Health Science Doctorate Overview
A health science doctorate degree is for healthcare professionals looking to advance their knowledge and careers. A health science doctorate program will be a good fit for a variety of healthcare professionals, including nurses and nurse educators, therapists, dietitians, physicians' assistants, and more. You can earn your Doctor of Health Sciences degree either on-campus or online, in a part-time or full-time capacity. An online health science doctorate program will give working professionals the flexibility needed to complete their degree while working. Graduates will be prepared for roles as leaders in various fields of healthcare and will have the potential to work as educators, administrators, project managers, and researchers.
Admissions Requirements for Health Science Doctoral Programs
You will need to have certain criteria and documents in place to gain admission into a health science doctoral program. A master's degree in health science or a similar field of study from an accredited school will be required for admission into a doctoral program. Some programs also require students to have previous healthcare experience in a clinical setting before being eligible for consideration. While admissions requirements will vary from program to program, there are some similarities. Common admissions requirements for a health science doctoral program include:
- A completed application
- Official transcripts
- Letters of recommendation
- Personal statement or essay
- A minimum GPA as required by the program
- GRE scores
Educational & Professional Prerequisites for Health Science Doctorate Students
While there may not be particular coursework prerequisites, students looking to start a health science doctorate program will need to have a master's degree in health science or a health profession. A doctoral degree in a healthcare profession, like nursing, would be acceptable in place of a master's degree. Some programs, such as the Doctor of Health Science Leadership degree from The George Washington University may require professional credentials like MD, PA, DPT, OTD, MSN, or DNP. Regardless of your particular education and professional experience, admissions directors will want to admit students who can demonstrate the ability to complete an intensive doctorate program. You may be required to have up to five years of professional healthcare experience before can be admitted into some health science doctorate programs.
Accreditation for Health Science Doctorate Programs
Accreditation is a voluntary process in which schools and programs are reviewed and must meet or exceed quality standards. It will be important to choose an accredited health science doctorate program, as accreditation provides many advantages to students. First, it is easier to transfer credits from one accredited school to another. Also, some employers will only want to hire recent graduates of accredited programs. Additionally, students enrolled in accredited schools have more access to federal financial aid. There are three types of accreditation: regional, national, and specialized/programmatic. There are a number of accreditation agencies of all three types. Not all programs or specialties will be accredited, but at least the school you choose should be accredited.
How Long Does It Take to Earn a Doctorate in Health Science?
The average length of a doctorate in a health science program for full-time students is three to three and a half years, with an average of 50-60 credits required to graduate. Obviously, part-time students will take longer to graduate. The majority of the credits will be lecture-style courses, but there will most likely be hands-on practicums and a research project also required. Many doctorate in health science programs have course breakdowns on their websites, which would be helpful to review prior to applying.
Health Science Doctoral Coursework
The coursework for a doctorate in health science program will focus on various aspects of healthcare, including research, leadership, statistics, and education. The way in which coursework is organized will depend on the program you choose, but many only require doctorate students to take two or three classes at a time due to the rigorous nature of the degree. Some programs offer concentrations in the field of health science, which means you would get some flexibility in the courses you choose. If you chose a clinical leadership concentration, for example, you may choose from a list of courses on topics like Health Care Quality and Health Information. Other programs do not offer concentrations and already have the coursework laid out for their students. There may be an opportunity to take elective courses depending on your program and concentration.
There are some core courses that are common among doctorate in health science programs. These include:
- Leadership and Professional Issues
- Research and Analysis
- Healthcare Ethics
- Health Innovations
Preparing Your Health Science Dissertation
You will be required to complete a dissertation prior to graduating from a doctorate in health science program. Some programs require students to complete a capstone project instead of a dissertation, but both are quite similar. A final dissertation is a lengthy research article that is typically due in the last semester of the program, but you will work on it during most of your time as a doctorate student. You will choose a topic to research during one of the early semesters of your health science doctorate program. You will also choose a mentor and committee of professors and professionals that will guide and critique your work. Before you really dive into the research, you will need to create a proposal to be approved by the committee and the Institutional Review Board (IRB). Once approved, you will turn your proposal into a full research project and paper. Near the end of your program, you will present your dissertation for approval. The dissertation will most likely be presented in written book form, but you will need to provide an oral presentation on your research and findings as well. You will need to have your final dissertation approved prior to graduation.
