You can become a master of medicine and secure a high paying career for your future with one of the best online Ph.D.s in health science. These advanced degrees allow you to run surgeries, save lives, or progress the field of medical science to develop cures for the worst diseases.
Doctors of Health Science don’t just provide an invaluable service to all of society; they also earn an incredible paycheck regardless of their exact position. Even better, the expertise needed to obtain one of these positions ensures that the field isn’t inundated with competitors. The sky is the limit if you have the smarts and skills to earn one of these degrees!
What Is a Health Science Ph.D. Degree?
A Doctor of Health Science degree comes in two major types: Doctors of Philosophy and Doctors of Health Science. Both can be valuable but differ in fundamental ways. The former degree option usually focuses on research and requires graduates to complete dissertations. They normally become teachers or faculty at universities. The latter degree option leads to a professional medical career.
Either way, Ph.D. programs in Health Science take four to six years to complete and generally include classes about health science, public health, health care administration, and advanced clinical knowledge depending on your focus. Advanced biology and chemistry knowledge is usually required in order to enter the program, along with a related master’s degree, either in health sciences or a similar major.
Additionally, many programs require high GPAs and/or GRE scores for many applicants serious about admission. The majority of these programs are quite competitive and will ask applicants for additional resources like letters of recommendation or work experience.
Careers for Health Science Majors
There are several careers available for health science majors at the doctoral level. Arguably the most well-known is that of physician or surgeon, which requires specialization and many hours of clinical practice in addition to this degree. These are the doctors responsible for treating injuries or illnesses at hospitals or performing life-saving surgeries. More specialized doctors like optometrists or podiatrists are extra pathways available depending on the program you choose and your expertise.
But graduates with this degree can also become physician assistants. They assist injured or ill people to manage their pain or improve their movement; they’re essentially recovery experts. Or you may choose to become a pharmacist, who can prescribe different medications or offer expertise in their use.
Alternatively, you could become a medical scientist or researcher, especially with a Doctor of Philosophy in health science. This profession will have you conducting research to improve human health and hospital operation, including finding cures for various diseases or illnesses.
All of these professions enjoy either very optimistic (up to 22% growth over the next 10 years for physician assistants) or fairly high (7% growth for medical scientists) job outlooks. This means there’ll be plenty of positions for graduates with these degrees in the foreseeable future.
Health Science Ph.D. Salary Potential
The average salaries for these experts are necessarily high given the extensive schooling required and long working hours endured by most. For instance, physicians and surgeons can expect wages of around $208,000 per year according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, if not much more.
Specialized doctors like optometrists earn average salaries of around $112,000 per year, while pharmacists enjoy an average median salary of $126,000 per year. Meanwhile, physical therapists and medical scientists have average salaries of upwards of $80,000 per year, with high potential for greater earnings depending on overtime and experience.
Ultimately, graduates with Ph.D.s in health science certainly don’t need to worry about their salary potential!
What Are the Best Online Ph.D.’s in Health Science Degrees?
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Arizona State University
Average Net Price
There are lots of reasons that Arizona State University’s online programs are so well-known. Their rigor and academic value are undisputed, and the school’s student-focused approach means that even online learners get the support they need to excel with their education. It’s no surprise that U.S. News and World ranked ASU as the No. 1 school in the United States for innovation, as well as among the best graduate schools in the US regardless of major.
ASU’s Doctor of Behavioral Health is perfectly suited for the online learning environment. You’ll take 14 classes in total, over 84 credits. Each class only lasts 7.5 weeks. This results in a rapid pace format to allow excellent students to graduate in two years rather than four to six like with many other Ph.D. health science programs. It also comes with a built-in healthcare management specialization. As a result, it includes classes both focused on healthcare subjects and business topics, including entrepreneurship.
As a result, it’s a perfect program choice if you want to take a spot in healthcare administration or become a member of a hospital board. Even better, there are both synchronous and asynchronous learning opportunities, enabling you to take on a hybrid learning format if that suits your educational style better. An additional 240 internship hours are required for graduation, but these merely make sure you’re ready to leap into action upon graduation.
University of South Florida
Average Net Price
The University of South Florida is one of the most famous research universities in the country and rests in sunny Tampa Bay. With a diverse (and academically successful) student body with an average high school GPA of 3.13, it’s a competitive University regardless of major. But it also ranks No. 4 for student success among 1100 other universities according to Eduventures Student Success Ratings. Its health programs in particular place it among the top medical schools in the country.
