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Doctor of Philosophy Program

The UC Irvine School of Nursing offers a course of study leading to the doctor of philosophy (PhD) degree. The purpose of the PhD in Nursing Science is to:

  • Advance the scholarly discipline through development of theory and empirical research
  • Contribute to the growing body of knowledge in the field
  • Create the future academic leaders of the profession

As a PhD graduate of the UC Irvine School of Nursing, you will be equipped to advance the science of nursing as well as to address the critical shortage of nursing faculty with PhDs.

Program goals

The program aims to prepare nurse scientists with expertise in clinical-translational research methods to develop new knowledge that will enhance the health of individuals, groups, communities and populations.

Rigorous scientific inquiry is necessary to advance nursing practice, which benefits all people and contributes to healthy communities both locally and globally.

Emphasis will be placed on combining translational science methods with traditional models for research to address health needs and concerns of local, national and global communities. You will be prepared for an academic career as faculty and researcher.

Graduates will:

  • Creatively develop and comprehensively test new knowledge in a selected area of nursing science
  • Incorporate translational science into nursing research endeavors
  • Provide leadership for the health and well-being of communities through translational science and the understanding of social, cultural, economic and political milieu within which knowledge translation operates
  • Contribute to collaborative and interdisciplinary research initiatives in your area of expertise
Program Focus Areas »

Consistent with faculty research expertise, the PhD program will specifically promote the development of scientific and theoretical expertise that contributes to scholarly endeavors in four key areas:

  • Health promotion and disease prevention
  • Disease and symptom management
  • Health disparities and diversity
  • Health services and health policy

These areas of research emphasis intersect as they contribute to healthy communities.

1. Health promotion/disease prevention

Health promotion is defined as empowering others to modify and improve their health.

This happens at the individual, family and community level. Health-promoting activities often lead to disease prevention. Students choosing this focus may study with UC Irvine faculty in developing research centered on stress and coping, women’s health, obesity prevention and nutrition, to name a few specific areas.

2. Disease and symptom management

Many people face challenges in managing chronic illness. Our focus is to aid individuals to be healthy within the context of living with a chronic illness by investigating factors influencing self-management and developing best intervention strategies for symptom management.

Students choosing this focus will study chronic illness demands and the experiences, coping efforts and challenges that patients face. Our research at UC Irvine covers a variety of diseases including asthma, diabetes, congestive heart failure, peripheral vascular disease, mental illness, dementia and cancer.

3. Health disparities and diversity

The focus on health disparities acknowledges that there are individuals, families and communities without equal access to quality healthcare. Many do not have the means to achieve an equal level of desired health outcomes.

Our emphasis will examine these health disparities among diverse populations who encounter differences in treatment and outcomes. Students choosing this focus will work with diverse communities in Orange County and beyond. They will be mentored by researchers who study the experiences of these community members.

4. Health services and health policy

Health policy and the economics of delivering healthcare are important issues that affect health outcomes. Students who choose this area of concentration will examine the implications of policies and services on health and health system outcomes. Students will study with researchers who have expertise in healthcare system management, law, organizational theory and behavior and quality of care.

Where to begin

Prospective students should start by reviewing Nursing Science faculty profiles online. You are encouraged to meet individually with faculty to discuss your questions and/or interests in doctoral study. Individual faculty research interests may not be limited to the areas listed below.

Faculty Areas of Expertise Focus Areas
Miriam Bender Microsystem care delivery models, multiprofessional care delivery dynamics, theoretical and methodological approaches to identifying and measure care delivery dynamics 4
Candace Burton

Violence and abuse, trauma effects on women’s health, mental/physical health, reproductive and sexual health, health disparities, cellular and genetic impacts of stress, biobehavioral research

1, 3
Lorraine Evangelista Exercise, nutrition adherence, quality of life, self-management and psychological response in patients with heart failure 1, 2
E. Alison Holman Stress and coping, mental/physical health, consequences of trauma, acute/posttraumatic stress and cardiovascular disease, genetic vulnerability to stress-related disease 1, 2
Yuqing Guo Ecological factors on infant and young child development, parenting, attachment, emotion regulation, perinatal health on birth outcomes and women’s mental health 1, 3
Jung-Ah Lee Healthcare system management, cost effectiveness, patient safety, clinical and systems outcomes, implementation of evidence-based clinical guidelines, venous thromboembolism anticoagulation management, simulation, eHealth and games for older adults 2, 4
Adey Nyamathi

Coping and adjusting to illness, health promotion, risk reduction with vulnerable homeless and drug-addicted adults and adolescents at risk for HIV/AIDS, TB, HBV and HCV and women in India living with AIDS

1, 3
Sanghyuk Shin

Epidemiology, biostatistics, research design, molecular diagnostics, public health, infectious diseases, tuberculosis, HIV, global health, and evaluation of community-based interventions.

