Health Policy Degrees: PhD, Master's & Online Course Info

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What will you learn in a health policy degree program? Read about degree requirements, the pros and cons of a master's degree and PhD and potential careers.
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Study Health Policy: Degrees at a Glance

In a graduate degree program, in health policy you'll analyze the current state of health policy in the United States and learn investigate how to improve healthcare delivery. These programs are designed to train students to work in academic, government, clinical and non-profit organizations. Additionally, master's degree students are prepared to enter a doctoral degree program.

With a graduate degree in health policy, you could work in policy analysis, research or healthcare management and administration. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicted that jobs in health services management and education would increase 22% from 2010 to 2020. The BLS prediction is based on the fact that an increasing population requires an increasing number of doctors and managers in the industry. Health policy researchers can help evaluate current healthcare policies and offer improvements.

Master's degree PhD
Who is this degree for? Individuals who are interested in health policy research or who want to prepare for a PhD program Those who wish to work in academia or health policy research
Common career paths (with approx. median salary) - Health policy analyst ($35,000 to $79,000)*
-Health policy director ($47,000 to $178,000)*
-Medical and health services managers ($86,000)**
Doctoral degrees may facilitate advancement in the occupations listed under master's degree.
- Postsecondary teacher ($64,000)**
Time to completion2 years, full time4-5 years, full time
Common graduation requirements - Core coursework
- Electives
- Research or capstone project
- Qualifying examinations
- Research project
- Dissertation
Prerequisites - Terminal degree in a comparable major- Excellent undergraduate record
- Relevant work experience
Online availability YesNot completely - some courses may be available in an online format

Source: *PayScale.com (June 2012 figures, ranges are 10th to 90th percentile), **U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (2011 figures).

Master's Degree in Health Policy

The master's degree in health policy teaches students to analyze current healthcare policies and delivery systems. These programs prepare students for careers in research, government policy or academia. They also give them the foundation they need to enter a PhD program.

Many master's degree programs in health policy require that you specialize in a specific area, such as long-term care, child health or health services research. These specializations allow you to focus your energy and research on the area of health policy that most interests you. You will also have the opportunity to gain hands-on experience working in a healthcare organization while you work towards your degree.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • You can enroll with a bachelor's in any field
  • Field experience and internships may help you gain valuable experience
  • Areas of specialization allow you to focus on the topic of your choosing
  • Online programs allow you to complete your degree remotely

Cons

  • Students without adequate math and statistics background may be required to take additional coursework
  • Entry-level positions may only require a bachelor's degree
  • Some employers may mandate additional certification
  • Internships and field work can make it difficult to work full-time while you are earning your degree

Courses and Requirements

Core courses in a master's program include statistical methods, microeconomics and financial management. In addition, you are required to complete an internships or capstone research project. The capstone component might require you to work on a consulting or research project for a public organization and present your work to the faculty. Common health policy courses include:

  • Applied economic analysis
  • Management science
  • Health systems
  • Health law
  • Health information systems

Online Degree Options

The online degree program typically offers the same coursework as an on-campus program. Students are still required to complete a capstone project or a written thesis.

Stand Out with This Degree

Jobs in health policy analysis often require excellent quantitative skills and knowledge of the legal framework for healthcare in the United States. When you are selecting elective courses, you may want to find courses that may help you sharpen your quantitative skills and gain a broader understanding of the legal issues in healthcare policy. Also, choose a thesis topic in an area that you plan to work. You can use your completed thesis as documented research experience in the field.

PhD in Health Policy

The doctoral program in health policy allows you to specialize in a specific area, such as decision sciences, ethics or management. However, you will also gain a general understanding of several different disciplines to promote team-work and foundational understanding. Students are trained for careers in health policy research and teaching.

