Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Ignite your future with a Columbia Nursing PhD

The Columbia University School of Nursing PhD program is a full-time, research-intensive curriculum that prepares nurses for careers as nurse scientists who will conduct research across a broad range of populations and health conditions. Importantly, much of our research is focused on health disparity populations with the long-term goal of informing health policy and clinical practice across the lifespan.


Columbia Nursing provides three years (eight semesters) of funding for tuition, related fees, health insurance, and a stipend for full-time PhD students.

Program Design

Our PhD program provides students with an understanding of the philosophical and theoretical underpinnings of nursing science and a strong foundation in research methods (design, statistics, measurement, quantitative and qualitative methods) for clinical, translational and health services research. All students are mentored by research advisors with active programs of research as they move toward independent research and assume the roles of doctorally prepared nurse scientists.  

As a Columbia Nursing PhD student, you will learn to:

  • Design, conduct, and report multidisciplinary research studies that increase knowledge to improve the health and well-being of patients and families across the lifespan
  • Advance the state of the science in a substantive area of research through application of innovative and rigorous methods
  • Promote health and well-being for individuals and families in the context of their communities
  • Provide leadership in improving the health care delivery system at local, national, and international levels
  • Collaborate with other professionals to evaluate and develop policies for delivery of health service
  • Translate evidence accumulated through research into practice and policy at multiple levels

As part of Columbia University Irving Medical Center (CUIMC), Columbia Nursing enjoys a unique collaboration with the College of Physicians and Surgeons, the Mailman School of Public Health, and the College of Dental Medicine. CUIMC provides myriad opportunities for interprofessional collaboration in research


The PhD curriculum builds on the foundation of nursing science by bringing together practice, policy, translational research, and leadership. The core courses provide the knowledge and skills necessary to conduct relevant and well-designed research studies. Electives strengthen an area of clinical interest or intensify understanding of a specific research or analytic method. 

Both post-master's and post-BSN students admitted to the program will complete a minimum of 57 credits. The curriculum plan is designed to make it possible to complete the program in three years for those students with clearly defined plans for their dissertation research.


PhD courses are offered in three major areas:

  • Theoretical foundations of nursing science
  • Analytical foundations of nursing science
  • Electives and application

Students must be registered as full-time for the duration of the program (typically three to four years). The minimum number of semester credits in required coursework is 37 (four semesters) for eligibility to progress to the qualifying exam. Six of the 37 credits required to be completed prior to the qualifying examination are elective courses tailored to the student’s dissertation topic and/or dissertation methods. The PhD program requires nine credits of elective courses. A minimum of 57 total credits is required for program completion. 

Concurrent with Coursework

  • Research Experience (participating in faculty research projects and/or a research practicum)
  • Research Faculty Training

Request a Sample Academic Program Plan

Qualifying Examination

The qualifying examination helped me to combine the content I learned in my courses and my research interests so I could further articulate my research question. Performing a scoping review on my topic of interest immersed me in the current literature and was crucial to the development of my dissertation. This experience prepared me to successfully work independently through the rest of my Ph.D.

 Kylie Dougherty, BSN, RN, M.Phil.

In addition to coursework, students must successfully complete a qualifying examination with written and oral components. The Master of Philosophy (MPhil) is awarded after successful completion of the qualifying examination and the student enters doctoral candidacy status.


Students are expected to successfully defend a dissertation reporting original research. Four dissertation credits are required each semester during the dissertation phase of study. 

Scholarship Expectations

My advisor and the Columbia Nursing faculty provided me exceptional guidance throughout the PhD program to extend my learning beyond the classroom with the goal of becoming an independent nurse scientist. I learned valuable skills and knowledge to successfully obtain a NIH-funded predoctoral training award, present research findings at local, regional, and national conferences, and publish manuscripts in peer-reviewed journals with good impact factors.

Joseph Belloir, MSN, RN, PMHNP-BC

  • Publication: At least one manuscript published in an appropriate peer-reviewed journal.
  • Grantsmanship: At least one grant application submitted to an appropriate funding agency or organization.
  • Presentation: At least one abstract submitted for presentation as a poster or oral presentation at an appropriate professional meeting.
  • Networking: Student will attend at least one regional or national research meeting.

Preparation for Postdoctoral Fellowship: Research Career Next Step 

The coursework and research mentoring at Columbia Nursing helped prepare me for the next steps in my education and career post-PhD. In addition to structured coursework and educational seminars, the school provided beneficial informal support and resources. Feedback sessions with both peers and faculty were very helpful in preparing me to present posters and presentations at research conferences. The school also provided funds for travel to conferences where I presented my research. The grant writing workshop and mock reviews of grant applications provided me with tools and feedback needed to successfully apply for additional funding for my research. Finally, interdisciplinary research collaborations with faculty provided me with opportunities to work with researchers from several disciplines to complete my dissertation.

Melissa Beauchemin, PhD '19, MS '10, RN

PhD Student Handbook

The Columbia Nursing PhD student handbook provides information to aid doctoral students in planning coursework and proceeding through all phases of the program.

Request a PhD Student Handbook

What is it like to be a PhD student at Columbia Nursing?