1, 3
Curriculum »

You are required to take 60 quarter units of formal coursework consisting of:

  • Eight core Nursing Science courses in theory and research methods
  • A two-course statistics sequence
  • Two research methods electives
  • A statistical methods elective
  • Two other supporting courses chosen in consultation with a faculty advisor

The program is full-time. There is no part-time option available.

Because many nurses interested in pursuing the PhD are working professionals, most of the core courses in the PhD program are conducted in hybrid format with both online, synchronous, and in-class learning opportunities.

Early coursework will introduce you to theoretical foundations in the discipline and advanced research methodologies in nursing, health sciences and related fields.

You will take electives and independent studies that contribute to expertise in areas of research leading to your dissertation. You are required to participate in the educational mission of the UCI School of Nursing as teaching assistants for two quarters.

The remainder of the program will be devoted to a dissertation based on original research that contributes to the scholarly and scientific knowledge of the nursing discipline. The dissertation must be successfully defended.

The PhD program also includes individually tailored, independent modes of teaching and learning. These include opportunities for you to participate in research sponsored by faculty, individual guidance related to the your own research and teaching opportunities.

You will have two formal examinations along the process toward writing your thesis:

  • First, you will write a comprehensive examination at the end of the second year of study and following completion of required coursework.
  • The next benchmark is the qualifying exam. Students advance to PhD candidacy and completion upon successful presentation and submission of an original dissertation research proposal and oral defense of the proposal.

First year

Fall Winter Spring
Nur Sci 212 Philosophy of Science for Nursing Scholarship (4) Nur Sci 233 Appraisal & Translation of Evidence for Practice (4) Nur Sci 220 The Ecology of Healthy Communities (2 units)
Nur Sci 226 Theoretical and Conceptual Frameworks (4) Nur Sci 247 Quantitative Research Designs in Nursing Science (4) Nur Sci 222A Seminar in Clinical Translational Science (2 units)
Stats 201 or Soc Ecol P264A Statistical/Quantitative Methods (4) Stats 202 or Soc Ecol P264B Statistical/Quantitative Methods (4) Nur Sci 246 Qualitative Research Designs in Nursing Science (4)
Nurs Sci 227A Grant Writing I (4)

Second year

Fall Winter Spring
Nur Sci 222B Seminar in Clinical Translational Science (2) Supporting Coursework (8) Supporting Coursework (4)
Nur Sci 227B Grant Writing II (2) Nur Sci 399 University Teaching (4) Nur Sci 299 Independent Study (4)
Supporting Coursework (4) Nur Sci 399 University Teaching (4)
Nur Sci 399 University Teaching (4)

Third year

Fall Winter Spring
Supporting Coursework and/or Nur Sci 298, 299 (12) Supporting Coursework and/or Nur Sci 298, 299 (12) Supporting Coursework and/or Nur Sci 298, 299 (12)
Dissertation Proposal Defense Dissertation Proposal Defense Dissertation Proposal Defense

Fourth and fifth years

Fall Winter Spring
Nur Sci 296 Doctoral Dissertation Reading and Writing (12) Nur Sci 296 Doctoral Dissertation Reading and Writing (12) Nur Sci 296 Doctoral Dissertation Reading and Writing (12)
Admission Criteria »

Applicants must:

  • Have earned a bachelor or master of science degree in nursing from a regional, CCNE-accredited institution with degree standards equivalent to the University of California
  • Currently be licensed as a registered nurse and provide proof of state licensure
  • Have a 3.2 or higher cumulative grade point average for undergraduate work and a 3.5 or higher GPA for graduate work
  • Have completed a course in descriptive and inferential statistics (completed within the last five years) and a graduate-level nursing research course 
How to Apply »

Applications are accepted between September 1st and March 1st for the following fall quarter entry. The priority deadline for applicants who would like to be considered for university fellowships is December 1st. Applications will be reviewed and admission decisions will be made on a rolling basis after the December 1st deadline. 

