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Nursing PhD

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.

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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

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

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’ work on congestive heart failure and patient self-care was recognized when she was an invited presenter at the Chancellor’s Colloquium.

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.

Changes to Graduate Studies admission requirements

In response to the COVID‐19 pandemic, admission requirements for graduate degree and certificate programs may have changed.
Learn more about changes to requirements

PhD admission requirements 

  • 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. 
  • Personal statement of research interest and intent. Please submit, with your application, a typed two-part essay. 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.  
  • All applicants are encouraged to submit supporting credentials (curriculum vitae or resume) with their applications. 
  • An example of scholarly writing (for example, a peer reviewed publication or a paper from school). 
  • Applicants must be registered nurses. 

UMass Dartmouth criteria 

  • Official transcripts from all post-secondary institutions attended (regardless if a credential is earned or not). 

Deadlines and Test Requirements

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.

Explore more about Nursing

Course Catalog

See course schedules and requirements.


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