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PhD in Nursing program overview

The PhD in Nursing is a research-focused degree. There is substantive content and experiential learning in three areas:

  • the conducting of research
  • scholarship on chronic illness
  • scholarship and leadership in nursing education

This innovative program prepares the Nurse Scientist Educator (NSE) who will:

  • develop the science of nursing by conducting and disseminating theory guided research in the chronic illness experience and nursing education
  • integrate research, teaching, mentoring, and service to the organization and/or profession
  • contribute to the development of future nurses through discovery, application, and integration

The NSE student will learn:

  • qualitative and quantitative research methods
  • the nature of, and criteria for, scientific inquiry
  • to build, synthesize, and apply nursing knowledge
  • research designs and theoretical perspectives in chronic illness
  • interdisciplinary approaches to the issues of chronic illness
  • strategies for developing a program of research
  • about publication, grant development, curriculum design and evaluation

NSE Foundational Educational Concepts:

  • Boyer’s (1990) model of scholarship with its four domains of scholarship—Discovery, Integration, Application, and Teaching
  • research on the prevention of chronic illness and the care of people with chronic illness
  • comprehensive curriculum that provides learning, training, and mentorship
  • cohort education, assigned mentors, and structured activities leading to publication and funding

The program is designed to assist the student to develop the knowledge, skills, and habits of an NSE through mentoring, didactic teaching, and experience.

Attend an information session

Program highlights

A structured mentorship experience begins upon admission. Students are assigned to work with a specific faculty advisor on academic writing, writing for publication, grant writing, and completing qualifying examination requirements.

The Doctoral Seminar is held three times a semester on topics of nursing research based on student needs and interests. The students’ experiential learning includes writing for publication, grant writing, opportunities for research and teaching assistantships, qualifying examination, dissertation proposal hearing, and defense of the completed dissertation.

New:  Online learning and technology innovations improve the teaching-learning experience

The PhD program is a hybrid model with three online classes per semester. In addition, all PhD classes are wired for synchronous participation so students can engage in live classes using distance technology.

All classes are offered on Tuesdays.

Program plans

Student Success

PhD alumni experiences

Experiences from Nursing PhD alumni at UMass Dartmouth


Rachel Allen, PhD '18

Research on the effects of deinstitutionalization and being the first UMass Dartmouth recipient of a Jonas Center Nursing Scholarship.

Publication of research

Consistent with the focus of the PhD program, students have published their research in leading journals and current textbooks.

Their topics reflect the breadth and depth of their research interests, exploring issues in areas such as nursing education, institutionalization, caregiver experiences, and health literacy.

Learn more: Publications by Nursing PhD Students

Living with chronic illness and innovations in nursing education research

Support for this research comes from a variety of sources:

  • the U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare
  • the Massachusetts Board of Higher Education
  • professional groups and community agencies

Faculty research

Our faculty of the College of Nursing & Health Sciences are recognized experts and are actively involved in service projects in southeastern Massachusetts and beyond. Our faculty serve as consultants for our practice partners and professional groups. Faculty are frequently invited speakers at professional meetings and give peer-reviewed poster and podium presentations throughout the U.S. Many faculty volunteer for local, regional, national, and international health initiatives.

Recently, Dr. Kristen Sethares was the inaugural invited speaker for the University of Massachusetts Center for Clinical and Translational Science Nursing Research Special Interest Group at UMass Medical School. Her presentation, "Promoting Heart Failure Self-Care: Influences, Insights, and Interdisciplinarity" is based on her ongoing research on congestive heart failure and patient self-care.

Office of Nursing Research

The College of Nursing & Health Sciences Office for Nursing Research (ONR) supports graduate students and faculty in developing, reviewing, and submitting grant applications. Additionally, ONR serves as the liaison to the UMass Dartmouth Office of Research Administration (ORA), Corporate Engagement & Institutional Partnerships, and other university-related research offices and supports.

Dean's PhD & DNP Students' Research Support Stipend

The Dean’s PhD & DNP Students’ Research Stipend is a one-year pilot program (2021-2022) to assist nursing PhD students during the dissertation phase of their program, and DNP students during the residency/scholarly project phase of their program by providing limited research stipends for expenses directly related to conducting their studies or projects. The Financial Aid Office will review approved applications for eligibility.

PhD program

The PhD program is a 52-credit, post-MS curriculum that is designed to be completed in 48 months of full-time study including summer work.


