By the time you have your master’s degree in nursing, you’re well on your way to a career in medicine. Odds are you’ve already worked as a nurse in a hospital setting and are sure that medicine is the life for you. If the next step is to become a doctor, you have a few options -- not to mention a few different definitions of “doctor.”
Ph.D. in Nursing
Nurses with a master’s degree are well-poised to move into the final stage of academic study of nursing: the nursing Ph.D. The nursing Ph.D. will earn you the “doctor” title, but it will stand for “doctor of philosophy.” Nursing Ph.D. programs prepare candidates for a career in research or academics, meaning you can contribute your expertise as a nurse doctor to advancing the field of nursing, either at a university or research center. These programs are research-intensive, but are one way to transition from a master’s degree to a doctor.
Doctor of Nursing Practice
Nurses also become doctors by way of doctor of nursing practice programs, which bridge the space between a master’s and a medical doctor. Nurses with their doctor of nursing practice work to bring new research into practice, implementing new technologies and new practices in health-care settings. Doctors of nursing practice can expect to find leadership positions in health-care practices.
Becoming a medical doctor takes years of study. A master’s in nursing is not equivalent to a pre-med course, the usual first path that students take on the way to becoming MDs, but your practical experience and grades from your undergrad -- the high scores that got you into the master’s program in the first place -- can help you get into medical school. Additionally, you have to write the Medical Colleges Admission Test; MCAT scores and grades are the two most important aspects for getting through the initial screening of med school applications, according to John Hopkins University.
Most doctors take a pre-med path to their medical school, and you may not be inclined to go back for a new undergraduate degree having already finished a master’s. Some colleges have taken to offering nursing as a pre-med program, however, so applying to a nursing pre-med may accelerate your entry into medical college -- especially if your undergrad was in nursing. You may find that your master’s degree fulfills many of the pre-med requirements, too, though you’ll need to check with the school to find which credits from your previous degrees transfer.
Living in Canada, Andrew Aarons has been writing professionally since 2003. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in English literature from the University of Ottawa, where he served as a writer and editor for the university newspaper. Aarons is also a certified computer-support technician.