Health Science Doctorate Concentrations
Depending on the program you choose, you may be able to study a particular concentration as a part of your health science doctorate degree. A concentration will allow you to earn more specialized knowledge on a topic of interest. Concentrations vary by school, so be sure to choose a health science doctorate program that will provide the education you desire. Some common health science doctorate program concentrations include education, global health, clinical leadership, and educational leadership.
Leadership and Organization Concentration
A common concentration among health science doctorate programs is leadership and organization. Although different from a doctorate in healthcare administration, a doctorate in health science with a concentration in leadership will help prepare you for a career in high-level administration or management in a clinical or educational setting. Courses in this concentration may cover topics like quality improvement, health management, health informatics, health policy, healthcare quality, and organizational behavior. Students will learn various trends and issues that affect healthcare leaders in both the education and clinical settings and how to facilitate organizational change. With a health science doctorate with a concentration in leadership, graduates may go on to be healthcare managers, healthcare administrators, program directors, or other leadership roles.
Another common concentration in many health science doctorate programs is education. After graduation, students will be prepared to work in the education sector as a health professional teacher, or leader. Topics covered in this concentration may include contemporary teaching concepts, curriculum design and assessment, learning theory, and leadership in education. Students will learn teaching roles, teaching philosophy, how to design lesson plans, how to evaluate students in higher education settings, and factors affecting adult learners such as behavioral, cognitive, and social aspects. Students will be able to apply what they learned from both their doctorate in health science program and their professional healthcare experience to teaching adult learners and future healthcare leaders.
Global Health Concentration
While public health degrees focus on health within communities and certain populations, global health focuses on the health of the entire world. While not as widely available among health science doctorate programs as other concentrations, focusing on global health in your studies is a possibility. You may take courses on important topics like global health issues, world politics, and global health ethics in a global health concentration. This concentration may be of interest for those students who enjoy working with a diverse group of people with backgrounds different from their own. In your career after graduation, you may be responsible for educating individuals about health issues, developing policies for various communities, and creating healthcare systems within developing nations.
What Other Types of Health Science Degrees Are There?
If you are not quite ready to pursue a doctorate in health science, there are other degree options available. Instead of a doctorate degree, you could choose to earn an associate degree, bachelor's degree, master's degree, or graduate certificate in health science. There are obvious differences among these degree options, like the level of difficulty, the amount of time required to graduate, and how much each degree costs. Determining your education and career goals should help you choose which health science degree is best for you.
Health Science Associate Degrees
You can earn an Associate of Science (A.S.) or Associate of Applied Science (A.A.S.) degree in health science either on-campus or online. Many health science associate degree programs require students to complete 60 credits, which will take about two years on average. You will need to complete general education courses like English, math, and social sciences. Common core courses in a health science associate degree program typically include biology, anatomy and physiology, nutrition, human diseases, medical terminology, and chemistry.
Health Science Bachelor's Degrees
If you plan to earn a bachelor's level degree, there are several program options where you can pursue a Bachelor of Science in Health Science. Whether attending school on-campus or online, you can expect a bachelor's degree to take about four years to complete. At the bachelor's level, you may be able to have a specialization, such as health care studies, clinical informatics, public health, and research. There will be general education courses, core health science courses, and laboratory courses required to graduate from a health science bachelor's degree program.
Health Science Master's Degrees
If you already have a bachelor's degree in health science or a related field, then you could be eligible to pursue a master's degree. Unlike a doctorate degree, you will not need to have professional experience to pursue a master's degree in health science. You can earn a Master of Science in Health Science degree online or on-campus in about two years, although some programs may take just one year. A master's degree will most likely elevate your career and earning potential more than an associate or bachelor's degree. If desired, you can study a concentration like health education, public health, and environmental health while earning a health science master's degree.
Health Science Graduate Certificates
If you have a bachelor's or master's degree, you could pursue a graduate certificate in various subjects to advance your career and education. Graduate certificates may require just three to six courses to complete and will take much less time than a degree. Depending on your interests and experience, you may be able to pursue a graduate certificate in healthcare management, clinical research, a public health certificate, integrative medicine, laboratory science, or a health information management certificate.
