Guide to Master's Degrees in Health

Health care is one of the country's largest and fastest-growing industries, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts that 3.2 million new health care jobs will be created from 2008 to 2018. From nurses to hospital administrators, the health care industry relies on employees of varying backgrounds dedicated to helping others.

Health Healthcare Nursing

For many health care careers, earning a master's degree can open doors to higher-paying positions with more responsibility. Most master's degree programs take between 1 and 3 years to complete, and distance learning programs now make it possible to earn a master's degree online. Online degree programs allow you to prepare for your next step without leaving your current job, so you can gain experience and education simultaneously. Depending on your career goals, you can choose from several online or on-campus master's degree programs in health.

Master's Degree Programs in Health and Health Care Specializations

Multiple specialties fall under the health care umbrella, from counseling teens to running a hospital. For each area of interest, there is an applicable health master's degree program that can help help you reach your goals. Many programs offer both online and on-campus options to fit your lifestyle. Often, on-campus programs are more beneficial for those interested in a career in academia, while an online master's degree program may benefit a working individual seeking career advancement. The following master's degrees in health can prepare you for a variety of careers.

MHA - Master of Health Care Administration

If you're interested in health services management, a Master of Health Care Administration (MHA) degree can prepare you to run health clinics, hospitals, and care centers. MHA programs generally take 2 to 3 years to complete and include courses in hospital organization, accounting, marketing, health economics, biostatistics, human resources administration, and more. Distance graduate education programs in health care administration are available, allowing you to earn a master's degree online without leaving your current job.

MHS - Master of Health Science

A Master of Health Science (MHS) degree can prepare you for a variety of careers in health care administration or public health. There are several specializations within the health sciences field, including health policy, health promotion, health services leadership, and general research. If you're interested in earning an MHS in order to perform advanced research, an on-campus program may suit your needs better than an online master's degree program. Alternatively, if you have professional health care goals, an online graduate program would allow you to continue learning while working.

MSN - Master of Science in Nursing

While registered nurses generally hold an associate's or bachelor's degree in nursing, a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree is required to become an advanced practice nurse. Advanced practice nurses specialize in a given area of medicine, commonly becoming nurse anesthetists, nurse-midwives, clinical nurse specialists, and nurse practitioners. Depending on the state, advanced practice nurses may work independently of physicians and prescribe medicine. MSN programs include both classroom learning and clinical experience, and many online master's degree programs in nursing exist. These online graduate programs allow practicing nurses to take the next step in their medical education.

MPT - Master of Physical Therapy

A Master of Physical Therapy (MPT) degree takes 2 to 3 years to complete and prepares students for work as a physical therapist. Physical therapists work with accident victims and sufferers of debilitating diseases to help them regain strength and muscle function. During the MPT program, physical therapy students gain clinical experience and take courses that include anatomy, biology, exercise physiology, biomechanics, and pathology. Physical therapists may choose to earn a master's degree online, which enables them to continue working during the education process.

MSP - Master of Science in Psychology

Counselors in schools, hospitals, mental health clinics, and rehabilitation centers are required to have at least a Master of Science in Psychology (MSP) degree to practice. MSP programs generally take 2 to 3 years to complete and are followed by months of supervised clinical experience. During the master's degree program, students choose a specialization based on their career goals, such as marriage and family therapy, secondary school counseling, substance abuse counseling, or clinical mental health counseling. If you're interested in becoming a counselor but can't leave your current job to attend school, consider the multiple online master's degree programs available.

MPH - Master of Public Health

This degree can prepare you for roles in community leadership, public policy, disease control, and health education. MPH programs introduce students to basic principles of public health, including epidemiology, biostatistics, health services administration, and environmental health sciences, and encourages them to specialize in a given area of public health, such as family and community health, global health, and health care management and policy. The MPH degree is required for many leadership roles in the public health sector, and online master's degree programs can help you earn your MPH at your own pace.

The Changing Landscape of Health Care Master's Degree Programs

According to the BLS, employment of health care professionals is expected to grow by 23 percent from 2008 to 2018, which translates to a greater demand for educated health professionals. Graduate programs have responded to this need by expanding the number of health-related master's degrees offered.

Traditional graduate health programs, such as nursing, psychology, and health care administration, should also grow with the increased demand for nurses, counselors, and health services managers. According to the BLS, management positions in health care should increase by 17 percent from 2008 to 2018, while employment of nurses and counselors should grow by 23 percent. Graduate programs must respond to this demand by preparing an increasing number of students for leadership roles in health care.

Master's Degree Programs in Health Can Launch Your Career

With demand for health care professionals increasing across the board, now is an ideal time to enter the industry. An aging baby boomer population and advances in health technology mean that the health care industry needs talented professionals for years to come, and it's not too late to join their ranks. Even if you're too busy to attend a traditional, on-campus graduate program, you can earn a master's degree online and build a stable, rewarding career in health care.


  • Bureau of Labor Statistics, Counselors
  • Bureau of Labor Statistics, Health Care
  • Bureau of Labor Statistics, Health Educators
  • Bureau of Labor Statistics, Medical and Health Services Managers
  • Bureau of Labor Statistics, Physical Therapists
  • Bureau of Labor Statistics, Registered Nurses
  • Education Resources Information Center, Global-Health Programs on the Rise in the U.S.
  • Harvard School of Public Health, MPH Program

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