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How to Choose the Right Nursing PhD Program for You - Part 1: The Right Program

Congratulations! You've decided to take your career to another level and pursue a research degree. I can assure you that you've not lost your mind (however, you can email me during years 1 and 2 when you're sure you've lost your mind and I'll give you a pep talk), you've just probably come up with more questions that you cannot find answers for in the existing evidence. Even though your undergraduate self that probably did not like your introduction to research course is in shock at the moment, you've made a good choice.

So at this moment you're trying to figure out where to go to study. Here's how you should choose.  This is the first post in a series getting published in the Fall of 2015.

Do you see yourself doing research just about all the time or maybe part of the time?

Just about all of the time = You need to choose a top 25 graduate school that is designated as a Research I university. Most of your time will be spent doing research and less time teaching.

Part of the time = You probably can choose any PhD program since your next career move would likely be a teaching role in academia - and we need you there!

Does "name" matter?

It depends on what you want to do with your PhD. Some universities are generally more internationally known than others and their name will open doors that lesser known universities will not. If you want a career in global health, for example, that may be an important consideration.

Other times name matters based on what the university is known for researching. If you want to do big data research, you should be considering University of Minnesota, University of Wisconsin-Madison, or Columbia.

What is a "Faculty Match"?

Faculty match means that the school you want to study at has faculty who are currently conducting research in your area of interest. Ideally, you want to go somewhere that has a faculty member that is currently funded because that means you might get your PhD paid for through tuition and a stipend.

For your PhD, it's really about the match of the faculty to your research interests. It would be a bad idea to try to do a dissertation about some aspect of the nursing workforce and the link to patient outcomes if there was no one on faculty with expertise in those areas. The same holds true if you want to study addictions and no one has expertise in that area.

If there is not a good faculty match at your PhD program, then you'll probably get rejected.

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