Online PhD in Medicine

The online PhD in medicine, also known as the Doctor of Health Sciences (D.H.Sc.) prepares experienced individuals with medical backgrounds to manage the complexities that arise in professional practice in the medical field. Graduates of top online doctorate programs in medicine are equipped with the skills to make informed decisions about how best to support health care workplaces and the people within them so that they adhere to the most stringent standards and reflect the highest competencies. Professionals who possess online PhD degrees in health sciences can meet the increasingly heightened demand for consumer care in a knowledgeable and skilled manner. The best online doctoral programs in health sciences provide teaching and learning in principles of management, economics, policy and cultural fluency. Students develop skills as both practitioners and scholars so that they can impact society in a meaningful way. Admission into online doctorate programs in medicine requires a master's degree in a related field. Students accepted into a doctoral program in medicine can expect to have their evaluative and analytical abilities honed so that they are well positioned to not only mitigate the challenges within the medical profession, but to also effectively lead others who rely on their guidance and counsel in the workplace.

About Online PhD Programs in Medicine or Health Sciences

Online doctoral programs in medicine are usually more interactive than traditional courses. Doctoral candidates are expected to participate in weekly discussion boards, group projects, study scholarly readings, and write lengthy papers. In addition to course work, health sciences PhD candidates must conduct in-depth research within their area of interest and write a dissertation reporting the findings and discussing future implications. These classes prepare students to assume leadership roles in public and private health care organizations, helping them acquire abilities in the management of complications that affect the industry such as cost, quality and access. Coursework facilitates the ability to launch, implement and assess solutions devised in response to these and relevant concerns. Graduates are not only viewed as administrators within the field of medicine; rather, they are project managers whose knowledge of health care is complemented by an understanding of the industry from a business perspective. Most online doctoral programs in health sciences, such as the Doctor of Health Sciences program offered online at A.T. Still University, will expect students to attend mandatory conferences or seminars to satisfy the residency requirements of the degree.

Year One:

  • Writing for Health Professionals. In this required introductory course at A.T. Still University, students develop writing abilities through examining grammar, sentence structure, paragraph development, referencing, and specific writing requirements for scholarly papers.
  • Risk Management for Health Practitioners. In this course students explore important health care issues such as how quality outcomes are defined and measured, as well as prominent quality improvement theories.
  • Health Administration Law and Ethics. In this course, students develop solutions to improving the delivery and excellence of health care and are provided a basic framework from which to consider the consequences of decisions.

Year Two:

  • Healthcare Information Systems. This course examines clinical and administrative management information systems (MIS) and models, as well as the current and emerging use of technologies and software.
  • Health Care Outcomes. Topics in this course include development of the outcomes framework, outcomes measures, risk adjustment of health outcomes, technical and practical issues with measurement and estimation, and empirical examples of health care outcomes research.
  • Population Health and Patient-Centered Care. Topics in this course discussed include urbanization and migration and its influence on population, as well as climate change, culture, the media, socio-economics, gender, employment status and political systems.

Year Three:

  • Organizational Behavior. This course focuses on the problems and challenges health care leaders face when dealing with the individual and the small groups within an organization.
  • Health Policy Development and Analysis. This course expands knowledge on the definition of public policy, health policy development, and funding solutions to policy issues.
  • Dissemination. This applied research project consists of five courses to help students develop a research project to advance practical knowledge in the health sciences based on applied research and analysis.

Most PhD in Medicine/Health Sciences programs, such as the one offered at A.T. Still University, consist of 70 credit hours of study. 64 hours are completed online while a one-week, six credit hour residency held at ATSU's Mesa, AZ campus is required. An example of a dissertation in Health Sciences is Child Abuse Screening in the Emergency Department Setting: Improving Protocol Function and Understanding.

Value and Criticisms of a PhD in Medicine

While earning a PhD in Medicine or Doctor of Health Sciences online will put you at the highest level of education within the field, programs of this kind are not very common through distance learning. Fortunately, there are other similar programs that are more readily available online where you cover the same scope, such as Public Health or Health Care Sciences PhD programs. Currently there are not many doctoral programs in Medicine or Health Sciences and additional information is scarce. Part of this could be because the PhD in Medicine is very similar to the Doctor of Medicine, which would require attending medical school. Attending medical school online is not very practical currently, and many MD-PhD programs exist at traditional institutions. For example, Yale School of Medicine offers a PhD in Investigative Medicine, while Temple University, Johns Hopkins University, and Penn State University all offer MD-PhD bridge programs. If the Doctor in Medicine does not interest you, you may be better suited for an online PhD in Public Health program, such as the one offered by Walden University. Finally, there are more scholarship and funding options available at traditional bricks-and-mortar schools.

Application & Admission Requirements

In order to be considered for admission into the best online PhD programs in Medicine and Health Sciences, prospective applicants must possess a master's or doctoral degree from an accredited institution of higher learning and have maintained a cumulative grade point average of at least 3.0. Examples of ideal master's degrees that applicants should have would be a Master of Science in Health Services, Public Health or Psychology. Applicants must also submit official post secondary transcripts, proof of being a licensed, registered or credentialed healthcare professional, a detailed résumé or curriculum vitae and three letters of recommendation from professionals within the healthcare industry. Some online PhD programs may require a personal statement or either an in-person or phone interview. Some programs, such as Nova Southeastern University's PhD in Health Science online program, have four starting dates during the academic year in January, April, July and September. It is recommended that applications are sent at least 30 days prior to these dates.

Career Options & Job Market

Earning an online PhD in medicine permits individuals to play integral roles in an industry that is ever evolving due to consumer demand, global issues and legislative policies. Graduates of online PhD programs in medicine utilize their knowledge of theory and subject matter principles to pragmatically support and advance healthcare services for the common good. There are a myriad of administrative and managerial tasks beyond the examination room that enable patients to receive the services that they both expect and deserve. Examples of careers in Health Sciences are:

  • Administrative Services Manager
  • Medical and Health Services Manager
  • College or University Professor
  • Medical Scientist

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job outlook for medical and health services managers is good and employment is expected to grow faster than the average for all occupations. The job outlook for medical scientists is also expected to be positive, with employment expected to increase by 40 percent by 2018.

Where to Find Information

How to Get Funding

Paying for an online doctoral program in Medicine or Health Sciences is usually cheaper than tuition at a traditional bricks-and-mortar institution. For example, tuition at A.T. Still University is currently $415 per credit hour. ATSU has more information about financing options at their financial aid web site. Meanwhile, Nova Southeastern University has more information about filing for assistance at their financial aid web site. Students in need of financial assistance can annually file a Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or a FAFSA to qualify for Federal Stafford Loans. To search for applicable scholarships, is a great searchable database for scholarships.

Essential Advice

  • Weigh your options and do the research. You'll need to know for sure whether an additional degree will increase your earning potential more than a bachelor's or master's degree in a similar field would.
  • Try to obtain a scholarship, fellowship or grant. Studying at a PhD level is costly, and you may not be able to predict how many years it will take you to complete it. Keep in mind that scholarships for doctoral programs in Medicine and Health Sciences are easier to come by at traditional medical schools, such as Yale University or Johns Hopkins University.
  • Talk to current doctoral candidates and graduates about course load, time management, what admission materials they submitted, and so on. This is the best way to learn if the program is right for you, or if you may be better suited for a PhD program in Public Health or Health Administration.
  • Check the school's credentials. Once you find a program, make sure it is accredited by an accrediting institution recognized by the United States Department of Education.