Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


The Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) program prepares nurse scientists to conduct research and to assume major roles in the development, evaluation, and dissemination of knowledge about issues of interest to nursing. Acculturated into an academic environment that embodies scholarship, graduates of this program are well-prepared for careers as researchers and educators in both academic and/or healthcare settings.

Students benefit from small classes and excellent access to world-class professors with varied expertise. Nurtured by close mentoring relationships with faculty advisors, students in the doctoral program engage early and continuously in research under the supervision of an advisory committee.

The program emphasizes openness to, and respect for, multiple ways of knowing, living, and being healthy, and valuing of varied philosophical, epistemological, and theoretical viewpoints. The program is closely linked with the research programs of faculty members and is designed for completion in four to five years of full-time study. Please note that applicants to the PhD program are encouraged to contact individual faculty members to discuss their research interests and potential research projects. Applicants to the PhD program must have an agreement for supervision in place to be offered admission to the program.

The PhD program is ideal for students with a strong interest and demonstrated excellence in research as they consider pursuing an advanced career in research, academia, and/or organizational leadership in healthcare and professional settings. Graduates of the PhD program are prepared to engage in advanced roles, such as:

  • Senior leadership roles in academia and healthcare organizations
  • Educator roles in both academic/or healthcare settings
  • Private industry (e.g., research scientist, consultant, policy development)

The PhD program offers master’s-prepared registered nurses who are seeking a doctoral degree the opportunity to engage and advance their research and scholarly inquiry within their area of research interest that is linked with both the school’s and faculty’s area of research expertise.

Students in the PhD program will work with their supervisor(s) to develop a research proposal. Information about the strategic research themes in the School of Nursing can be found at

Program Objectives

Graduate of the PhD program will:

  • Understand the theoretical foundations of nursing science
  • Design and conduct research relevant to significant problems in the discipline of nursing
  • Demonstrate a commitment to ethical inquiry for the advancement of knowledge in the discipline, and value different approaches to knowledge generation for the discipline

The deadline to apply for the PhD program is February 1. All application documents (i.e., transcripts, letters of reference, and supplemental materials) must be received by the deadline. Review of complete application files begins after February 1 and continues until spaces in each program are filled. Late applications will only be reviewed if space remains in the program. Incomplete applications cannot be reviewed, and it is the applicant’s responsibility to ensure that the application file is complete.

Admission Requirements

  • Completion of a bachelor’s degree in nursing (e.g., BScN, BSN, BN). Internationally educated nurses may be asked to submit a World Evaluation Services (WES) report to confirm degree equivalence to those accredited by the Canadian Association of Schools of Nursing (CASN)
  • Completion of a master's degree in nursing or other health care related field
  • GPA of 78% (B+) or higher
    • Admission averages are based on grades from the applicant's master's program
  • Agreement for supervision from a faculty member whose research aligns with the applicant's interests and who has been approved to supervise PhD students
    • Applicants may contact potential supervisors directly, providing them with a CV, master's transcript and a brief description of the applicant's research interests
  • Completion of a master’s thesis/research project
    • Applicants from non-thesis master's programs will also be considered but may be asked to complete a qualifying research project early in their program of study
  • PhD applicants may be required to attend an interview with a panel of core faculty as part of the application process
  • Canadian applicants must be registered with their provincial nursing regulatory body as a Registered Nurse (RN) with no practice restrictions
  • International applicants must:
  • International students enrolled in the PhD program are not required to hold registration with the College of Nurses of Ontario (CNO), provided they are currently qualified to practice nursing in their home country. Prospective students must provide this information when applying to the program. Students who do not hold a CNO license will not be permitted to enroll in courses that include a clinical practice component or supervise undergraduate students in clinical practice.

Application Requirements

  • Two academic references
    • Referees are contacted after their names are submitted in the online application
  • Transcripts of all postsecondary coursework (including bachelor’s degree in nursing)
  • Curriculum vitae (CV)
  • Personal essay
    • The applicant should explain their reasoning for pursuing this program of study
    • Maximum length: Four double-spaced pages
  • Supplemental Application Form (PDF)
  • Supervisory agreement
  • Writing sample (e.g., master's thesis, published papers, course paper, manuscripts)

Review of Applications and Offers of Admission

The Graduate Program Admissions Committee reviews all applications meeting the minimum academic average of 78% (B+) and determines whether to offer admission based on a number of factors, including:

  • Past academic achievement
  • Quality of referee assessments
  • Clarity and fit of the applicant’s written goals with the program goals
  • Alignment of the applicant's research interests with the School's areas of strength
  • Evidence of engagement in professional activities
  • Evidence of leadership
  • Quality of oral and/or written communication
  • Supervisory agreement

Applications will not be reviewed until a supervisory agreement has been submitted. Offers of admission are made as applications are considered, with the first offers being made in April. Successful applicants may accept their offers of admission online.

Course Work

PhD students normally complete all course work requirements within 16 to 24 months of initial registration, although this varies depending on the student’s substantive focus and knowledge prior to entering the program.

Core Courses (all required)

  • Nursing 9681: Philosophy of Nursing Science
  • Nursing 9683: Advanced Quantitative Research Methods
  • Nursing 9684: Advanced Qualitative Research Methodology

Students in the PhD program may be required to take additional courses to support their research at the recommendation of their supervisor/advisory committee.

For more detailed information about graduate courses offerings in the Arthur Labatt Family School of Nursing, visit the Course Offerings page.

Other Required Courses

In consultation with their supervisor(s) and advisory committee, students may be required to enroll in additional courses to complement and broaden their understanding of the state of the science within their chosen field of study. These courses must be at or above the 9000-level and may be taken from within the School of Nursing or from other departments.

A limited number of graduate courses may be taken at other universities with approval from the supervisor(s) and advisory committee and the chair of the graduate program. An agreement among Ontario universities allows a Western student to take a course as a ‘guest’ at another Ontario university without paying additional tuition fees. For more information about this option, please contact the graduate programs assistant.

Doctoral Seminar

Students in the PhD program are required to participate in at least three terms of doctoral seminar to complete the doctoral seminar milestone. Generally, students will participate in doctoral seminar during the fall and winter terms of their first year, and the fall term of second year. Students are welcome to attend doctoral seminars even after they have completed the seminar milestone.

Dissertation Research

All PhD students must undertake an independent research study that advances the knowledge within their field of study. To ensure adequate mentoring during this process, the focus of the student’s dissertation must align with the supervisor’s program of research and expertise. Three program milestones related to the dissertation (i.e., coursework, proposal, and final dissertation) must be successfully completed.

Supervisor(s) and Advisory Committee

Students are admitted to the PhD program in part based on having a supervisory agreement in place with a faculty member(s). After admission, an advisory committee, which is comprised of the student’s supervisor(s) and other faculty advisors, is formed. Decisions about the composition of this committee are made in consultation with the student’s supervisor(s) with the goal of ensuring that the student has access to the necessary breadth of expertise to successfully complete the PhD degree requirements.

The Government of Canada recently announced a cap on new study permits. We have been assured that this cap will not affect incoming Master’s or Doctoral applicants.

If you have any immigration-related questions, Western International’s immigration advisors are happy to help. Please visit Western International’s website, make an appointment with an advisor, or contact the advising team at