Career Options & Salary Outlook for Health Science Doctoral Graduates
There are many career opportunities available to a health science doctorate graduate. The health science field needs leaders to apply knowledge and research learned from a doctorate degree program in making relevant decisions for schools and healthcare institutions. With a doctorate degree in health science, you could work as an educator, administrator, researcher, or advocate in the field of healthcare. There are also opportunities to work in emergency management, health, safety, and sanitation, health technology, and other interesting fields. You may be working in a setting such as a school, hospital, government agency, or in community health.
Become a Health Science Educator
You can work in health science adult education after graduating from a doctorate degree program. As of 2020, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported postsecondary educators had a median salary of $80,790 per year and a projected job growth of 9% from 2019-2029, which is faster than average growth among all jobs. As an educator, you will be responsible for teaching adult learners, developing lesson plans and assignments, assessing students' learning progress, and staying informed of innovations in the field. Health specialties teachers held the most jobs of all educators in 2019 according to the BLS, with the majority working in colleges, universities, and professional schools. According to the BLS, health specialty educators had the fourth highest reported salaries of all postsecondary educators as of 2020.
Become a Health Science Administrator
If you want to work in the education field but do not want to teach, you could become an administrator for a health science postsecondary program. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that as of 2020 the median salary for postsecondary education administrators was $97,500 and the job outlook for 2019-2029 was 4%, or as fast as average. According to the BLS, postsecondary educators make higher salaries than other management occupations. Administrators work mostly in colleges, universities, and professional schools and may work in admissions, in a registrar's office, in student affairs, or as provosts or academic deans. The duties of a health science administrator will depend on in which department they are working. Possible duties of a health science administrator working in a registrar's office may include scheduling courses, overseeing course registration, planning commencement ceremonies, and maintaining academic records.
Become a Health Services Coordinator
If you have experience as a healthcare professional, then becoming a health services coordinator may be a logical next step after earning a doctorate degree. Some health services coordinator positions do require you to have practical experience and management experience prior to being hired. As of 2020, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported the salary for health services managers to be $104,280. Most health services managers and coordinators work in hospitals, but some work in physicians' offices, nursing care facilities, outpatient clinics, or government agencies. The duties of a health services coordinator include making work schedules, managing the training of new employees, handling budgets, creating methods that improve efficiency, and communicating with various department heads and medical staff. You may increase your chances of being hired as a health services coordinator by earning certification on a topic such as health information, medical management, or nursing home administration.
Health Science Professional Organizations
Once you are employed in the field of health science, joining a professional organization may be a beneficial step in your career. Professional organizations often offer networking opportunities, continuing education units, and the latest updates on research and trends in the field. You may even be able to find work through job boards often posted on professional organizations' websites. Depending on your field of employment in health science, you may be able to find a professional organization through the American Hospital Association. There are professional associations for health professionals working in finance, management, leadership, insurance, and specific healthcare practices. The requirements for joining a professional organization will vary, but often include an annual fee and proof of employment in the field. If you wanted to join the American College of Healthcare Executives, you could join at various levels. For example, you could join this organization as a member, faculty associate, international associate, or student associate depending on your education and professional status.
How Much Does a Doctorate in Health Science Cost?
All doctorate degrees tend to be expensive, and the same can be said of a health science doctorate degree. The total cost of a doctorate degree will include tuition, various service fees, textbooks, registration fees, and more. Tuition for a health science doctorate degree can range from $570 - $995 or more per credit hour, with an average of 50-60 credits required to be completed to graduate. Although a doctorate in health science may be expensive, the salary potential for a career in this field with hopefully offset the cost of your education.
Scholarships & Funding Opportunities for a Health Science Doctorate
There are many ways to find financial aid for a health science doctorate degree. The first step to take when looking for scholarships or other funding options is to complete a Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, as you may be eligible for federal scholarships, grants, loans, or work-study opportunities. Most colleges or universities also offer financial aid to some eligible students. Once you know which program you will attend, visiting the financial aid office or website would be a good way to learn what options may be available to you. Eligibility for both federal and university financial aid is typically based on financial need, yet some aid is awarded based on academic achievement. Although just a completed FAFSA is required to potentially earn federal aid, sometimes you may have to write an essay or complete other requirements when applying for scholarships from your school or private organizations. Using a scholarship search engine like the one from CareerOneStop may be helpful in finding financial aid from various organizations.