing without GRE
There are of course nursing PhD programs without a GRE requirement as represented by Wilkes University, who offer information on how to move forward without it. In this instance, in lieu of a GRE score you need a master’s in nursing with at least a 3.3 GPA, a nursing license and at least two letters of recommendation to get accepted onto the program. There are various options available to people wanting to pursue this route without a GRE test pass. Even if they are academically capable, for example, they may not have the funding for a GRE exam. This can be a major barrier that is often insurmountable. While there may be grants and funding available for PhD studies, this is limited with regard to the GRE.
Why Consider a PhD in Nursing?
The main reasons for undertaking a further degree in nursing are varied. For example:
You want a higher salary. It is no secret that nursing staff are underpaid, overworked, and underappreciated across many settings. However, if you have grown tired of this and you feel like you are worth more, you can take the step to prove it to the world. Regardless of experience or drive, a higher salary is an attractive prospect to lots of people, and it is, unfortunately, not always attainable in this field unless you have further qualifications. The difference in salary between a lower qualified nurse and one with a higher degree and more experience is tens of thousands of dollars. This is a fact that you cannot argue with, and it is certainly a contributing reason as to why nurses decide to further their educative palette.
You need a new challenge. Nursing is a very rewarding career, but it can also be exhausting and feel as though there is little return for all your efforts and experience. The next step might be to pursue a PhD in order to give yourself a new challenge and validate your reasons for going into nursing in the first instance. PhD level learning is definitely a challenge, and it should not be entered into lightly, but if you are ready then you will know it. Once you start, hopefully you gain that sense of challenge that you have been missing in the lower down occupancies.
It is your personal goal. Some people have their careers planned out and some people do not. If you are one of the latter as opposed to the former, then you may have had a PhD in your sights from the beginning of your nursing journey. If this is the case, undertaking this is just the next, natural step in your personal journey. Once finished, you can tick it off your personal bucket list and achievement goals and move forward onto new nursing pastures.
You want to teach the future nursing cohort. We have already seen how you cannot teach nursing students without at least a Masters, preferably a PhD. So, if your passion is to one day lead the future generation of nurses into their careers and give them your valuable experience and knowledge, this is the only path for you. Teaching demands a certain level of intuitive speculation and credibility. When it comes to nursing, this can only be gained through attaining further qualifications.
You want to change the field. There are many changes that need to be made to the healthcare system. If you have a PhD, you can lead the research that makes that change. You can set your own questions and conduct your own scientific research, find new data and statistics to support your findings and ultimately shape the future of the medical field. Reform and rebellion, the two are closely intertwined. It’s all about which side you want to be on and being a lead in nursing research can open the door to both in a valid and legal way.
PhD in Nursing Career Options
Now that we have gone through the basics, let’s move onto the main focus of the article: the career options. Everything discussed below is only available to people who have undertaken a PhD in nursing successfully.
Role Overview: Nurse research roles encapsulate everything that drives the medical field forward. This is research into new practices, new medicines, new procedures and finding ways to build on old institutions. It involves asking a question and finding an answer. Questions asked are things such as ‘Where are the gaps in primary care?’ and, ‘How can patients be better supported post-surgery?’. Role titles include ‘Director of Nursing Research’ and ‘Nursing Practices Researcher’. If undertaking this type of role, a nurse may conduct a study in a professional way. This includes finding answers through the collection of raw and secondary data, scientific research findings and primary interviews. This can be a collaborative or solo effort. If it is collaborative, this is often with other relevant fields such as pharmaceutical or nutritional.
Academic Prerequisites: These roles have very specific prerequisites and will always require a PhD in nursing to even be considered for an interview. They generally expect at least eight years of higher education with a consideration of all things nursing. These are scientific research roles, as is the nature of healthcare and therefore there is a strong focus on this throughout.
Earnings Potential: Earnings potential for these types of roles at this level of qualified are anything upwards of $85,000. This is the lower end of the scale, and the more experienced you are, the easier it will be to move up the salary bands.
Role Overview: Teaching is a recognized and prestigious career path in the world of nursing and the wider medical field. If you have achieved a PhD in nursing, then you are more than qualified to teach student nurses. This can be in the lecture hall, or it can be on the job for practical learning, whichever suits you best. The fact that you have completed such a degree means that you are able to impart knowledge and share practices with nurses that are new and budding. You will not be in a position to teach without a PhD qualification in higher education establishments such as colleges as this is a basic requirement. This type of career path also provides the opportunity for curriculum development and influencing, so you can shape what you teach if you are expert enough in the field.
Academic Prerequisites: In order to teach, you must have a greater qualification that your students. This is a standard requirement across all the education settings. It is expected that you bring expertise and wisdom that far outranks the current knowledge base of potential learners under your wing. Therefore, in order to teach nursing, you must hold at least a master’s or a PhD.
Earnings Potential: In this role you can earn upwards of $75,000. Educators generally are not paid very high salaries, but those on the higher end of the scale are often renumerated reflecting their experience and their merit.
Healthcare Organization Roles
Role Overview: There are many roles in healthcare of varying degrees of responsibility for qualified nurses. So, a nurse with a PhD can take things to the next level and look for and secure a leadership role in such organizations and companies. Leadership roles draw from a lot of the skills learnt through the PhD process and require a different type of mindset and execution to teaching and research. In order to show leadership potential, potential candidates must prove their expertise, their people management experience and how their profile fits in with the ethos of the business. This is not only roles such as head nurse in a hospital setting, but other types of healthcare establishment as well such as private facilities and research centers.
Academic Prerequisites: As a basic standard, you must have your master’s in nursing. However, it is likely that a PhD candidate would have more experience and therefore more status in the field and more opportunities in this arena.
Earnings Potential: The earnings potential for a leadership role are upwards of $70,000. These are top-end nursing positions that you need to have plenty of experience in in order to secure them. Therefore, the potential earnings reflect this notion.
Role Overview: If you choose to work for the government you will find yourself in roles such as working for the Department of Defense, and other government sectors or even the military. These roles are a bit more varied than traditional teaching roles or leadership roles and can take you to different places too. You need a certain level of flexibility when you decide to step into this world as you could be moved from place to place with little warning and assigned new objectives sporadically.
Academic Prerequisites: As with the majority of roles discussed, you will need a PhD in nursing for these high-level specific roles. To work at this level requires a certain disciple and drive that a regular degree does not teach you.
Earnings Potential: The basic salaries for these types of positions vary. You can expect anything from $50,000 to $90,000 depending on which avenue you go down.
The Career Options without a PhD in Nursing
Even though a PhD in nursing opens bigger doors, there are still plenty of opportunities for a nurse without one. These include standard nurse roles in a healthcare setting such as a hospital. You could also work in a care home, fostering agency, military unit, education setting or set up on your own and work as a private nurse for independent clients.
There are four main career paths for after you achieve your PhD in Nursing. Whether you choose to teach, lead, carry on researching, or work in a government setting is down to your personality type, personal goals, and ambitions. The potential is there, and you will open many doors on your career journey if you choose to become more qualified.