Columbia Nursing student Kodiak Soled sits by a window at Columbia Nursing.
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Required Courses (Excluding Electives)

Course ID
Course Name
Advanced Methods in Health Services Research and Policy Analysis

Building upon the foundations provided in the quantitative and qualitative research method courses, in this course students examine advanced methods and frameworks frequently used in studying health policy, health services research problems and comparative effectiveness research. In addition to a critical review of the methods, the course examines the relationship among science, policy and healthcare delivery, and identifies critical questions shaping the future policy research agenda.

Applied Regression I
This course will provide an introduction to the basics of regression analysis. The class will proceed systematically from the examination of the distributional qualities of the measures of interest, to assessing the appropriateness of the assumption of linearity, to issues related to variable inclusion, model fit, interpretation, and regression diagnostics. We will primarily use scalar notation (i.e. we will use limited matrix notation, and will only briefly present the use of matrix algebra).
Building Interdisciplinary Research Models

Interdisciplinary research is an approach to advancing scientific knowledge in which researchers from different disciplines work at the borders of those disciplines in order to address complex questions and problems. Successful interdisciplinary efforts require mastery of specific competencies. This seminar will introduce students to competencies in interdisciplinary research through a combination of readings, case studies, and lectures in each necessary aspect, chosen from fields essential to successful interdisciplinary research. It is intended to assist learners to understand why and how different professional disciplines must work together to generate and disseminate knowledge. We will examine: different conceptualizations of interdisciplinary; barriers to and facilitators of interdisciplinary research; approaches, benefits, and limitations of collaboration and team science; methods for measuring interdisciplinary collaboration; the intersection of translational and interdisciplinary scientific strategies; and individual researchers' experiences with and evaluations of their own interdisciplinary scientific projects. Learners will develop a set of skills to be effective members and leaders of interdisciplinary research teams.

Doctoral Research Practicum

The student works with a faculty member or other scientist who is conducting a research project. The specific nature of the experience depends on the nature and stage of the research, but might include search and review of relevant literature, data collection, data analysis and/or grant preparation.

Dissertation Research

This course is intended for PhD students who are engaged in relevant scholarly activities that are associated with dissertation research.

Intellectual and Conceptual Foundations of Nursing Science

This foundational course will examine the philosophy of nursing knowledge including foundations of nursing theory, concept development, and its application to research. Students will explore approaches to the analysis and development of concepts and the application of nursing concepts and frameworks to clinical practice and research. Ideas, assumptions, events, people, and writings are examined for their influence, inter-relationships, and significance to nursing. Types of reasoning will be evaluated within the context of nursing and health. Major theories, frameworks, and concepts of nursing and health and their implication for research will be discussed. The focus of the course will be on development of critical thinking skills in analyzing key elements of philosophies, concepts, and conceptual frameworks.

Introduction to Biostatistical Methods
Like many fields of learning, biostatistics has its own vocabulary often seen in medical and public health literature. Phrases like statistical significance", "p-value less than 0.05", "95% confident", and "margin of error" can have enormous impact in a world that relies on statistics to make decisions: Should Drug A be recommended over Drug B? Should a national policy on X be implemented? Does Vitamin C truly prevent colds? However, do we really know what these terms and phrases mean? Understanding the theory and methodology behind study design, estimation and hypothesis testing is crucial to ensuring that findings and practices in public health and biomedicine are supported by reliable evidence.
Measurement in Nursing Research

In this foundational course students will study the links between theory and the psychosocial and biophysical measures used in nursing research.  Students will employ the principles of classical test theory and item response theory to evaluate the reliability and validity of measurement.  Application of computational techniques will be covered in the lab portion of the course.  Course topics include types and uses of measures, item/scale development and validation, survey methods, reporting for publication, and the relationships between measurement and research ethics, cultural competency, and health disparities.

Quantitative Research and Design

This course provides a foundation for quantitative research methods and design. Research process topics examined include: appraisal of the quality of existing evidence; identification of gaps in the literature; formulation of researchable questions and testable hypotheses; types of research variables; sampling designs and power analyses; and the uses, strengths, and weaknesses of various experimental and quasi-experimental research designs.

Qualitative Research Design and Methods

This course provides an in-depth examination of qualitative study designs and methods through a combination of theoretical discussion and hands-on practical experience. Topics include paradigm distinctions, theoretical perspectives, designs and methods, critique of research reports, and ethical issues in qualitative research.

Research Residency

The course is intended for PhD students who are engaged in relevant scholarly activities that are not associated with the required course sequence. Such activities must accrue more than 20 hours/week.

Research Synthesis through Visualization of Health Data

This course is intended to provide a hands-on introduction to delivering data visualizations to serve as a critical lens through which individual and population level health can be examined. The proposed course will combine concepts and theory in data visualization and exploration and practice to enable the student to gain the necessary knowledge to use graphics and statistics to explore the data, find and construct a narrative, and share findings in ways colleagues and decision-makes can readily understand and act upon.

Translation and Synthesis of Evidence for Optimal Outcomes

This course is designed to provide the tools for the doctorally prepared nurse to evaluate, translate and integrate published research results into clinical practice. During the course, students will learn how to conceptualize clinical practice problems and transform them into answerable clinical research questions, how to search for the best clinical evidence, and how to assess clinical evidence using basic epidemiological, biostatistical and scientific principles. The course will culminate in a systematic review or meta-analysis of a body of research relevant to advanced practice nursing.