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Online PhD in Nursing Program

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Over the past 25 years, more than 100 nurse scientists have graduated from our Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Nursing program, and have gone on to careers in nursing education, research and organizational leadership in the United States and abroad.

The goal of our PhD in Nursing program — the first completely online PhD program in the country — is to engage you in an intensive, rigorous manner that prepares you to be a nurse scholar. Applied research courses in qualitative, quantitative and mixed methodologies will prepare you to function as an independent researcher upon graduation.

Program Options

The program begins in May with the start of the summer semester. We offer three-year and four-year curriculum options, as well as a DNP to PhD program, which permits nurses with a DNP degree to gain valuable skills that will enable them to function as independent researchers.

All options are offered online with residency requirements at our Pittsburgh, PA, campus, as well as at Duquesne's Dublin, Ireland, campus as part of one study abroad experience.

3-Year and 4-Year Curriculum Options

The School of Nursing offers both a three-year and a four-year option for pursuing a PhD in Nursing program, allowing you to apply to the program that best fits with your goals and lifestyle. The three- and four-year options are identical but differ in intensity and duration.

The three-year option typically requires six-10 credits to be complete per semester, whereas the four-year option typically requires six credits per semester. If you are interested in applying to the three-year program, you must have a commitment to prioritizing your time in order to complete the program, unencumbered by expectations of an over-demanding life/work/job.

DNP to PhD Program

Apply the knowledge and skills you learned in your DNP program to this DNP to PhD option which allows you to conduct research related to your DNP Project. The DNP to PhD program requires completion of 38 credits, which typically takes two-and-a-half years, including dissertation.

Program Requirements


Residency 1: Doctoral Week (Summer of Year 1)

Every student admitted to the PhD program is required to come to the Pittsburgh, PA, campus for the first residency, usually held during the second or third week of May. This week includes an orientation to the PhD program and provides an opportunity for students to meet faculty and participate in live classes for the courses in which they are enrolled that summer.

Residency 2: Study Abroad (Summer of Year 2)

Students enrolled in GPNG 924 Methods of Scientific Inquiry II will take part of the course as a study abroad experience (approximately 10-14 days) in locations such as Dublin, Ireland, where students will have housing at the Duquesne University Ireland campus. Please note that any tuition discounts that graduate students receive are not applicable to study abroad courses.

Residency 3: Topic and Committee Approval (Year 2 for 3-year Program and Year 3 for 4-year Program)

This residency provides an opportunity for the student to meet with their faculty mentor either at Duquesne University or another location, such as a conference setting, for intensive discussion and writing around dissertation topic development in preparation for approval.

Residency 4: Final Dissertation Defense (Year 3 for 3-year Program and Year 4 for 4-year Program)

Students are required to come to campus for the final public defense of their dissertation.


Each student must write and defend a dissertation on a topic of their choosing, and you can view a list of recently defended dissertation topics for ideas. As part of the PhD curriculum, you will be required to make a proposal defense and a final defense.

Proposal Defense

The Proposal Defense is an oral defense of a written dissertation research proposal.

Final Defense

The Final Defense is an oral defense of the completed dissertation. Students make one public oral defense. The University sets a deadline date for the final defense. Prior to this deadline, students must have already:

  • Successfully defended their dissertation.
  • Made any corrections requested by their dissertation committee.
  • Submitted an approved electronic (ETD) version of their dissertation.

Students need to work with their committee chairs to schedule their final defense dates at least four to six weeks prior to the University deadline.

You may reference the University Academic Calendar for the latest date to submit an approved thesis.

PhD Program Outcomes

The overall purpose of the PhD in Program in Nursing is to prepare graduates for a lifetime of intellectual inquiry, creative scholarship, and research.  Graduates of the program will be competent in research, scholarship and leadership within the profession of nursing. The graduate must possess and demonstrate specific competencies. These include the ability to:

  1. Function as an independent researcher and conduct original research that builds upon prior research and expands the science of nursing.
  2. Integrate theoretical frameworks and research finding from other disciplines to enhance the practice of professional nursing.
  3. Produce scholarly work that contributes to the science and profession of nursing by communicating creative solutions to problems in nursing and health care.
  4. Demonstrate leadership and collaborative strategies to reduce health care disparities on a local, national and international level.
  5. Help improve the health of the community by generating new evidence for nursing practice that solves problems related to health care delivery.
  6. Evaluate issues that affect health care and advocate for change in health care policies based on evidence and the principles of social justice.

Students may not be enrolled in more than one doctoral program at any given time.

Please Note These Important Dates

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Application Cycle: July 1 - February 1

Apply any time between July 1 and February 1.

No GRE or application fee required.

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PhD Scholarship Deadline: February 1

Students accepted, deposited and enrolled in either the PhD in Nursing or the PhD in Nursing Ethics program is eligible to apply for the PhD scholarship award.

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Program Start

The PhD in Nursing program begins in May with the start of the summer semester. You can find exact start dates on the University's academic calendar.

Get Connected to Learn More

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Request More Information

Receive additional information about Duquesne University and the School of Nursing and our graduate programs.

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Ask a Question

Contact Nursing Recruiter Brian Bost at or 412.396.6539.

View Additional Resources

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Helpful Documents

Graduate Student Handbook
University Graduate Catalog
Technology Requirements

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Hear What Students Have to Say about the Program

Kimberli Roberts, MSN, RN, CNL, says her PhD degree will allow her to have a seat at the table with those who are making changes in health care.

Anne Brown, MSN, RN, was looking for an online program with longevity and flexibility.

Monica Gola, MSN, RN, was drawn to our PhD program because of its focus on social justice and vulnerable populations. Her specific research focus aligned well with that of some of our faculty. Monica has found our faculty to be incredibly supportive of student learning.