Online doctorate of health for leadership opportunities

By Woodrow Aames

Health care is one of the nation's largest industries, with more than 14 million employees. According to the Department of Labor, this field includes half of the fastest-growing occupations in the United States. Health care is expected to add 3.2 million jobs between 2008 and 2018, with openings for 45,400 new medical administrators. For working professionals, flexible online Doctorate of Health degree programs offer opportunities to aim for leadership positions.

Online doctorate programs in health care or health administration blend practical workplace skills development with theoretical research opportunities, with the goal of enabling mid-level administrators to transition to upper management roles. Many candidates have already earned a master's degree in a health care field or business administration specialty. Applicants may also be able to combine work experience and previous college or university studies to meet entry requirements.

Online doctorate of health programs and coursework

Programs and ultimate degree titles vary by institution. Online programs offer choices such the following:

  • Doctor of Health Administration or DHA
  • Ph.D. in Health Management and Policy
  • Doctorate of Business Administration with an emphasis in health care management

Depending on the program, coursework can include studies such as these:

  1. Strategic management
  2. Financial management
  3. System administration
  4. Legal and ethical issues
  5. Risk and change management
  6. Technology management

Because of built-in course flexibility, time to completion varies widely by program and self-paced student progress. Options can include a course-based format, a self-directed format, or a mixed format combining traditional management studies with the student's professional focus. Some programs require combined online and part-time campus residency. Minimum enrollments are generally around 10 quarters. Candidates typically must pass a graduate examination and defend a research dissertation.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, graduates may also be required by their states to hold health care management licenses or pursue voluntary management certifications to benchmark their skills. The American Health Information Management Association offers certifications for health information technology professionals.

Career options for online doctorate of health graduates

The BLS reports that 38 percent of health managers work in hospitals, and others take leadership roles with care centers, laboratories, medical offices, insurance corporations and public health organizations. Many recipients of online doctorate degrees in health go into higher education. Here are some selected career options, including the median annual earnings the BLS estimated for 2010:

  • College professor or postsecondary health specialities teacher: $85,270
  • Medical and health services manager: $84,270
  • Administrative services manager: $77,890

Four notable recipients of doctorates in health

Health doctorate holders around the world have left their mark on the profession, creating innovations that continue to serve in fields of research medicine, practical medicine and health administration, health business consulting, scholarship, and medical journalism. Here are some of the notable holders of these degrees:

  1. Joseph A. Michelli, Ph.D., has worked as a health care consultant around the world, but is more known for writing best-selling books on managing business. His book, "The Starbucks Experience: 5 Principles for Turning Ordinary into Extraordinary," rode bestseller lists compiled by The Wall Street Journal, BusinessWeek Magazine and USA Today.
  2. Henry Norman Bethune, a Canadian, was the innovator of the first-ever first mobile blood-transfusion service in 1936 during the Spanish Civil War and became its administrator. As a policy visionary, he helped formulate the plan of socialized medicine still used in Canada today.
  3. Dr. Max Gomez, a bilingual medical journalist originally from Cuba, earned multiple Emmy Awards and currently is Health and Science Editor for NBC in New York City. He holds a Ph.D. from the Wake Forest University School of Medicine. Dr. Gomez serves on national board of directors for the American Heart Association and is co-author of "The Prostate Health Program: A Guide to Preventing and Controlling Prostate Cancer."
  4. Jean-Martin Charcot, a French professor of anatomical pathology, influenced research and development programs that led to modern neurology. In 1882, he was the first researcher to identify and name multiple sclerosis. He earned the nickname, "The Napoleon of the neuroses."

Today's online doctorate degrees in health are focused on increasing practical business knowledge along with an understanding of historical and theoretical knowledge. These programs are preparing the next generation of health care pioneers and inspirational administrators to embrace best practices in administration and medical research. Online programs feature scheduling flexibility and coursework that map directly to candidates' career expectations and professional challenges.

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