Doctor of Nursing Science (DNS) Programs

Healthcare is becoming more and more complex every year, and so is the demand for highly-specialized leadership positions to be filled by skilled, committed and creative nurses. With only a minute percentage of the nursing population owning doctoral degrees and an increasing demand for excellent, first-rate patient care, it is now more imperative than ever for prospective students and workers to further their education and earn terminal level certification. If you want to be part of the change and are considering a DNS track, here is what you need to know before making a final decision.

Who is this program for?

The Doctor of Nursing Science is a world-class academic research degree designed for nurses wanting to improve and completely turn around the crux of healthcare in the current system. This is an outstanding, reliable option for a doctoral program, but, unlike the Ph.D. and DNP, it comse with certain limitations. One is the fact that DNS tracks are either being replaced by Ph.D. programs or they are entirely discontinued. This makes them the least popular choice for most future students of higher education and a less appealing credential for employers. However, this says nothing about the curriculum, effectiveness or overall potential of the program. It just so happens that the Ph.D. and Doctor of Nursing in Science titles and curricula have a great deal of common ground, and medical institutions have decided it might be more beneficial to either merge the two or eliminate the latter.

Is a DNS degree right for you? Yes, if you are looking to conduct life-changing, innovative research, develop new health care knowledge and assume a leadership position to advance the science of nursing. It is the next logical step if you are dedicated to a career in research and would like to help discover revolutionary procedures and medical data, rather than be a bedside nurse or an executive who implements various policies and legislation. If you don’t like red tape, but enjoy the nitty-gritty of high-quality nursing and advanced research methods for maximizing patient care, a DNS program is a perfect fit for you. The only reason why you might want to pass on this degree is that you prefer to work towards a Doctor of Philosophy in Nursing certification instead.

What can a Doctor of Nursing Science degree do for you?

A DNS program will drastically improve your marketability and open up new, exciting career paths for you, as well as unique job opportunities with increased income and academic substance. You will be able to do the practical work and research required for correcting nursing shortcomings, improving patient outcomes and transforming the healthcare system step by step. You will receive the highest education available in your field. Also, this professional degree will allow you to conduct promising research targeted at specific patient groups and across nursing specialties.

The Doctor of Nursing Science ensures that you can deliver exceptional medical care, master organizational skills and build a scientific foundation of knowledge that helps mold you into an independent critical thinker, resourceful academician, and brilliant leader figure. After completing your studies, you will have an extensive amount of new, high-paying jobs available to you, as well as a variety of research and scholarship projects and the incentive to teach others what you have learned. You can now make an original, long-lasting contribution to the field of nursing.

What are the requirements for the program?

The two essential requirements to join a Doctor of Nursing Science program are a Bachelor’s and Master’s Degree in a related discipline or subject area. It does not necessarily have to be in nursing, but it is mandatory for to have a background in or tangency with healthcare. You will need official transcripts, a statement of purpose, essay or writing samples and several letters of recommendation (from academic sources and previous work environments). Your personal statement must include your motivation for pursuing a DNS, your future career path, as well as the main innovative goals you want to accomplish during or after finishing your studies.

Foreign applicants must submit their TOEFL scores (550 or higher) and have their degrees evaluated by an accreditation organization and an approval agency. In the absence of TOEFL, you will be asked to take an English proficiency test. Even if you are a United States citizen, you will need to provide proof of legal status. Last, your credentials or certifications must be assessed by transcript evaluators such as WES (World Education Services).

You will most likely be required to submit proof of certification as a registered nurse (RN) in the same state as your school or university location. Additionally, there are certain prerequisite courses common to most DNS programs. These include statistics, economics, philosophy, ethics, nursing theory and women’s health.

What will you learn?

A DNS program generally has 9 core courses and 50 credit hours. Unlike the Doctor of Nursing Practice curriculum, centered on clinical work and research, the former focuses on scientific inquiry and advanced research skills. This type of program is designed to teach you how to constructively critique and discern between different perspectives and collected medical data in the context of conducting original research. You will study the history and philosophy behind science, understand how nursing has evolved as a discipline and generate new clinical ideas based on existing information.

After completing your studies, you will know all of the ethical and professional principles of conducting high-quality, reliable research and be able to disseminate scientific findings to the healthcare community or to an academic audience that will implement your conclusions and discoveries as policies, modern procedures, and current legislation. You will regularly evaluate the implications of said policies and find new, more consistent ways of improving them in the long run. Aside from research, you will teach the future generation of nurses and mentor both prospective students and workers.