Their Doctor of Public Health (DrPH) degree focuses on both public health education and advanced training. In essence, it prepares students to become leaders in the medical field and in practice-based settings like health departments or clinics. Far from a research degree, its curriculum is optimized for those wanting their boots (and medical coats) in surgery rooms or working with individuals in need of their help.
Two additional concentrations are available: advanced practice leadership in public health and clinical laboratory science and practice. This allows you to specialize your education according to your interests or in pursuit of a particular position. Either way, there are three opportunities to jump into the program (fall, spring, and summer) and any required on-campus learning can be completed at the three USF institutes. In all, flexibility and academic rigor are elegantly combined like few other schools manage.
University of Illinois Chicago
Average Net Price
The University of Illinois at Chicago is a flagship public research university for both the state and the United States at large. Its student body of over 33,000 students benefits from one of the best hospitals and health science systems, and the school provides all would-be graduates with excellent resources and a focused educational experience. Graduates will also have access to an alumni network 285,000 strong, as well as an effective career placement service.
They offer a Doctor of Public Health with a direct emphasis on leadership, enabling all graduates to take charge in hospitals or medical research centers. It’s an ideal pick for those currently in the public health sphere, due to its online accessibility and class focus on influencing public health policy. Rather than focus on raw clinical skills, the degree cultivates your ability to understand the regulations and research behind many healthcare decisions. You’ll learn how larger hospitals are run, as well.
The program is comprised of 96 semester hours, including several seminars that require personal attendance at the university. An additional dissertation is required, and this can take several forms depending on your preference. You can complete a traditional research study or make your own policy and analyze it for future implementation. This normally includes an additional 28 semester hours of research.
Central Michigan University
Mount Pleasant, Michigan
Average Net Price
Central Michigan University originally began as a teachers’ college but has since expanded to produce an alumni network that’s over 235,000 strong and which includes a wider variety of majors and programs. Their online experiences are so valuable that they’re used by 20% of CMU’s main campus students, who use the online architecture to supplement their on-campus progress. As a potential bonus, Michigan itself is currently experiencing a shortage of primary care physicians, so their career services center is well-positioned to help you find employment after graduation.
Their Doctor of Health Administration is 63 credits in total and is comprised of a diverse curriculum that covers a broad collection of topics, including health communication; policy, regulation, and community; healthcare economic realities; and various research methods. Once completed, all graduates should be able to take positions as healthcare leaders or researchers at various clinics, medical research centers, or nonprofit organizations.
The program uses a hybrid cohort format. This requires you to follow the same schedule of courses with a familiar group of students from start to finish. The 51 credit didactic portion includes six face-to-face seminars and a comprehensive essay exam. The seminars are particularly valuable as they provide you with opportunities to network with your peers or connect you with subject matter experts in the field. Note that the cohort system does mean that only a single application window for the fall semester is available each year.
University of North Carolina
Chapel Hill, North Carolina
Average Net Price
The University of North Carolina has the distinction of being the first public university in the United States, founded in 1795. They boast a low student to faculty ratio of 13:1, plus small class sizes of less than 50 students for 88% of all courses. Additionally, The Wall Street Journal ranks it as the third best public university in 2020 overall, plus the 5th best public university according to U.S. News and World Report.
They offer a relatively unique executive doctoral program in health leadership. It’s a three-year program in total and utilizes a small cohort format with focus groups of students that accompany one another from beginning to end. This is great for networking over the course of your studies and if you need help completing your work.
It’s entirely online, save for three on-site visits every year during the first two years of the program. The last year of the program is saved for dissertation completion, which helps narrow each student’s focus and academic interests. One or more applied practice experiences are also required for graduation. By the end of this effective program, you’ll be well-positioned to take a job as a medical researcher or a healthcare leader, like a hospital administrator.
University of South Dakota
Vermillion, South Dakota
Average Net Price
The University of South Dakota is the flagship university of the state with a remarkably small-town feel despite its fame. Most of the classes benefit from the 16:1 student to faculty ratio, and those on campus spend much of their free time supporting the 18 Division I athletic teams supported by the school. Particularly helpful is the fact that their out-of-state tuition is the same as in-state residents’, so online schooling will be more affordable for many.
They offer an interprofessional Doctor of Philosophy in health sciences, which comes with an emphasis on research and leadership. The core curriculum is crafted around four main themes: scholarship, advanced practice, leadership, and teaching. Over the minimum of 75 credits required for graduation, students will mostly complete classwork online with a single initial orientation, a one-week dissertation boot camp, and a dissertation defense at the end of the program. However, your dissertation may be completed off-campus if it’s approved by your advisor.