The BS-PhD is a 73-credit, post-BS curriculum that is designed to be completed in 60 months of full-time study. After completing 39 credits, students may apply for the MS degree. There is a one-year residency requirement. A Certification Examination demonstrates the student’s mastery of nursing science in promoting health, guiding the illness experience, shaping the health system for people with chronic illness, and/or addressing innovations in nursing education. The Qualifying Examination consists of developing one article that is submitted to a peer-reviewed journal. Additionally, a qualifying exam is given at the conclusion of first-year courses.

PhD dissertation

The PhD dissertation is an original body of work in which the candidate demonstrates an in-depth understanding of a substantive area in promoting health, guiding the illness experience, or shaping the health care system for people living with chronic illness or in nursing education. The dissertation demonstrates the candidate’s ability to effectively incorporate theoretical, conceptual, and methodological tools in addressing the influence of nursing practices and the delivery of nursing services to people living with chronic illnesses.

View completed dissertations for the Nursing PhD program.

A limited number of assistantships are available on a competitive basis. This award is subject to the work needs of the position and department, your satisfactory performance of duties, your academic record, and availability of funds, and may be subject to change.

Learn more about assistantships at UMass Dartmouth

University requirements for graduate admissions

  • Submit an application via the online portal. Be sure to provide your full legal name and to capitalize the first letter of all proper nouns.
  • Pay non-refundable $60 application fee (American Express, Discover, MasterCard or Visa) via the online portal. For Nursing applicants, the non-refundable application fee is $75.
  • Statement of Purpose, minimum 300 words. Unless otherwise indicated in the program requirement details, indicate your graduate study objectives, research interests and experience, and business or industry experience if applicable. If you are applying for a teaching or research assistantship, include any special skills or experience that would assist us in making assistantship decisions.
  • Resume
  • Transcripts for all post-secondary institutions attended (regardless of whether a credential is earned or not). Unofficial transcripts are accepted for admissions application review, once enrolled a final official transcript is required. International students applying for Data Science must submit semester-by-semester transcripts as well as consolidated transcripts. 
  • Many programs have specific recommendations/requirements, please see the additional program-specific requirements for more information.
  • International students: official TOEFL, IELTS, Pearson PTE or Duolingo (if accepted by program) score. Unofficial scores are accepted for admissions application review, once enrolled official scores are required and must be sent by the testing agency (copies/scans not accepted). This is required of any applicant who did not earn a bachelor’s degree or higher degree from an accredited academic institution in the U.S. or accepted English-speaking country, see exemptions for more details. The Duolingo test is not accepted for the following programs: Art Education, Biology/Marine Biology, Luso-Afro-Brazilian Studies & Theory, Marine Science and Technology (MS, PSM, PhD), Nursing (MS, DNP, PhD), Portuguese Studies, Professional Writing and Communication, Psychology (ABA, Clinical, Research), and Public Policy.

Program-specific requirements

Candidates must submit the required application materials, university requirements and program-specific requirements, for consideration.

  • Bachelor’s degree minimum GPA of 3.0 and Master’s degree minimum GPA of 3.3.
  • One of these two degrees is from an accredited nursing program.
  • Master’s level courses that include exposure to theory and research, and a course in multivariate statistics. For BS-PhD applicants, these will be completed in the program.
  • For BS-PhD applicants, BS minimum GPA of 3.5.


  • Two letters of recommendation from people who have supervised the applicant in the academic, professional, or community service setting. If possible, at least one recommendation should be from a doctorally-prepared faculty member who is familiar with the applicant’s academic work and capacity. The recommendations should address the applicant’s ability to do graduate work, and potential to advance the discipline of nursing through scholarship. Applicants will be required to provide the recommenders name and email address so we can contact the recommender for the letter of recommendation.
  • Statement of purpose should include research interest and intent. In the first part (up to 250 words), give your reasons for wishing to pursue graduate study. In the second part (up to 1,000 words), indicate your research interests and goals for doctoral study.
  • Scholarly writing samples (for example, a peer reviewed publication or a paper from school), minimum of 10 pages of writing.
  • Applicants must be registered nurses and submit copy of RN license.

Program deadlines

Nursing Faculty

Our nurse-scientist faculty combine strong academic credentials with diverse experience in clinical practice, leadership, and scholarship. They offer a range of expertise in healthcare, nursing, and teaching, including breast cancer, cardiovascular disease, family caregivers, mental health, mother-infant interaction, patient safety, spinal cord injury, and symptom management, among many others.

Elizabeth Chin
Mary Beth Sosa
June Andrews Horowitz
Jennifer Viveiros
Kimberly Christopher
Kristen Sethares
Maryellen Brisbois
Melissa Desroches
Mary Mccurry
Monika Schuler
Susan Hunter Revell

Explore more

Course descriptions, schedules and requirements