Grad School Hub - Most Affordable Online Programs-01

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The online Ph.D. in Nursing Education is a great option for nurses who are ready and willing to step into the educator role, teaching and transforming the next generation of nurses to be compassionate and ethical professionals. It is a position few private citizens think of until they are in need of medical attention, which is when they are met with the expertise and experience of the nurses who begin and monitor their treatment.

For nurses who are already working, however, moving from their current career into the academic setting requires a terminal degree. This can be hard to obtain through traditional methods since so many programs require full-time study; working nurses cannot give that type of commitment. That is why this particular ranking was created: to give nursing professionals a list of online and hybrid programs that meet their needs.


This ranking was built by using the National Center for Education Statistics’ College Navigator Database, a public search engine that provides citizens with access to everything from student retention rates to gainful employment disclosures based on school and program. From an initial pool of 90 reputable schools, 10 were chosen based on their stated in-state tuition rates. They are listed below in descending order.

Ranking Low-cost Online Nursing Education PhD Programs

10. University of Missouri

Columbia, Missouri

Online Doctor of Philosophy in Nursing

Tuition: $9,518

The University of Missouri has a nursing education doctorate online that will fit the need of both nurses and non-nurses alike. This hybrid program, which requires annual attendance on campus during traditional academic semesters plus scientific conference participation, is open to all students who have a health-related background. This is an academic, research-based degree that offers students the opportunity to engage in research projects with professors and other classmates. Students will not only be expected to complete these projects but also present them at symposiums and conferences. They can also expect to complete 72 credit hours of coursework, a comprehensive exam, and a dissertation. Sample courses include Responsible Conduct of Research, Managing Symptoms and Promoting Healthy Behaviors, and Prevention and Treatment of Trauma Across the Lifespan.

For more information: University of Missouri

9. University of Colorado at Denver

Denver, Colorado

Online Doctor of Philosophy in Nursing

Tuition: $9,228

The online Ph.D. in Nursing Education that is offered by the University of Colorado at Denver is aimed specifically at nurses. As a hybrid degree, students need only visit campus once a semester during weekend intensives; all other work is delivered via asynchronous and synchronous course formats. It is one of the first and most recognizable degrees of its kind and continues to graduate the most successful nursing scholars in the nation. This program also has three cognate areas: Biobehavioral Science, Health Care Systems, and Caring Science. Students will be required to complete 72-semester credit hours of coursework, a research project, a comprehensive exam, and a dissertation. Sample courses for this degree include Diverse Theories of Care: Paradigms of Human Caring, Intrapersonal Determinants and Phenomena, and Interventions and Outcomes in Biobehavioral Research.

For more information: University of Colorado at Denver

8. Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis

Indianapolis, Indiana

Online Doctor of Philosophy in Nursing Science

Tuition: $9,205

The nurse educator online Ph.D. that is available at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis is a comprehensive degree that prepares students to become nurse scientists. Nurse science is a field in which nursing professionals conduct research to enhance the quality of care for individuals and families across their lifetimes. This is a 100 percent online degree, with students never having to set foot on campus in order to complete their degree. This is done in partnership with the Indiana University State System’s online campus, which enables students to take courses from any of the branches online while earning their degree from a home university. The Ph.D. plan of study requires students complete 90 credit hours of coursework, including a research project, a comprehensive exam, and a dissertation. Sample courses include Data Analysis, Relationship-Centered Leadership, and Experimental Designs and Methods.

For more information: Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis

7. University of North Dakota

Grand Forks, North Dakota

Online Doctor of Philosophy Nursing Program

Tuition: $8,136

The University of North Dakota confers a nurse education Ph.D. online degree that comes complete with BSN-PhD track pathways. This hybrid degree requires one to two intensives every year, often held on weekends, which enables nursing professionals the chance to complete their degree without disrupting their current career. All students also enjoy in-state tuition rates, making it a great choice for nursing professionals who are looking for a quality program that is also affordable. This is a research-based degree, with the research core equaling the nursing science core in terms of credit hours. Students can expect to complete 90 credit hours of post-baccalaureate coursework, including research practicums, seminars, a comprehensive exam, and a dissertation. Sample courses include Foundations for Nurse Education, Rural Health Programs and Research, and Quantitative and Qualitative Nursing Methods.

For more information: University of North Dakota

6. West Virginia University

Morgan Town, West Virginia

Online Doctor of Philosophy in Nursing

Tuition: $7,992

Nursing professionals interested in earning an academic degree will want to look to West Virginia University’s online Ph.D. in Nursing Education. This is a professional, academic degree designed specifically for nurses; the state goal of the program is to prepare nurse scientists for a variety of positions within the healthcare field, including policy leadership, researchers, and educators. Although this is a 100 percent online degree with hybrid options, students from Washington State cannot currently take this degree on, as it is prohibited by the Washington State Nursing Commission regulations. This degree requires 54 credit hours of postgraduate coursework, a research project, a comprehensive exam, and a dissertation. Sample courses include Theoretical Basis of Nursing, Issues in Nursing Scholarship and Role Development, and Principles in Nursing Education.