The program is also notable for the various projects you’ll need to complete throughout the curriculum. These enable you to tailor the coursework somewhat to your interests or mark a specialization you have (like public health or health management) to potential employers. You’ll be able to further narrow down a niche before graduation with your dissertation subject.
The University of Alabama at Birmingham
Average Net Price
The University of Alabama at Birmingham became a four-year campus as recently as 1966 but has since expanded to include 140 programs of study. It’s now one of the busiest universities in the United States, with almost 22,000 students from over 110 countries enrolled at last count. It’s also one of the biggest academic medical centers in the country, which sponsors several residency programs in various medical specialties, and which provides excellent opportunities for current or future medical researchers.
Their Doctor of Philosophy degree comes with an emphasis on administration and health services. It’s a collaborative program between both the health services administration department and the Collat School of Business, and the curriculum reflects this with a diverse class list ranging from business topics like Management to health subjects like Advanced Health Policy. It’s a particularly good choice for those looking to become strategic managers or health services research professionals.
The interdisciplinary curriculum is taught by faculty members currently active in various health research or health management positions. Indeed, all students will need to work closely with select faculty through one-on-one mentorship programs both before and during the writing of their dissertation. This is not only great for networking, but it also gives you plenty of opportunities to fine-tune your dissertation before completion, ensuring a great result if you put in the time and effort.
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Liberty University is one of the most well-known online universities in the country for its flexibility and ease of use. It’s primarily an evangelical liberal arts institution, though students of any faith are allowed to enroll. It’s also interesting in that 400 of the 600 available programs are available online, making it one of the few well-reported and academically rigorous online-majority universities in the world.
Their Doctor of Business Administration in healthcare management is unique in coursework compared to most other programs out there, but it’s similar to the other online offerings in format and time. It’s comprised of 60 credit hours and can be completed over three years, though you can accelerate this deadline by taking extra classes during the summer semester. You can also jump in whenever you like, as start dates are available every few months. Each class is only eight weeks long: a perfect fit for students who are fans of accelerated formats.
The program itself emphasizes business topics in healthcare administration subjects more than many other healthcare management degrees. But this makes it a perfect fit for future hospital administrators and policymakers in the public health sphere. This program also provides students with opportunities to attend meetings with their professors and classmates, plus additional but optional intensive courses that let you establish personal or business relationships with peers and faculty members. Networking benefits plus academic potential are both available from this school.
Medical University of South Carolina
Charleston, South Carolina
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The Medical University of South Carolina is the oldest medical school in the South, having been founded in 1824. As a specialty university, it brings in nearly $300 million in medical research funds and is one of the most successful universities when it comes to training top-tier medical professionals in specializations like dental medicine, nursing, and more.
Their Doctor of Health Administration can be completed in about three years, though you won’t have the opportunity to skip ahead as the program utilizes a cohort format. Most cohorts are around 23 students in size, a perfect number to keep things comfortable with your professor while also facilitating networking and peer connections. It’s a 54 credit hour curriculum in total and every cohort begins in the fall.
The program also utilizes a blended format, like most other Ph.D.s in health science. Face-to-face meetings are required during one long weekend on the MUSC campus in Charleston, as well as formal coursework with online presentations. The core curriculum emphasizes leadership and management as well as applied health research methods and policy development. Finally, students will enjoy a week-long intensive policy trip to Washington DC, which acts as a prelude to the third year that is typically devoted to doctoral project research.
New Brunswick, New Jersey
Average Net Price
Rutgers University is the No. 1 public university in New Jersey according to U.S. News and World Report, serving over 70,000 students in total. Their school of health professions is also highly rated: No. 1 according to College Factual. As the eighth-oldest college in the United States, there’s history, culture, and academic excellence to be had in its hallowed halls, which you’ll need to visit to complete this degree!
They’re a great school to look into because they offer a unique medical program unlike any other in the nation: a Doctor of Clinical Laboratory Science (DCLS). This program is an ideal pick for future medical lab scientists or healthcare practitioners, with a curriculum that focuses on developing new healthcare models and diagnostic tools. It’s comprised of 80 credits and includes both pre-residency courses and a one-year doctor residency component, during which a research project will be completed.
As a result of its practical focus, it also requires education in several real-world healthcare settings. Students will complete patient care intervention trials during daily clinical rounds, review reports generated by laboratory information systems, and even utilize a global consultation network for patients and caregivers for analysis practice. All graduates will step out of the experience well-prepared for a position in a clinical lab setting or as a healthcare provider at a hospital or clinic.
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Franklin University is a college specially designed for professional students looking to complete their degrees quickly. Though they have a main campus in downtown Columbus, Ohio, their online offerings are especially robust and flexible. Many students find it an excellent university for their professional development thanks to the coaching program anyone can take advantage of, which pairs students with professionals working in particular industries like medicine or engineering.
