What Is an Online Doctorate in Health Science Program?

Oct 20, 2021

What is an Online Doctorate in Health Science Program?

Online health science doctorate degrees help healthcare professionals advance their knowledge and careers. Various healthcare professionals can benefit from obtaining an online doctorate degree in health science, including nurses, therapists, dieticians, and more. These degree programs provide students with research, leadership, and teaching skills.

Earning a doctorate can be challenging and time-consuming for many working professionals. However, many online health science doctorate programs offer full-time or part-time enrollment opportunities. Typically, online programs in health science include the same core courses as traditional programs, so students with an online doctoral degree are just as prepared as those with a conventional degree.

While many programs offer online courses, some programs may also have hybrid formats where students may need to be present on campus. Additionally, some programs may also require dissertations to be presented in person.

Why Should I Get an Online Doctorate in Health Science?

An online doctorate in health science is ideal for healthcare professionals who wish to advance their careers as an educator, a researcher, an administrator, and more. A Doctor of Health Science (D.H.Sc.) helps people in various healthcare positions who want to move into education or leadership positions. This degree was created in 2000 for clinical, administrative, and public health professionals to find and implement solutions to health care issues.

The projected job growth rate from 2019 to 2029 for many health science-related programs are typically much higher than the average rate, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Choosing an online program is also perfect for students who want to advance their careers and obtain a doctorate in health science without committing to the on-campus format. Students in online and even hybrid programs have the flexibility to adjust their schedules as needed to fit around their lifestyles.

What is the Difference Between a Ph.D. and a D.H.Sc in Health Science?

Students may obtain either a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Health Science or a Doctor of Health Science (D.H.Sc.). While both degrees are respected in the field, each has different connotations. Typically, those who hold a Ph.D. in health science focus more on research. Courses in a Ph.D. program are research-centered and emphasize critical thinking skills. Students who want a more practical, hands-on experience with health science are likely to obtain a D.H.Sc.

While both focus on the topic of health science, holding one type over the other decides what career paths are available. Students who wish to conduct research during and after graduate school may want to go for a Ph.D. However, students who have less interest in conducting research as a career may want to consider a D.H.Sc. Professionals with a D.H.Sc. are also able to conduct research in their field. Graduates with a Ph.D. may find work as a scientist in laboratories, conducting, reviewing, and publishing research. Those with a D.H.Sc. may work in public health fields in administration or education.

Admissions Requirements for Online Health Science Doctorate Programs

There are several admissions requirements for health science doctorate programs. A master's degree in health science or a related field from an accredited university is usually needed for acceptance into an online doctoral program. Some programs may also require prior experience in a healthcare or clinical setting to be eligible.

Additional admissions requirements may vary across programs. Some common admission requirements for an online health science doctoral program include:

  • Completed application
  • Academic Transcripts
  • Letters of recommendation
  • GRE scores
  • Resume
  • A certain GPA as set by the specific program

Students may have to research different programs to ensure they meet requirements.

What Should I Expect from an Online Doctorate in Health Science?

The coursework for online doctorate programs in health science typically features the same curriculum as the campus doctorate programs. Some programs are designed for specific careers, while others may be more general. Depending on the program, coursework may vary. Students may look at cross-cultural care, global health issues, the current best practices, and alternative methods of care.

Students may also have some on-campus requirements, such as internships, practicums, dissertation presentations, etc.

Credit requirements may vary across programs, but the typical range is 40 - 60 credit hours.

How Long is an Online Doctoral Health Science Program?

The length of an online doctorate in a health science program may vary across schools. Some programs can take as little as a year, while others may take five to seven years to complete. Length may also depend on the student's needs. Full-time students may complete their programs faster than part-time students.

Following the completion of coursework, students usually must complete a dissertation. Dissertations may take a significant amount of time to complete and may increase the length of the program.

Common Courses for Online Health Science Doctoral Programs

The coursework for an online health science doctoral program may vary across schools. Some programs emphasize certain concentrations, while others may offer a generalized education. Programs that offer concentrations with specialized courses typically also have general required coursework, such as inter-professional collaboration, program theory, or innovation in healthcare professions.

