PhD Program Details

Degree Requirements 

Our program follows a process similar to many doctoral research programs:

  • Continuous Coursework: Students are required to register continuously for course credit each semester (Fall and Spring) from admission through graduation. The number of registered credits expected while completing core and elective coursework is at least 9 as a full-time student and 6 if part-time.
  • Comprehensive Examination: Once all the required coursework (except dissertation credits) is completed, students are eligible to sit for the comprehensive exam. This written examination evaluates the student’s mastery of integrated knowledge essential for conducting scholarly, scientific inquiry. Successful passing of the exam is required before proceeding with the dissertation process. Students have 4.5 years from matriculation to pass the comprehensive exam to advance to candidacy.
  • Dissertation Proposal: The student begins developing their dissertation proposal early in their coursework. The dissertation should be original research in a content area of significance to the discipline of Nursing. The student must continuously enroll in NURS 998 Doctoral Dissertation Proposal each semester (Fall and Spring) for variable credit until the successful oral defense of their proposal and approval by their dissertation committee. The oral proposal defense must be completed within 2 years of passing the comprehensive exam.
  • Dissertation Research: After the research proposal has been defended, the candidate registers for variable credits of NURS 999 Doctoral Dissertation until graduation. Upon completion of the research, the candidate prepares a written report (“Dissertation”) that demonstrates mastery of the subject matter, methodologies, and conceptual foundations in their chosen field of study. The dissertation should include at least two, publishable manuscripts to share their results, with other forms of dissemination encouraged. Candidates must publicly defend their dissertation research to the committee and the broader scientific community. Per university policy, students are required to graduate within 9 years of matriculation.


Each student is assigned an Academic Advisor at the start of the PhD program. The purpose of the Academic Advisor is to help the student set and achieve academic and professional goals, acquire relevant information and services, and make responsible decisions consistent with their interests, goals, abilities, and degree requirements. A Dissertation Chair is later selected to guide the dissertation research process. Other PhD faculty in and outside the School of Nursing will also serve as mentors to the student in other aspects of the program. 

Available Resources

In additional to funding resources provided in Related Links, GMU has many resources to support the students of the PhD in Nursing program.

  • Library: The Universities Library at GMU has a wealth of resources, including access to databases, interlibrary loans, free reference management software, data management assistance, and statistical support.
  • Statistical: The GMU campus has access to a variety of statistical and qualitative data analysis software within its virtual and on-campus computer labs. Statistical support can also be found at the University Library, Digital Scholarship Center, Department of Statistics. Both GMU and the College of Health and Healthcare Services has access to many local, national, and international datasets to support research questions.
  • Data Collection Platforms: CHHS provides graduate students with free access to two research data collection platforms: Qualtrics and REDCap.
  • Writing Support Services: The University Writing Center offers free in-person and online tutoring and workshops for students in addition to online writing guides, reference guides, and style manuals. They assist students at every point of the writing process, from brainstorming to polishing.