Medical Specialties Graduate Programs offer a wide variety of learning opportunities for those who have an affinity for studying medicine, a desire to deliver quality health care services or an interest in coaching others to help them reach their wellness goals. Whether you are interested in a Premed program or in potentially practicing alternative medicine, there are a number of health professions that require either a Masters or Doctorate degree as entry-level education. With an anticipated employment growth of 19% projected by the Bureau of Labor Statistics from 2014 to 2024[i] this may be a great time to look into graduate medical specialties degrees to see how you might be able to prepare academically for different potential careers in medicine.
Medical Specialties Graduate programs are typically offered as Masters and Doctorate degrees, and usually build upon a candidate’s prior education. For some students, the journey to a graduate level medical specialties degree program has been paved as early as an Associate’s degree where they may have taken clinical and administrative courses or learned the vocational skills necessary for working as a medical assistant, pharmacy technician or lab assistant. Others may have earned a Bachelors in Nutrition. Each program is likely to have its own specific undergraduate degree prerequisites and admissions requirements, and there are many doctorate degree programs that admit students with a Bachelor’s degree.
DID YOU KNOW?To a certain extent, medical practitioners have always been specialized. According to Galen, specialization was common among Roman physicians[ii].
A specialty in medicine is a branch of medical practice.[iii] The typical trajectory for someone who intended to practice as a ‘medical specialist’ is to complete medical school. Then, physicians or surgeons might further their education in a specific specialty of medicine by completing a multiple year residency to become a medical specialist[iv]. Many of the medical specialties graduate programs are directed at individuals who aspire to practice independently and do require a professional doctorate, residency and internship. That said, there are some medical and health occupations require a masters degree as the minimum entry-level education, so it is recommended to find out what the requirements are in your desired profession so that you can choose a supportive educational pathway. This may mean applying into a master’s program with a Bachelor’s degree or applying directly into a professional doctorate degree program.
Medical specialties graduate programs may be classified according to whether they are based on internal medicine (e.g. surgery), a specific age group (e.g. pediatric or geriatric), diagnosis and therapy or specific technique.[v] Search our directory for programs that may fall into these classifications. Some of our broader categories include:
Alternative medicine graduate programs tend to focus of the theories, science and practice of complementary medicine and medical systems. This could include an understanding of traditional Chinese Medicine (or Oriental Medicine) such as acupuncture, as well naturopathy and mind-body therapies, Chinese herbology, Qigong and Tuina, integrative and holistic medicine, botanical medicine, homeopathy, nutrition, and much more. Many of the modalities in alternative medicine focus on prevention and working with the person as a whole. Earning a graduate degree in alternative medicine may be required for practice. Data currently indicates 48% of licensed acupuncturists, when asked about their level of education, indicate they have a master’s degree, 14% a professional degree and 13% a doctoral degree. [vi]
Chiropractic graduate programs prepare individuals for the independent practice of chiropractic, which is a health care and healing system based on the application of non-invasive treatments and spinal adjustments to alleviate health problems[vii]. Prospective chiropractors are required to have a Doctor of Chiropractic (D.C.) degree, and some chiropractors simultaneously pursue a masters degree in a second topic such as nutrition or sports rehabilitation[viii].
Dental medicine graduate programs prepare individuals for the independent professional practice of dentistry and dental medicine. Dental programs include degrees such as the Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS), Doctor of Dental Medicine (DDM), Doctor of Medical Dentistry (DMS).[ix] Some students may be interested in a master’s degree in dental hygiene which could be required for research, teaching, or clinical practice as a dental hygienist in public or private school health programs.[x]
Pre-med programs are the academic track that undergraduate students in the U.S.A. and Canada pursue prior to becoming medical students. Some are quite broad and may be referred to as pre-professional since they may prepare students for entry into a variety of first professional or graduate degree programs that require similar prerequisites (e.g. medical, pharmacy, veterinary schools).[xi]
Optometry graduate programs prepare individuals for the independent practice of eye examination and eye care. Although dispensing opticians may have an associate’s degree, optometrists must complete a Doctor of Optometry (O.D.) degree programs and obtain license to practice in a specific state[xii].
Physician assistant graduate programs prepare individuals to practice medicine, including diagnoses and treatment therapies, under the supervision of a physician[xiii]. Physician assistants typically need a masters degree from an accredited program and state licensure[xiv]. Some programs may require clinical rotations.
Respiratory therapy graduate programs prepare individuals to practice, under the supervision of physicians, to assist in developing respiratory care plans and administer respiratory care procedures.[xv] Respiratory therapists typically have an associate’s or bachelor’s degree so earning a graduate degree may provide highly specialized skills and go in depth into research.
Refine your search for the medical specialties graduate programs that align with your interests by selecting the program level: masters, doctorate and graduate certificate. Some masters programs such as a Master of Science in Prosthetics and Orthotics may take longer than two years to complete and may require coursework and a residency[xvi]. Some first professional doctorates such as a Doctor of Chiropractic program could take four years or so to complete and may require supervised clinical experience.[xvii]
FACT: In 2013-14, 97,403 masters and 67,448 doctorate degrees were awarded in health professions by postsecondary institutions![xviii]
Today’s graduate student can often choose between pursuing a graduate degree on college campus, taking courses online, or finding a hybrid medical specialties graduate program that blends both learning formats. If you know where you want to study, refine your search by location and find graduate programs in a specific city, state or country. Not all programs are available in all formats.
Accreditation is the process by which an institution or program has been reviewed by an outside accrediting agency and is known to uphold quality standards, strives to maintain them, and seeks to ameliorate education practices and curriculums in accordance with any newly found guidelines. At the institutional level, schools can be accredited nationally by the U.S. Department of Education and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation, and regionally by one of seven nationally recognized accreditors. In terms of programmatic accreditation, there are different agencies. For instance, the Commission on Dental Accreditation accredits dental school programs[xix]and the Council on Chiropractic Education accredits Doctor of Chiropractic programs[xx] to name a few.
Whether you are interested in studying orthotics, osteopathy or ophthalmology, there is a wide range of exciting medical specialties graduate programs to review. Look through our sponsored programs to find the master of science or professional doctorate degree program that appeals to you. Then use our easy ‘request info’ tab to contact the prospective graduate schools. They have the answers to your questions and can fill you in about their application process.
sources: [i] bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/home.htm |[ii] en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Specialty_(medicine) |[iii] en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Specialty_(medicine) |[iv] en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Specialty_(medicine) |[v] en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Specialty_(medicine) |[vi] netonline.org/link/summary/29-1199.01 |[vii] http://nces.ed.gov/IPEDS/CIPCODE/cipdetail.aspx?y=55&cipid=88744 |[viii]bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/chiropractors.htm |[ix] bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/dentists.htm |[x] bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/dental-hygienists.htm |[xi] en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pre-medical |[xii] bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/optometrists.htm | |[xiii] http://nces.ed.gov/IPEDS/CIPCODE/cipdetail.aspx?y=55&cipid=87820 |[xiv] bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/physician-assistants.htm |[xv] https://nces.ed.gov/ipeds/cipcode/cipdetail.aspx?y=55&cipid=88786 |[xvi] bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/orthotists-and-prosthetists.htm |[xvii] bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/chiropractors.htm |[xviii] https://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d15/tables/dt15_325.60.asp?current=yes |[xix] bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/dentists.htm[xx] bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/chiropractors.htm