Students may also take different courses depending on what type of degree they are seeking. Students may obtain a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Health Science or a Doctor of Health Science (D.H.Sc.) degree. A Ph.D. is for students who are interested in original research, data analysis, and theory evaluation. Students who are looking for a more practical approach based on real-work applications should obtain a D.H.Sc.

Healthcare Ethics

Students may be required to take some form of a healthcare ethics course. Typically, these courses cover the differences between ethics and law, as well as the core morals of medical professionalism. Students may review case studies and discuss the critical ethical dilemmas faced by healthcare professionals. Typical case studies may include the Human Genome Project, organ transplantation, and cloning.

Global Epidemiology

Students may also take courses in global epidemiology. While students may take a generalized course, they may also specialize in epidemiology. Students taking this course may learn the foundations of epidemiological research and global health strategies for disease prevention. Students may also learn about various diseases that affect people on a global scale, such as cancer or cardiovascular diseases.

Medical Writing

Medical writing courses are usually taken by Ph.D. students to help prepare them for the publication of journal articles or clinical case reviews. Students may learn the methods to prepare documentation, as well as proper word use, grammar, and punctuation for medical journals and other publications. Expert knowledge of medical writing is essential for anyone desiring to successfully publish medical articles.

Healthcare Communication

Students in healthcare communication courses may learn techniques to improve interpersonal communication skills and communication within organizations. Additional topics may include public relations, employee training, mediation, and coaching. Communication is essential across all fields of healthcare but is exceptionally important in healthcare administration, as professionals must communicate health information between doctor and patient.

Online Health Science Doctorate Degree Specializations

While health science is a broad field, there are many specializations that students can choose from while earning their online doctorate degree, such as:

  • Epidemiology

Students may obtain a Ph.D. in epidemiology, where healthcare professionals and researchers focus on epidemiological studies. Students may focus their studies and research in areas such as cancer, infectious diseases, and cardiovascular diseases. Students may also take subject-specific courses in human pathology and physiology.

  • Nutrition Science

Students who are interested in pursuing a career as a dietitian or nutritionist may choose to specialize in nutrition science. Possible coursework may include chemistry, biology, food science, and nutrition. Students may work in healthcare facilities or research facilities upon graduation.

Education is a common concentration in many online health science doctorate programs. Students may work as health professional teachers or leaders after graduation. Students may learn how to design lesson plans, understand learning theories, and how to evaluate students in higher education.

Doctoral Dissertation for Health Science

Most health science doctoral programs require students to complete a dissertation. Dissertations are long research projects that must be completed prior to graduation.

While most programs require a dissertation, some programs have alternative research projects in its place. In health science, some programs may require a capstone project, which applies research to immediately deliver a solution to a real-world problem, instead of a dissertation. For either option, students can pick from a large range of topic selection. The dissertation is often considered the toughest part of doctoral programs.

Many students find an area of interest early in their program, to tailor their curriculum to that interest. Doing this makes finding a suitable topic for the dissertation easier. Students may also be required to choose a mentor and a committee of professors to guide and critique the student's work throughout the project. Students may also have to submit a proposal before beginning the dissertation. If the proposal is accepted by the committee and a review board, the student may then turn it into a full research project.

Usually the hardest part of the dissertation is the middle part, after choosing the topic and before presenting the final draft. Students must research, analyze, and interpret the research, and write. Once the dissertation is complete, students present it to the committee of professors and defend their findings. Typically, the presentation is done in-person rather than online. Following the presentation, the committee decides the grade of the student's dissertation.

How to Choose the Right Online Health Science Doctorate Program

There are many factors to consider when choosing an online doctorate program in health science. Students should pick a program that aligns with their personal, academic, and career goals, such as:

  • Degree type
  • Accreditation
  • Online or hybrid format
  • Open enrollment
  • Specializations

Most online programs may also require students to complete an internship and practicum. These requirements are typically in-person or on-campus. If students live far away from the program they are attending online, but must complete on-site requirements, they may have to travel.

Students should consider their own level of education prior to applying for an online doctorate program in health science. Tuition costs may vary depending on the applicant's level of education. Most programs may require students to have a master's degree in health science or a related field to be considered eligible for enrollment, but some accept students with a bachelor's degree or other type of degree. Students with a master's degree may have to complete fewer courses than a student with a bachelor's degree.

