Nursing, PhD: Frequently Asked Questions

Do I need to take the Graduate Record Exams (GREs)?

GREs were previously required for admission, but effective summer 2017 we no longer require them as part of our application process.

What do I need for my admission application?

A series of program requirements are required for the Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) program in nursing to assess student and program outcomes and ensure quality. The requirements and policies, consistent with the School of Graduate Studies and Research, are listed below. Students seeking admission to the Doctor of Philosophy in Nursing program must satisfy the minimum School of Graduate Studies and Research requirements. International students are required to comply with the admission criteria as outlined in the graduate catalog. Please visit the School of Graduate Studies and Research for further information.

All applications must also submit the following for review by the doctoral program committee:

Official Higher Education Transcripts

Applicants must have a minimum 3.5 GPA on a 4-point scale at the master's level. A master's degree in nursing or a related field is required. Applicants must have completed the following prerequisite coursework to be considered for admission.

  • Three credits of graduate statistical methods course. Applicants must have achieved a B in the course and completed the course within the past five years.
  • A graduate course in nursing theory.
  • A graduate course in research methods.

Nursing License

Applicant must have an active registered nurse license in the United States or its territories. International students must submit evidence of licensure from their country.

Current Curriculum Vitae

A current vitae must be submitted with the application. The vitae should contain education and employment histories as well as areas of professional development, scholarship, and service.

Writing Sample

Applicants must submit a writing sample that includes the following:

  • A goal statement that identifies their professional goals and research area of interest.
  • A summation of their achievements within their field of practice.
  • A summary of their research abilities.

Letters of Recommendation

Applicants must submit two letters of recommendation.

Letters should be submitted by the applicant's professor, mentor, and/or supervisor. The letters should address the applicant's:

  • Likelihood for success in a doctoral program
  • Expertise in advanced nursing (e.g., education or practice), skills in research, and scholarly writing ability or activities
  • Leadership potential
  • Problem-solving skills
  • Motivation
  • Organizational skills and ability to complete assigned tasks/work

After the applicant's admission file is complete, applicants must complete an admission interview administered by the doctoral program committee. Interview modification for students who are unable to attend an in-person interview will be considered. All applicants will be required to complete a brief presentation.

How are applicants selected for admission?

All items in the applicant's application package will be evaluated by the doctoral program committee to provide a composite score for ranking of applicants to determine acceptance into the program.

What is the cohort format, and why is the program being offered in this manner?

Students are admitted as a group (cohort) and progress through a predetermined series of courses together. One of the primary advantages of this model involves the strong peer support and networking opportunities.

How many students will be admitted in a cohort?

Right now, we anticipate admitting 15-20 students for each cohort.

What courses do I need to take to get my PhD in Nursing?

Courses in the program include 21 credits of Nursing Core courses such as Seminar in Nursing Theory, Faculty Development in Nursing Education, Pedagogical Practices in Nursing Education, Curriculum Evaluation in Nursing, Evaluation in Nursing Education, and Technology in Nursing.

Students take 15 credits of research core, including: Statistical Methods II, Quantitative Nursing Research, Qualitative Nursing Research, Research Seminar I, and Research Seminar II.

Twelve credits of support courses include courses such as Leadership in Nursing: A Case Study Approach and six credits of electives. The program is completed with a minimum of 12 dissertation credits (three credits of dissertation seminar and the remaining with credits of dissertation).

Do I need to complete research or a dissertation?

Yes, this is a PhD program, which means it has research as a main focus. You will take a series of research courses that will help prepare you for the culminating dissertation.

I don't know what I would like to research; do I need to have a firm idea of what I want to do before entering the program?

It is helpful to have an idea or area of focus for research early in the program so that course assignments, projects, literature searches, and other activities can be building blocks for the dissertation. You don't need to have a definitive topic or research question for admission, but you should at least have some preliminary topic interests in nursing education. If you are having trouble identifying research interests, it might be helpful to read some nursing education journals such as the Journal of Nursing Education or Nurse Educator.

It has been a while since I was enrolled in a graduate course. What should I do to prepare?

It would probably be helpful to make sure that your computer skills are up to date. You should have a basic understanding of word processing, email, databases or spreadsheets, and presentation software. Additionally, since you will be spending a lot of time using your computer, you will probably want to make sure it is up to date and capable of transferring large files quickly.

Will I use much technology?

