Medicine and Healthcare Graduate Programs: Masters and PhD Degrees
What Is a Health and Medical Graduate Degree?
A Health and Medical Graduate degree may lead to a masters, professional degree or MD. Programs like the MSN, MSW, DNP, DC, DPT and PharmD build clinical skills. These often prepare you to pursue a license to practice in your field after you graduate and pass an exam.
Other programs such as the MHA, MPH, and DHS study the business side of the healthcare industry. These often provide students with advanced decision skills in a non-clinical area. They may prepare you to innovate (find a cure), research or set policy in health care.
What are the Different Types of Medical Degrees?
Medical degrees are vocational degrees and first professional degrees. As such they cover many areas associated with medicine and surgery. Some different types of medical degrees are:
- Doctor of Medicine (MD)
- Doctor of Clinical Medicine (DCM)
- Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (DO)
- Doctor of Chiropractic (DC)
- Doctor of Surgery (DSurg or DS)
- Doctor of Clinical Surgery (DClinSurg)
Do you need a Masters Degree to go to Medical School?
Most applicants to medical school have at least a bachelor’s degree. Many also have advanced degrees. Yet, there are no specific master’s programs for med school. Or, that prepare you to pursue an MD (medical doctor) degree.
What Jobs Can You Get with a Graduate Degree in Health and Medicine?
Many managerial and practitioner jobs in health and medicine need a graduate degree. Based on BLS.gov data about entry-level education, here are a dozen careers where you need a master’s, doctoral or first professional degree.
- Dentists, Medical Doctors, Surgeons
- Genetic Counselors
- Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRNs)
- Occupational Therapists (OTs)
- Orthotists, Prosthetists
- Physical Therapists (PTs)
- Physician Assistant (PAs)
- Speech Language Pathologists
- Healthcare Executives
What is the difference between a M.S. and Doctorate in Medicine?
The MS and Doctor of Medicine may prep you to pursue a career in healthcare, speaking in the broadest sense. Yet they are very distinct both in the education they provide and the careers they may prepare you for.
Master of Science
The MS is an academic or professional degree, earned at graduate school. One might earn their Master of Science ‘in’ many different fields. Within health and medicine, you’ll find MS in Nursing, bioethics, public health and so on. Most programs take about one to two years full time.
In some cases, you’ll need at least an MS to pursue a specific license. Family Nurse Practitioner is one instance. Other MS programs may enable students to pursue leadership roles. The degree also serves as a springboard to a PhD, MD, or other doctorate degree.
Doctor of Medicine (MD)
The Doctor of Medicine is a medical degree, earned at medical school. To earn one, students go through a rigorous four-year curriculum. The first two years include classes and laboratories. In the last two years, students complete a supervised practice.
Usually this period involves rotations in various clinical areas. These span internal medicine, family practice, obstetrics, gynecology, pediatrics, psychiatry, and surgery. As such, they gain experience in how to diagnose and treat illnesses in a variety of areas.
In short, graduates of MS programs, unless also MDs, cannot practice medicine. To practice medicine, one needs to earn an MD. Then comes licensure and board certification if applicable.
What is a PhD degree in Medicine? A PhD/MD degree us a dual doctorate. It blends research in medicine and science (PhD) with the vocational prep of the MD.
There are many other PhD and doctorate degrees in the field of health and medicine. Some are for practitioners (E.g. Doctor of Nursing Practice -DNP). Others are in medicine or science (E.g. Doctor of Chiropractic, Doctor of Pharmacy -PharmD). Yet another category centers around business and leadership (E.g. Doctor of Health Administration -DHA).
There’s more to Health Care than Medicine and Pre-Med
Additional Health and Medicine Programs include:
- Non science-oriented avenues (e.g. Master of Business Administration-Healthcare Management, Master of Science in Health Administration, Master of Public Health)
- Very focused nursing programs (e.g. MSN Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner, MSN-Executive Leadership, Doctor of Nursing Practice)
- Scientific programs that range from the technical to the clinical (e.g. Master of Science in Health Informatics, Master of Science in Communication Disorders, PharmD)
- Alternative to traditional medical degrees (e.g. Master in Acupuncture, oriental Medicine, Doctor of Occupational Therapy, Doctor of Physical Therapy degrees)
What Do I Need to Know about Health & Medicine Graduate School Accreditation?
Accreditation is an evaluation tool. Independent agencies use it to measure schools and degree programs against their criteria. They do this to ensure that standards of quality are being met. Consider it to be a system of checks and balances.
For the student, regional or national accreditation serves several key purposes. These accreditors assure eligible students they may:
- Access financial aid
- Transfer credits
- Sit for licensure exams
In health and medicine graduate programs, there are many agencies to know about. Each sets its own criteria for membership, including the length of time before a school must reapply. Since most agencies maintain a database, you might verify status on individual sites.
- Nursing graduate programs: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)
- Doctor of Pharmacy programs: Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education (ACPE)
- Doctor of Chiropractic: Council on Chiropractic Education (CCE)
- Athletic Training (MS): Commission on Accreditation of Athletic Training Education (CAATE)
- MPH, DPH: Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH)
- Masters in Healthcare Administration: Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Management Education (CAHME)
How Long Does It Take to Get a Health or Medicine Graduate Degree?
A medicine graduate degree such as the MD may take four years to complete. MS programs in health may take one to three years to complete. Course load, whether you study full or part-time and type of degree program impact length.
How Much Does It Cost to Get A Graduate Degree in Medicine?
The average cost of a of a graduate degree from a public institution is $11,617 per year. This means you will be able to find programs both more affordable and more expensive than the average.
To give specific examples, this visualization shows graduate tuition costs of 4 institutions with Health and Medicine Graduate Programs as reported by the NCES. We have then compared those costs to the typically most affordable and most expensive college options, also as reported by NCES.
What are the Costs per Credit for a Master of Science in Medicine?
Cost per credit of course is different at every College or University. State Universities are also likely to have in state costs vs out of state costs. Below are a few examples of the cost per credit as reported by each one of these institutions.
Health and Medicine Degree Guide
MSN (Master of Science in Nursing)
DC (Doctor of Chiropractic)
Length of Program: 16.1 months, 48 credits
Length of Program: 5-6 terms, 248 credits
This program prepares licensed Registered Nurses (RNs) with a bachelor’s degree to expand their scope of practice. Family Nurse Practitioners (FNPs) provide primary care to patients of all ages, genders and health conditions through their lifespan.
This program prepares students to become first-contact, primary care physicians fully qualified to diagnose, treat, and manage a wide range of conditions.
Specific accreditations: American Association of Colleges of Nursing (CCNE)
Specific accreditations: Council on Chiropractic Education (CCE)
written by Rana Waxman
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Schools with Graduate Programs in Healthcare and Medicine
GradSchools.com offers 1051 Medicine and Healthcare Graduate Programs
Grand Canyon University
Colorado State University Global
Southern New Hampshire University
University of New Haven
Sacred Heart University
Purdue University Global
Saint Mary's University of Minnesota
The University of Scranton
The George Washington University