Grad School Hub - Most Affordable Online Programs-01

Click here for high resolution badge

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 offers the opportunity to earn a Ph.D. in nursing education online to students from a variety of academic and professional backgrounds such as medicine, social work, education, and health informatics. Post-doctoral students can expect to complete 48 credits for the degree as well as a research dissertation. MU offers research opportunities in focus areas of improving health systems, wellness in underserved and vulnerable populations, and symptom and behavior science. Students work with a research mentor who guides their original research projects. While students complete most coursework online, the program does include some on-campus requirements, including a week at the Columbia, Missouri, campus the summer before enrolling and at least four days each April.

For more information: University of Missouri

9. University of Colorado at Denver

Denver, Colorado

Online Doctor of Philosophy in Nursing

Tuition: $9,228

The University of Colorado-Denver offers a unique research-based Ph.D. nursing education online program focusing on healthcare systems research. One of only four schools in the U.S. to offer this specialty, past research projects evaluated how hospital staffing impacts patient outcomes. CU Denver also offers caring science and biobehavioral science tracks. The program utilizes a blended learning approach. Students spend one week each semester at the Denver campus, allowing for face-to-face meetings with faculty advisors and classmates. The asynchronous online courses enable students to continue their education while balancing other responsibilities. Many students complete their degree in three years, with enrollment limited to eight years.

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 health systems specialty of Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis Ph.D. in nursing education online program prepares nurses to tackle administrative positions and impact health policy. This hybrid distance program using video conferencing and synchronous course scheduling. While students can complete most courses online, IUPUI requires attendance at two four-day, on-campus intensives. Students entering the program with a bachelor's degree must complete 90 credit hours, which includes certification as a clinical nurse specialist. The school accepts up to 30 transfer credits for students with a master's degree. Students must complete a dissertation that demonstrates an understanding of experimental methods, data analysis, and nursing theory.

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 doctorate in nursing education online program focuses on rural health issues and systems. The Ph.D. candidates enjoy an immersive research experience, using data to develop evidence-based nursing practices. UND welcomes students with a bachelor's degree or a master's degree. Applicants with a bachelor's degree in nursing and a master's in another field may qualify for advanced placement. The curriculum includes 90 credits of post-baccalaureate work and completion of a dissertation. Students can complete coursework remotely but must attend two yearly intensives at the Grand Forks campus. All Ph.D. students must secure external grants to fund their original research project and submit a scholarly research article to peer-reviewed journals.

For more information: University of North Dakota

6. West Virginia University

Morgan Town, West Virginia

Online Doctor of Philosophy in Nursing

Tuition: $7,992

Nurses can continue working while completing the part-time Ph.D. nursing education online program from West Virginia University. Most students need about three years to complete the degree, which requires 55 credits of post-master's courses. The research-focused degree encourages scholarly investigation of a policy or practice area aligned with the student's career goals. The hybrid plan utilizes asynchronous online courses offered year-round complemented by in-person sessions at the Morgantown campus the summer before starting coursework, and one-day on-campus academic offerings fall and spring semesters. Students must have at least one scholarly manuscript accepted for publication by a peer-reviewed journal before completing their dissertation defense.

For more information: West Virginia University

5. University of Texas at Tyler

Tyler, Texas

Online Doctor of Philosophy in Nursing

Tuition: $7,602

Students conduct original research into national and international health concerns as part of the University of Texas-Tyler doctorate in nursing education online program. Students may enter the program with a bachelor's degree or master's degree in nursing. Students enrolling with a bachelor's degree may finish the 81-credit program. The master's track requires 60 credits. All coursework takes place online except for a one-week orientation at the campus each summer. Coursework prepares graduates to take on leadership roles in health organizations, teach in academia, serve in policy development roles, or continue research projects. All students complete a dissertation and defense.

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, Las Vegas Ph.D. nursing education online program requires students to complete multiple teaching practicums to prepare for work in academia or scholarly research. After completion of practicums, seminars offer students the chance to share and reflect on their experience and course outcomes. The 62-credit program provides a flexible, fully online degree with only one required on-campus orientation. Students work closely with a faculty mentor to plan a relevant program of study and research project that culminates in a written dissertation. The school participates in the NEXus Access program, allowing students to take electives from other member institutions.

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 offers a Ph.D. nursing education online program that allows nurses to bring interdisciplinary answers to complex nursing and healthcare questions. The school welcomes applicants with a bachelor's or master's degree in nursing. Students need 75 credits for the bachelor's degree track and 60 credits for students entering with a master's degree. The curriculum includes nine hours of electives, allowing students to take courses in their research area of interest. Online classes provide interaction with faculty and classmates, with a maximum of 20 students per class, and distance students complete their research practicum remotely. Students do travel to the Orlando campus twice a year to meet with their faculty mentors.

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

The University of West Georgia incorporates research-based best practices throughout its doctorate in nursing education online program. The 60-credit curriculum utilizes the Core Competencies of Nurse Educators by the National League for Nursing. Students enjoy asynchronous access to coursework, enrolling full-time or part-time as their schedules permit. Full-time students need two years to complete coursework and then focus on completing their dissertation and defense. Classes include teaching adult learners and distance education. UWG does not require any on-campus visits. The online orientation, held each July, ensures students understand how to use the learning platform and how to access library resources.

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 prepares graduates to take on scholarly research and prepare the next generation of nurses through its Ph.D. in nursing education online degree. The coursework delves into issues of healthcare disparities and rural health delivery. Students utilize qualitative and quantitative research methods to complete their original research project and dissertation. Students complete all 81 credits online with asynchronous courses or scheduled online discussions. However, all students gather at the Las Cruces campus for one week each May and attend an annual research conference as directed by their faculty mentor. Applicants must have a master's in nursing and a valid nursing license.

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.