Online PhD in Medical Science

Keeping the world's population free of disease is at the forefront of the global agenda. From microscopic pathogens to the optimization of hospital practices, an online doctorate in medical science is meant to provide a deeper and more cohesive understanding of the sciences that form the foundation of medical practice. There are many subtle challenges that health experts today must learn to connect and address with efficiency. The top online doctoral programs in medical science are focused on the recognition and thorough understanding of how these problems, and their solutions, can be approached.

Obtaining an online doctorate in medical science requires analytical capacity and the ability to make insightful correlations in data sets. Applicants should have a master's degree in a health related field as well as prior exposure to the biomedical, pharmaceutical, or hospital technology industries. Each program has different course requirements, but can generally be completed in about 2.5 to 5 years, depending on the student's course load.

For example,Nova Southeastern University's online medical science PhD program requires 71 credit hours. This course of study includes research practica, three one-week on-campus institutes, and a dissertation with oral defense.

About Online PhD Programs in Medical Science

Programs like Nova Southeastern University's online PhD in medical science are centered around courses that stress the interrelatedness of the fundamental sciences as well as deal with relevant and pressing issues in current health care systems. Students enrolled in online medical science doctorate programs are required to participate in research, achieve above-average grades, and produce a relevant thesis.

Year One:

  • Professional Competencies in the Clinical Care of Diverse and Special Populations. Discussion and analysis of the impact of ethnic and cultural issues on health care delivery systems.
  • Community Health Promotion and Disease Prevention. Develops practical knowledge and skills needed to engage communities in disease prevention programs.
  • Conflict Resolution in Health Care. Required one-week on-campus summer institute course. Students will study the dynamics of human conflict within civil societies and develop their own resolution strategies.

Year Two:

  • Patient Safety. An overview of practices to promote patient safety including topics such as leadership, organizational culture, human factors, decision-making science, communication, and a systems approach to health care delivery.
  • Health Care Informatics. Examines the application of information technology in medicine and its impact on the quality of care.
  • Global Epidemiology. Instruction in research methods as they pertain to global health issues and the underlying concepts of the epidemiologic approach.

Year Three:

  • Biostatistics. Develops skills in quantitative analysis in order to evaluate the results of published health care studies.
  • Research Design. Introduction to the methods and approaches of health care research. This course will cover topics such as ethics, formulation of research questions, study design, reliability, validity, sampling, measurement, and interpretation of research findings.
  • Research Practicum. Required one-week on-campus winter institute course. Students will conduct a research activity under faculty member supervision.


  • Dissertation. Planning, development, research, writing, and oral defense of an advanced research topic.

Before undertaking the research phase of the dissertation, students must select a dissertation chairperson and committee. This committee must approve the dissertation proposal before the student can move forward with their research. Once complete, the student must present an oral defense of their dissertation to faculty. This defense must be given in person, either at the summer or winter institute or on the main campus. Some examples of past dissertations include:

  • The environmental impact on performance among first responders at risk of occupational exposure to bloodborne pathogens
  • Ethical decision-making among health care executives: A study of the relationship between cognitive development, ethical reasoning skills and ethical behavior of health care executives
  • An in-depth analysis of the relationship between employee wellness programs and employee health care costs

Value and Criticisms of Online Doctoral Programs in Medical Science

Earning your medical science doctorate degree online may be beneficial because it can allow you to remain at work and possibly take advantage of tuition reimbursement. However, for some individuals this can be too disruptive to their work life and may not be the right choice. Most true medical science programs in areas such as biochemistry, molecular biology, or biomedical technology are offered only as part of on-campus programs due to the specialized nature of the field. Also, keep in mind, it may be easier to get grants and scholarships by attending a traditional on-campus program. For example, New York University's Medical Scientist Training Program, offers a yearly stipend for living expenses as well as tuition remission.

Application & Admission Requirements

Most medical science PhD programs online are looking for candidates with relevant professional experience and require a certain level of academic achievement to ensure students are prepared for the rigor of a PhD program. Here is an example of the requirements for Nova Southeastern University's PhD in medical science:

  • A master's degree from an accredited school with a GPA of 3.0 or higher. This is to ensure students are prepared for the level of academic work at the doctoral level.
  • Applicants must be licensed, certified, or registered in a health care field. Selecting candidates with adequate experience in their industry improves the quality of discussion and research conducted within the program.
  • Application form and non-refundable fee of $50.
  • Two evaluations from supervising physicians or managers attesting to your professional experience in the field.

Career Options & Job Market

There are many career options for graduates with online PhD degrees in medical science. Some of the most sought-after careers are:

  • University professor. Online doctoral degrees in medical science qualify graduates to teach health studies in any post-secondary setting, which can earn you an average of $103,340 per year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
  • Medical researcher. For those more inclined to laboratory settings, research and development for pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies offers a competitive niche with substantial growth potential. Researchers are involved in cutting edge techniques and technologies and make between $51,640 and $101,290 per year. Some researchers are even employed privately by universities.
  • Hospital manager. Jobs in health care are on the rise according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and graduates with online doctorate degrees in medical science often take supervisory roles in dynamic health care facilities. Hospital managers earn a median salary of $80,240.

Biological systems and the welfare of the human population always require knowledgeable professionals. Earning your medical science PhD online can lead to a rewarding and ever-changing career environment.

Where to Find Information

How to Get Funding

Federal and institutional financial aid are available for most programs. When you are considering pursuing an online PhD in medical science, check with the specific school to assess the total cost for the program and see what type of aid you might qualify for. Tuition varies between schools. For example, tuition atNova Southeastern University is $595 per credit hour. So depending on whether or not you transfer any existing credits, the total cost can range up to $42,245, not including books, materials, and other institutional fees.

Also note, some employers might offer tuition reimbursement for further education in your field. Contact your employer's human resources department for more information.

Essential Advice

  • Check Requirements. The majority of online doctoral programs in medical science require applicants to have at least a master's degree, sometimes in a specific field. Other requirements may include a minimum GPA standard, proof of being a licensed professional, and letters of recommendation attesting to your experience either in a professional or academic setting.
  • Look for the best programs for your own needs. Keep in mind that medical science is a specialized hands-on field and it may be hard to find a program that is offered online. You may need to make a compromise by either choosing a related degree or attending an on-campus program.
  • Explore federal and institutional financial aid options as well as the possibility of employer reimbursement. While typically earning an online medical science PhD is less costly than a traditional on-campus program, you should always look to see which program offers the best aid packages. You may find it easier to secure grants and scholarships by attending a traditional on-campus program in medical science, which could end up costing you less out of pocket.
  • Try talking with past graduates and current faculty. This can give you a better sense of the experience you are likely to have in the program and can help you gauge whether or not this, or other online doctorate programs in medical science, are the right fit for your educational goals.