Home » Health Science » Master's

Master of Health Science Career Guide

woman in labcoat and goggles carries tablet
Home » Health Science » Master's

A master’s in health science can give you the knowledge you need to pursue a broad range of leadership positions in areas that combine science and healthcare. Whether your interests are geared toward direct patient care or administration, a master’s in health science typically includes a choice of concentrations so you can tailor the degree to your interests and goals.

In this Article

Overview

The health care industry is experiencing rapid and unprecedented growth. As baby boomers enter their later years, their need for medical care grows. This increase in patient numbers has resulted in rising demand not only for doctors, nurses, and other clinicians, but also for administrators, caseworkers, and others who are also vital to meeting patient needs.

Colleges and universities are responding to the demand by creating degree programs to educate the next wave of professionals who will shape healthcare for generations to come. In addition to clinical fields, there are also programs that provide a big-picture, interdisciplinary view of the industry. Health Science departments have emerged to offer associate, bachelor’s, and master’s degrees in many specialties.

Taking your education to the next level with a Master of Health Science (MHS) may give your career, and your salary, a huge boost.

Why Get a Master’s in Health Science?

Graduate degrees always look great on a resume, but why should you specifically pursue a master’s in health science? The chief reason is to advance your knowledge and delve deeply into a specialty area.

“The beauty of a health sciences degree is that no clinical experience is necessary,” says Anna Zendell, PhD, MSW, and senior faculty program director of Graduate Health Sciences Degrees at Excelsior College. “It’s a field that is conducive to people who are looking to break into the healthcare field as a career entrant or career changer.”

MHS degree holders also learn a great deal about becoming leaders in their field. Healthcare management is full of graduate-level professionals who lead others in creating more efficient healthcare delivery systems. Even hospitals with the very best doctors and nurses rely on top-notch administration to keep the systems running smoothly. Administrators with a background in health science know how to best use medical resources for the betterment of all the patients and staff.

Graduate degrees look great on a resume, but why should you pursue a master’s in health science? The chief reason is to advance your knowledge and delve deeply into a specialty area.

The MHS degree will bolster your knowledge base as well as help you improve your approach to putting the theoretical concepts you’ve learned into action. For instance, health educators serve their communities by understanding how to improve lifestyles and access healthcare resources to implement change. This knowledge can help improve the overall health of communities, resulting in more efficient businesses, happier families, and a productive future for everyone.

Master’s Curriculum

Most MHS programs include a core curriculum that lays a foundation of basic knowledge and then allows students to focus on a specialty.

Almost every MHS program covers health policy as part of its core curriculum, and often as a concentration. You will also get at least a working knowledge of epidemiology, disease control, and public health.

“In order to earn a master’s degree, students must take some sort of research or statistics course, as well as courses addressing leadership, ethics, communication, health policy, and some sort of population health systems course,” says Zendell.

These kinds of courses could include:

Current Trends in Healthcare:

Explore issues pertinent to healthcare professionals.

Medical Writing for Publication:

You will learn to write for peer-reviewed journals while focusing on the specifics of medical writing.

Epidemiology:

You will expand your knowledge of biostatistics and how disease spreads through populations.

Ethics in Healthcare:

You will explore the vital field of medical ethics, which seeks to determine the best use of medical resources, among other issues.

Management Principles:

You’ll study how to best manage a team of medical professionals.

Leadership in Healthcare:

You’ll explore how to best lead healthcare professionals in terms of motivation, conflict resolution, and more.

MHS Specialties

The MHS degree offers many specialties. The field is interdisciplinary, and some schools offer MHS degrees with medical specialties, such as oncology. Other programs offer MHS degrees with more of a policy approach. Still others will have specialties in risk management or law.

No matter which specialty you choose, expect it to require hands-on training, fieldwork, a project and presentation, or research. You might do this work as an internship or as a project under the guidance of a faculty member.

You’ll be able to add this work to your resume and demonstrate to prospective employers the knowledge and experience you already have in your specialty.

Here are some MHS specialties you can choose, depending on your school’s offerings.

  • Healthcare Risk Management
  • Clinical Research
  • Biostatistics
  • Mental Health
  • Immunology
  • Healthcare Promotion and Education
  • Healthcare Leadership
  • Sports Medicine
  • Healthcare Policy
  • Reproductive Biology
  • Microbiology
  • Epidemiology, including cancer, infectious disease, aging, and genetics

Some specialties are medical in scope, and many future doctors will earn an MHS in their specialty to gain a broader view of the field.  Even if you aren’t pursuing a medical career, specializations with a medical focus will allow you to study broader issues such as policy and trends.

