PhD landing page

Welcome to the Ph.D. program at the Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing at UC Davis

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Students with experience or interest in leading the transformation of health care through nursing education and research are sought for the Nursing Science and Health-Care Leadership Doctor of Philosophy program. Ideal students want to focus on important societal health issues through the work of advancing health and improving the systems that provide health services.

Graduates of the Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing are prime candidates for formal leadership positions. Graduates exercise leadership through scientific approaches, vision, initiative, cultural inclusiveness, teamwork, and a commitment to assuring health care is highly effective, compassionate and accessible.

About the Ph.D. program

The full-time, academic, Ph.D. program prepares graduates as leaders in health care, health policy and education and research at the university level to:

  • conduct transformative research
  • educate health professionals and researchers
  • effect system change
  • influence and implement policy
  • advance health from multiple settings

Doctoral students take core courses plus electives and must complete a dissertation. The doctoral program is a four-year program and requires full-time enrollment. Core courses are offered fall, winter and spring quarters (not summer) on the UC Davis Sacramento campus. Core courses are typically on Thursdays and Fridays and are offered as a mix of in-person and remote classes. Course schedules vary each quarter by individual student areas of interest. Electives vary for all students and are conducted on both the Sacramento and Davis campuses.

Watch the Nov. 30, 2023 recording of the information session webinar for an overview of the Ph.D. program.

Learn more about determining which doctoral degree to pursue, a PhD or a DNP, based on your career goals »

A mandatory orientation is provided for incoming students their first quarter. This one-day orientation experience is typically scheduled on the Monday or Tuesday before fall quarter begins. 

Ph.D. students may specialize their studies

Students in the Nursing Science and Health-Care Leadership Doctor of Philosophy Degree Program work closely with their academic advisors to select cognates, methods and other elective courses that support their research and education goals. Cognates are courses taken outside the core curriculum, usually across disciplines, and chosen for their relevance to the students’ dissertation research and learning needs. By selecting cognates, specific advanced methods course and other relevant electives, the course of study may be specialized. There are also two Designated Emphasis opportunities for Ph.D. students: Feminist Theory and Research and Computational Social Science, which include required coursework in these specialized topics. Ph.D. students also have the option to apply for graduate certificate programs with specialties in health professions education and family caregiving.

Watch this Oct. 26 information session webinar to learn more about applying for the Ph.D. program..

Research at the School of Nursing

Michelle Camicia
What do graduates say about the Nursing Science and Health-Care Leadership PhD program?
Read and watch 2018 alumna Michelle Camicia discuss her experience »

The research interests and expertise of School of Nursing professors are diverse and involve robust faculty collaborations across UC Davis and beyond, as well as ongoing community-based partnerships. Current research includes projects focused on family caregiving across the illness trajectory, healthy aging, leveraging technology to support health, reducing health disparities in underserved populations, new models of care for serious illness and interventions to improve health, health behavior and health equity. Read more about nursing research.

Required courses for the doctoral program include a combination of required core courses and electives that include a required number of cognate courses and methods courses tailored to student research interests.

  • International graduate requirements
  • Full time enrollment (12 units per quarter) is required.
  • Required courses for the doctoral-degree program include a combination of core, cognate and research methods courses.
  • Doctoral students are required to pass an oral qualifying examination. The intent of the oral qualifying examination is to determine whether the student is adequately prepared and sufficiently intellectually independent to conduct doctoral-level research. The exam may include both an oral component as well as the student’s proposal for the dissertation research.
  • A doctoral dissertation is required. Students will enroll in dissertation units as full-time students after the qualifying exam until the dissertation is complete.
  • Ph.D. students typically complete the program in four years.
  • Doctor of Philosophy Degree requirements

Program goals for the Doctor of Philosophy in Nursing Science and Health-Care Leadership are:

  1. Develop leadership skills to transform health care.
  2. Evaluate and integrate multiple interprofessional/interdisciplinary perspectives to work and communicate as teams.
  3. Generate nursing science to improve health and reshape health systems through transformative research.
  4. Integrate cultural inclusiveness in research, practice, leadership and community engagement.
  5. Create, evaluate, and integrate engaged and interactive approaches to nursing education, research and practice using innovative technology.

Still have questions? Many answers are provided on the FAQ page. For additional assistance, the fastest way to get answers about School of Nursing programs, admission requirements and the application process is to email

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