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