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5 Top Online PhD in Nursing Education Under $40,000

Nurse earning her online PhD in nursing education while still working

Nurse educators are in high demand, and taking the time to continue your education to get an online PhD in nursing education is the way to get the credentials you need to help further the development of the profession of nursing. Become one of the heroes of our health care system by using your skills in education, research, and leadership to teach the next generation of nursing professionals, communicate with the general population about health topics, and expand the reach of important research to improve patient outcomes. By enrolling in one of the affordable nurse educator online programs we have listed below, you can continue your job, your family life, and work towards this valuable career upgrade from anywhere.

Online PhD in Nursing Education Programs

Nurses with a master’s degree can have different areas of practice, but for those who want to take their careers to the next level, stepping up to a doctorate can further or change their career path, allowing all their experience and training to come together in a nurse educator specialty. Most people who go into nursing teaching will have experience as an advanced practice nurse and may have one or more areas of specialization. Adding an online PhD in nursing education will give you the skills and knowledge about teaching that will be important in training nurses at all levels.

There are two different types of degree at the doctoral level for nurse educators: the doctor of philosophy (PhD) and the doctor of nursing practice (DNP). Both degree types will cover intensive research skills and have rigorous instruction in theory, but the DNP will have more of a focus on practice, while the PhD is slightly more geared towards research. Both degrees can be used to go into teaching as either an academic or clinical nurse educator. Choosing a doctoral level nurse educator specialty doesn’t limit one to nursing teaching, but for those who wish to teach, it is one of the best doctoral concentrations to choose.

Nurse Educator Certification

Though not required in many cases, taking the test to become a certified nurse educator (CNE) administered by the National League of Nursing is a good confirmation of your skills. However, nurse educator online programs that confer the doctoral degree will be a higher credential, allowing graduates to not only teach nursing, but to occupy leadership roles in workforce development, research, policy, and more. Certified nurse educator prep courses are much shorter and less involved, and can be helpful as a stepping-stone as you become an educator. If you want to sit for the exam to become a Certified Nurse Educator or a Certified Academic Clinical Nurse Educator, the process requires you to have your master’s degree and some training in education. You may wish to take a certified nurse educator prep course if you are sitting for the exam, as this can help you prepare for the specific nurse educator competencies you will be tested on. Depending on the doctoral nurse educator online program you are taking, you may be able to sit for the exam without taking a certified nurse educator prep course.

The upshot is that you can teach at certain levels with just the master’s degree and a nurse educator certification, but for most faculty positions, the PhD or DNP is either required or strongly encouraged. To be at the forefront of the nursing teaching profession, an online PhD in nursing education is the gold standard and gives you the credential that will allow you the most opportunities in teaching.

Cost & Length of Nurse Educator Online Programs

There is a lot to learn and practice as you study for your doctoral degree, and most programs accommodate students who continue to work in their careers during the program. Therefore, most nurse educator programs take at least three years to complete. While some have a set pathway for the program, with a cohort of students progressing through courses together, others will allow students to take longer to finish as they fit their classes in around a busy life. In some nurse educator online programs, there are brief campus visits required for orientation, seminars, oral comprehensive exams, and dissertation defense. Courses can vary, but curriculum will include nursing theory, research methods, educational strategies, and either a dissertation or research project. Programs may have slightly different course content, but all will cover the basics and expect you to do research to advance the field of nursing education.

If you are investing your time in a doctoral nurse educator program, you want it to be high quality. But you don’t need to spend a mint to gain the nurse educator competencies of this degree. The doctoral programs on our list start at around $15k for the whole program, and range up to about $35k. With financial aid, scholarships, military discounts, and employer education assistance, you may well pay less than even these modest prices for a multi-year program. Other nurse educator online programs can cost as much as $80k, but the schools on our list will give you both quality and affordability.

Nurse Educator Jobs

While some nurse educators continue to see patients while they teach, many will go into teaching full time. The average nurse educator salary is $83,160, but the top ten percent of nurse educator salaries are over $130k. While nurse educators work in settings like universities, trade schools, junior colleges, and business schools, some also work in hospital or clinical settings. Clinical nurse educator salaries for those who work in hospital and surgical settings can be on the higher side of the nurse educator salary range. Because the need for workforce development is high in nursing, there is a growing demand for more educators to keep the nursing positions in our healthcare system staffed. For practice nurses, teaching can bring in the higher clinical nurse educator salary to make teaching not only great for developing the nursing workforce, but rewarding financially for those who choose to teach. The job outlook is also very good for nurse educators, with the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicting 18% job growth between 2019 and 2029, which is far above the average of 4% for all occupations.

