Advanced nursing degree career benefits every nurse must know

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With a growing global demand for nurses, registered nurses have ample career opportunities. They can work almost anywhere in the world or specialize in caring for a specific patient group. Those wishing to advance their careers weigh up various training pathways, with an advanced nursing degree quickly moving into focus.  

Both a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) and a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) make an excellent choice leading to lucrative career opportunities and the pick of the best leadership roles. When pitching the two advanced degrees against each other, nurses must understand that each option opens an opposing pathway. While a DNP leads to management jobs in frontline patient care or a nursing specialty, a Ph.D. enables graduates to work in research away from involvement in primary care.

This article delves into the core benefits of both further education programs while examining the program content and careers associated with a DNP and a Ph.D. 

Core benefits of completing an advanced nursing degree

A few years after graduation, many nurses feel undervalued and stagnant. Pursuing an advanced nursing degree is one way to move on and move up. Some nurses seek a career change or advancement or wish to move to a position with more job flexibility. Doctor of Nursing Practice and Doctor of Philosophy programs are the most popular advanced nursing training paths, setting up graduates for specialty nursing, leadership, or research-based roles.

Regardless of the advanced nursing degree program registered nurses choose, they will harness many long-term benefits. On completion, graduates enjoy multiple advantages, including better pay and conditions, more authority, better job opportunities, and much-improved personal job satisfaction, to name but a few. 

According to current statistics, nurses with a master’s degree, DNP, or Ph.D. are in high demand, leading to salaries far above registered nurses’ pay. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts salaries for nurses with advanced nursing degrees will rise by 50% or more before 2030. On average, a DNP nurse earns over $130k, whereas a nurse with a nursing Ph.D. can expect a salary of between $100k and $160k, depending on the specifics of the chosen role. 

Nursing management positions are mostly exclusively open to holders of a nursing Ph.D. or DNP. Any nurse with leadership ambitions will see doors open after graduating from an advanced nursing degree. Positions in public health research, government health agencies, or at the head of clinical organizations are exclusively available to advanced nursing degree holders. 

The benefits to patients and families are equally multifold. The more training nurses have completed, the better the care and expertise they deliver, not only to patients but also to all clients, staff, and the greater healthcare provider community. They take center stage in healthcare provision, liaising with physicians, nursing teams, management, patients, and families.

It’s helpful to know that the Doctorate in Nursing Practice and the Doctor of Philosophy in Nursing count as the most sought-after training path. Spring Arbor University offers an excellent DNP course where nurses can learn policy and leadership. So, let’s tackle the DNP vs. Ph.D. debate by examining each doctorate side by side.

DNP – course outline and career options 

During a DNP program, candidates achieve top-level nursing skills while acquiring in-depth knowledge of nursing theory and practice. Upon completion, graduates can put the latest research into practice in healthcare settings, thus taking on core management and leadership roles. Optimal patient outcomes and exemplary healthcare delivery lie at the heart of the program. While other terminal degrees prepare students for research-based jobs, a DNP program prepares candidates to apply innovative healthcare processes to their chosen healthcare setting. The goal is to optimize patient outcomes by improving care strategies and making patient representations. 

DNP programs combine a minimum of 1,000 post-baccalaureate practice hours with rigorous coursework to equip them with the theoretical and practical skills necessary to deliver outstanding patient care. The coursework includes knowledge of healthcare delivery, the latest healthcare innovations, healthcare policy creation, leadership styles, communication models, and compassionate, person-centered care.

During the program, candidates also study ethics, diversity, and equality while examining broad-scale healthcare delivery.

DNP courses also provide nurses with the opportunity to study a specialty. They may specialize in psychiatric care, gerontology or upskill to work with children. Here is a list of the most popular options:

  • Women’s health nurse practitioner
  • Pediatric nurse practitioner
  • Family nurse practitioner
  • Clinical nurse specialist
  • Psychiatric nurse practitioner
  • Adult gerontology nurse practitioner
  • Neo-natal nurse practitioner
  • Certified registered nurse anesthetist

The above roles place DNP nurses at the center of frontline care. DNP candidates wishing to move into more administrative positions have many career pathways open, including nurse education, leadership, nursing administration, public health, health policy, and nursing practice. 

Ph.D. course outline and career pathways

Ph.D. in nursing programs focus on research rather than patient care delivery. Nursing research examines and tackles health challenges, seeking out innovations in care delivery. Nursing scientists conceptualize holistic solutions for policy, community, and clinical settings. Research in nursing aims to analyze all major and minor aspects of healthcare delivery to create the best possible delivery channels and patient outcomes. 

During a Ph.D. in nursing program, candidates examine the current knowledge base, address system weaknesses, and promote equality and inclusion while identifying policy and health system flaws. They add to the existing nursing knowledge base and gather evidence to broaden and improve nursing practice.

Ph.D. in nursing program graduates can work in nursing research, universities, healthcare management, government health agencies, health policy organizations, and at the helm of health agencies.

How to identify your best option

Nurses wishing to continue working in healthcare facilities will likely choose a DNP program, whereas those who prefer administrative roles should opt for a Ph.D. Even though DNP nurses occupy leadership roles in various settings, they still engage in everyday healthcare delivery. They may not directly work with patients and families, but as nursing team leaders, they still make a critical contribution to patient care. DNP jobs likely include shiftwork, a significant point of consideration.

If you want to move away from the frontline, a Ph.D. is the better option, as Ph.D. nurses work away from clinical settings. They may lecture at universities or nursing colleges, work at public or private research facilities, or join government health policy agencies. Any nurse who prefers research over frontline care must choose the Ph.D. training path.

Advanced nursing degree: A must for every passionate nurse

With optimum healthcare delivery and patient outcomes in mind, enrolling in an advanced nursing degree is a must. Graduates from DNP and Ph.D. programs improve healthcare delivery. Ph.D. nurses may not directly treat patients, but their research and knowledge lie at the heart of patient care. A great deal of collaboration exists between Ph.D. and DNP nurses whereby DNP nurses implement and translate the research findings Ph.D. nurses uncover. 

The global demand for nurses with a doctorate is such that both options offer graduates the opportunity to work all over the world and take on high-paid positions. The positions are challenging but count among the most rewarding. 

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