For more information: West Virginia University

5. University of Texas at Tyler

Tyler, Texas

Online Doctor of Philosophy in Nursing

Tuition: $7,602

The University of Texas at Tyler confers an online nursing education Ph.D. degree program that is well suited for ambitious nurses who are ready and willing to fill the need for more nursing educators. This hybrid degree program requires students take residency at the campus during summer orientation and occasional workshops; the rest of the coursework can be completed entirely online. This is a well-regarded doctoral program for nurses and is currently one of the leading independent research programs for nurse educators. Along with original research opportunities, students can also submit their research to conferences and publications. Students can expect to complete 60 credit hours of coursework, including a cognate, as well as a comprehensive exam and a dissertation. Sample courses include Scholarship of Writing for the Ph.D., Theory Construction and Evaluation, and Research in Transcultural Health.

For more information: University of Texas at Tyler

4. University of Nevada at Las Vegas

Las Vegas, Nevada

Online Doctor of Philosophy in Nursing

Tuition: $7,183

The University of Nevada at Las Vegas offers students a Ph.D. nurse educator online degree that prepares working nurses to work as academics, researchers, and leaders in the field of nursing science. This is a 100 percent online program; however, some states do not accept this program and so students are encouraged to do some research to ensure their state will accept this degree. The program is accredited by the AACN and also offers students the chance to take nursing courses from other institutions through the use of NEXus Access. This degree requires 62 credit hours of coursework, a research project, a practicum, a comprehensive exam, and a dissertation. Sample courses include Educational Theory and Philosophy for Nursing, Teaching and Learning in Nursing Education, and Developing and Evaluating Curriculum for Nursing Education.

For more information: University of Nevada at Las Vegas

3. University of Central Florida

Orlando, Florida

Online Doctor of Philosophy in Nursing

Tuition: $6,368

The University of Central Florida confers an online Ph.D. in Nursing Education that has a stated goal of preparing nurses to become scientists, researchers, and educators in the field. This is a research-based program that is only open to nurses who hold degrees in nursing and have a nursing license in good standing. As a hybrid degree, UCF requires students attend two weekend intensives every year; all other coursework can be completed online via the school’s portal. Students are advised that the program cannot accept students from certain states due to regulations; it is advisable to check with state regulators for more information. Students can expect to complete 36 credit hours of coursework, research projects, a cognate area, a comprehensive exam, and a dissertation. Sample courses include Philosophical and Theoretical Foundations of Nursing Science, Psychometrics and Measurement for Nursing Research, and Health Care Systems and Policy.

For more information: University of Central Florida

2. University of West Georgia

Newnan, Georgia

Online Doctor of Education, Concentration in Nursing Education

Tuition: $6,143

A great and cheap online nursing education Ph.D. option for students comes from the University of West Georgia; its Ph.D. in Nursing Education has consistently been ranked in the top 50 “Best Online Graduate Nursing Programs” by U.S. News and World Report and is one of the few 100 percent online programs on this ranking. It also holds accreditation by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education. Students will graduate prepared to become nurse educators for the next generation of nursing professionals, complete with knowledge of research methodologies, technologies, and more. The program requires 60 credit hours of coursework, research projects, a comprehensive exam, and a dissertation. Sample courses include Current Trends and Issues in Nursing Education, Ethics in Educational Leadership, and Nursing Education Leadership for Diversity for the 21st Century.

For more information: University of West Georgia

1. New Mexico State University

Las Cruces, New Mexico

Online Doctorate of Philosophy in Nursing (Ph.D.)

Tuition: $6,094

New Mexico State University confers an online Ph.D. in Nursing Education that is one of the most comprehensive programs on this list. Created especially for nursing professionals, this program has a focus on the healthcare needs of rural and diverse populations; this is due to the school’s proximity to the US-Mexico border. This is a hybrid program that requires students to go to campus for a one-week residency every year as well as attend a research conference annually; they are also required to submit research papers to different conferences. Students will be expected to complete at least 60 credit hours of coursework, a research project, seminars, a comprehensive exam, and the successful defense of a dissertation. Sample courses include Issues in Studying Health of Culturally Diverse and Border Populations, Population-Based Approaches to Health Promotion, and Behavioral Approaches and Determinants of Nursing and Health.

For more information: New Mexico State University

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the Career Options for an Online Doctorate in Nursing Education?

When a nurse earns an online Ph.D. in Nursing Education, they are completing their education; there is no higher degree available for a nurse. It also completes the number of career options that are available to them, meaning that a doctorate-holding nurse has more career options than any other professional at the undergraduate or graduate level.

