There’s no doubt that earning an advanced degree of any sort can benefit your career — and the field of nursing is no different. While many nurses opt to earn specialized master’s degrees, a smaller number choose to seek a terminal degree, or doctorate in nursing.
Part of the reason for the dearth of nursing doctoral candidates is confusion about which type of degree to earn. Nursing doctorates fall into one of two categories: Research-based or practice-based. While both have similarities, in the sense that the overall earning potential is about the same (average annual salary for a nurse with a terminal degree hovers around $90,000) and the number of opportunities available for each is the same, the two degrees are actually quite different.
An Alphabet Soup of Credentials
The first major difference between nursing doctoral degree programs is the type of degree that the program leads to: DNP or Ph.D. A program that leads to a DNP, or Doctor of Nursing Practice, is a practice-based program, designed to prepare nurses to serve as nurse leaders or in administration or management. There’s also a growing push to require nurse practitioners, who currently can practice with a master’s degree, to seek DNP degrees to ensure quality care.