This approach results in well-rounded health care professionals who can work in environments that range from clinical to political. If you are considering doing work in a healthcare consultancy, this level of knowledge might be exactly what you are looking for.

It’s vital to determine your goals and then research schools to ensure that you are applying to an MHS program that includes your interests.

Look for Accreditation


No matter which school or program you choose, make sure both are accredited. Accreditation says a program has met the standards of a quality education, and without it:

  • You can’t apply for federal financial aid
  • You won’t be able to transfer credits to an accredited school if you want to change schools
  • A prospective employer may not recognize your education and rule you out as a job candidate
  • You may not qualify for professional certifications that could boost your career and salary

Career Paths

There are a multitude of paths for professionals with an MHS. You might choose to pursue a medical degree or combine your knowledge of health with public policy to work in politics and guide health policy. Or you could decide to teach or do research.

“Master’s-level career pathways can include health education, health coaching, care coordination, nursing home administration, health informatics, and more,” Zendell says. “A common theme in this pathway is leadership.”

Don’t Forget Certification


Not all careers require professional certification, but you’ll want to consider one or more as you progress in your career and gain more experience.

A certification lets others know that you have deep expertise and knowledge in your field. These credentials can open doors to advancement or new roles and may boost your salary.

In some cases, your employer or a prospective employer may require a specific credential.

Here’s a look at some common MHS career paths. Salary and job outlook projections are based on data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). 


Public Health

A career in public health might involve policy work, disease control, epidemiology, healthcare coordination, or community health. It might take you to consultancy firms, hospital boardrooms, or government at the state or federal level.

With a master’s degree, you would typically qualify for positions in public health management.

  • Job Description: A public health manager may oversee departmental goals and objectives, budgets, and resources in an office setting or spend their day consulting with government and local groups coordinating responses to disease outbreaks.
  • Salary: $101,340
  • Job Outlook: A dramatic 28 percent projected job growth through 2031
  • Required Skills/Personal Traits: Leadership, organization, communication, conflict resolution, data analysis
  • Certifications:
  • Certified in Public Health (CPH)
  • Public Health Administrator (PHA)
  • Certified Health Education Specialist (CHES)

Informatics

This field is where healthcare meets information technology. You will help streamline procedures as well as work to protect healthcare databases from outside intrusion. This is a great route if you are an IT professional and want to find a focus within the healthcare industry.

A master’s degree would prepare you to work as a healthcare IT project manager.

  • Job Description: Healthcare IT project managers may direct daily operations of an IT department in a single facility or a network of locations. They direct workflow, staff, and resources and serve as the link between the IT department and other areas and systems. 
  • Salary: $159,010
  • Job Outlook: 16 percent projected job growth through 2031
  • Required Skills/Personal Traits: Critical thinking, active listening, judgment and decision making, database management, software expertise, web platform development knowledge, database user interface design
  • Certifications:

Health Educator

Health educators work with a wide range of populations, teaching them how to better care for themselves and how to access healthcare resources. Depending on the setting, you might be a classroom teacher, imparting vital knowledge, or you might take a more innovative approach and create community art events that inspire people beyond the classroom.

  • Job Description: A health educator collaborates across disciplines, so they spend much of their time meeting the professional development needs of healthcare teams. This can involve meeting with team leaders, implementing research, writing policy, and teaching medical staff or students.
  • Salary: $60,600
  • Job Outlook: 8 percent projected job growth through 2031
  • Required Skills/Personal Traits: Public speaking, communication, creativity, organization, collaboration, leadership
  • Certifications:
  • Certified Health Education Specialist (CHES)
  • Master Certified Health Education Specialist (MCHES)

Medicine (Environmental Health Focus)

You can take your MHS and pursue an M.D. degree. Your broader knowledge will inform your practice in eye-opening ways. You might choose an MHS that focuses on a particular medical specialty, such as oncology, or you might choose one with less of a medical focus, such as environmental health, described here.