You must meet the admission requirements of the UC Irvine Graduate Division and the School of Nursing, and you must submit:

  • UC Irvine Online Application for Graduate Admissions to include a personal history statement and a statement of purpose that addresses all questions in the personal history/statement of purpose guidelines ›  For international applicants, please complete the Statement of Purpose essay in the application, and then email the Personal History essay to
  • One copy of official transcripts from all colleges and universities attended
  • Scores from the General Test of the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) taken within the last five years — send electronically from the Educational Testing Service to UC Irvine using institutional code 4859.
  • A minimum of three recommendation letters, as follows: one from your most recent employer, preferably a nurse; one from a college professor or instructor who can assess your performance and judgment in the area in which you wish to study; and one from an individual (not a relative) who is familiar with your professional preparation and experience and can evaluate your qualifications for doctoral study — all recommenders should address the questions in the letter of recommendation guidelines (PDF) and follow these guidelines for submitting recommendation letters online ›
  • Curriculum vitae detailing your educational background, professional work, previous research, volunteer work or other relevant information
  • Two samples of scholarly work, which can include publications, thesis (or portion) and/or major research papers
  • TOEFL or IELTS test scores to show proficiency in English (for international students) — click here to determine if a TOEFL score is needed›

Copies of official transcripts, curriculum vitae and samples of scholarly work should be mailed directly to:

Nursing Science Student Affairs
Attn: PhD Application
106 Berk Hall
Irvine, CA 92697-3959

Applicants being considered for admission will be contacted for a personal interview. Acceptance is based on materials submitted, research interests related to those of faculty and interview results.

International Applicants »

If you have completed degrees and/or coursework outside of the United States, be advised that your final transcripts must be submitted in English. If necessary, please send your transcripts to a translation service before submitting them to UC Irvine.

Frequently Asked Questions »

What is the nursing PhD program?

The PhD program is 4-5 year program where nurses can learn:

  • New ways to think about the science behind clinical practice
  • How to use research tools and methods to answer the important questions they have about health and healthcare.

The PhD program is an opportunity to discover new knowledge about health and healthcare that will advance the practice of nursing.

What type of nurses would benefit from this degree?

Nurses who are committed to solving the most challenging problems in health and healthcare delivery, and who are always seeking answers. Nurses with curiosity and imagination. Nurses who want to use their imaginations and creativity to advance the science of providing compassionate care for patients in need.

What is the difference between a Doctor of Nursing Practice and PhD in Nursing Science?

The DNP degree is focused on preparing highly educated clinical leaders who can find the best ways to apply research evidence in practice settings to improve the care delivery.

The PhD degree, on the other hand, is focused on preparing scientists who can:

  • identify important gaps in our knowledge,
  • design and implement research studies to address these gaps, and
  • discover new knowledge that can advance the science of care delivery.

Doing research is about discovery. Being able to identify a clinically-relevant problem and design a study to help find solutions to that problem is extremely rewarding and exciting work. Challenging for sure, but very, very rewarding.

What do these students go on to do post-graduation?

A nurse with a research PhD can take on many leadership roles in health care: academic and/or clinical teaching, conduct more research in an academic or community-based environment; become a nurse researcher in an academic medical setting; work as a nurse researcher on clinical trials; and more.

The DNP student could go on to a leadership role in clinical settings, work as a clinical nurse researcher in academic medical settings doing safety and quality improvement projects, clinical research, developing, advancing evidence based practice, etc.  

Why are PhD nurses important to the research and healthcare professions?

As the most trusted profession and the primary caregivers in the healthcare setting, nurses bring a uniquely personal perspective to research on the health needs of their patients.  As a profession that embraces a comprehensive, whole-person approach to patient care, nurses recognize the interdependencies among different aspects of their patients’ lives.  We know that optimal patient health requires attending to that person's various environments.  We bring all of this knowledge – from the deeply personal and intimate, to the broader context of our patients’ lives – to the research enterprise and it informs our perspective, our questions, and the solutions we design to address these questions. In so doing, nurses are able to provide one of the most comprehensive approaches to addressing the health and healthcare needs of our clients.

Is the program offered on-line or on-campus?

Because many nurses interested in pursuing the PhD are working professionals, most of the core courses in the PhD program are conducted in hybrid format with both online, synchronous, and in-class learning opportunities.

Key Differences between DNP and PhD/DNS Programs »
Information Sessions »

Recorded Past Info Session:

January 11th, 2018

Financial Support »

Financial support is guaranteed for the first 3 years of the PhD program, and includes a minimum $35,000 award each year to pay fees and provide a stipend to assist with educational and living expenses.  Funding sources are available in the form of fellowships, teaching and/or research assistantships, campus scholarships and grant awards.

In addition to the financial package above, students are eligble to receive graduate student loans from the Financial Aid Office.  To be eligible for all awards, you must complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) by March 2. Note that international students are not eligible for need-based financial aid and should not complete the FAFSA. All graduate students, international and domestic, are eligible to receive university fellowship funding as long as you are documented.

Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) ›

Students are encouraged to apply for their own grant funding in year 4 and 5.   The UC Irvine Financial Aid website’s external scholarship database has a sub-listing for scholarships available to both Nursing Science graduate and undergraduate students. To view these scholarships, click on the nursing tab. Financial Aid and Scholarship database ›