Doctor of Philosophy in Nursing (PhD)

The major purpose of the PhD in Nursing program is to prepare scholars with expertise in selected substantive areas who will contribute to nursing theory and practice through systematic inquiry. Aims of the University of Virginia doctoral program in nursing are to prepare scholars who will:

  • demonstrate advanced knowledge of nursing, related sciences and humanities, and methods of inquiry;
  • expand the research base of nursing theory and practice; and
  • serve the Commonwealth, the nation, and the world by addressing major nursing and health care issues in a scholarly manner.

The University of Virginia consistently ranks as one of the top nursing schools in student awards by the National Institutes of Health. Each year University of Virginia PhD nursing students have been awarded F31 training grants (National Research Service Awards) for their doctoral studies.

A university is a community of scholars having as its central purpose the enrichment of the human mind. Within this community, the Doctor of Philosophy program in nursing seeks to prepare scholars who will advance nursing knowledge. Scholarly achievement in nursing is accomplished in a spirit of free inquiry directed toward a better understanding of human existence, especially in relation to health and illness. The domains of nursing knowledge are emerging and still being defined. Nurse scholars must participate in the study of particular phenomena and in the identification of central domains related to these phenomena. This requires that students be well informed about advanced practice in professional nursing.

Nursing knowledge is advanced through association with other disciplines and is often enhanced by the work of other university scholars. Central to the education of nurse scholars is the opportunity to interact with other scholars throughout the university community. Through dialogue and study with these professionals, nurse scholars expand their understanding of health and illness and the biological, environmental, sociocultural, ethical, legal, philosophic and historic factors influencing nursing care.

Information Sessions

We hold monthly information sessions on the PhD program. Click here for the schedule of upcoming sessions.  You can rsvp to those sessions on that webpage. 

Program Directors:

Direct all questions on admissions and financial aid to Assistant Dean Clay Hysell (434) 924-0141,


Financial Aid

All US citizens and permanent residents admitted to the PhD program (regardless of whether you are a Virginia resident or not) are awarded two years (24 months) of full scholarship. This will cover all of your tuition expenses for two full academic years and two summers. In exchange for this two years of support, all PhD students serve as a Teaching Assistant for at least one semester. PhD students are eligible for a third year of full support (plus stipend) if they serve as a Teaching Assistant for that third year.   PhD students may pursue the PhD program on two different paces. Students pursuing the Accelerated track with classes on Tuesdays and Wednesdays (Intensive Plan) are able to complete their coursework in 24 months or less. Students pursuing the program on a non-accelerated track with classes 1 day a week should be able to complete the course requirements in 36 months. Individuals accepted to the BSN-to-PhD program are provided with 3 years (36 months) of full scholarship aid. This should cover nearly all of the tuition expenses for the coursework stages your MSN and PhD programs if you pursue the accelerated plan.

We are able to provide financial assistance to only international student per cohort.

Any PhD student is eligible to be a Graduate Teaching Assistant during their program. Students who are not Virginia residents must be a Graduate Teaching Assistant for a full academic year to qualify for the full tuition scholarship; Virginia residents are given the option to be a GTA. for a  full year. Graduate Teaching Assistant positions come with a modest stipend and full health insurance for full-year GTAs. Most GTA positions are for 10 hours a week. Some students are provided the option to pick up additional GTA hours (up to 20 hours/week).

The school has funds available for students who are considering faculty positions. Thanks to funding from the NIH, doctoral students may borrow funds for their academic expenses (tuition and books) from the school. If you become a full-time faculty member at any accredited institution, up to 85% of the loan (principle and interest) will be forgiven. You would pay an interest rate of 3% on the remaining loan amount.

Students applying for or enrolled in the PhD in Nursing or DNP programs can apply for the Future Virginia Nursing Faculty Loan Assistance Repayment Program administered through the University of Virginia. Full-time doctoral students are eligible to borrow up to $25,000/year during the coursework phase of their programs (Year 1 and Year 2 in our PhD program). These loans would be cancelled if you taught full-time at any public or private nursing program in Virginia for four years (two year of teaching for each year of loan). The application deadline for this program is May15. Visit our tuition and financial aid website for more information.


The PhD Program at the School of Nursing is focused on research, and the curriculum includes courses in qualitative, quantitative, and historical research.

During the course of the program, all PhD students submit a research proposal for peer review. Many students submit proposals to the National Institutes of Health for the National Research Service Awards (NRSA) competition.

Since research is an important element of the PhD program, we wish to develop good mentoring relationships between PhD students and funded researchers on the Nursing faculty. Thus we seek to admit students whose own research interests would have commonality with the research backgrounds of the faculty.

PhD Faculty Researchers  

Research‌ Studies  (faculty and student)


Admission Requirements

  • Minimum of a baccalaureate degree in nursing from a nationally accredited program
  • Academic record that demonstrates a minimum of a B average. Please send transcripts for all post-secondary work
  • Capacity for doctoral study based upon achievement on the Graduate Record Examination. It is to the applicant's advantage to achieve a score above 500 on each test of the GRE. Preparing and reviewing for the tests may be helpful and is encouraged.
  • Three satisfactory letters of reference - two from doctorally prepared nurse educators and one from a current or recent employer - that speak to the applicant's ability to pursue doctoral studies.
  • Current curriculum vitae which reflects professional achievements and productivity.
  • Clearly written essay of no more than 1000 words describing educational, research and professional goals. This statement must include a specific description of the applicant's focus of study and a researchable topic for development
  • Current license to practice nursing in the US.  All matriculating students who are not active-duty military nurses must have a Virginia RN license before the first day of classes.
  • A recent course in statistics (with software applications).
  • A personal interview with one or more faculty members. These interviews are conducted in Charlottesville on a Tuesday or Wednesday during the academic year.
  • International applicants have additional requirements.

Application forms may be obtained online from the The Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. The Graduate School of Arts and Sciences prefers to receive one package containing the all supporting materials (recommendations, transcripts, and scholarly writing). The completed application, the application fee and all supporting data must be received no later than December 15. Note: applications may be accepted after the December 15 deadline on space-available basis. Students are welcome to submit applications before this deadline as the Admissions Committee makes rolling admissions decisions.

Note: While most applicants for the PhD in Nursing program possess a MSN degree, nurses with other graduate degrees (MPH, MBA, MS in Health Administration, etc) are encouraged to apply.

BSN-to-PhD program: Exceptionally well-qualified registered nurses without a master's degree in nursing may be considered for admission to the doctoral program. If admitted, such students will be required to complete a customized curriculum leading to the MSN in conjunction with doctoral study.

All applicants are required to take the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) General Test. The School of Nursing accepts GRE scores that are more than 5 years old. If you have your 'older' scores, you may submit a copy of the Student Report. The institutional code for the University of Virginia is R-5820.

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Downloads, Program of Study, and Links

For More Information

For additional information on admission to and programs of study at the UVA School of Nursing, please complete our inquiry form. You are also welcome to call the Office of Admissions and Student Services at (434) 924-0141 / (888) 283-8703.

Questions on admissions and financial aid should be directed to Clay Hysell, Assistant Dean for Admissions and Financial Aid,