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Nursing, PhD: Frequently Asked Questions

  • What do I need for my admission application?

    A series of program requirements are planned 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 applicants 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

    Applicants 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 within the Department of Nursing and Allied Health Professions. Interview modification for international students who are unable to attend an in person interview may be considered. Applicants will be required to complete a brief presentation.

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

    No, GREs are no longer an entrance requirement for admission into the PhD program.

    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.

    How difficult is it to get accepted into the program?

    It is anticipated that the applicant pool will contain many qualified individuals. The process will be very competitive and selective.

    If I don’t get admitted now, can I reapply later?

    Yes, you can reapply at a later time.

    How often will the program be admitting students?

    It is anticipated that a new group (cohort) of students will be admitted approximately every two years. Please contact the doctoral program coordinator for start dates.

    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. Additionally, once the university commits to offering a program for a cohort of students, it guarantees course offerings and does not create the concern that courses will be canceled. It also allows the student advance planning. You will know what courses will be offered and the schedule for the entire program. You won’t have to worry about building your own schedule or searching for courses each semester.

    How many students will be admitted in a cohort?

    Right now, we anticipate admitting 15 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, Technology in Nursing Education, and Nursing Professoriate Practicum or Doctoral Colloquium. The program also includes a 15-credit 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 Student Issues in Nursing Education, 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). Course descriptions are available on the Graduate Catalog website.

    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. 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, e-mail, 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 e-mail communication and searching the Internet.

    Where will courses be offered?

    Courses will be offered at two convenient locations; Indiana, Pa. or in Harrisburg, Pa. at the Dixon University Center.

    When will courses be offered?

    The courses will be offered in an immersive workshop format. Students will attend two weekend workshops per course each semester. There will be one or two courses offered each semester. Additionally, some class time will be conducted in electronic format.

    Can I switch enrollment to a different campus?

    Once a student is admitted to a cohort at a campus, we recommend staying with that group. Occasionally, circumstances change and a student may need to change campuses. Switching locations is only allowed with coordinator approval and is done on a space-available basis. This is a one-time change. Students may not switch back and forth between campuses.

    How long will it take to complete the program?

    You will need a minimum of eight semesters of course work and then begin your dissertation.

    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 four years.

    I would like to enroll full time. Can I take a full-time course load?

    In the cohort format you need to take the courses preplanned. Most semesters require enrollment in one or two courses per semester. However, depending upon your prior coursework and need for electives, you may need to take two semesters of full-time study. You can always choose to take additional coursework outside of required courses to enroll full time; however, adherence to the planned cohort offerings is required.

    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 candidacy exams 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 members teaching in the program?

    Faculty members 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.

    Since classes don’t meet every week, what do I do if I have questions and we don’t have class? Will faculty members be available outside of class meeting times?

    Yes, even if you only come to class a few times a semester, faculty members will still be available to assist you and meet your learning needs. All faculty members maintain regular office hours, and you will know when faculty members are available to meet with you. Additionally you can schedule an appointment for a conference (phone, electronically, or in person). You can also contact faculty members via e-mail. Lastly, electronic class activities will help ensure regular contact between class meeting 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 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 jobs 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 would like a refresher on statistics. How can I get up to date?

    Statistics courses are available at IUP and are offered through the Graduate School or the Math Department or through other universities. Enrollment in MATH 516 or GSR 516 at IUP is suggested. Please see the IUP University Records and Systems Assistant for class listings.

    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 are able to 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 (2016–17) cost per credit for part time graduate students who are Pennsylvania residents at IUP is $483. 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. Grants 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.

    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.

    Will I be assigned an advisor?

    Yes, at the start of the program you will be assigned an advisor who will remain your advisor until you select a chair of the dissertation committee. At that time, the dissertation chairperson will become your advisor and assist you with remaining course selection and program requirements.

    What will help me be successful in the doctoral program?

    See the PowerPoint presentation for suggestions about getting in, getting out, and getting done.

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

    Feel free to contact nursing faculty member and doctoral program coordinator Teresa Shellenbarger via e-mail at or by phone (724-357-2559) if you have additional questions or need more information. You can also view the Student Information Handbook.

    Do you accept applications from international students?

    Unfortunately, the PhD in Nursing program is only offered in a part-time format, so international students are not eligible to apply.