Doctor of Philosophy in Nursing (PhD)

Kenrick Cato, PhD Student

Kenrick is a pre-doctoral fellow whose interest in combining technology and health care was piqued as a nursing undergraduate. His belief that informatics is integral to improving health care has led him to study clinical decision support tools, examining how new technology can help clinicians provide safer and more effective care. “In the clinical space, your research always involves people,” he says, “either on the clinician side or the patient side.  Humans are difficult to research because you can’t control them in the same way you can a chemical reaction or cells in a petri dish.”

Program Description

The PhD program is a research-intensive curriculum that prepares nurse scholars to conduct research independently and as part of interdisciplinary teams. To accomplish this, the program provides students with an understanding of the philosophical and theoretical underpinnings of nursing science, and a strong foundation in research methods (design, statistics, measurement) for clinical, translational and health services research. In addition, all students are mentored by research advisors as they move toward independent research and assuming the roles of doctorally prepared scholars. Read about the PhD program faculty. See a listing of the doctoral dissertations.

Read about the TRANSIT initiative for minority students interested in research in underserved populations.

Articles, Publications and Presentations of interest


Expected Outcomes

Graduates of the PhD program will have the research skills necessary to make a major impact on health care nationwide and to further nursing knowledge at the local, national and international level. Specifically, graduates will be prepared to:

  • Design, conduct, direct, and report research studies that increase knowledge about the outcomes of nursing and other healthcare practice.
  • Provide leadership in improving the health care delivery system.
  • Translate evidence accumulated through research into practice and policy at multiple levels.
  • Lead and participate in interdisciplinary research teams.

Admission Options

Traditionally post-MS nurses or those who hold an advanced degree in a related discipline and who desire doctoral preparation in research are admitted to the PhD Program. We encourage post-BSN nurses who are exceptionally well-qualified, with research-focused career goals and who desire doctoral preparation but who do not opt for advanced nursing practice/nurse practitioner preparation at the master’s level to apply. Both post-MS and post-BSN students admitted to the PhD program will take a minimum of 47 credits. Most students complete the PhD program in 4 years with approximately 55 credits of doctoral study. Prerequisite courses are determined individually for each student.

For program requirements, continue reading or click HERE to view a slideshow of the program overview.


A complete application must be submitted by the deadline for consideration for admission to the program the following September. Please refer to Admissions for application deadline dates:

Applications are reviewed and applicants may be invited to interview with at least two members of the Doctoral Program faculty. Admission decisions are generally sent by early March. Doctoral students are admitted for Fall entry only and, if accepted, students must be full time in the program.

Admission criteria include:

  • Master's degree in nursing from an accredited program. Well-qualified applicants who are nearing completion of the master's degree, may be considered for admission and, if accepted, may take doctoral courses concurrently while completing the master's program.

  • or

  • Master's degrees in related disciplines, for example MBA or MPH, who are otherwise well-qualified. If admitted, additional nursing credits to ensure an adequate background may be required.

  • or

  • Post-baccalaureate pathway: Bachelor's degree in nursing from an accredited program. Applicants for post-BSN entry must have career goals that are consistent with the purposes of the PhD program and demonstrated aptitude for research.

  • And for all applicants:

  • Current New York State nursing license or eligibility.
  • Satisfactory score on the Graduate Record Exam (GRE)
  • Three references attesting to applicant's academic ability and potential (at least two should be from PhD-prepared faculty or colleagues who can speak to the candidate's potential for a research career).
  • Personal goal statement that is congruent with program goals. In preparing the goal statement, applicants should include their anticipated program of research and explore the PhD program faculty profiles to identify a potential research advisor with similar interests.
  • Graduate course work in health and social policy.
  • Computer and information literacy


The PhD curriculum builds upon the foundation of nursing science. It provides the basis for graduates to expand the horizons of nursing by bringing together practice, policy, translational research, leadership and interdisciplinarity. The core courses provide the knowledge and skills necessary to conduct relevant, thoughtful and well-designed research studies. Electives can be used to strengthen an area of clinical interest or to intensify understanding of a specific research or analytic method.

Students must be registered as full time for the duration of the degree (typically 4-5 years). The minimum number of semester credits in required coursework is 37 beyond the master's degree (4 semesters). In addition to coursework, the student must successfully complete a comprehensive examination with written and oral components, and must write and successfully defend a dissertation reporting an original research study. Dissertation credits range from 4-8 credits per semester depending on the intensity of mentored work. Upon completion, graduates will have approximately 55-60 credits, assuming 4 years of doctoral study.

Required Coursework:

  • N9001 Social/Intellectual Foundations of Nursing (or equivalent course: Philosophy of Science)*
  • N9103 Introduction to Biostatistics (cross-listed with SPH6103)
  • N9353 Advanced Methods in Health Services Research and Policy Analysis
  • N9260 Building Interdisciplinary Research Models
  • N9265 Interdisciplinary Research Seminar
  • N9355 Quantitative Methods
  • N9352 Qualitative Research Design and Methods
  • N9351 Concept Development and Measurement of Clinical Phenomena in Nursing
  • N9505 Research Practicum
  • N9506 Research Synthesis
  • G4010 Responsible Conduct of Research
  • Elective course in Advanced Statistical Analysis

Additional Optional Courses:

  • Translation and synthesis of Evidence N9100

Upon completion of the required courses, students will take a qualifying exam to progress to the dissertation phase. After which the following courses will be taken:

  • N9900 Dissertation Seminar
  • N9840 Dissertation Research

Fall 2013 PhD Program Student Handbook

Last updated 09/12/2011

617 West 168th Street
New York, NY 10032

© 2011 Columbia University School of Nursing | ACCESSIBILITY | VISITING CUSON
Columbia University | Columbia University Medical Center