DNP-Ph.D. Comparison: Explore the Pros and Cons

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( — February 19, 2021) — Congratulations, you’ve completed your bachelor’s or associate degrees in nursing. It’s a big moment for you. Cheer for yourself because not everyone makes it this far. 

With such passion for gathering the nursing world’s knowledge, you may be wondering about other educational openings on the turf. Many nursing experts find themselves stumped when choosing between a nursing philosophy doctor (Ph.D.) or a nursing practice doctorate (DNP). Trust us; the decision-making process is a rollercoaster ride. 

However, when you break down a few critical differences between these two degrees and filter out your ambitions, the best path for your particular needs may become crystal-clear. 

But first, let’s get one thing out of the way: The Ph.D. is a research doctorate. The DNP degree is a practice doctorate. Candidates of Ph.D. programs need to conduct independent research and broadcast their discoveries. The DNP will offer graduates the tools and skills necessary to evaluate the suggestions gained through nursing research and make alterations to make “care” even better. Also, gauge their power on their training. Moreover, a scholarship is a fundamental part of both programs.

Are you having trouble making a decision? We don’t encourage impulsive decision-making. We want you to choose what piques your interests and makes you want to give and learn more. 

So without further delay, let’s make a comparison between a DNP and a Ph.D. Hopefully, by the end, you’ll know where to go.

The Objectives and Primary Focus

The Ph.D. and DNP both prepare doctorate candidates for leadership roles, with interesting focuses. Also, DNP is more of a “practitioner” degree, which means nursing candidates get groomed to become influential leaders in the nursing sector. Mainly in clinics, educational institutions, and hospitals. 

On the other hand, the Ph.D. is a “research-based” degree; it has a narrower approach than the DNP. In this program, graduates are well-trained to become professionals in academic research environments. 

It’s clear: DNP programs facilitate how to get a doctorate in nursing, whereas Ph.D. prepares you for research-intensive work fields in healthcare.

The Point of Entry and Curriculum

Before you step into any one of these programs, you need to have a Bachelor of Science in Nursing or a BSN. Some graduates have a more advanced MSN degree. At some educational institutions, DNP graduates might have distance or part-time online/learning options. 

On the flip, Ph.D. programs tend to be less flexible since they stick with the full-time requirement. Additionally, the Ph.D. curriculum might contain a few mentored teaching needs, emphasizing its academic learnings.

How Long Are These Programs?

Like all other programs, the length of the Ph.D. and DNP programs varies on the point of entry and institution. However, in some places, DNP graduates with an MSN degree can decrease the number of credits needed for completing the program. 

On the other hand, Ph.D. programs tend to stick with the suggested number of credits; there is no space for alteration, even if you are a professional at negotiating. 

While DNP can take about three years to complete, a Ph.D. can take almost five years. Moreover, the necessary credits range from 30-95.

Pros and Cons

The best blessing of a DNP program is it gives nursing students an additional doctorate choice. The DNP is very flexible as compared to Ph.D. Some professionals may have expressed concerns about the availability of two degrees since the DNP program may cause a lack the number of Ph.D. nursing academics or candidates. 

Still, we’re not imposing anything on you. Both of these programs have their perks; you need a direction. Furthermore, plenty of job opportunities for both of these degrees is massive, so a successful living is well-guaranteed whichever degree you choose. Keep reading to check out the job opportunities.

Job Scenarios for Both: DNP and Ph.D.

As you’ve read above, a DNP program plays a critical role in preparing candidates for clinical nurse faculties and healthcare administration careers. In such surroundings, DNP professionals interpret their research into practice by enhancing care systems and taking all necessary measures to improve public health care. 

On the other hand, Ph.D. holders usually work as professors or nurse scientists in universities and colleges. They have to conduct research, develop and present new ideas for the practice of nursing. 

So it’s official, a nurse with a DNP leads a more public-based career. At the same time, one with a Ph.D. dives into the world of academics.

Now that you know the Offerings of Each Program; Ask Yourself These Questions:

  1. What can I afford?

In a perfect world, your preference for a graduate school would be resolved entirely by your goals. But in the real world, logistical factors come into play. What’s at the top of the list? Money! Since Ph.D. and DNP take longer to complete, they may involve a larger financial commitment. While grants, scholarships, and other aid forms are available, they may never be enough for students on strict budgets. 

That said, the earning perspective is critical for nurses with professional gradations – particularly given a skyrocketing claim. Need more proof? Check out this report from the Institute of Nursing, which indicates that nurses with doctorate degrees will be required in the country at a tremendous rate by the end of 2020.

  1. How much time do I need?

Let us lead with the expression: “Time is money.” The MSN program is something else to consider for candidates who cannot or are not ready to commit to a long-term commitment involving a Ph.D. or DNP. It offers flexibility, acting as a potential stepping stone towards continuing your doctoral studies.

Again, this requirement has other pros and cons – especially when career goals come into the picture. If your focus is to work in a non-clinical environment, doing an MSN may not save you any time. Meanwhile, a DNP has a “fast track” status to career improvement and may help you save much time in the long run if the goal is to be on top as soon as possible. 

The Endnote

Have you figured it out yet?

We know both of these degrees are amazing and have something unique to offer. But the key to making a decision is to align your priorities in-front. Think about it; do you love research? Or are you more of a hands-on individual? Answering one of these questions with proper interests (while considering a few said above) will help you reach a satisfying conclusion soon.

Just remember; no matter which program you choose, “nursing” will always be your shadow. So chin up and make a decision!