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University of Colorado College of Nursing

College of Nursing

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Program Overview

PhD Program Info

The College of Nursing PhD program is fully distance accessible. The competency-based curriculum is taught with a combination of online and intensive formats. Courses are completed online, and in addition, students will attend a one or two week intensive experience  in Denver. Students will travel to Denver once each semester (fall, spring and summer) while completing coursework and two to three times during their dissertation research.

CU's PhD program in nursing participates in the Nursing Education Xchange (NEXus), a collaborative of several Western universities with PhD programs in nursing and the Western Institute of Nursing (WIN). NEXus facilitates enrollment in doctoral courses not available on students' home campuses. More information is available at the WIN/NEXus website.

Discuss the program with the PhD Program Director, Dr. Paula Meek.

PhD Pathways

The College of Nursing has 3 major pathways to the PhD. Applicants may enter the PhD program with either a bachelor's in nursing or master's in nursing.

BS in Nursing Applicants

The MS-PhD pathway offers a 30-credit MS degree (or an advanced practice specialty) leading into PhD course work and research. Both degrees are awarded. For more information, visit the MS-PhD page for application and program specifics.

MS in Nursing Applicants

Two to three years of post-master’s doctoral course work leads to the PhD dissertation and PhD degree. Applicants with a master's in nursing should follow all PhD program requirements for admission.


The PhD program includes 42 credits of coursework and 30 credits of dissertation. All students must take the core courses in addition to selecting a focus in health care systems, caring science or biobehavioral science.

The PhD program curriculum plan outlines the courses offered.

Core Courses
Health Care Systems Research Courses
Biobehavioral Science Courses
Caring Science Courses



In addition to studying at the new state-of-the-art Anschutz Medical Campus and attending one of the nation’s highest ranked nursing programs, the College of Nursing PhD students will work with nationally and internationally recognized faculty. Renowned for mentoring and expertise in research and scholarship, the nursing faculty are dedicated to the pursuit of expanding nursing knowledge through empirical research and providing a high level of education.

Our distinguished faculty has made significant contributions to school-based health care and nursing informatics, as well as research into pain management, rural health and pediatric nursing. As we look to the future, we are advancing the development of additional research strengths in public health, health care of children, those with chronic illness and clinical health care. Our strong faculty practices with children, pregnant women and their families, adults and elders allow our students to combine world-class research with real-world education.

As a PhD student, your research focus will align with the research conducted by one of our faculty scholars. For more information about our renowned faculty and research interests, visit and review the College of Nursing faculty pages and bios.

Program Philosophy

The College of Nursing faculty believes that the doctor of philosophy in nursing prepares scientists for stewardship of the nursing discipline and membership in the community of scholars. 

Further, the purpose of doctoral study in nursing is to engage students in intellectual inquiry, knowledge development and the conduct of independent research to understand and enhance the health, wellbeing and healthcare for individuals, families and populations. Doctoral study depends on collaborative mentoring relationships between students and research faculty, other faculty scholars and active engagement of students in the interdisciplinary community of scholars. The faculty also believes that program graduates should be rigorously prepared to pursue careers in research intensive environments and as leaders of the profession.

Graduate Qualities

The College of Nursing expects to instill many qualities in every PhD graduate. Students will

  • demonstrate mastery in a selected substantive area of the nursing discipline.

  • understand methodologies for critiquing, developing and extending disciplinary knowledge.

  • pursue learning as a journey of ongoing personal development and excellence in research within and beyond the discipline.

  • apply logical, critical and creative thinking to a range of research problems.

  • work both autonomously and collaboratively as a scientist within and beyond the discipline and community of scholars.

  • commit to ethical social responsibility and action as a scientist.

  • communicate effectively as a scientist and as a leading member of the discipline.

  • appreciate an international perspective and cultural sensitivity in research.

  • embrace the diversity of opportunities for career development, professional roles and ​​disciplinary leadership as a nurse scientist, scholar, educator and mentor.