Top 5 Online PhD in Nursing Education Under $40,000

  1. University of Nevada-Las Vegas

    Total Cost (In-State): $15,838
    Total Cost (Out-of-State): $30,650

    The online PhD in Nursing Education from University of Nevada-Las Vegas offers students with different educational backgrounds an efficient pathway to becoming a nursing educator. Applicants are eligible for admission to the 62 credit Education Track if they have either an MSN degree or a bachelor’s degree in nursing plus a health-related master’s degree. Those who have completed their MSN with the equivalent of four of the PhD in nursing education online courses are eligible to finish on an accelerated track of 50 credits. For students who hold a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree, the program offers an even more accelerated program totaling 45 credits, with 18 credits from their DNP counting towards the PhD. Students can choose a part time or full time schedule, and students are admitted for a fall start to the nurse educator online programs. The coursework is all online, but students will need to come to campus for a brief orientation during their first semester, and later in the program, to take the comprehensive exam, proposal defense, and final dissertation defense.

    The curriculum includes 33 credits of core coursework for all degree candidates, including Knowledge Development in Nursing, The Nurse as Leader, Statistical Methods for Nursing Research I: Univariate Methods, and Writing a Research Grant Application. For those who need to take the courses in the nursing education part of the degree program, courses include Course Level Evaluation Strategies for Nurse Educators and Independent Teaching Practicum Seminar. All candidates will then take an oral and written comprehensive exam before progressing to the dissertation, which comprises 12 credits of work. Students should note that the program does not result in nurse educator certification and may not be available for online study in all states. Applicants should have a 3.5 GPA from their master’s degree, completion of a statistics course within the last 5 years of education with a B or better, and GRE scores for those who don’t have a DNP degree. The doctor of philosophy in nursing education from UNLV is a flexible and affordable program, allowing credit for previous coursework and the option of full or part time enrollment.

    Find Out More:
    Doctor of Philosophy in Nursing / Nursing Education


  2. Southern Adventist University

    Total Cost (In-State & Out-of-State): $35,280

    Southern Adventist University offers the online DNP with an emphasis in Nurse Educator to students who possess a nursing master’s degree, but also as a BSN to DNP option for those who have not yet taken the master’s degree. With start dates in the fall or spring, the program accepts US and international students. There are monthly payment plans to make financing your doctorate easier and federal student aid or employer education assistance are available to many students in the program. Applicants just need a 3.0 GPA on their master’s degree, and no graduate exam scores are required to apply to this nurse educator online program. For students who appreciate a Christian perspective in their nursing education, the program from Southern Adventist University is a terrific choice.

    Curriculum in the DNP program addresses core nurse educator competencies, with courses in epidemiology and biostatistics, scholarly project development, and clinical and simulation instruction. Prerequisites to the core courses include Health Promotion, plus advanced classes in pharmacology, pathophysiology, and health assessment. The education specific part of the program has courses like Nursing Curriculum Design, Technology & the Educator, and Orientation to Educator Role Practicum. Students can also choose electives in theory and research, Christian leadership, technology, or healthcare policy and finance. Online students will need to register for an on-campus seminar each fall while they are completing their program. Completion of the program does not require a dissertation. For students who seek an emphasis on nursing practice in their education work, this program has a robust curriculum with an affordable price tag.

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    Doctor of Nursing Practice / Nursing Education


  3. Grand Canyon University

    Total Cost (In-State & Out-of-State): $35,885

    The online DNP in Educational Leadership from Grand Canyon University has short 8-week courses for those who seek to improve the healthcare system and practice in one of the many nurse educator jobs that are changing the future of healthcare delivery. The degree is designed for those seeking to apply their knowledge as a clinical nurse educator or in academic settings with evidence-based practice. The degree has 48 credits, three of which can be transfer credits. The core curriculum of this program includes Emerging Areas of Human Health, Translational Research & Evidence-Based Practice, Patient Outcomes & Sustainable Change, Curriculum Design & Assessment, and Data Analysis. The final 12 credits of the program is for students to prepare an evidence-based research project designed to improve patient care, implement the project to gather data, and analyze and evaluate the outcomes. The workshop format for the final project gives students the support they need to formulate a practical research topic and follow through by documenting their learning goals. Each of the three courses in the final project portion of the degree lasts for 16 weeks, as opposed to the core courses, which are in 8-week blocks.

