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Nursing Doctoral Degree Requirements

Faculty | Master's | Doctoral | Courses

Ph.D. in Nursing

Program Objectives and Course of Study
The purpose of the Ph.D. in Nursing Program is to develop doctorally prepared nurse researchers, scholars, and educators who will be able to advance nursing knowledge and improve nursing practice; synthesize knowledge from nursing and other disciplines to address complex health problems; and be leaders in nursing research and nursing education.

Graduates will be beginning-level researchers with a strong foundation in inquiry in the areas of clinical nursing research or health services research who can assume research and faculty roles in schools of nursing or centers of nursing research. Upon successful completion of the program, students are awarded the Doctor of Philosophy in Nursing from the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

Description of the Program
The Ph.D. Program graduates will have three major areas of expertise: knowledge of the discipline of nursing; knowledge of a clinical or practice population; and strategies of research and scholarship, such as grant writing and publication.

They will think critically and lead the profession and public to policies which promote health. To achieve this expertise, students will be educated didactically, through course work, seminars, and tutorials, and experientially, through grant writing, and independent research. The program consists of a minimum of 57 credit hours including 12 credits in nursing knowledge and theory development, 15 credits in research and statistics, 12 credits in electives, and 18 credits for the dissertation. Elective credits are distributed in nursing and cognates (non-nursing courses). Post-baccalaureate students must take an additional 24 credits distributed across nursing, cognates, and statistics. Students are required to successfully complete a comprehensive examination, dissertation proposal defense, and defense of the completed dissertation.

The program is designed for both post-baccalaureate and post-master’s students. A full-time course of study includes two to three years of coursework and one year for the dissertation. A part-time plan of study may be designed in consultation with a faculty adviser. There is a one-year residency requirement as defined by the Graduate School, and an on-campus orientation.

Admission Policies
Admission priority is given to applications completed and postmarked by February 1. Decisions regarding admission to the doctoral program are based on an overall appraisal of applicants’ abilities to undertake doctoral study and of their potential contribution to nursing science as evidenced in the following:
1. Official transcripts from colleges or universities attended.
2. A master’s degree in nursing from a nationally accredited School of Nursing and a grade point average of 3.0 or better; or a baccalaureate degree in nursing from a nationally accredited university and a grade point average of 3.2 or better.
3. Official transcripts from all undergraduate and graduate programs attended.
4. Two letters of recommendation.
5. Two examples of scholarly writing (e.g., publications, scholarly papers).
6. A clinical research focus congruent with that of a faculty sponsor.
7. Completed application forms with fee.
8. Participation in an admission interview.

Additional criteria for international applicants:
1. Completion of International Student Application, available online from the University of Massachusetts Amherst Graduate School.
2. GPA of 3.0 or equivalent.
3. Use of translation service for transcript as necessary.
4. TOEFL scores where applicable.

Further information may be obtained from: Cynthia Goss, Ph.D. Program Office, School of Nursing, 123 Skinner Hall, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, MA 01003-0420, tel. (413) 577-2322 or

Doctor of Nursing Practice—Online

An on-campus orientation is required for this online program. The Doctor of Nursing Practice (D.N.P.) is a post-baccalaureate or post-master’s program designed to provide an exemplary accredited academic and clinical education for nurses who will practice at the highest level. It offers the following concentrations: Primary Care Family Nurse Practitioner and Public Health Nurse Leader. Specific goals for the program are to graduate nurses who will: 1) engage in nursing practice using the advanced knowledge from nursing and related disciplines to improve health outcomes, 2) provide leadership and collaborate with leaders in other professions for change in systems of care, 3) synthesize and translate evidence from nursing and other disciplines to manage complex health problems, and 4) provide culturally proficient care to respond to health disparities and societal needs.

Core competencies essential for those preparing for direct care roles and for population-based roles build on eight essential content areas: 1) scientific underpinnings for practice, 2) organizational and systems leadership for quality improvement, and systems thinking, 3) clinical scholarship and analytic methods for evidence-based practice, 4) technology and information for the improvement and transformation of health care, 5) health-care policy for advocacy in health care, 6) interprofessional collaboration for improving patient and population healthcare outcomes, 7) clinical prevention and population health for improving the nation’s health, and 8) advanced nursing practice for improving the delivery of patient care.

All students are required to attend an on-campus orientation in early summer. Post Master’s (PM) students can plan for a less than one-week orientation. Post baccalaureate (PB) students should plan for an additional Advanced Health Assessment leveling workshop. PB students make two further campus visits corresponding to specialty course requirements. All students visit campus to present their capstone presentation orally. It may also be recommended that students take PUBHLTH 540 Introductory Biostatistics before NURSING 797D Intermediate Biostatistics based on results of an assignment to determine statistics background given during orientation.

Admission Criteria
Admission priority is given to applications completed and postmarked by February 1.

Students must meet the general requirements of both the University of Massachusetts Amherst Graduate School and the School of Nursing and have a baccalaureate degree from a nationally accredited school of nursing or be an RN with a non-nursing baccalaureate degree. The School of Nursing uses the degree-granting institution Grade Point Average (GPA) as one measure of an applicant’s academic potential. A successful applicant will typically have a GPA of 3.0 or above (on a 4.0 scale). If the GPA is lower than 3.0, applicants may still apply and be considered for admission, but may wish to submit a Graduate Record Exam (GRE) score if they believe that the GPA does not accurately reflect their abilities.

Other requirements include official transcripts from all graduate and undergraduate programs attended, documentation of RN licensure, sample of scholarly writing, a written statement of professional goals, two letters of recommendation, TOEFL scores if needed, a course in elementary statistics and a course in health assessment if the graduate plan of study includes advanced health assessment.

The School of Nursing offers a post-master’s entry to the Doctor of Nursing Practice. Admissions criteria are the same as for the post-baccalaureate applicant plus transcripts from all graduate programs attended. For all post-master’s entry applicants, an application review will determine D.N.P. degree requirements. A minimum of 36 credits post-master’s is required.

Course Requirements
The post-baccalaureate program of study is 79-81 credits, depending on the specialty selected. The program must be completed in five years and includes theory, research, core courses, and clinical practica. Core courses for all specialty tracks required include NURSING 603, 630, 690I, 690L, 690S, 704, 797D; PUBHLTH 524, 630; SCH-MGMT 680, Capstone, and Residency is also required. Additional Public Health courses required by specialty can be viewed at All non-nursing course descriptions can be viewed in this course catalog under their respective departments. A residency and capstone project are also required. The course requirements for post-master’s students will vary, depending on their prior coursework and selected specialty area. Requirements are determined by a portfolio review process.