Students should also consider their personal, academic, and career goals before choosing a suitable program. Students who are more interested in research should consider programs that offer Ph.D. paths. However, those who wish to take a more practical approach to health science should consider a D.H.Sc.

Accreditation for Schools with a Health Science Doctorate Program

Accreditation is an important consideration for students pursuing a career in health science. Students need to choose programs that have current and valid national and regional accreditation that proves that the program meets elite standards.

Accreditation is important to students because it shows that a program offers elite, quality education. As online programs become more prevalent, fake online schools with fake accrediting agencies are popping up. Students should check with the US Department of Education's website to ensure that a program has a reliable and recognized accreditation.

Accreditation also looks good on a resume. Potential employers take into consideration what school candidates attend. Employers look for graduates who hold degrees from accredited institutions. Applicants with a degree from an accredited special education program are more likely to be hired than an applicant who did not attend an accredited program.

Further, students who are attending an accredited doctoral program in health science can transfer credits to another institution should they transfer. Most schools do not accept transfer credits from an unaccredited university.

Job Outlook for Health Science

Obtaining a doctorate in health science can lead to various advanced healthcare professions. Many health science careers have above average job outlooks, with some even ranging as high as 32%. The average projected job growth for all occupations is 4%. With an online doctorate degree in health science, graduates can work as educators, administrators, researchers, or advocates in healthcare fields. There are also opportunities in emergency management, human services, health care management, and health sciences and services. While a master's degree is enough for many positions, holding a doctorate can lead to career advancement, greater pay, and job security.

Health Specialties Educator

Students who wish to pursue a career in education would likely commit to a D.H.Sc. program. D.H.Sc. programs prepare students to teach in an area of specialty, such as physical therapy, epidemiology, etc. A doctorate degree in health science typically qualifies professionals to teach at colleges or universities. Opportunities are available in part-time, full-time, adjunct, or tenured positions. Faculty members may also conduct research while teaching.

The 2019 to 2029 projected job growth for postsecondary health specialty teachers is 21%, much faster than the average rate for all occupations. The 2020 median annual wage was $99,090.

Clinical Researcher

Clinical research positions are usually tied to Ph.D. and M.D. graduates, although those with D.H.Sc. degrees may also conduct clinical research in fields where they obtained a master's degree. Those who work in clinical research are typically employed in universities, hospitals, private laboratories, and government laboratories.

Excluding epidemiologists, the 2019 to 2029 projected job growth rate for medical scientists was 6%, faster than the average rate for all occupations. The 2020 median salary was $91,510.

Medical and Health Service Manager

Medical and health service managers are also referred to as healthcare administrators or executives. Professionals in this field supervise health care delivery, and take lead the implementation of policies and procedures. Healthcare administrators typically work in hospitals, either management departments or as part of a team overseeing an organization.

The 2019 to 2029 projected job growth for medical and health service managers was 32%, much faster than the average rate for all occupations. The 2020 median salary was $104,280.

Environmental Scientists

Environmental health scientists enforce regulations and laws surrounding environmental protection and sustainability. They collect samples and research environmental health threats to reduce the presence of contaminants and other threats. Most positions are within local and national agencies, although some positions may be found in private organizations. Graduates may focus their research in food protection, water pollution or other specialties.

The 2019 to 2029 projected job growth for environmental scientists was 8%, about double the average rate for all occupations. The 2020 median salary was $73,230.

Financial Aid and Scholarships for Online Health Science Doctorate Programs

Doctorate degree programs in health science can be expensive, as tuition costs can range, on average, from $600 to $1,000 per credit. To cover costs and fees, students can apply for financial aid several ways.

Students may apply for federal financial aid using the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). There are various eligibility requirements that students need to meet to receive financial aid. For example, students need to be a US citizen or eligible noncitizen, be enrolled as a student in eligible programs, can demonstrate a need for financial aid, and more.

Students can also apply for as many scholarships as needed. There are several scholarships that relate directly to health science, such as the ACF Trythall Family Scholarship for Excellence in Continuing Education for students attending a nonprofit or public educational school to further their education. This scholarship may award up to $3,000.

There are also many scholarships available for other demographics, such as age, race, ethnicity, gender, and religion. Students who have a high GPA, is affiliated with the military, or has physical disabilities can apply for related scholarships. Students may also be able to obtain tuition assistance through their employer, where available.

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