The emphasis on theory and practice of nursing prepares nurse scientists to: develop and/or test theory that drives nursing practice; design and conduct clinical efficacy and effectiveness trials of nursing interventions to improve health; and build a program of research around a clinical problem, phenomenon, or population of interest that will shape patient care across various settings. The emphasis on policy and leadership prepares nurse scientists with the conceptual strategies and methodological skills to assess and address the biobehavioral, social and economic public policy factors that influence the definition of what constitutes health problems and the manner in which they are treated.

The School of Nursing offers a program leading to the doctor of philosophy degree. The school also has a unique early entry Ph.D. program to bridge or accelerate progression to the Ph.D. level for undergraduate nursing students. Postdoctoral training opportunities are also available.

The mission of the School of Nursing is to prepare nurse leaders who improve human health through practice, education and research. Our strategic priorities are to advance science through research and scholarship, prepare nurse leaders for the health challenges of the 21st century, foster strategic partnerships to promote human health, achieve the school's commitment to diversity, and create the preferred future of the School of Nursing.

Nursing faculty members are well prepared for their roles as scholars, clinicians, and teachers. Many have postdoctoral experience in nursing and related disciplines. They have wide-ranging clinical expertise foundational to their experiences with doctoral students. Many faculty have been awarded prestigious federal and private research and training awards and are well known for their expertise in university, local, national, and international communities.

World-renowned facilities for clinical practice and research are available in and around Madison. These include University of Wisconsin Hospital and Clinics, American Family Children's Hospital, UW Carbone Cancer Center and William S. Middleton Memorial Veterans Hospital; hospitals and clinics in urban and rural settings; nursing homes; and public health agencies. The University’s location in Wisconsin's capital offers opportunities for involvement in state government and policy making.

Signe Skott Cooper Hall, the School of Nursing's new facility, features state-of-the-art classrooms, simulation labs, meeting and research facilities, and social gathering spaces in an environment dedicated to the health and wellness of students, faculty, staff and the communities and populations served. Adjacent to Cooper Hall, the Health Sciences Learning Center (HSLC) brings together students in nursing, medicine, and pharmacy, and includes the Ebling Library and University Book Store.

Early Entry Ph.D. Option

The early-entry Ph.D. option is designed for undergraduate students who are interested in research as a career and the Ph.D. as a goal. With the assistance of a faculty advisory committee, early entry students plan an individualized program of study and research, drawing on existing undergraduate and graduate courses in nursing and related disciplines. Two degrees are awarded to students who complete this option: bachelor of science in nursing (B.S.), granted by the School of Nursing, and doctor of philosophy (Ph.D.), granted by the Graduate School.

Doctor of Philosophy Degree

The purpose of the Ph.D. program is to prepare researchers to develop, evaluate and disseminate new knowledge in nursing and health science. The program is characterized by early and continuous training in research through a close mentoring relationship with faculty, a strong scientific base in nursing, and supporting courses in a related (i.e., minor) discipline.  Graduates with a research doctorate are prepared to assume positions as faculty as well as research scientists and research directors in a variety of educational, clinical and governmental settings.

The program is designed to be completed in four years full time and requires a minimum of 52 credits.  Students may be accepted into the Ph.D. program either post-baccalaureate or post-master's. Students are encouraged to enroll full-time. If part-time study is necessary, a minimum of 6 credits per semester is required.

In collaboration with the faculty mentor(s), students plan a course of study that constitutes a unified program and fulfills the program requirements. Students select an emphasis in

  1. theory and practice of nursing
  2. policy and leadership.

The emphasis on theory and practice of nursing prepares nurse scientists to: develop and/or test theory that drives nursing practice; design and conduct clinical efficacy and effectiveness trials of nursing interventions to improve health; and build a program of research around a clinical problem, phenomenon, or population of interest that will shape patient care across various settings. The emphasis on policy and leadership prepares nurse scientists with the conceptual strategies and methodological skills to assess and address the biobehavioral, social and economic public policy factors that influence the definition of what constitutes health problems and the manner in which they are treated.

Several forms of financial aid are available for graduate students in the School of Nursing. These include fellowships, traineeships, scholarships, research, project and teaching assistantships, and loans. Most graduate assistantships cover the cost of tuition and provide a monthly stipend. Awards are made in the spring or early summer for the following academic year. Full-time Ph.D. students receive priority for teaching and research assistantships administered by the School of Nursing. Students in the Ph.D. program have also been successful in competing for federal National Research Service Awards (NRSA) which are individual predoctoral fellowships.

Advanced Opportunity Fellowships are designed to support highly qualified underrepresented students in the doctoral programs.  Doctoral students who are preparing to be full-time faculty in nursing programs are also eligible for the Nurse Faculty Loan Program (NFLP).  These loans, supported by the federal government, are available to cover tuition and other educational expenses.  When graduates become full-time faculty members up to 85% of the NFLP loan will be canceled over a four-year period.

Additional information on financial aid including application procedures is available in the School of Nursing Academic Programs Office.

