Doctor of Philosophy in Nursing (PhD)

InfographicSalary.jpg PhD in Nursing

  • 49 credits (for those with an MSN)
  • both accelerated (about 20 months to complete) and non-accelerated courses of study (about 36 months to complete) available
  • BSN to PhD program option
  • Deadline: Dec. 15 (for entry the following fall)

The major purpose of the PhD in nursing program is to prepare scholars with expertise in selected substantive areas who  will contribute to nursing science, knowledge, theory qand 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 Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) represents the highest level of formal education for a career in research and the scholarship of discovery. It prepares scholars for the expression and communication of the knowledge base in the profession. The PhD graduate develops the science, stewards the profession, educates the next generation of nurses, defines its uniqueness, and maintains its professional integrity. In the academic setting, the PhD is the highest academic degree and is required for success as a scientist in the multiple disciplines represented within educational institutions. In the scientific arena within and beyond the Academy, the PhD is the beginning preparation for the development of independence in scientific pursuit. Post-doctoral study is recommended for depth in a field. Attainment of the PhD requires a strong scientific emphasis within the discipline; an understanding of the science of related disciplines and translation science; dissemination of innovations; and interdisciplinary† collaboration. In addition, for the profession to achieve this vision and make the maximum impact on the healthcare system, PhD nursing scientists should reflect society at large.”

- excerpt from The Research-Focused Doctoral Program in Nursing: Pathways to Excellence (AACN, 2011)

Information sessions
We hold evening PhD information sessions twice each semester; please check our schedule of upcoming sessions, and RSVP if you plan to attend.

PhD program director:

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

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, 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 at one of two paces: those on the accelerated track take classes on Tuesdays and Wednesdays and usually complete their coursework in 24 months or less. Students in the non-accelerated track take classes one day a week, and usually complete their courses within 36 months.

Individuals accepted to the BSN-to-PhD program are provided three years (36 months) of full scholarship, which covers nearly all of the tuition expenses pursued within the accelerated plan. We are, however, able to provide financial assistance to very few international students per cohort.

Any PhD student is eligible to be a Graduate Teaching Assistant (GTA) during their program. Students who are not Virginia residents must be a GTA for one full academic year to qualify for the full tuition scholarship; Virginia residents have the option to be a GTA for a full year. Full-year GTAs earn a modest stipend and receive full health insurance, and most positions require 10 hours a week of teaching with the option to pick up additional GTA hours (as many as 20 hours per week).

The school also offers financial support to students considering faculty positions. With 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) is forgiven. These individuals receive an interest rate of 3% on the remaining loan amount.

Students applying for or enrolled in UVA's PhD or DNP programs may apply for the Future Virginia Nursing Faculty Loan Assistance Repayment Program, which is UVA-administered. Full-time doctoral students are eligible to borrow up to $25,000 per year during the coursework phase of their programs (years 1 and 2 for the PhD), loans that are then cancelled if graduates  go on to teach full-time at any public or private nursing program in Virginia for four years (two years of teaching for each year of loan). The application deadline for this program is May 15. 

Admissions and financial aid questions may be directed to to Assistant Dean Clay Hysell (434) 924-0141


UVA's PhD in nursing program is focused on research, and the curriculum includes courses in qualitative, quantitative, and historical research. Over the course of the program, all PhD students submit a research proposal for peer review, and many submit proposals to the NIHNR's annual service awards competition.

Because research is such a critical element of the PhD program, we seek to admit students whose own research interests are congruent with those of our faculty.

PhD Faculty Researchers 
Research‌ studies (faculty and student)

Admission requirements

  • Minimum of a baccalaureate degree in nursing from a nationally accredited program, and a minimum "B" average (please send transcripts for all post-secondary work).
  • Strong GRE scores. The most competitive applicants score above 500 on each GRE test.
  • Three strong letters of reference that speak to the applicant's ability to pursue doctoral studies (two must be from doctorally-prepared nurse educators and one may be from a current or recent employer).
  • Current CV, which should reflect professional achievements and productivity.
  • A clearly written essay (1000 words or fewer) describing educational, research and professional goals, including 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 (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 also 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 (GRE) general test. The School of Nursing accepts GRE scores that are more than five 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.

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,