DNP vs. PhD vs. Post-Master’s Certificate in Nursing: Which is right for you?

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Certificate in Nursing

Nurses who are looking to move to a higher position in their field, seek additional education to create better opportunities for themselves. Being a nurse typically requires you to have a Master’s degree, and when looking to advance your degree even further, there are three great options available to you. These three programs are a Post-Master’s Certificate in Nursing, a Doctor of Nursing Practice Degree (DNP), or a Doctor of Philosophy in Nursing (PhD).

You may be wondering, what doors will open for me if I pursue an advanced education in nursing? All three of the above-mentioned programs allow nurses to expand their careers and play a huge part in the healthcare industry. The specialized education they receive from each program allows them to obtain higher paying jobs, provide exceptional patient care, hold leadership roles, and help to improve the healthcare system overall. According to Coursera, in order to qualify for one of these programs you need to have a master’s degree in nursing, a minimum GPA, clinical hours, and a nursing license. Let’s discuss the difference between each of these degrees to see which one might be best for you.

Post-Master’s Certificate in Nursing

Online Education describes the post master’s certificate in nursing as an academic program that provides Registered Nurses (RNs) who hold a master’s or doctoral degree in nursing with advanced-practice training and instruction in a new nursing specialization. This program gives RNs the opportunity to receive training in a new specialty without having to complete an entirely new degree. Some of these specialties include Forensic Nursing, Nursing Administration and Management, and Patient Safety and Healthcare Quality.

Typically, a post master’s certificate in nursing takes 6-12 months to complete depending on a student’s previous coursework. Nursing Education, Leadership, Designing Curriculums, and Evidence Based Research are some of the common courses Registered Nursing states you may have to take as part of this curriculum. This specialized course load prepares graduates to seek professions in healthcare management, information technology, and more. The median yearly wage for someone with a post-master’s certificate in nursing is around $115,800 according to Online School Center.

Doctor of Nursing Practice Degree

The Doctor of Nursing Practice Degree prepares nurse leaders at the highest level of nursing practice to improve patient outcomes and translate research into practice, states the American Association of Colleges of Nursing. There are many different in-person and online doctor of nursing practice programs available for nurses looking to further their education.  While degree programs vary in curriculum, most Doctor of Nursing practice degree programs have similar courses to each other. Some of these courses include Informatics, Ethical and Legal Issues, Quality Improvement in Healthcare, and Epidemiology.  Most Doctor of Nursing practice degree programs also require a project seminar where students can focus on a specialty to end their degree. The degree can take anywhere from 1 year to 4 years to complete depending on if you are enrolled in a part-time or full-time program.

A DNP degree compared to a post master’s certification in nursing provides deeper clinical skills and can qualify nurse practitioners to practice with greater autonomy. In some states, DNP-NPs are given full-practice authority. This means they are permitted to perform some of the activities that a physician does, such as diagnosing patients, ordering tests and prescribing medication and treatment. A nurse educator, healthcare executive, and advanced practice nurse are just a few of the jobs you can pursue with a doctor or nursing practice degree. Nursing Process breaks down the top 10 best states for DNP graduates to work and the average expected salary.

Doctor of Philosophy in Nursing (PhD)

DNP degrees and PhD’s are both terminal nursing degrees. According to the UCSF School of Nursing, the major difference is that a DNP is a practice doctoral degree, and a PhD is a research doctoral degree. Graduates of PhD programs hold professional titles such as Assistant Professors, Faculty Instructor, Program Director, Chief Nursing Officers, and more. If a nurse with a Master’s degree is pursuing the PhD it typically takes 3-7 years to complete depending on whether they are enrolled part time or full time. This degree can also be offered through online programs. Students who earn a PhD typically earn anywhere from 95,000 a year to 120,000 depending on the profession they seek. Health Grad lists a few of the most common growing fields available to PhD graduates. If you are thinking about pursuing an advanced education in nursing, these three options can all help open the possibility for leadership roles, promotions, and higher pay. However, each program varies in course load, specialties, and possible careers. Make sure to do research on each one and see which program would align with your career goals the best.

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