Doctor of Health Science vs. Medical Science: Which Is Better?

Industry Advice Healthcare Leadership

Getting a postgraduate education in healthcare leadership gives you the opportunity to examine the industry from many angles and identify where you can make the biggest impact. If you’re already exploring educational options, you may be aware of two doctoral degrees for healthcare professionals: Doctor of Health Science vs. Doctor of Medical Science. Both degrees can prepare you for managerial and executive roles, but which one is right for your professional aspirations?

At first glance, DMSc and DHSc programs may seem the same. However, there are a number of differences worth noting. Here’s an overview of these degree programs, which degree is right for you, and how to start your career in healthcare leadership.

What’s the Difference Between a DMSc and a DHSc?

A Doctor of Medical Science (DMSc) and Doctor of Health Science (DHSc) are doctoral degrees for medical professionals who have education and experience in a health-related field and want to transition into a leadership role. However, there are two key differences between a DMSc and DHSc degree.

Primary Target Audience

A DMSc degree is a relatively new, innovative doctorate program specifically designed to help physician assistants and other healthcare professionals become future leaders by advancing their clinical, managerial, and advocacy knowledge. While this degree is open to various healthcare backgrounds, physician assistants are often the perfect candidate for the DMSc program for a number of reasons.

For one, due to physician shortages PAs have filled several crucial roles in healthcare, increasing quality access among underserved populations. As licensed medical professionals with experience providing direct care, PAs are also well-positioned to observe healthcare operations, understand the challenges providers face, and assess factors affecting patient outcomes. Drawing from this experience, a DMSc degree prepares PAs and other healthcare professionals to strategically approach healthcare administration and make innovative decisions to improve a facility’s performance.

The DHSc degree is a doctoral program that prepares professionals from a broad range of advanced practice, allied health, and managerial backgrounds for higher leadership roles. This typically includes healthcare managers with a bachelor’s or master’s degree and clinicians who are not physicians, such as physical therapists, radiology technicians, and dietitians. As a result, DHSc programs provide a broad overview of research, health science fundamentals, and real-world application to provide foundational knowledge for leaders to participate in organizational strategy, policymaking, advocacy, and operations management.

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Experience Expectations

Since most DMSc programs are intended for PAs, the curriculum and enrollment requirements are often tailored to their specific experience. In all 50 states, you must earn a master’s degree and earn licensure to practice as a PA, therefore most DMSc programs will expect applicants to have these credentials.

While coursework varies across different institutions, it’s common for DMSc programs to include a core curriculum that revisits clinical topics, such as cardiology and neurology. One reason for this approach is to prepare PAs for executive roles that were traditionally held by physicians. Many, but not all, programs for PAs are focused on advancing students’ medical knowledge as clinicians before focusing on leadership skills.

On the other hand, the main goal of DHSc programs is to analyze how all the moving parts in a healthcare operation work together and equip professionals with the skills to assess problems, identify opportunities for improvement and innovation, and plan for the future.

To enroll in most DHSc programs, you will either need a graduate-level degree in a healthcare field or a relevant undergraduate degree, along with a few years of work experience in a healthcare role. It’s important to note, however, that since these expectations aren’t as advanced as a DMSc program, professionals with this degree aren’t as marketable for clinical leadership roles as DMSc holders.

Which Degree Is Right For You?

Whether you pursue a DHSc or DMSc, you can expand your career prospects by strengthening your skills as a healthcare leader. While both degrees are beneficial to your career, choosing the right one depends on a variety of factors such as past work experience, employment history, and desired work environment.

For example, are you more interested in growing your clinical skills or competing for leadership roles? What is your current healthcare background or job title? Which program closely aligns with my current credentials?

If you’re still wondering which program is right for your personal and professional interests, consider closely examining different programs to better understand their offerings. For example, Northeastern’s Bouvé College of Health Sciences’s Doctor of Medical Science in Healthcare Leadership program is an incredibly unique degree that aims to develop healthcare professionals from a variety of backgrounds.

Consider Enrolling in Northeastern’s DMSc Program

Northeastern’s Bouvé College of Health Sciences’s DMSc program is one-of-a-kind that prioritizes healthcare leadership and prepares you for real-world problem-solving. The degree combines many of the best features of both a DHSc and DMSc degree, creating a well-rounded program that’s offered fully online to allow flexibility for working professionals. Here are a number of unique features that make Northeastern’s DMSc program different from others on the market.

Applicant Inclusivity

Northeastern’s DMSc degree is an inclusive program, open to all healthcare professionals. The program values and aims to capitalize on any and all healthcare experience professionals have and then provides a framework for evaluating organizational efficiency from a public health, business, legal, and/or technological standpoint.

“We want to give people the toolkit across disciplines to be able to differentiate themselves in the leadership market. So, the way that we do that is putting together a group of various leaders in the field,” says Trenton Honda, associate dean of the School of Clinical and Rehabilitation Sciences at Bouvé College of Health Sciences.

Well-Rounded Skills Development

By consulting with a variety of successful healthcare leaders, Northeastern faculty found that while it’s important for executives to have a thorough understanding of healthcare environments, clinical and administrative skill sets aren’t the same across the board. This is particularly important when considering what program will best prepare you for a variety of roles in healthcare.

“We met with vice presidents at regional healthcare systems, executive leadership at technology companies, and senior medical science liaisons at pharmaceutical companies to ask, ‘What are the things that you want to see in somebody you’re going to pluck out of clinical practice and move into a leadership role?’” says Honda.

As a result, Northeastern’s DMSc program touches on these in-demand industry skills to ensure graduates are highly desirable candidates for these high-level positions. This is another reason the program’s inclusivity to all healthcare professionals can offer several positive learning outcomes.

Expert Faculty

Programs that welcome diverse professional backgrounds and hone in on current industry skills tend to attract some of the leading experts in the field. The distinguished faculty at Northeastern’s Bouvé College of Health Sciences is uniquely qualified to develop future C-suite healthcare executives who are empowered to make productive decisions at an organizational level.

The DMSc program faculty are experts in their respective fields, understanding the current demands of healthcare environments and the administrative challenges that will affect the field in the near future. Students are able to engage with industry leaders and, at the same time, do research and get insight they can directly apply to their current work experiences.

Specialized Curriculum

Beyond the core curriculum, students can choose from several concentrations that play a big role in shaping healthcare outcomes such as:

  • Health informatics
  • Pharmacy and health systems science
  • Business management
  • Public health

In addition to these various concentrations, Northeastern’s program offers an evidence-based learning environment that allows students to pursue individualized research focused on building strategic leadership skills, tailored to the specialties professionals want to work in.

Take the First Step Toward a Career in Healthcare Leadership

Earning an advanced degree is one of the best ways to build on your skills and boost both your long-term job outlook and earning potential. Leadership skills are not only transferable, they offer more flexibility to move between industries or transition into higher-level roles.

If you want to learn more about the Doctor of Medical Science degree at Northeastern, consider reaching out to an admissions counselor to find out if the program can benefit your career.

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