PhD Application & Admission

The PhD Program admits BSN graduates to the BSN to PhD track and MSN graduates to the MSN to PhD track.

Each application to the program is reviewed in its entirety and appraised for evidence of intellectual inquisitiveness and rigor, and commitment and motivation for scholarship and the development of nursing science.

If you are considering an application for the Fall 2024 cohort and have questions, please email the PhD Program Director, Dr. Heidi Donovan at

Application Procedure

All applicants must complete the online application. Each applicant submits the following:

  1. Completed online application form. The application system is now open.
  2. Application fee
  3. Complete official transcripts of all undergraduate and graduate work
  4. Scores on the TOEFL, IELTS, or Duolingo English test for applicants whose native language is not English
  5. Three letters of reference (a minimum of two from academic sources)
  6. Personal essay indicating professional goals, focal area of research, and implications for global health

After all admission materials have been submitted, each applicant will be personally interviewed by three members of the PhD Council unless distance is an obstacle. In that case, interviews will be conducted via Zoom.

The PhD program follows a FALL TERM ONLY COHORT ADMISSIONS process. Applications to the PhD program are accepted on a rolling basis throughout the year and will receive an admission decision usually within 4-6 weeks of receiving completed application materials. International applicants are advised that due to the additional time required to work with our Office of International Services to secure a visa appointment, it is recommended that your completed application materials be received no later than early April for consideration for that Fall’s cohort. Application decisions will be communicated by e-mail.

Qualified applicants are admitted without discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, ancestry, sex, age, marital status, familial status, sexual orientation, disability, or status as a disabled veteran or a veteran of the Vietnam era. See Policy 231 for more information.

Admission Criteria

Applicants to the MSN to PhD track must have an appropriate master's degree. Some advanced nursing preparation is required. Additional coursework may be required when the degree is in a field other than nursing. When the master's degree is in nursing, the student must have earned it from an ACEN (NLN), ACICS, or CCNE-accredited program in nursing.

Applicants to the BSN to PhD track must have a baccalaureate degree in nursing from an ACEN (NLN), ACICS, or CCNE-accredited program of nursing. These applicants may have modifications to the criteria listed below and will be evaluated individually by PhD Council.

All applicants must have:

  • A baccalaureate or a master’s degree in nursing is preferred. Applicants who do not have a baccalaureate degree in nursing or a master’s degree in nursing as the first professional degree will be considered individually.
  • Evidence of competence in scholarly research and the ability to communicate in writing as assessed by accomplishments, recommendations, and the personal statement of the applicant addressing the reasons for selecting the University of Pittsburgh School of Nursing; one’s long-term professional goals and how the PhD program will facilitate goal achievement; one’s area of research interest; faculty who might be an appropriate match and why; and any professional experiences that have helped prepare the applicant for doctoral study.
  • Evidence of capacity and professional motivation for doctoral study as assessed by the personal statement, recommendations, and interviews with appropriate faculty
  • Three letters of reference attesting to the applicant's capacity and potential for doctoral study. A minimum of two references should be from academic sources.
  • Evidence of a license to practice professional nursing if the student plans to be a TA/TF in a clinical course or if their planned area of research is based in a clinical area.
  • For applicants whose native language is not English, successful achievement on the TOEFL, IELTS, or Duolingo (see Policy 201, International Student Admission).
  • For admission to Full Graduate Status, in addition to meeting the above criteria, an applicant must have a cumulative grade point average of 3.0 or above on a 4.0 scale.

For individuals who do not fully meet the admission criteria, Provisional Graduate status may be recommended.

Applicants to the Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) and Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) Dual Program must also meet the admission criteria for the DNP program – see Policy 280

Please refer to Policy 231.

Graduate Clearances

Degree Program Application Deadlines

Tuition and Fees

All admitted students are required to submit Act 33, 34 and 78 clearances completed within 3 months of admission.

Admission of International Students

All applicants must complete the online application. International applicants should also refer to

Applications from international students are reviewed according to the PhD program admission criteria stated above. The application must be completed in English and accompanied by official academic credentials with notarized English translations.

A doctoral applicant must have evidence of the receipt of a degree comparable to the American master's degree for admission to the MSN to PhD track or a degree comparable to the American baccalaureate degree for admission to the BSN to PhD track. The official transcripts must show all high school and post-high school work, including grades in each course, examination grades and standing in examinations and classes, and whatever other credentials are available to give a clear description of the student's academic accomplishments.

International students may not register until non-academic clearance has been issued by the University Office of International Services (OIS). It is especially important that the student have adequate financial support.

After final admission, the School of Nursing reserves the right, even after arrival and enrollment, to require, at the student's expense if necessary, individual curricular adjustments whenever particular deficiencies or needs are found. This could include enrollment in courses prerequisite to the regular course of study or additional course work in English as a second language.

To facilitate the educational experience and to help the student adjust to the United States, the University offers the support of the Office of International Services, 706 William Pitt Union, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA 15260. Refer to Policy 201 for more information.


A new/readmitted student who did not register in the term of admission/readmission is considered inactive and must receive permission from the PhD program director to be readmitted and to register for a subsequent term.

A student who has not registered for three consecutive terms (one calendar year) will be transferred automatically to inactive status. The student must file an application for readmission to graduate study and pay the application fee before being permitted to register again. While on inactive status, a student is not eligible to use University facilities and should not expect to receive counseling by the faculty or active supervision by his/her advisor and committee.

Readmission is not automatic nor does it necessarily reinstate the student in the status enjoyed prior to becoming inactive. Readmitted students must meet all current admission and degree requirements. A student may not be readmitted for the term in which he or she resigned. Refer to Policy 216 for more information.


PhD Council is responsible for planning, implementing, and evaluating the PhD program, as well as admitting, advising, and monitoring the progression of doctoral students. This Council is comprised of faculty approved for membership in the University Council on Graduate Study and a representative from the Graduate Nursing Student Organization. The Council is chaired by the PhD Program Director.

The Graduate Nursing Student Organization (GNSO) is the student governance organization for all graduate students and exists for the benefit of those nursing students. Doctoral students are automatically members of GNSO upon registration for graduate courses. The GNSO offers a program of professional and social activities for its members.

Contact Information

Dr. Heidi Donovan, PhD Program Director
Phone: 412-624-2699

The University of Pittsburgh is an affirmative action, equal opportunity institution. Read the complete Nondiscrimination Policy.