With the increased demand for patient care and a gap between health services and personnel, nursing has rapidly evolved with a promising future. It is not limited to clinical practices only but also has a scope in education, policy and advanced research.
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After finishing your bachelor’s or associate nursing degree, you may face the challenge of selecting a terminal degree that aligns with your career goals and aspirations. Several factors should play a key role in decision-making while opting for an advanced nursing degree as it results in long-term investment in your future and directs you on the path of professional achievement and excellence.
You have a choice to pursue a research-oriented or clinical degree in nursing after graduation. These options include a doctorate of nursing practice (DNP) and a doctor of philosophy (Ph.D.) in nursing. But where to get started and how to make this important decision? We are here to help you out.
Here are a few primary differences that you must know between two advanced degrees before selection so that you can start your professional journey towards higher education while setting relevant career goals.
Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP)
The Doctor of Nursing Practice is the terminal degree of nursing that focuses primarily on clinical practice and organizational leadership.
The primary objective of the DNP degree is to prepare nursing leaders in interdisciplinary fields of healthcare. You have a chance to gain knowledge to translate nursing research into practical approaches by using tools and skills.
If you are more interested in working closely with patients, you can go for DNP programs online that can prepare you with direct care concentration. These programs will make you ready to handle patients with advanced practice specialization. After earning a DNP, you can treat patients coming from different age groups or having specific medical issues. For instance, Certified Nurse Midwife (CNM) particularly can handle pregnant women. Similarly, you can opt for one of the following job roles by getting your DNP degree:
- Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS)
- Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP)
- Neonatal Nurse Practitioner (NNP)
- Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (PMHNP)
- Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner (WHNP)
- Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA)
- Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner (AGPCNP)
- Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner (AGACNP)
- Pediatric Primary Care Nurse Practitioner (PPCNP)
- Pediatric Acute Care Nurse Practitioner (PACNP)
On the contrary, specialization in indirect care concentration is suitable for you if you are more inclined towards taking charge of administrative roles, improving patient care from a system level, and leading medical professional teams. You can generally work in education, and training of the next generation of nurses, and administration, and supervision, of the healthcare systems. The typical job roles played by you after getting this specialization may include:
- Executive Nurse Leader
- Nurse Manager
- Nurse Informaticist
- Healthcare Executive
- Clinical Trainer
- Healthcare Lobbyist
The salary range in the nursing profession varies depending on several factors that play a decisive role. These may include education, additional skills, professional experience, and certifications.
After getting a DNP degree, you can earn financial incentives depending on the key factors mentioned above. For instance, the average salary of some of the top positions in the United States in 2021 on an annual basis include:
- Chief medical officer: $421,096
- Medical director: $294,563
- Advanced practice registered nurse: $106,218
Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Nursing
The Doctor of Philosophy is the highest earned degree in nursing, emphasizing research and theoretical practices and scholarly leadership.
The main objective of the Doctor of Philosophy program is to train nurses to gain scientific knowledge and develop new insights into the research and theory for advancement in nursing practice. By building interdisciplinary research teams, nurses can play a crucial role in upgrading research and disseminating scientific knowledge that particularly addresses chronic illnesses and health care system challenges.
The Doctor of Philosophy is the best option for you if you are more interested in advanced research and theory. Ph.D. in Nursing, like any other terminal degree, focuses on theoretical foundations of the practice of nursing and health care systems. You don’t have to perform typical clinical assignments during the completion of the Ph.D. Instead, you contribute to the field of nursing by finding solutions to the existing health challenges and advancement in knowledge by conducting advanced research. You can play a vital role in developing new theories and methods. For instance, your Ph.D. can help to bring change in the health status of a specific segment of a population, and improve the health care system. Some of the career options available to opt for after a Ph.D. are as follows:
- Nurse Researcher
- Public Health Policymaker
- Healthcare Innovator
Like a DNP degree holder, the salary of a Ph.D. student also depends on skills, expertise, professional experience, etc. However, the average salary of nursing professionals working in the United States in 2021 per annum is as follows:
Nursing Professor $98,570
Nurse Researcher $87,638
The general criteria to get started with your advanced degree level in nursing is a Master in Nursing (MSN) degree. However, many degree programs also include a pathway for BSN students to directly enroll in terminal degrees after required certification. The duration of the degree varies depending on your previous qualification and nature of study whether it is full time, part-time, online, or onsite.