PhD in Nursing

About the PhD Program

The PhD program prepares scholars to conduct original research, thereby; advancing the body of knowledge that guides nursing practice and contributes to improving population health and healthcare systems. Successful completion of the program prepares graduates for college or university faculty positions as well as leadership roles in nursing, health care, industry, and governmental agencies.

The MU Sinclair School of Nursing (MUSSON) offers a challenging and yet enriching PhD program with two options.

  • Distance-Mediated PhD Program Option: PhD coursework may be accessed online through the Distance-Mediated PhD program option by learning over the World Wide Web using the Blackboard or Canvas learning management system.  This option also requires a 5 Day On Campus visit (held the first week of the summer semester on the Columbia campus) the first summer of enrollment and 4 Day On Campus Intensives every April until coursework is completed (see PhD On Campus Dates). Because the program is distance-mediated, students are responsible for obtaining the required technology for successful participation in synchronous distance-mediated courses (see Computer Requirements).  Additionally, students are responsible for all the costs associated with travel and housing for the On Campus Intensives;
  • International Residential PhD Option: Through the International Residential PhD option, international students attend the MU campus hybrid classes in Columbia, Missouri. The International Residential PhD student attends the hybrid classes in person, while the Distance-Mediated student cohort participates virtually via videoconferencing software. International Residential PhD students may also enroll in traditional residential course offerings through the MU Sinclair School of Nursing and the rest of the MU campus. Students in the International Residential PhD option must enroll in 4 credits during their first summer and maintain full-time status by enrolling in 9 credits each fall and spring term thereafter. Of the 9 credits each term, at least 6 credits must be either traditional face-to-face or hybrid coursework in order to qualify for and retain the F-1 or J - 1 student visa status. The remaining 3 credits each term may be taken 100% on-line.

The PhD curriculum and program requirements are the same whether you choose the Distance-Mediated PhD option or the International Residential PhD option. Only the method of course delivery varies.

back to top

Degree Requirements

The PhD in Nursing at MU requires a minimum of 72 credit hours beyond the baccalaureate degree. Students entering with a master’s degree can transfer in a maximum of 30 credits. A minimum of 42 credit hours must be completed at the University of Missouri. There are two curricular options: (a) post-baccalaureate (BS-PhD) and (b) post-master’s (MS-PhD). For both options, the PhD curriculum is divided into three categories:

  • Nursing and Health Care Content areas - Minimum of 20 credit hours (theory analysis and development, specialty area applied sciences, substantive science seminars, and education courses, as well as teaching practicum experiences)
  • Research and Inquiry - Minimum of 40 credit hours (philosophy of science, statistics and measurement, qualitative and quantitative methods courses, research practicum experiences as well as dissertation research)
  • Collateral area - Minimum of 6 - 12 credit hours (coursework taken outside the School of Nursing that helps to support the dissertation research topic).

Sample Plan of Study

Sample plans of study for both the BS-PhD and the MS-PhD can be found on the School of Nursing PhD Curriculum webpage.  Ultimately, the student's PhD program committee, in collaboration with the student, determines the student's plan of study and total credit hours necessary to adequately prepare the student to successfully complete their dissertation research.

back to top

Qualifying Process

To be officially admitted to the PhD program, the student must pass a qualifying examination or process. Students admitted with a master’s degree have completed the qualifying process.

Students admitted with a bachelor’s degree are admitted to the PhD program on a provisional basis. Following successful completion of a qualifying process, bachelor’s prepared students will be granted admission to the PhD program. To fully qualify for the PhD program, BSN-to-PhD students must earn at least a grade of B in the following:

  • NURSE 7100 Theoretical Basis for Advanced Nursing
  • NURSE 7150 Research Basis for Advanced Nursing
  • A three-hour graduate-level statistics course
  • Nine credits in nursing applied sciences

The student initiates the qualifying process by enrolling in three credits of NURSE 8900 Research Practicum in Nursing with a member of their BSN-PhD program committee. The student is officially admitted to the PhD program following approval of the written report and oral presentation for N8900 by the BSN-PhD Program Committee.

Comprehensive Examination Process

Through the PhD Comprehensive Examination process, the student demonstrates his/her ability to address the theoretical, methodological and substantive issues of his/her field of study. The examination tests the breadth and depth of knowledge and the ability to integrate ideas across substantive areas. The student must be enrolled to take this examination and it may be administered only when MU is officially in session. The student is not allowed to sit for the PhD comprehensive examination until the last semester of course work or when course work is substantially completed, all incomplete grades are satisfied, and the PhD Competencies are met.

The Comprehensive Exam, which is prepared by the student’s PhD program committee, has a written component followed by an oral section. The written component of the examination is completed at home or another site of the student’s selection during five consecutive days.  The oral defense is a two-hour examination by the PhD program committee.  The two sections of the examination must be completed within one month. The student is expected to complete the Comprehensive Examination within five (5) years of enrollment in the PhD program and it must be completed at least seven (7) months before the final defense of the doctoral dissertation.  Additional details of the process can be found on the School of Nursing PhD Comprehensive Exam webpage.

back to top

Dissertation Requirements

The culmination of the PhD degree is the completion of a written doctoral dissertation. The dissertation must:

  • Be written on a subject approved by the candidate's doctoral dissertation committee
  • Embody the results of original and significant investigation
  • Be the candidate's own work.

Within the MU Sinclair School of Nursing, the PhD Dissertation process consists of:

  • Development of a dissertation proposal
  • Approval of the proposal by the doctoral dissertation committee
  • Approval of the research project by the Health Sciences Institutional Review Board
  • Ethical conduct of the research project
  • Writing the doctoral dissertation
  • Public defense of the doctoral dissertation
  • Approval of the dissertation by the candidate’s doctoral dissertation committee
  • Submission of the written doctoral dissertation in an approved format.

Students have five (5) years from completion of the PhD Comprehensive Exam to complete the doctoral dissertation. Additional details of the process can be found on the School of Nursing PhD Dissertation webpage.


Students interested in the PhD program are encouraged to apply for admission as early as possible.  All admitted students are required to start the PhD program during the summer semester. 

Early Acceptance Deadline:  January 15th Recommended for applicants desiring to be full-time students who are planning to apply for a competitive fellowship(s) and international residential PhD option applicants who need time to obtain a visa and move to Columbia, MO prior to classes starting in early June. 

Regular Acceptance Deadline:  March 1st  

Applicants are required to meet two sets of minimum qualifications for admission: the requirements of the Sinclair School of Nursing PhD program and the minimum requirements of the Graduate School. Because requirements vary, you must refer to a degree program's graduate admission page to learn about specific admission criteria, application deadlines, eligibility and application process.  Your application materials will be reviewed by both the Graduate School and the degree program to which you’ve applied before official admission to the University of Missouri.

Due to higher education regulation changes, the University of Missouri is unable to accept applications for admission to online programs from students residing in Massachusetts. You may find more information at this link:

Admission Contact Information
S245 School of Nursing
Columbia, MO 65211

back to top