What Can You Do With a Doctorate Nursing Degree?


If you are considering pursuing a doctorate degree in nursing, you are not alone. In 2010, there was a 20 percent increase nationwide in nursing doctoral program enrollment. As of 2010, there were more than 3 million nurses nationwide, making it health care's largest profession. However, the need for additional workers remained high, particularly for nurses with graduate degrees.

Nursing Doctoral Degree Types

  • The two main nursing doctoral degrees are the doctor of philosophy in nursing (ND) and doctor of nursing practice (DNP). The ND prepares graduates for leadership and scholarship. Like other traditional Ph.D. programs, the focus is on research and teaching. (Many universities have phased out the older doctor of nursing science (DNS) program in favor of the ND.)

    The DNP also prepares graduates for leadership and scholarship. However, the DNP also prepares nurses to diagnose complex cases and to act independently of physician supervision.

    Graduates of ND and DNP programs can pursue a variety of advanced-practice nursing careers. The five most popular are: nurse practitioner (NP), clinical nurse specialist (CNS), certified nurse-midwife (CNM), certified registered nurse anesthetist (CRNA) and college professor. According to 2009 Payscale.com figures, the salaries for most advanced practice nurses with more than 10 years of experience ranges from $70,000 to $100,000 annually.

Certified Nurse-Midwife

  • CNMs primarily provide gynecological and obstetric care. Although ancient historical accounts reveal the presence of midwives, midwifery in the modern era became a formal profession in the 1920s. According to the American College of Nurse-Midwives website, approximately 14,000 CNMs in the U.S. provide prenatal, delivery and post-partum care. As of 2009, CNMs facilitated 8 percent of births nationwide.

Clinical Nurse Specialist

  • The National Association of Clinical Nurse Specialists indicates about 69,000 CNSs provide specialty care as of 2009. Popular specialties include oncology, pediatric, emergency and psychiatric care. CNSs often require additional certifications to perform tasks such as formulating care plans.

Nurse Practitioner

  • The American Academy of Nurse Practitioners indicates that more than 141,000 of all advanced practice nurses are NPs, as of 2010. NPs conduct physical exams, interpret lab tests, counsel patients and treat illnesses, injuries and diseases. Since nurses with doctoral degrees can prescribe medication in all states, nurse practitioners often provide routine physician services at a fraction of the cost. Part of the reason for this is salary disparity. According to the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners, as of 2009 the average full-time income for an NP is $92,000. In contrast, as of 2009, the CNNMoney website reports family physicians make about $170,000 annually. Yet, many NPs find their jobs rewarding because of the emphasis on cure as well as patient care.

Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist

  • On the other end of the scale, certified registered nurse anesthetists (CRNA) have an average base salary of $189,000 as of 2009, according to the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists. CRNAs administer about 65 percent of anesthetics to U.S. patients requiring those services annually. CRNAs have more gender balance as well. Almost 41 percent of the 44,000 CRNAs in the U.S. are male, according to the academy.

College Professor

  • While those with the appropriate certifications can pursue doctor of nursing practice careers as well, the ND prepares students to enter teaching and research professions. ND graduates work in colleges and universities where they conduct research and determine how to apply results. Some ND graduates work in government agencies and develop health policies. Professors with more than 10 years of experience can make $60,000 to $100,000 annually, according to Payscale.com's 2009 salary figures.

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