Jun 18, 2024  
2015-2016 Graduate Catalog 
2015-2016 Graduate Catalog [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

Nursing, PhD

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The doctor of philosophy in nursing prepares nurse researchers and scholars to explore, develop, and move forward the scientific bases of nursing practice and education. Students are prepared to conduct research in the domains of nursing science. The curriculum is enriched through cognate study in the social, behavioral, and biological sciences; interdisciplinary research; and the integration of technology in program delivery. Dissertation research prepares graduates to contribute discoveries to the body of nursing and health care knowledge. The location and mission of the College of Nursing as well as the expertise of the faculty provide a unique opportunity for the discovery of knowledge related to nursing and health issues in rural underserved areas. Upon graduation, students are prepared to assume leadership positions as researchers, administrators in public and private health care organizations, policy makers and analysts, and university faculty.

The doctor of philosophy in nursing has three entry methods: BSN to PhD, MSN to PhD, and DNP to PhD options. The BSN to PhD option blends the doctoral curriculum with two different MSN concentrations – the nursing education concentration or the nursing leadership concentration. It reduces the number of master’s level courses required in the traditional MSN program and facilitates completion of the nursing, PhD. The MSN to PhD option is the traditional post masters pathway for achieving a PhD. The DNP to PhD option is an accelerated pathway that allows up to 21 semester hours from a DNP program to partially fulfill requirements of the PhD program.  A minimum of 35 additional semester hours of doctoral coursework taken at ECU is required for a total minimum of 56 semester hours for degree completion.

Admission Requirements

  • Satisfactory performance on the Graduate Record Exam (GRE) within five years prior to admission (not required for DNP to PhD applicants).
  • Written statement of personal career, educational, and scholarship goals.
  • Three written professional references from individuals with expertise to comment on the applicant’s capability for research and scholarship (for example, university professors, employers). At least one of the references must be from a doctorally-prepared nurse.
  • A master’s degree in nursing from a Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) or National League for Nursing Accrediting Commission (NLNAC) accredited school. (Applicants without a MSN must have a BSN from an accredited program.) See below for details on the BSN to PhD admission requirements.
  • Minimum grade-point average of 3.2 on a 4.0 scale on all graduate work.
  • Evidence of current unrestricted license to practice as a nurse in North Carolina or a NCSBN compact state. Students on foreign student visas must present evidence of professional standing in their respective countries.
  • Satisfactory performance on Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) where English is not the first language.
  • Computer competency, with proficiency in basic software. The school requires that all students use e-mail and World Wide Web access for communication and course work.
  • A graduate statistics course which included inferential statistics.
  • A current curriculum vita.
  • A representative example of scholarly work done by the applicant.
  • A personal interview with two members of the Graduate Faculty to include a discussion of congruence between the students research interests/career goals and the expertise and research of faculty.

Applicants for admission to the BSN to PhD option must meet general admission requirements for the PhD program. Additional requirements include:

  • Minimum GPA of 3.3 and no grade below B on all previous coursework.
  • BSN from an accredited nursing program.
  • Recommendation of the Director for the MSN concentration selected and the PhD Program Director.
  • Completion of at least two calendar years of full time employment experience or the equivalent in clinical nursing practice as a registered nurse prior to entering the doctoral program of study.
  • A graduate statistics course which includes inferential statistics prior to enrolling in doctoral courses.



The PhD in nursing program admits 6-8 students each year. Applications for study to begin in the fall semester will be accepted until March 15 or until seats are filled. BSN to PhD applications for spring semester are due September 1 or until seats are filled. Applicants are expected to ensure that the Graduate School and the College of Nursing receive all supporting credentials by the final filing date. Applicants are evaluated in five areas: GPA, GRE, references, essay, and interview. Completed applications are considered as they are received. All completed applications received by the final filing date will be given careful consideration. Interviews are conducted as completed applications are received. Each applicant will be notified in writing of the admission decision after the admission process is completed.

Preference is given to those who demonstrate a capacity for creative inquiry, critical thinking, scholarship, and leadership. In the case of equally qualified applicants, preference will be given to individuals who intend to pursue doctoral study on a fulltime basis. Students will be assigned an academic advisor at the time of admission. All admitted PhD students are required to attend a College of Nursing orientation session in August.

Degree Requirements

Students are required to complete a minimum of 56 semester hours beyond the master’s degree (includes a minimum of 6 s.h. for dissertation) with the exception of BSN to PhD students who are required to complete between 74 and 80 semester hours and DNP to PhD students who are required to complete a minimum of 56 semester hours that may include up to 21 semester hours from a DNP program to partially fulfill requirements of the PhD program. As in other research-focused programs of doctoral study, students in this program may expect to enroll in more than the minimum required credit hours and to be aware that study opportunities that focus on particular areas of study are in addition to the basic program requirements. Additional study is individualized and depends on the student’s background and graduate preparation as well as the employment role identified as a career focus. This program of study enrolls both full- and part-time students. Since enrollments in doctoral programs tend to be small, students need to closely adhere to the plan of study, as courses are offered once a year. To deviate from the plan of study will mean a delay of one or more semesters before course enrollment is again possible.

BSN to PhD Nursing Education Course Requirements - 71 s.h.:

BSN to PhD Nursing Leadership Course Requirements - 76 s.h.:

MSN to PhD in Nursing Requirements - 56 s.h.:

DNP to PhD in Nursing Requirements - 56 s.h.:

Transfer Credit:

Graduate credits earned at other institutions may be accepted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the doctoral program. Courses offered for transfer credit will be evaluated individually relative to Graduate School requirements, program requirements, and the student’s plan of study. Please refer to the Graduate School Transfer Credits Policy located in the Academic Regulations  section of this catalog.

The DNP to PhD option is an accelerated pathway that awards credit for prior work completed in a doctor of nursing practice (DNP) program. Up to 21 semester hours from a DNP program can be used to fulfill requirements of the PhD program.  The student’s credit for coursework in a DNP program is determined based on a transcript review by the PhD program director. A minimum of 35 semester hours of PhD coursework must be taken at ECU for a minimum total of 56 semester hours for degree completion.

The BSN and MSN to PhD students must complete at least five semesters in residence. DNP to PhD students must complete at least three semesters in residence.

Students must maintain a minimum grade point average of 3.0 (on a 4.0 scale) throughout the program. Academic progress will be evaluated at the end of each semester by the academic advisor, who is responsible for notifying the associate dean for graduate programs if a student’s academic status is in jeopardy.

PhD students apply to take a candidacy examination upon completion of all required nursing courses and prior to beginning the dissertation. This examination must be successfully completed within five years of matriculation.

Students are required to conduct an original research project, which adds to the body of knowledge in nursing, and to communicate the research in a written dissertation and an oral defense of the dissertation within six years of admission. With endorsement of the dissertation committee and the associate dean for graduate programs, students may request one extension of not more than two semesters, summers included.

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