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Doctor of Philosophy in Nursing (PhD)

Our goal: to develop scholars of the discipline of nursing capable of building a program of research that advances nursing knowledge and contributes to the health of individuals, families, and communities.

The Penn AdvantageUniversity of Penn School of Nursing fall 2011

Home to some of the most forward-thinking scholars and researchers in the world, Penn offers the opportunity to work alongside faculty who are actively shaping the future of nursing science and healthcare. Our networks and longstanding clinical and community partnerships throughout greater Philadelphia and beyond provide uncommon access to research and practice resources.

Our full-time doctoral students are funded for the first four years, September - May (effective for PhD students admitted for Fall 2018 and later), which includes a living stipend and covers tuition, fees, and health insurance.

Our doctoral graduates go on to take coveted leadership roles in academia, healthcare, government, and related fields, and are integral to the growth of our profession.


Why Our PhD Program?

  • <div class="lw_blurbs_body"><p><img width="250" height="250" alt="" data-decoration="true" src="/live/image/gid/27/width/250/height/250/crop/1/src_region/384,0,2515,2133/9619_Karen_Celestine_web_2.rev.1564159341.jpg" class="lw_image lw_image9619 lw_align_left" srcset="/live/image/scale/2x/gid/27/width/250/height/250/crop/1/src_region/384,0,2515,2133/9619_Karen_Celestine_web_2.rev.1564159341.jpg 2x, /live/image/scale/3x/gid/27/width/250/height/250/crop/1/src_region/384,0,2515,2133/9619_Karen_Celestine_web_2.rev.1564159341.jpg 3x" data-max-w="3200" data-max-h="2133"/>Initially attending Penn Nursing as one of the first accelerated BSN students in 2003, I returned in 2018 for a PhD in Nursing. Since leaving the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing in 2005, I have worked in various nursing roles—bedside med-surg nursing, travel nursing in the Philadelphia & Delaware region, administrative nursing during the burgeoning field of nursing clinical care coordination and transition of care movement, nursing leadership in adult/senior living environments, and managed care nursing within the insurance industry—all while assimilating into Philadelphia life as a community resident and deepening my call to civic duty and engagement as a nurse volunteer in my local neighborhood.<br/> It all came together at Penn Nursing when I met faculty, fellow students, and colleagues who exposed me to a rich depth of scholarly inquiry, commitment to being a world changer, and improving life for the most vulnerable in our society. As a PhD student, I now conduct research focused on improving the lives of men in society, and improving the academic preparation of future nurse leaders. Since joining the program, I have found clarified purpose, developed lifelong scholarly friendships with peers and mentors, and set my expectations beyond what I ever thought possible. Penn Nursing has provided financial support and unique opportunities that allow me to have a balanced academic-personal life. That’s why I’m thrilled to be at Penn Nursing…again!</p><p> –Karen Celestine, RN, CCN, BSN, MPH</p></div>
  • <div class="lw_blurbs_body"><p><img width="250" height="250" alt="" data-decoration="true" src="/live/image/gid/27/width/250/height/250/crop/1/src_region/838,160,2809,2133/9620_Michael_Stawnychy_web_2.rev.1564159362.jpg" class="lw_image lw_image9620 lw_align_left" srcset="/live/image/scale/2x/gid/27/width/250/height/250/crop/1/src_region/838,160,2809,2133/9620_Michael_Stawnychy_web_2.rev.1564159362.jpg 2x, /live/image/scale/3x/gid/27/width/250/height/250/crop/1/src_region/838,160,2809,2133/9620_Michael_Stawnychy_web_2.rev.1564159362.jpg 3x" data-max-w="3200" data-max-h="2133"/>I was working in documentary film production and serving as an elected rep for a Los Angeles Neighborhood Council when I realized that at the end of a long day, these jobs didn’t always leave me with the feeling that I made a specific difference in someone’s life. During my first undergraduate degree, I worked as an Emergency Medical Technician and recalled how fulfilling that was so I began to research possibilities in healthcare and had an ‘aha’ moment when I landed on nursing! Where else could I have the flexibility to wear many hats (that I got to choose), have the satisfaction of working directly to improve people’s lives, and get paid to do it? Since changing careers, I’ve saved lives and comforted families, worked with people struggling with chronic health conditions, mental health challenges, and addictions, and am now pursuing my PhD at Penn Nursing.<br/> The University of Pennsylvania is a research powerhouse and my experience with faculty here has been overwhelmingly positive. The education is challenging but you are scaffolded along the way and encouraged to explore your interests. My mentors and professors have been accessible without being overbearing. They realize that we all have lives and responsibilities and treat students with respect. At Penn Nursing, I have had experiences that I could not replicate anywhere else. My advice for incoming students is to pursue every interesting opportunity at both Penn Nursing and the wider Penn campus because you never know where it may lead.</p><p> –Michael Stawnychy, MSN, CRNP</p></div>

Program outline

The program consists of seven core courses, two statistics sequence courses, and five concentration courses; each course is worth one course unit, or CU. Full-time students will take three to four courses each fall and spring semester. Most students complete their coursework within three to four years and then will be on dissertation status until the final dissertation defense. View our Curriculum page for more information.

Part-time students typically take two courses per semester and do not receive a stipend from the university.

PhD Options

In addition to a traditional PhD track, we also offer an MSN-PhD track, as well as an accelerated pathway - the Hillman Scholars program - that tracks high achieving undergraduates from BSN to PhD. 

How to apply

For details on our application process, see the Admissions section.