Minimum Degree Requirements and Satisfactory Progress

To make progress toward a graduate degree, students must meet the Graduate School Minimum Degree Requirements and Satisfactory Progress in addition to the requirements of the program.

Doctoral Degrees

Ph.D.

Minimum Graduate Degree Credit Requirement

52 credits

Minimum Graduate Residence Credit Requirement

32 credits

Minimum Graduate Coursework (50%) Requirement

Half of degree coursework (26 out of 52 total credits) must be in graduate-level coursework; courses with the Graduate Level Coursework attribute are identified and searchable in the university's Course Guide.

Prior Coursework Requirements: Graduate Work from Other Institutions

With program approval, students are allowed to count no more than 18 credits of graduate coursework from other institutions. Graduate work should be less than five years old to be considered; additional justification and/or documentation are needed for work taken between five and ten years. Work ten or more years prior to admission to the program will not be considered.

Prior Coursework Requirements: UW–Madison Undergraduate

With program approval up to 7 credits numbered 300 or above will be allowed to count toward the Ph.D. degree. This applies to students in the Early Entry Ph.D. route in the School of Nursing.

Prior Coursework Requirements: UW–Madison University Special

With program approval, students are allowed to count no more than 9 credits of coursework numbered 300 or above taken as a UW–Madison University Special student. These credits are considered part of the total allowable credits available for a student to transfer. Coursework should be less than five years old to be considered; additional justification and/or documentation is needed for work taken between five and ten years. Work ten or more years prior to admission to the program will not be considered.

Credits per Term Allowed

15 credits

Program-Specific Courses Required

Contact the School for a list of specific courses.

Doctoral Minor/Breadth Requirements

All Ph.D. students are required to complete a minor.

Overall Graduate GPA Requirement

3.00 GPA required.

Other Grade Requirements

A student may not receive more than one grade below a B (or a U grade) in any 12 month period.

Probation Policy

A semester GPA below 3.0 will result in the student being placed on academic probation. If a student has not returned to satisfactory progress by the determined deadline, a decision about whether the student will be permitted to continue will be made by the graduate programs committee (or appropriate subcommittee) with input from the student’s advisor.

Advisor / Committee

Ph.D. students complete an annual progression review which includes a written review from the advisor. This is submitted to the Ph.D. Admission, Progression and Funding (APF) Subcommittee of the GPC. APF reviews the student CVs and advisor comments to gain an overall sense of student progression in the program Comments from the APF regarding progression are then sent to the advisor who shares the result of the review with the student. (See Policy and Procedures for PhD Progression Reviews.)

Assessments and Examinations

To be eligible for the comprehensive candidacy examination, candidates must have completed all formal coursework requirements.

Time Constraints

A candidate for a doctoral degree who fails to take the final oral examination and deposit the dissertation within five years after passing the preliminary examination may by require to take another preliminary examination and to be admitted to candidacy a second time.

Language Requirements

No language requirements.

Admission requirements for the Ph.D. program are:

  • Bachelor's degree in nursing from an accredited (CCNE or NLN) program with an undergraduate GPA of at least 3.0 (on a 4.0 scale) on the last 60 credits of the most recent baccalaureate degree        
  • Satisfactory scores on the Graduate Record Examination (GRE)
  • Application essay (see School of Nursing website for specific criteria)
  • Satisfactory academic references
  • Copies of two original papers or other scholarly work
  • Curriculum vitae or resume
  • English proficiency scores: Applicants whose native language is not English, or whose undergraduate instruction was not in English, must provide an English proficiency test score. Scores are accepted if they are within two years of the start of the admission term. See the Graduate School's Requirements for Admission for more information on the English proficiency requirement.

Applications should be submitted for priority consideration by December 1 for admission in the fall semester.

Knowledge and Skills

  • Masters in-depth knowledge in a substantive area of nursing.
  • Articulates research problems, potentials and limits with respect to nursing theory, knowledge, and practice.
  • Formulates new ideas, concepts, designs, and/or techniques based on critical evaluation of knowledge in nursing and other relevant disciplines.
  • Assumes leadership in the creation of original research that makes a substantive contribution to health.
  • Demonstrates cultural knowledge and cross-cultural skills in nursing scholarship.
  • Demonstrates breadth in learning experiences through intra- and cross-disciplinary study, and integration of research, teaching, mentoring, and service to the profession.
  • Negotiates and works successfully with interprofessional teams.
  • Develops and disseminates nursing knowledge to meet the health needs of local, national, and global populations.
  • Communicates complex research findings and implications in a clear and understandable manner to lay and professional audiences.

Professional Conduct

  • Demonstrates knowledge of professional obligations, codes of ethics, and institutional policies and procedures that guide nursing scholarship.
  • Demonstrates the capacity to identify ethical issues, seek guidance from appropriate resources and adhere to ethical principles and professional norms in the resolution of moral dilemmas.

Faculty: Professors May (dean), Bowers, Brennan, Kwekkeboom, Lauver, Oakley, Zahner; Associate Professors Tluczek, Ward; Assistant Professors Bratzke, Gretebeck, King, Roberts, Steege, Torres, Yoon