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Guide to Health Phd Programs

The largest industry in the United States is the healthcare industry which provides jobs to over 14 million Americans. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), 7 of the 20 fastest growing jobs between the period 2006 – 2016 will be in the healthcare industry, generating more jobs than any other industry. Reasons leading to this increase include longer life expectancies, aging baby boomer population as well as a renewed commitment by the government to overhaul the healthcare system.

PhDs and Other Doctorate Degrees in Health

Reports from the BLS state that people currently working in the healthcare field have bachelor’s degrees which took them four years to complete. However, to qualify for work in management or administration, clinical practice, in-depth research, public policy development or college level instruction, professionals must have doctorate degrees. Below is a list of popular health-related doctoral degrees:

  • PhD – Doctor of Philosophy in Health spans around various subjects, from psychology to health education. The good thing about a PhD in health is that it permits you to concentrate on writing and research. In Latin, ‘Doctorate’ means ‘teacher,’ hence most of your study will be theoretical and bent on preparing the student for teaching and research positions or even publishing materials biased to the field.
  • PsyD – The Doctor of Psychology (PsyD) is very similar to the PhD, apart from the fact that it concentrates on clinical applications and not research and theory. It gives an edge over PhD for those who want to practice as psychologists since it provides more training in psychological testing and equips the student with practical knowledge for a variety of clinical settings.
  • DBA – A Doctor of Business Administration (DBA) in health science grants the graduates the ability to add onto their skill set in matters pertaining to management and business. They are then able to work in the high cadres of insurance companies or health care facilities or in academia.
  • DHA – A Doctor of Health Administration (DHA) is a doctorate degree which inclines a lot on the business of healthcare. The DHAs are able to make good of the government’s commitment to streamlining health information systems as well as the increasingly stringent requirements for tax compliance and updating of patient records. After conferment of this doctorate, graduates may work in insurance companies, public health organizations, health care organizations, or the social service.
  • DMFT – The Doctorate in Marriage and Family Therapy (DMFT) equips graduates with the ability to work mainly in clinical settings to consult, supervise, research, or counsel on any issue that may arise in marriage and family life.
  • DNP – The Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) refers to a clinical degree essential for advanced practice nurses such as nurse anesthesiologists, nurse midwives, nurse practitioners and clinical nursing specialists.
  • DPT – The Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) preps graduates to work in a clinical setting by providing physical therapy services. A transitional DPT (tDPT) enables licensed physical therapists to get clinical doctorates degrees.
  • EdD – The Doctor of Education in Counseling or Counseling Psychology focuses of forging future researchers by applying research to modern clinical practices. Usually, students who wish to follow this road have master’s degrees in mental health, social work, school or industrial counseling, psychiatric nursing, marriage and family therapy or pastoral psychology. They end up working as executive directors, full time researchers, healthcare administrators or professors.

The above mentioned doctoral and PhD degree programs are available both in online and traditional colleges. Online PhD programs are beneficial in that they can be completed from anywhere and at times (hours) that are convenient for the student and allows a great deal of flexibility. Since you are not expected to put your career on hold in order to complete your degree program, you can implement what you learn immediately.

Taking the Pulse of a PhD Degree in Health

Between 2006 to 2007, the number of Doctor of Philosophy in Health degrees increased by 12%, a trend which is predicted to go on for a while, according to the National Science Foundation. Factors that have led to this upsurge include recent changes in the law that require specific specialties to be practiced by doctoral graduates, like advanced practice nurses, as well as the incentives to recruit practitioners to the rapidly growing industry.

The health industry is among the rarest in that the number of unemployed persons is very low compared to the number of open positions waiting to be filled. As a result, most hospitals employ nurses from the international job market making nurses with PhDs very difficult to come by and thus very valuable to input their services as advanced practice nurses. Another contributing factor to the shortage of nurses is the scarcity of college and university nursing professors and thus a PhD in this field is very important.

Health Degree Specializations and Careers

Some of the most common career paths for those wielding a Doctor of Philosophy in Health or related doctoral degrees include:

  • Physicians and surgeons – A projection by the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates a 17% growth in the 2006 – 2016 period. A common trend nowadays is that these professionals are on the payroll system of group medical practices, integrated health systems, clinics. Their employment in hospitals is expected dissipate.
  • Physical Therapy – these professionals help patients to treat physical pain through movement, stimulate function and overcome physical disabilities where possible. With the baby boomer population aging and the life expectancy increasing, these professionals will be vital in maintaining the physical health. Growth in this field is expected to grow by over 30%.
  • Psychology – These professionals study the human mind. Certain positions in psychology can be attained without doctorate degrees but you cannot enter clinical practice or become a college level instructor without one. As this is a fairly competitive field, job prospects will be excellent for those with doctoral or PhD in a particular applied specialty, like school counseling.
  • Health Information Technology – the government stimulus package coupled with great healthcare reforms, as well as the ever dynamic technology, make healthcare a very rapidly growing field. HIT is primarily concerned with the management of patient records.
  • Nursing – this is the highest expanding occupation as well as the most essential one in the healthcare industry. Not only does a doctorate degree allow you to work in an advanced practice environment, but also provides the necessary infrastructure required by the graduate to teach at college level. According to the BLS, nursing jobs will increase by roughly 25% and the dearth of nursing professors may have a negative impact on our ability to fill those jobs. This means that people with PhDs in nursing will be very important and highly sought after.
  • Pharmacy – Improved treatments and medications are placing a lot of strain on pharmacies. Consequently, pharmacist jobs are expected to increase by 22% between 2006 – 2016.

As competition for jobs increases in virtually all industrial sectors, medicine and health notwithstanding, having the right skills is very vital. Furthering your education online or on campus is the next best step you can take to expand your skill set and improve your marketability. A PhD in health can help you enjoy the challenge of research and exploration or working with patients in a clinical setting.