Their Doctor of Healthcare Administration is well-suited for future hospital administrators or health care policy creators. It’s very student-friendly, particularly for those looking to complete their degree quickly. In fact, it can be completed in three years rather than four to six, allowing you one year for your dissertation and providing several jump-start points throughout the curriculum. You can even transfer up to 24 hours of previously earned credit.
While a dissertation is required, the program is 100% online and can be crafted according to your interests thanks to the wide array of electives available. The curriculum is updated almost every year, too. This keeps the program as a whole relevant to the evolving industries of healthcare and medical business. A research-focused core curriculum rounds out the experience.
Virginia Beach, Virginia
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Regent University is a Virginia institute with an expressly Christian framework that’s present throughout all of its programs. They were founded recently—in 1978—but have since grown to provide the Top 5 Best Online Graduate Education Programs in Virginia according to U.S. News and World Report.
They provide an online Doctor of Strategic Leadership with an emphasis in healthcare leadership. It’s almost entirely online over the 60 credit hours required for graduation, though it does include two four-day residencies at the beginning and end of the program. These take place at the main campus in Virginia Beach and offer opportunities to connect with peers and faculty. The last residency provides guidance for your dissertation as well as your final project.
The rest of the curriculum focuses heavily on leadership structures and how managers can effectively run healthcare businesses. As a result, it’s more of a business-focused degree compared to many other health science credentials. However, a significant focus is placed on people-first care and strategic decision-making, in part because of the Christian framework that’s implemented alongside the majority of the included classes and case studies.
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Rush University is the academic half of the Rush Medical Center, which provides its medical or health science students with multiple opportunities for employment or research during or after graduation. It’s a relatively small university with only about 2700 students, but this means it’s excellent for students that want a more personal connection with their peers and professors, even across webcams or chat rooms.
Their Doctor of Philosophy in health sciences is an interdisciplinary online program that combines coursework in health science and research with classes revolving around education and leadership. Dissertation research and completion is also included with the regular curriculum schedule. It’s available in either full-time or part-time variants, so it’s perfect for working professionals. Most students complete their degree within four or five years and benefit from the low average class size of fewer than 10 students.
Over 54 semester hours, students will complete all their courses in an asynchronous online format. Students only need to come to campus for the comprehensive final examination and dissertation defense. This relatively flexible schedule means it’s an excellent pick if you are far from the Illinois campus, as you’ll only need to travel physically to the school once rather than a few times over the program.
A.T. Still University
Average Net Price
A.T. Still University is a leading health science university in both Missouri and Arizona, where many of the students take advantage of their online programs to speed up or complete their degrees. It’s a small school with only about 3100 students from 35 countries, but it’s well known as a multidisciplinary healthcare educator. It was founded with a focus on the benefits of osteopathic medicine, leading to its success as a healthcare center today.
They offer an online Doctor of Health Administration. This leadership focused degree program combines theoretical coursework with practical experiences so that all students are ready for success upon graduation. The curriculum subjects are grounded in research and dive deep into healthcare-specific knowledge and skills. While it’s a health administration degree first and foremost, it’ll provide you with the knowledge you need to inspire confidence in your doctors or other healthcare professionals. You’ll know what they’re talking about just as much as they do.
After coursework is completed, all students will draft and refine a dissertation to be defended at the end of the program. Students at ATSU are given multiple opportunities to start or add to their dissertation as they go along, guided by faculty members across the internet. If you’re still unsure about this program, you can register for a demo course that shows you exactly what to expect.
Thomas Jefferson University
Average Net Price
Thomas Jefferson University was actually founded as Jefferson Medical College, giving away its historical expertise! It’s a diverse school campus with locations in Philadelphia, Alabama, and New Jersey. While it boasts an incredibly high undergraduate success rate (measured as being accepted into jobs or graduate schools) of 97%, its graduate programs are also top-tier.
Their Ph.D. in population health science is particularly relevant in today’s climate and public focus on pandemics. The program is designed to create leaders who can analyze the reasons why healthcare succeeds or fails and come up with policies or systems to improve the lives of populations. It also incorporates a heavy research component, so it’s a good choice if you want to become a medical scientist rather than an administrator or policymaker, as well.
The program is comprised of 62 credits, including both a dissertation and a competency exam. All students will choose one specialty area to concentrate on: health policy, healthcare quality and safety, health behavior science, applied health economics and outcomes research, or population health intelligence. Fortunately for some, the program can be completed entirely online.