You will study theories of wellness and health, ethical analysis, risk reduction strategies for patient care, corporate factors and regulations, management, planning and special programs for different populations. A DNS program will focuses on the “hard” side of nursing, examining economics, and the key-concepts of administering the financial components of healthcare, information technology, provider-client communication, critical appraisal of the scientific literature, implementation of research skills and statistical outcomes.

Here are the main course outlines you will study during a DNS program:

  • Healthcare Systems & Management
  • Ethical Issues in Nursing Practice
  • Comprehensive Clinical Reasoning
  • Information Systems in Healthcare
  • Concepts of Epidemiology
  • Biostatistics
  • Critical Inquiry
  • Outcome Measurement & Analysis
  • Health & Wellness Theory & Practice
  • Inter-professional Collaboration in Healthcare
  • Financial Management & Economics in Health Care
  • Evidence-Based Practice in Nursing
  • Organizational & Systemic Leadership

How long does the program last?

A DNS program lasts anywhere between 3 and 5 years. You typically need 50 credit hours, 12 hours or more for your doctoral project and a total of at least 62 semester hours. A significant difference between a DNP track and this type of program is that you will focus on research, budgeting and health outcomes measurement more than anything else. If you find any part-time options available at the school you have chosen, keep in mind that the overall completion time will increase or double.

Does the program require any clinical hours?

It depends – some schools require little to no clinical hours, whereas others insist on completing a minimum of clinical research and work. However, if you’re interested in hands-on experience with the nitty-gritty of nursing, we recommend a DNP program. There you will need to carry out at least 1,000 clinical hours, and your focus will be primarily on this type of work. On the other hand, a DNS and a Ph.D. will have an extremely weak focus on the clinical aspect of healthcare and instead involve thorough research practice and management training.

Can you study for a Doctor of Nursing Science online?

There are few online options for a DNS program because there is a minute number of options available even for traditional programs in today’s academic environment. There is a limited amount of universities and schools that still offer a DNS track. A vast majority have been transformed into Doctor of Philosophy degree programs or removed entirely from the foundation of nursing education. With this in mind, there are still some institutions that offer online doctoral programs, including ones for earning your DNS:

  • University of Colorado – Denver
  • University of Kansas
  • George Washington University
  • Medical University of South Carolina
  • Duke University
  • Loyola University
  • University of Florida
  • West Virginia University
  • University of Nevada

How much does the program cost?

Doctoral programs are costly, but a worthwhile investment nonetheless. Prices for each DNS program will diff depending on the school, university, online agency or higher education institution in which you want to enroll. This type of certification is much more financially challenging to earn, because you will need to cover all of the expenses when you are unable to work because you are too busy studying or must attend various classes or examinations.

Costs for a DNS can reach up to $100,000 and typically involve a tuition of $550 per course. Bear in mind that you would most likely get all of this money back in one year’s worth of work, provided you get a job right after finishing your studies. Additional expenses include transportation, lab equipment, application and admission fees, as well as textbooks and other relevant learning materials.

Is the DNS program accredited?

The short answer is yes. The long answer is that it is more complicated. There are only specific official organizations that accredit DNS programs. Make sure that your program is approved by the State Board of Nursing. Also, please note that both The Accreditation Commission For Education in Nursing (ACEN) and The Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) do not provide any form of accreditation for research doctorates. They only authorize clinical doctorates like the DNP program. This means that your DNS track will not be accredited by these two institutions. You might need to look for accreditation from a non-industry-specific organization. If thus is the case, look through the list of approved institutions at The Council for Higher Education, the leading national establishment for accreditation. There are no additional exams required to work with this degree once you finish your studies.

Where can you work with a Doctor of Nursing Science?

A DNS will allow you to work in advanced management, research, leadership and executive positions within healthcare organizations. Most DNS holders choose high-end jobs as researchers, scholars or nurse scientists, dedicating their careers to making transformative discoveries and further developing the medical and scientific literature. Many accept governmental positions or academic opportunities. For instance, the most sought-after and privileged university teachers are those with a doctoral degree. You will have no issue finding a job as a mentor within a medical facility or as a teacher within a renowned faculty. You will work both for state and federal agencies and practice, lead or provide mentorship in hospitals, schools, private organizations or research facilities.

Here are some of the most popular career paths pursued by DNS holders:

  • Nursing Scientist
  • Nurse Consultant
  • Nurse Researcher
  • Advanced Clinical Practice Nurse
  • Nurse Administrator
  • Nurse Educator
  • Health Science Administrator

How much will I earn with a Doctor of Nursing Science?

The average DNS holder earns anywhere between $80,000 and $130,000 every year. Your salary will largely depend on your desired role (executive, research, education), as well as on your level of experience and area of practice.