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QI'm planning to go back to school to pursue either a DNP or PhD degree. Which degree makes the most sense if I want to continue on my career path as a nurse leader?
The PhD is a research- and academia-focused degree that prepares you to advance nursing science and knowledge through research and scientific inquiry in any setting: academic or clinical. You can anticipate needing to complete approximately 60 postgraduate credits for this degree, with many of those credits for research courses and a dissertation. You can even enter a PhD program as a BS-to-PhD student at some universities. This degree is an excellent choice, especially if a faculty, research, nursing science, or academic position is in your future.
The DNP is a practice-focused degree, similar to other practice doctorates in physical therapy, pharmacy, and the chiropractic field. It has been recommended by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing as the required advanced practice nursing degree by 2015.1 Because nursing leadership is a field of practice, this degree is appropriate for nurse leaders. Degree requirements aren't as stringent as the PhD, with 35 to 40 credits on average, including completion of a scholarly project. Depending on the program model and your time commitment, you could complete the DNP in 2 years. The DNP degree will certainly prepare you for advanced leadership in the clinical setting, as well as educational or informatics careers.
Good luck with your decision, you can't go wrong with either one.
1. American Association of Colleges of Nursing. AACN Position Statement on the Practice Doctorate in Nursing. http://www.aacn.nche.edu/DNP/DNPPositionStatement.htm. [Context Link]
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