Health and Medical Doctorate Programs
With the advances in medicine and medical technology, Doctoral Degrees in Health and Medicine might help keep you abreast of current research and prepare you to practice your profession at its highest level. The complexities in the healthcare industry means that the skills necessary to work in it have also become more sophisticated. From audiologists, to pharmacists and advanced practice nurses, many professionals are encouraged to earn a PhD or Doctorate degree in their field, especially as their duties expand.
Doctoral Degrees in Health and Medicine: Essentials
Doctoral Degrees in Health and Medicine are available in a wide variety of programs, as healthcare is one of the fastest growing fields today. Some are doctor of philosophy (PhD) programs; these emphasize academic research. Others are clinical doctoral programs in various health fields. These focus on the skills and knowledge students need to excel in their profession (e.g. Doctor of Chiropractic D.C.)
From Undergrad to Graduate Student in Health and Medicine Fields
Not all Doctoral Degrees in Health and Medicine are created equal: Two paths commonly lead to a clinical doctoral degree: one for practicing professionals who may already have a master’s degree, and another track for students just getting started in the field.
Someone coming out of college wanting a doctor of physical therapy degree, for instance, might enter the three-year program with any undergraduate major as long as he or she has completed some prerequisites. Also, there are some medical schools that offer combined undergraduate and medical school programs that take around 6 to 7 years to complete.
In some instances, you really do need your undergrad degree to be in your chosen field. For instance, in the nursing profession, prospective students wanting to enter a doctor of nursing practice program as a recent graduate need a bachelor’s in nursing and an RN license. Pharmacy students must complete at least two years of targeted undergraduate coursework before beginning a four-year clinical doctoral program.
Some Pharm.D. schools admit high school graduates into a 6-year program.
Take-away? Look ahead and research the academic tracks necessary to practice your chosen career. If you are an undergraduate, your doctorate degree may seem far ahead, but you can still lay the foundation for it by taking appropriate courses ahead of time.
Which Fields in Health and Medicine Require Doctorate Degrees?
Doctoral Degrees in Health and Medicine are most widely used in the medical specialties and patient-centered fields or wherever advanced scientific research is used and conducted. Let’s take a look at a few examples:
Communication Science & Disorders Graduate Programs: Audiology: doctoral degree in audiology (Au.D.).
Medical Specialties Graduate Programs:
- Chiropractic: Doctor of Chiropractic (D.C.)
- Dentist: The degrees awarded are the Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS), Doctor of Dental Medicine (DDM), and Doctor of Medical Dentistry (DMD)
- Medicine/Medical Doctors & Surgeons (plus internship, residency Medical Doctor (M.D.)
- Podiatry: Doctor of Podiatric Medicine (DPM)
- Veterinarian: Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (D.V.M. or V.M.D.)
- Osteopathy: Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine
- Optometry: Doctor of Optometry (O.D.)
Nursing: APRN roles now require a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) or a Ph.D
Physical & Occupational Therapy Graduate Programs:
Pharmacology Graduate Programs: Pharmacists: Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm.D)
Biomedical Sciences Graduate Programs:
- Biochemist/Biophysicist: PhD in Toxicology, Genetics, Bioinformatics
- Medical Scientist: PhD in Biology or life science and or M.D.
Healthcare Administration Graduate Programs: Doctor of Business Administration (DBA)-Health Care Administration, Doctor or Healthcare Administration (DHA) depending on the role/setting
Weighing Your Options: On-Campus or Online Study
Not all Doctoral Degrees in Health and Medicine are available online, however distance-learning is becoming mainstream as educational technology advances. Essentially, online healthcare degrees appeal to the working professional. If they are delivered 100% online, it gives you the ability to study from wherever you are. If the delivery is partially online (hybrid) there are onsite requirements which means you benefit from the convenience of online study plus the social learning environment of the campus. Naturally, attending graduate school means that you benefit from hands-on learning in real-time, and access to the school’s facilities (think libraries and laboratories!). Best to evaluate your needs against the curriculum and format to make sure you align. In the end, you earn a “PhD” or “Doctor of”, the program format does not usually show in your transcript.
Accreditation for Programs and Institutions
According to the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) accreditation is a way to assess and ensure the quality of programs and institutions. Institutional accreditation focuses on things like standards in administration, resources, faculty and facilities. Specialized (programmatic) accreditation examines specific schools or programs within an educational institution.
There are different accrediting bodies for the various professions; The Council on Chiropractic Education accredited 15 Doctor of Chiropractic programs on 18 campuses in 2014. There were 130 Doctor of Pharmacy programs fully accredited by the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education (ACPE).
Since accreditation often goes hand in hand with licensing and many of the areas in healthcare and medicine are highly regulated and have differing licensing requirements by state, check within your field to see what is necessary in terms of accreditation, licenses, certifications and registrations.
Putting It Together: Finding a Medical Doctorate or Healthcare Degree
GrradSchools.com helps you navigate the spectrum of Doctoral Degrees in Health and Medicine by providing some really useful search tools. Here are some useful steps to get you closer to pinpointing the best option for your education.
Look through the subject selection. These are just categories, so for instance, Medical Specialties hosts:
- Alternative medicine
- Dental Medicine
- Medicine and Premed programs
- Physician Assistant
Once you have found the subject for your doctoral degree, choose your program format. If you select ‘campus’ you might want to select doctoral degree programs in your field by location; use the city, state or country tabs.
For some professions, pursuing a clinical doctorate degree is a requirement for practicing their profession. For others pursuing a research doctorate is a way to be able to potentially share their knowledge via teaching or researching. Whether you are looking for a Doctorate of Naturopathic Medicine, PhD in Pharmaceutical Sciences, or a Doctor of management-Healthcare Management Leadership (Executive Format), the possibilities in the field of Health and Medicine abound.
University of Nevada Las Vegas
University of Nevada, Reno