There are a variety of options available, some of which are listed below:

  • Researcher
  • Nurse Scientist
  • Nurse Educator
  • Clinician
  • Administrator
  • Executive
  • Health Services Manager
  • Clinical Nurse Specialist
  • Nursing Instructor
  • Education Administrator
  • Health Specialities Professor
  • Chief Executive Officers

The career option that deserves the most mention is that of the researcher-academic. Nursing professionals generally take on this degree in order to become professors because it offers more chances for them to do actual research; this is impossible when doing clinical rotations. And with the massive shortage of qualified nurse educators, this is the one career option that is readily available.

How Much Can You Earn in this Field?

There is a wide range of career options in this field, and so the salaries can vary wildly. However, a median salary range of $68,000 to $120,000 is encompassing of all of these career options. Many nurses who take on the Ph.D. in Nursing Education continue as nurses, but with a specialty in a certain field. This tends to increase their salary and, depending on their specialty, it can be a significant increase in what they were making before they earned their terminal degree.

Managers and instructors make significantly more, with an average starting salary of $75,000. The actual salary depends on how large a healthcare facility is and whether or not is it is in an area with a high or low cost-of-living. Professors and academics can make close to $100,000 as a base salary, especially if they work within their expertise area at the college and university level. If these professionals choose to work at nursing institutions and specialty schools, this salary can shoot up to $125,000; nursing educators and professors are in short supply and demand is only growing as time goes on.

Nurse executives and Chief Executive Officers, or the heads of hospitals, can make the most money; their salaries can range anywhere from $125,000 to $300,000, depending on the size of their facility and whether or not they’re a part of a healthcare system. These positions can be hard to come by but when earned, come with a variety of additional compensation benefits, such as yearly bonuses.

What are the Various Disciplines of a Nurse Practitioner?

The nurse practitioner who works as an educator has an important job; teaching the new generation of nurses everything they know about the field and introducing them to new concepts and technologies. This means that this field combines a variety of disciplines for efficacy. Students can expect nursing, public health, epidemiology, and more to play a central role in the doctoral program. That’s because the degree is first and foremost a program based on polishing a nursing professional’s education. Specialties and cognate areas also play a role in whatever subfield a nursing professional already works in.

In addition, research is the main component of the Ph.D. program. This means that students spend a lot of time working in the economics, statistics, research, writing, and critical thinking disciplines and skills. They must also design and implement their own research projects, requiring them to understand science and technology in order to do their work effectively.

Some students may go into administrative or leadership roles, meaning that they have a focus on business, administration, leadership, human resources, and management roles. They may also be involved with crafting policy, creating a need to understand both healthcare and politics. A rudimentary understanding of the law is also necessary.

Do You Need a Degree in Nursing in Order to Apply for a Ph.D. in Nursing Education?

Most online doctoral programs in nursing education will not accept students who have no background in nursing. This is because this is a terminal degree that relies on the foundational concepts that most professionals learn at the undergraduate and graduate level; without that foundation, most non-nurses will be lost as to what is going on during coursework. Some programs do accept non-nurses; however, these students must have a health-related degree or work background, and in most cases, both. Again, this is because the Ph.D. in Nursing Education is a terminal degree and students need to have that foundation in order to make sense of the coursework.

It is also important for students to remember that even if a program does accept them without a nursing background, they will be expected to take on several prerequisite courses at an additional cost. This means that it actually takes longer than the prescribed four to five years it normally takes to complete the program because all of the degrees require that prerequisites be completed prior to the plan of study begins.

Do all Programs on this List Accept Students from Every State?

No, they do not. Those programs that have restrictions placed on them due to other state’s regulations mention this fact upfront so that students are aware that there may be a hindrance to them applying to that program. The Ph.D. in Nursing Education is an academic degree, but it is also a professional’s degree, meaning that there is a great deal of analysis and supervision placed on these programs. Nursing is a highly regulated profession and not every school in every state has the right guidelines put into place in order to be considered acceptable to every state nursing board.

Since all states have different regulations when it comes to nursing licensure and continuing education, some schools are barred from educating nurses from specific states. This information is generally easy to find on a school’s program website because the law requires schools be straightforward with this information. Students who are unsure if they live in a state that will accept an out-of-state, online doctoral program in nursing education should check with their state’s nursing board and regulators. There are also websites that keep track of this information as well, but an email to the state board may be quicker for most students.


Earning an online Ph.D. in Nursing Education is a necessary step for any nurse who wishes to earn a terminal degree and move into teaching as a full-time career. While it is not a career that is perfect for every nurse, it is an in-demand position that can provide fulfillment and a stable career for professionals. Now is the time for every nursing professional to look over this list and decide for themselves whether it is time for them to move into the next phase of their careers with an online PhD in Nursing Education.

GSH Staff
April 2018

This concludes our ranking of the Top 10 Most Affordable Doctorate in Nursing Education Online for 2018.