The two types of doctoral degrees that you can choose from in the field of nursing are the Doctor of Nursing Practice or DNP, and the Doctor of Philosophy in Nursing which is a PhD. The undergraduate basis of the two degrees are the exact same, but the graduate level study is vastly different because they are tailored to different paths in the field. A DNP is a more practice-focused degree designed to equip nurses with the knowledge and skills that they need to work as nurses. A PhD in Nursing is a research-focused degree that explores theory and research in-depth so that graduates can go on to continue making advancements and education the next generation of nurses.

Nursing is the largest healthcare profession worldwide and is steadily growing. The demand for nurses is at an all-time high, and the demand for highly trained nurses is continually increasing as the environment within the field evolves. While a Master’s degree used to satisfy the requirements for a lot of specialized jobs (such as APN jobs), several positions call for doctorate degrees now instead. Continuing your education is a great decision no matter what field you work in, but it is especially important in something as fast-paced and expansive as healthcare. There are affordable, flexible programs at hundreds of colleges and universities with options to specialize in almost any branch of nursing that you could want. All that is left for you to do is choose what postgraduate option is best-suited to prepare you to reach and exceed your professional goals. When it comes to deciding whether you’d like to pursue a PhD vs Doctorate, the answer lies in what career you’re looking to get into.

The first thing to know is that a PhD is still a doctorate degree; however, the PhD is the highest academic achievement one can receive, so it is often spoken about separately. PhDs are purely academic in nature. A professional doctorate is what most people are thinking of when they say ‘doctorate.’ The DNP is a professional doctorate, which means that the curriculum is designed so that it is professionally applicable, or practical. So, what does that translate to in a professional sense? A PhD in Nursing can lead to a variety of careers. The three most common are that of a nursing faculty member, a director of nursing research, and a director of clinical services. As a faculty member, of course, you would be teaching nursing to up-and-coming nurses. A director of nursing research would oversee employees and work alongside them conducting research to improve the field; someone in this position also helps implement new findings into practice. A director of clinical services oversees operations in patient care departments.

A Doctor of Nursing Practice is an equally important degree that leads to vastly different jobs. If you have a DNP, you’ll be doing a lot more on-the-ground clinical work. Some roles that you could fill with a DNP include any area of advanced practice nursing (working as a nurse anesthetist or nurse practitioner, for instance), leadership or management positions in nursing, working in healthcare policy or administration, and more. A DNP also opens up opportunities in teaching in practice-based nursing programs.