The PhD program in Nursing at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee prepares nurses as scholars to conduct independent and collaborative research, to develop and test theory relevant to nursing, and to improve the quality of care by expanding the body of nursing knowledge. Scholars will be prepared to serve the urban community and improve the general accessibility and acceptability of health care.

Specialization is achieved through an approved program of study and includes program elements of coursework, dissertation, and direction of faculty advisors. This specialization is focused on a particular area of nursing practice and the social context within which it occurs. 

Admission Requirements 

Application Deadlines

Application deadlines vary by program, please review the application deadline chart for specific programs. Other important dates and deadlines can be found by using the One Stop calendars.


An applicant must meet Graduate School requirements plus the following School of Nursing requirements to be considered for admission to the doctoral program in Nursing:

  1. A bachelor’s or master’s degree with a major in nursing or health related field from a professionally accredited or approved program.  
  2. A cumulative grade point average of 3.0 on a 4.0 scale for all previous coursework.
  3. Completion of a graduate level statistics course within the last 5 years with a grade of B or better.
  4. A written statement prepared by the applicant of previous professional experience, personal career goals, research interests, motivation for PhD study, and educational objectives to be accomplished in the program.  
  5. Recommendations from at least three persons who have known the applicant in a professional capacity.
  6. Two examples of original work that demonstrate the applicant’s academic potential.
  7. A conversation with the program director is required as part of the holistic admission process. A telephone conversation or visual online (e.g. Zoom, Teams) video meeting may be used when travel is prohibitive.  


A student who receives the master’s degree must formally reapply for admission to the Graduate School before continuing studies toward the PhD.

Credits and Courses

Minimum degree requirements are 61 graduate credits beyond the bachelor’s degree, at least 31 of which must be earned in residence at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. The College of Nursing requires a minimum of 49 graduate credits beyond the master’s degree in nursing or master’s graduate core courses. 

Nursing Core
NURS 801Foundations of Inquiry for Health Research3
NURS 802The Science of Nursing3
NURS 803Health Policy3
Specialty Core (6 core, 9 elective credits)
NURS 820Analysis of Nursing Phenomena3
NURS 809Integrative Studies3
Elective Credits9
Research Core
NURS 808Multivariate Statistics for Healthcare3
NURS 881Measurement for Health Research3
NURS 882Qualitative Methods in Health Research3
NURS 883Quantitative Methods in Health Research3
NURS 885Advanced Quantitative Methods in Health Research3
or NURS 886 Advanced Qualitative Methods in Health Research
NURS 890Issues in Scholarship3
NURS 899Practicum in Nursing: (Leadership/Education)1
NURS 899Practicum in Nursing: (Research)1-3
NURS 997Doctoral Dissertation (3 credits minimum)3
Total Credits47-49

Specialization is achieved through an approved program of study and includes program elements of minor field coursework, supervised research experiences, practicum with emphasis on skill development in nursing leadership/education, dissertation, and the direction of faculty advisors. The student specializes in a particular area of nursing practice and the social context within which it occurs. The plan for this is developed in consultation with the major professor. Minimum requirements for all formal coursework other than dissertation research can be expected to take at least two academic years of study.

Students admitted without a master’s degree in nursing must complete 12 credits of master’s program graduate core courses before beginning doctoral level nursing courses. The graduate core courses that must be completed are:

Graduate Core Courses
NURS 725Evidence Based Practice in Healthcare3
NURS 728Epidemiological Principles for Population Health3
NURS 735Theory for Advanced Practice3
NURS 804Healthcare Organization and Systems Leadership for Advanced Practice3

Post baccalaureate students admitted to the doctoral program will not be granted a master’s degree in nursing unless all requirements for the master’s degree in nursing are met.

Additional Requirements

Major Professor as Advisor

The student is expected to affirm their Major Professor by the end of their second semester of full-time study or the equivalent in earned credits. The date for submission will be published for each semester by the PhD Program Director. The Major Professor will be the student’s research advisor, and will serve as chairperson of their Comprehensive Preliminary Examination Committee and the Dissertation Committee. The PhD student must select a Major Professor who is a member of the graduate faculty of the School of Nursing and who has agreed to serve.

Minimum Grade Requirement

For continuation in the program, in addition to general Graduate School requirements, students must achieve a minimum grade of B- in all required courses.

Minor Field 

The student must complete a minor of 8 to 12 credits, 6 or more of these credits to be earned from courses in departments outside the School of Nursing. Such courses are selected for their relevance to the student’s area of specialization, and are to be taken in the substantive content of the selected minor field.

Language Requirement

Foreign language competency may be required at the option of the student’s major professor.


The student must meet minimum Graduate School residence requirements.

Doctoral Preliminary Examination

The student must pass a doctoral preliminary examination to qualify for formal admission to candidacy for degree. The doctoral examination comprises a written and an oral component, taken in that sequence, with each component requiring a passing grade for successful completion. The examination is an integrative experience that is designed to validate the student’s mastery of the content of the doctoral program curriculum and readiness to conduct independent research within the student’s area of specialization as identified in the formal plan of study.


The candidate must write a dissertation, which demonstrates ability to formulate a research topic and pursue independent and original investigation under the direction of the major professor.

Dissertation Defense

The candidate must, as the final step toward the degree, pass an oral examination in defense of the dissertation. A candidate who does not pass this examination may apply for reexamination within one year from the initial examination date. This reexamination may occur only one time. A candidate who does not pass this examination within program time limits may be required to undergo another comprehensive preliminary examination and readmitted to the program and/or candidacy.

Time Limit

The student must complete all requirements for the degree within seven years from the date of initial enrollment in the program. The student must complete all requirements for the degree within four years from the time of attainment of dissertator status.

For additional information on the PhD, see the Graduate School Doctoral Requirements page.

Nursing PhD Learning Outcomes

Students graduating from the PhD Program in the School of Nursing will steward the discipline by being able to:   

  • Design and conduct original, independent and collaborative research to generate new knowledge to advance nursing science.  (Research) 
  • Systematically and critically analyze, develop and test nursing theory. (Nursing Theory) 
  • Cultivate in-depth knowledge of a substantive area of nursing expertise, to create scholarship and disseminate research findings to advance the discipline of nursing. (Nursing Knowledge Development) 
  • Employ technology, information systems, and software for the generation of knowledge. (Information Technology) 
  • Engage in critiquing, evaluating, and applying knowledge of research-based health policy to improve the quality of care provided to populations. (Improve Care Quality) 
  • Accurately incorporate principles of scientific integrity to design, implement, and disseminate research. (Scientific Integrity)