In addition to the coursework, students are likely to have to pass qualifying examinations in general health policy and in an area of their specialization. Doctoral students are also required to complete a research project and teach undergraduate courses. A dissertation also must be completed.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • A doctoral degree prepares you for a career in research or academia
  • You may specialize in an area of your choosing
  • Students learn from working closely with other doctoral candidates and with faculty members

Cons

  • A doctoral degree may be limiting when it comes to job opportunities
  • After two years of coursework, you must spend another two to three years completing qualifying examinations and writing a dissertation
  • You must contribute original research to your field

Courses and Requirements

Before the qualifying examinations, research project or dissertation, you are typically required to complete two years of coursework. You can expect to take classes such as:

  • Applied regression analysis
  • Categorical data analysis
  • Health policy and health systems
  • Health economics
  • Health management

Online Degree Options

There are no fully-online doctoral degree programs available. However, some colleges and universities may offer certain classes remotely.

Stand Out with This Degree

To stand out in this field, you should have excellent team-work skills because you will likely be working with a group of researchers. Choose your area of specialization and research to coincide with the policy areas you intend to focus on after graduation. The more experience you have in your field, the more likely you are to stand out among job candidates.

Popular Schools

  • Online Programs Available
    1. Kaplan University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MBA: Health Care Management
      • Master of Healthcare Admin
      • Master: Management/Health Care Mgmt
      • Master of Health Informatics
      • Master of Health Information Management
  • Online Programs Available
    2. Grand Canyon University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MBA: Health Systems Management
      • MS in Health Care Administration
      • MS in Health Care Informatics
      • MS in Nursing: Health Care Informatics
      • Master of Public Administration - Health Care Management
  • Online Programs Available
    3. Herzing University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MBA: Health Care Management
      • MBA Dual Concentration: BS Mgt. & Healthcare Mgt.
      • MBA Dual Concentration: Healthcare Mgt. & Human Resources
      • MBA Dual Concentration: Accounting & Healthcare Mgmt.
      • MBA Dual Concentration: Healthcare Management and Technology Management
      • MBA Dual Concentration: Healthcare Management and Public Safety Leadership
  • Online Programs Available
    4. George Mason University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Health Administration in Health Systems Management
      • Master of Science in Health Informatics
  • Online Programs Available
    5. Ashford University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • M.A. - Health Care Admin
  • Online Programs Available
    6. Colorado State University Global

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Graduate Specialization - Healthcare Administration
      • MS - Healthcare Admin and Management
  • Online Programs Available
    7. Indiana Wesleyan University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Business Administration - Health Care Administration
  • Online Programs Available
    8. Northcentral University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MBA - Health Care Admin
      • Master of Science in Organizational Leadership - Health Care Administration
  • Online Programs Available
    9. Utica College

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MBA - Health Care Management
      • Masters in Health Care Administration
      • Online Master of Science in Health Care Administration - Acute Care
      • Online Master of Science in Health Care Administration - Long Term Care
      • Online Master of Science in Health Care Administration - Service Organization
  • Online Programs Available
    10. Saint Joseph's University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MS - Health Admin
      • MS - Health Admin Informatics

Featured Schools

Kaplan University

  • MBA: Health Care Management
  • Master of Healthcare Admin
  • Master: Management/Health Care Mgmt

Which subject are you interested in?

Grand Canyon University

  • MBA: Health Systems Management
  • MS in Health Care Administration
  • MS in Health Care Informatics

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Herzing University

  • MBA: Health Care Management
  • MBA Dual Concentration: BS Mgt. & Healthcare Mgt.
  • MBA Dual Concentration: Healthcare Mgt. & Human Resources

What is your highest level of education?

George Mason University

  • Master of Health Administration in Health Systems Management
  • Master of Science in Health Informatics

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Ashford University

  • M.A. - Health Care Admin

What is your highest level of education?

Colorado State University Global

  • Graduate Specialization - Healthcare Administration
  • MS - Healthcare Admin and Management

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Indiana Wesleyan University

  • Master of Business Administration - Health Care Administration

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Northcentral University

  • MBA - Health Care Admin
  • Master of Science in Organizational Leadership - Health Care Administration

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