You will need to use technology and a variety of computer programs. All courses have some electronic class components (using Moodle, D2L, or some other program), and you will be completing activities such as electronic chatting. You will also be expected to use the computer for library and database searching to obtain electronic information. A working knowledge of the following types of programs will also be very helpful: word processing, database or spreadsheet, and graphic presentation program such as PowerPoint. The computer programs and services you are expected to use will be available through campus resources. Additional information will be provided upon enrollment. Lastly, you should be comfortable using email communication and searching the internet.

Where will courses be offered?

This program is offered online.

Will I be required to come to campus?

No. The program is offered fully online.

What is the format of courses?

Courses are offered online with two synchronous classes on Friday afternoon from 1:00 -4:00 p.m. These classes are usually during weeks two and eight of the semester.

How long will it take to complete the program?

It depends on location and how many classes you take each semester. Courses can be completed as quickly as 11 semesters.

How long will it take to complete the dissertation?

Completion time varies dependent upon many variables such as topic, scope and type of research, student organization, and ability to complete work independently. It is anticipated that the minimum amount of time to complete the dissertation would be one year, but a more realistic timeframe for most students would be two to three years.

Will I have to take summer courses?

Yes, you will typically need to take two courses each summer. The program is planned for enrollment throughout the calendar year.

Will I have to take program exams?

Yes, there are a series of program requirements that are necessary to continue in the program. These requirements include a candidacy exam and defense of dissertation work. The exams include both oral and written components. Further details will be provided upon acceptance into the program.

Who are the faculty teaching in the program?

Faculty teaching in the program are doctorally prepared and have met graduate school eligibility to teach doctoral courses. They are experts in the field of nursing education and research.

If classes don't meet each week, what do I do if I have questions and we don't have class? Will faculty be available outside of class meeting times?

Yes, faculty will still be available to assist you and meet your learning needs. All faculty maintain regular office hours, and you will know when faculty are available to meet with you. Additionally, you can schedule an appointment for a conference (phone, email, or in-person). You can also contact faculty via email. Lastly, electronic class activities will help ensure regular contact between class meetings times.

Can I transfer courses from other programs into the program?

Yes, you may transfer courses from other programs, but you must follow the Graduate School guidelines found in the graduate catalog on the School of Graduate Studies and Research website for transfer courses and still adhere to program and university policies.

What kinds of resources are available to assist students?

The university offers a variety of resources for students. These include academic computing services, library services, the Writing Center, and the Applied Research Lab.

I don't have any teaching experience; can I still enroll in this program?

Yes, you can apply for this program without having formal teaching experience.

What are the employment opportunities for me after completing this degree?

The program will prepare you primarily for tenure track positions in academia. Currently there is a nursing faculty shortage. It is anticipated this shortage will continue making jobs in academia plentiful.

I didn't take a statistics course before; do I need a statistics course now?

Yes, you must show evidence of a recent statistics course to be admitted into the program. If you haven't taken a graduate statistics course (and received a grade of a B), you must take one to be considered for admission. Please check with us for potential offerings at IUP.

I have a job and a family. Will I be able to manage the demands of school work?

Returning to school for a doctorate is a very demanding experience. Many people can juggle family, work, and school. It may mean adjusting some priorities and giving up some leisure time. You will need to be very organized and structured. Many students find part-time programs of study more accommodating to demanding schedules than full-time programs of study.

How much does it cost to attend IUP?

The current (2020-21) cost per credit for part-time graduate students who are Pennsylvania residents at IUP is $516. If you compare other doctoral programs, you will find that IUP offers a very reasonable tuition rate.

Is tuition assistance available?

It is anticipated that scholarships, traineeships, and other state/federal money may be available. Grant and loans may be available for qualified individuals. Contact the Financial Aid Office for assistance with this inquiry. An internet search may help you locate additional sources of funding through professional organizations or governmental agencies. Unfortunately, IUP does not participate in the HRSA Nurse Faculty Loan Program.

Are there employment opportunities available within the university or department?

It is anticipated that there will be graduate assistant and teaching associate positions available within the Department of Nursing and Allied Health Professions. These positions provide work experience in higher education while paying tuition and stipends. They are great opportunities to work with faculty mentors and gain exposure to academia and the role of the nurse educator. Please contact the program coordinator for more information about these opportunities.

Will I be assigned an advisor?

Yes, at the start of the program you will be assigned an advisor who will remain your advisor throughout the program.

Who should I contact if I have other questions or need more information?

Feel free to contact the nursing faculty and doctoral program coordinator, Kristy Chunta, at kchunta@iup.edu or call 724-357-3091 or 724-357-3250, if you have additional questions or need more information.