  • Job Description: An environmental health specialist works with representatives of government agencies, industry, environmental programs, and the public to ensure that environmental health standards and guidelines are met. This role can involve working in the field to measure pollution emissions, atmospheric, meteorological, or other environmental factors.
  • Salary: $76,530
  • Job Outlook: 5 percent projected job growth through 2031
  • Required Skills/Personal Traits: Active listening, critical thinking, scientific knowledge, judgment and decision making, coordination, systems analysis
  • Certifications:
  • Certified Environmental Scientist (CES)
  • Registered Environmental Health Specialist/Registered Sanitarian (REHS/RS)

Health Science Writer

As a health science writer, you will translate technical and medical information for use by the general public. You may create news releases, newspaper articles, textbooks, or pamphlets, and other media related to a wide range of medical, scientific, and health-based topics.

  • Job Description: In addition to writing for the general public, health science writers also often consult with medical professionals to report on research and developments in healthcare for audiences that may include clinicians, administrators, and consumers.
  • Salary: $78,060
  • Job Outlook: 6 percent projected job growth through 2031
  • Required Skills/Personal Traits: Writing, research skills, reading comprehension, active listening, critical thinking, judgment and decision making, time management, and coordination
  • Certifications:
  • Certified Medical Writing Professional (CMWP)
  • Medical Writer Certified (MWC)

Health Science Librarian

In this role, you will support the learning and development of nurses, doctors, and other healthcare professionals. Your MHS background will help you determine the best periodicals and books to stock for your library’s typical user.

  • Job Description: A health science librarian assists health professionals, patients, and researchers in finding health and science information on topics ranging from new clinical trials and treatments to common health questions. Daily tasks include maintaining the inventory of physical research materials, updating library databases, and using a range of online services to answer patrons’ reference questions.
  • Salary: $61,190
  • Job Outlook: 6 percent projected job growth through 2031
  • Required Skills/Personal Traits: Active listening, critical thinking, instructing, complex problem solving, knowledge of computer applications and software systems
  • Certifications:
  • Consumer Health Information Specialization – Level II (CHIS)
  • Academy of Health Information Professionals (AHIP)

Epidemiologist

An epidemiologist studies causes and patterns of disease and illness among various populations. As public health workers, their work is used to improve public health and stem illnesses like flu outbreaks.

  • Job Description: Epidemiologists collect and analyze data to investigate and treat public health issues. They collaborate with policymakers, practitioners, and the public to manage programs and determine ways to improve health and stem outbreaks.
  • Salary: $78,830
  • Job Outlook: 26 percent projected job growth through 2031
  • Required Skills/Personal Traits: Statistical mind, curiosity, strong communication skills, willingness to collaborate across disciplines, passion for learning
  • Certifications:

Biomedical Illustrator

You’ll combine your knowledge of anatomy and disease and your artistic ability to create images, models, and other designs for use in films, textbooks, and a wide range of educational media.

  • Job Description: A medical illustrator uses manual or digital tools to create images that combine art and science to assist physicians, medical students, and patients in understanding aspects of anatomy and health conditions and treatments. While a biomedical illustrator may collaborate with physicians and scientists, they spend most of their time in a studio where they have the tools to do their detailed work.
  • Salary: $60,820
  • Job Outlook: 6 percent projected job growth through 2031
  • Required Skills/Personal Traits: Design techniques, fine arts theory, active learning, critical thinking, writing, creativity, visualization, computer software knowledge
  • Certifications:
  • Certified Medical Illustrator (CMI)

Hospital Administrator

An MHS will help you succeed as an administrator in a hospital. You might use your degree to create a career at either the executive, associate, or financial level. Many administrators use their MHS degrees in conjunction with a background in management, finance, marketing, or even computer science.

  • Job Description: Hospital administrators have demanding positions that often involve balancing the needs of many stakeholders, including providers and patients, to ensure that a healthcare facility operates efficiently while providing quality care. Their daily routines involve tasks related to meetings, planning, and staff management.
  • Salary: $101,340
  • Job Outlook: 28 percent projected job growth through 2031
  • Required Skills/Personal Traits: Leadership, communication, mediation, conflict resolution, organization, financial planning
  • Certifications:
  • Fellow of the American College of Healthcare Executives (FACHE)
  • Certificate in Healthcare Compliance (CHC)
  • Certified Healthcare Financial Planner (CHFP)

With a master’s degree in health science, you’ll be on the way to a fulfilling career that will help benefit hundreds, or even thousands, of patients and professionals. Start advancing your career today by investigating the best MHS program for you.

anna giorgi

With professional insight from:
Anna Giorgi
Contributing Writer

anna zendell

With professional insight from:
Anna Zendell, PhD, MSW
Senior Faculty Program Director for Graduate Health Sciences Degrees, Excelsior College