    Applicants to the doctoral program need to have an earned master’s or doctorate with a 3.4 GPA, but those with GPAs above 3.0 may be admitted with conditions. Applicants should also have taken a statistics course with a grade of C or above. With a Christian perspective on education, the program stimulates personal and professional growth to produce compassionate servant leaders in the nursing field. Graduates of the DNP program may find nurse educator jobs as nursing executives, advanced practice nurses working directly with patients, working in academia with practice-based nursing programs, or by pursuing further specialization in education. Employment settings for graduates include hospitals, clinics, public health offices, research facilities, physicians offices, or independent practice. For graduates, clinical nurse educator salaries are some of the highest, so settings where they can teach practical skills can be a great choice. With an overall goal of using nursing practice to improve patient care, this doctoral program gives nurses the advanced skills and knowledge to generate and implement new ideas that can improve healthcare for all.

    Find Out More:
    Doctor of Nursing Practice / Educational Leadership


  4. Liberty University

    Total Cost (In-State & Out-of-State): $39,930

    Liberty University’s 100% online PhD in Nursing Education is offered in convenient 8-week classes, comprises 60 credits, and takes most students three years to complete. Another bonus is the fact that up to 50% of credits can be transferred in, so students who are looking for a program where they can complete a doctorate that they have begun elsewhere may find a very quick path to receiving their degree. With multiple start dates per year, military discounts on tuition, and low costs overall, Liberty University’s program makes an excellent choice for anyone looking to advance excellence in healthcare practice, patient advocacy, and research. With a well-developed online platform and the flexibility to help students complete their studies around busy professional and home lives, Liberty’s PhD in nursing education online delivers excellence with integrity.

    While classes are delivered asynchronously in an 8-week format, students can opt to join synchronous sessions that are offered most weeks to interact more with faculty and peers. Taught by Christian faculty committed to student success, students will learn how to apply ethical decision-making to the nursing profession based on a biblical world view. The curriculum is divided into four sections: doctoral, nursing education, and research core courses, plus the dissertation courses. The class titles included in the program include Nursing Theory Development, Learning Theories & Teaching Methods for Nurse Educators, Advanced Education Statistics, Grant Writing & Publication, Advanced Qualitative Methods of Nursing Research, and Assessment & Accreditation for Nursing Programs. Students must maintain a 3.0 GPA, have no grades lower than a B-, and complete the program within 7 years. Applicants need to have a 3.0 GPA from their master’s degree for admission in good standing, and at least one year of practice as a registered nurse. For students who want to advance the nursing profession, either by working in administration, policy, or research, or who plan to go into academia, the Liberty University nursing teaching doctorate is a great option.

    Find Out More:
    Doctor of Philosophy in Nursing / Nursing Education


  5. University of Northern Colorado

    Total Cost (In-State & Out-of-State): $39,930

    For a program that builds strong relationships with peers and faculty, the online PhD in Nursing Education from University of Northern Colorado offers the degree in a cohort format, with students progressing through the education with the same group of peers. Most courses are online, but students will need to come for a 2-day visit to campus and then the 3-day Nurse Educator Conference in Vail in the July before they start the program. Each cohort starts in the fall semester, and the full 66-credit program takes four years to complete. Additional short campus visits will be required for oral comprehensive exams, proposal hearing, and dissertation defense. Admission to the program is competitive, and applications are due by March 1 for the following fall start. Applicants will need to submit all of their materials, which usually include the GRE scores, before that date. International students are welcome.

    The curriculum is designed to prepare excellent nurse educators, who are in high demand in Colorado as well as around the country. The program is arranged in sections of core courses, nursing education, electives, research core, and dissertation. A sampling of courses include Advanced Concepts of Vulnerable Populations, Leadership in Health Policy, Scholarship of Teaching & Practice in Nursing Education, and Design, Methods, & Analysis in Health Care Research. With the ability to choose electives, students can tailor their nurse educator specialties to their interests. The program is very structured, with goals and evaluations clearly outlined throughout the four year program. Once students pass the written and oral comprehensive exams, they begin research on their dissertation topic, which has been developed and approved during the course of study. With a strong academic program, support from peers and faculty, and a University devoted to excellence in research and scholarship, the PhD from University of Northern Colorado is one of the best nurse educator online programs for students who seek exceptional education at an affordable price so they can become leaders, educators, and researchers.

    Find Out More:
    Doctor of Philosophy in Nursing Education


Apply Today!

With these affordable nurse educator online programs, students can find a program that fits their budget and their schedule to obtain their PhD in nursing education online. If you want to become a certified nurse educator, pursuing an online PhD in nursing education allows you to improve your career while you continue to work in your current job. See which program is right for you.

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