PhD, Nursing

The PhD program prepares nursing scholars who will generate and transmit knowledge that is fundamental to the discipline of nursing and to nursing practice. The full scope of nursing concerns related to direct, indirect, and institutional care, as well as the social and policy factors shaping that care, are within the purview of the degree preparation. The central focus of the program is on preparation of scientists who will conduct nursing research; develop theory and contribute to the body of knowledge in nursing and the health sciences; and disseminate research findings through scholarly publications and presentations, including classroom teaching.

The curriculum is designed to develop habits of scholarly thinking about problems relevant to the discipline of nursing. 

  • The initial segment of the curriculum provides coursework in the areas of research, nursing science and theory development.
  • The emphasis in the middle segment continues to be coursework, with the addition of research residencies, cognates and independent studies that provide a basis for the student's projected dissertation focus and the subsequent initial program of research.
  • The final segment of the program, preceded by the qualifying examination and advancement to candidacy, entails development of a dissertation research proposal, data collection and analysis, and the writing of the dissertation. The dissertation is a work of independent research that makes an original contribution to knowledge in nursing. A key element of the program is faculty advisement.  

Prospective Students

In-state tuition and fees are fully covered for the first three years. In addition, for PhD students entering in the fall of 2020, a stipend of $20,600 will be provided to students to assist with living expenses in the 2020-2021 academic year, $17,000 for the 2021-2022 academic year, and $17,300 for the 2022-2023 academic year. Additional financial support from scholarships, grants and employment may be available in subsequent years. (Stipends are subject to change in future admissions cycles, depending on funding availability.)

Learn about application requirements and the admissions process.


The PhD program entails approximately four years of academic work, though it is possible to complete it in three.

Objectives for PhD Graduates

Students who complete the PhD program will have achieved the following:


  1. Demonstrate a command of the literature pertinent to a selected field of nursing science;
  2. Formulate research questions that evolve from a theoretical perspective and contribute to nursing science;
  3. Demonstrate breadth of knowledge regarding a variety of research methods and expertise in at least one method;
  4. Address major research issues pertinent to a selected area of inquiry, such as scientific integrity and diversity;
  5. Defend a historical, theoretical, and philosophical perspective for nursing science in general and for a selected field of investigation in particular;
  6. Demonstrate commitment to a program of research as manifested by the selection of an area of inquiry that has potential for continuity and cumulative generation of knowledge;
  7. Demonstrate the ability to write and defend research proposals as preparation for subsequent intramural and extramural support;
  8. Complete an independent and original research investigation in the form of a dissertation;
  9. Show increased appreciation of professional involvement as evidenced by scholarly presentations, community service, and organizational participation.

Curriculum Details

The curriculum is subject to periodic revision at the discretion of the faculty. Please see the UCSF Course Catalog for detailed information about each course.

Doctoral Foundation Course Schedule



Year One - Fall Quarter

N209A Comparative Qualitative Res Des 

N209B Quantitative Research Design 

N212 Introduction to Statistical Computing in Clinical Research

N229 Philosophy Nsg Sci 

Year One - Winter Quarter

N202A Theory Dev in Nursing 

N269 Integ Scientific Literature

N289A Advanced Quantitative Research Methods

N289.01A Approaches to Statistical Analysis

Year One - Spring Quarter

N212B Quant Measurement/Theory 

N209C Quantitative Res Meth II

N212A Qual Data Coll/Ethics 

Year Two - Fall Quarter

Theory (choose one course from below)***

N290 Family Theory Offered Every Other Year 

N253 Theories of the Policy Process ***

N227 Theories of Mental Illness ***

Required for Quantitative Nursing PhD Track

Biostats 200

Biostats 200 Lab


Required for Sociology and Qualitative Nursing PhD Track:

N/S285A Qualitative Methods I 

Year Two - Winter Quarter

Required for Quantitative Nursing PhD Track:

Biostats 208

Biostats 208 Lab


Required for Sociology and Qualitative Nursing PhD Track:

N/S285B Qualitative Methods II 

Year Two - Spring Quarter

N221.01 Theories in Aging and Palliative Care 

N251.01 Grant Writing

***Additional requirement: N276 Research Residency (6 units total to be completed prior to the Qualifying Exam/3 units per quarter)

*** The School of Nursing's PhD Program Council strongly recommends students complete N202A course prior to taking N221.01; N227, N253, or N290.

Advanced Nursing Seminars



Fall Quarter 

N223C The Role of Social Determinants in Symptom Experiences & Symptom Management

N240.15 Theories and Methods in Aging Research

Winter Quarter 

N223A Integrative Biobehavioral Methods in Studying Symptoms

N240.11 Occupational and Environmental Health Research Seminar 

N240.16 Research Issues in Aging: Interdisciplinary Perspectives

Spring Quarter

N222 Mixed Methods

N223B Theories and Methods of Symptom Science 

N285X Ethnography

N286A Community-Participatory Research Methods

N285C Interpretive Phenomenology 

N240.19 Quality & Safety of Patient Care 

Recommended Courses

These courses are recommended by the PhD Program Council for PhD students. Students are strongly encouraged to consult with their advisor before deciding to enroll in these courses. Subject to change.


N220 Academic Role Preparation 

N467 Teaching Residency 

N249 Independent Study

N250 Qualifying Exam (Preparation)

N289.01 Advanced Methods: Meta-Analysis 

N298A Qualifying Exam Seminar 

N299 Dissertation Seminar

**The School of Nursing's PhD Program Council recommends these courses for students to take. Students are strongly encouraged to consult with their advisor before deciding to enroll in these courses. Teaching Residency is required before serving as a paid Teaching Assistant (TA).

Academic Teaching Courses

These courses are to be offered at UC Davis. They may be taken in any sequence. Additional information on these courses and registration for them will be available during Fall Quarter for the Winter and Spring courses. Subject to change.


NRS 302: Teaching Methods — Use of Emerging Technologies to Improve Student Learning

NRS 303: Professional Role Formation