A Doctor of Health Science student with test tubes

Ph.D. vs. Doctor of Health Science: What’s the Difference?

There are many benefits of pursuing a postgraduate degree, such as a doctorate. Individuals with this level degree are highly-regarded as experts or authorities in their fields, and therefore carry great credibility. Healthcare professionals looking to advance their careers and expand their knowledge may find themselves considering the pursuit of a doctoral degree. A Health Science doctorate degree program prepares graduates for careers in healthcare administration, advanced clinical practice, teaching, and research. However, not all doctoral programs are the same. There are two doctoral routes a student can take in the field of Health Science, a Doctor of Health Science (DHSc) degree and a Ph.D.. Here are a few ways in which these two paths differ.

Ph.D. in Health Science

A Ph.D., or Doctor of Philosophy, in Health Sciences, will typically prepare students for a career in academic research as well as higher education. While it is possible to work as a researcher with a DHSc, there are other significant ways in which a Ph.D. differs from a DHSc program.

Education and Focus

One of the primary differences between a Ph.D. and a DHSc is the way in which the program is structured. While both degrees typically experience some crossover in course work (for example in the areas of community health promotion, health management, and epidemiology), the focus and length of the Ph.D. differ greatly from the DHSc.

Firstly, a Ph.D. contrasts with a DHSc in terms of the length of the program. Typically, a Ph.D. in Health Science can take anywhere from 4 to 7 years to complete. This is in addition to any prior education, as applicants to Ph.D. programs must hold a master’s degree or a professional doctorate in a health-related area.

As in most Ph.D. programs, the program culminates in a dissertation. The primary focus of a Ph.D. program is to train students to become experts in a narrowly defined discipline. Within this discipline, they’ll endeavor to conduct research and advance their knowledge. In turn, they’ll also be prepared to work as educators in their field. Many individuals with a Ph.D. go on to become professors in universities.

Career Outcomes

As noted above, those who hold a Ph.D. in Health Science are mainly qualified to work as educators in higher education, helping to train the next generation of researchers in the field. Additionally, Ph.D. holders can work as researchers themselves. While the focus of a Ph.D. is mostly academic in nature, some may work as hospital administrators or public health officials.

Doctor of Health Science

A Doctor of Health Science, or DHSc, provides students with the knowledge they need to become leaders in the field of healthcare. Unlike a Ph.D., the focus is less on research and more on practical applications. The two programs differ in other ways, as well.

Education and Focus

A DHSc program differs from a Ph.D. in several ways. Many DHSc programs can be completed within three years, shorter than the Ph.D. path, and some programs are even offered online. This provides flexibility to working professionals. Similar to a Ph.D., however, successful applicants to DHSc programs must hold a master’s degree, at minimum. Additionally, they are expected to have healthcare experience, professional credentials, or licensure in a health-related field. Applicants without healthcare experience should have ample experience as a leader in the fields of education, nutrition, or health sciences.

The DHSc program prepares graduates for a more varied career path than the Ph.D. by offering specializations and electives. For example, a DHSc candidate may specialize in education, clinical work, or clinical nutrition. They may also take courses in toxicology and infectious diseases, which prepare graduates for work in epidemiology. Dissertation topics in a DHSc program will center around a student’s preferred area of specialization.

Career Outcomes

While DHSc graduates may enter a career in higher education, they are also well-prepared to become healthcare leaders. In addition to teaching, DHSc holders will be eligible to work in healthcare leadership positions, helping to improve community health outcomes. They may work in health management, health policy, or global health. They will have newfound research skills, enabling them to deliver evidence-based care and make critical clinical decisions.

The need for healthcare leaders is ever-growing. According to the Department of Labor Statistics, employment in medical management is expected to grow by 32% between 2019 and 2029. Employment in epidemiology is also expected to grow. In other words, a DHSc will serve graduates very well, no matter where your professional goals lie.

Doctorate vs. Ph.D.: Choosing the Best Health Science Graduate Degree

The decision to enter into a doctoral program should not be made lightly. Doctoral programs, whether it is a Ph.D. or Doctor of Health Science, require a large investment of time as well as dedication. However, if you want to make a difference in the complex and ever-changing world of healthcare, the pursuit of a doctorate is a wonderful choice. When choosing between a DHSc and a Ph.D., you will ultimately need to decide what your career goals are. If you’d like to contribute to the field by creating new knowledge, a Ph.D. is a good fit. If you’re more interested in a hands-on or practical approach, the DHSc is right for you. In either circumstance, you will be well-prepared to step into a leadership role and make a greater impact in the field of healthcare.

Are you ready to pursue a Doctor of Health Science? Start your application for University of Bridgeport’s online DHSc program today!