After graduating from the Master of Health Science (MHS) degree program in Global Health Economics at Johns Hopkins in 2017, Libby Watts took a job helping the Johns Hopkins International Vaccine Access Center (IVAC) expand access to vaccines in low- and middle-income countries. In her job, Watts uses data analytics and modeling to develop vaccination plans and measure the effects of these efforts on both community health and the local economy. Her work enables her not only to save lives but also to track the impact of her and the IVAC's efforts. It's a gratifying way to earn a living.
MHS programs cover a large range of topic areas—including epidemiology, demography, and health economics—but regardless of the discipline, graduates can look forward to a rewarding career in their area of specialization. These master's programs provide a thorough grounding in a specific health science field, preparing students to go into public health as Watts did or enter a more technical part of the healthcare field such as biostatistics or health IT. Faculty typically have lots of practical experience in health science, which they impart to students along with technical knowledge and theoretical perspectives. In the case of Watts’ JHU master's program, "The faculty are all practicing health economists who stay informed of the cutting-edge methods and technologies in the field," she says. "Being exposed to these concepts in classes helped me immediately contribute to my team at IVAC."
All aspects of healthcare come with promising job prospects these days; in the U.S. the sector now employs more people than any other industry. An MHS degree can open doors into many parts of the healthcare jobscape, as well as careers in other areas that relate to healthcare, such as Watt’s job in health economics.
An MHS degree can be an avenue toward employment in public health, science, data analysis, economics, international development, and many other fields. The variety of opportunities open to an MHS is one of the attractions of the degree.
What is an MHS degree? The subject and focus of MHS degrees vary considerably from university to university. MHS programs usually focus on a specific healthcare area—you can get this degree in anything from environmental health to biotechnology. Some programs emphasize academics and research, preparing students for further graduate study. Others are geared toward career advancement and professional training.
The degree can take as little as nine months to complete, as did the MHS in Global Health Economics that Watts earned from Johns Hopkins. However, it’s more typical for these programs to take 18 months to two years to complete.
Graduate faculty in MHS programs are likely to be drawn from various departments related to the focus of the program, including nursing, economics, or public health. Curricula for these programs vary widely depending on the topics of focus.
Who gets a MHS degree? An MHS degree is good for those with specific interests and skills within the field of medical sciences or healthcare, or for those with a particular career goal in the field. Students with a more general interest in the medical or administrative side of healthcare may be better suited to programs like Master of Healthcare Administration or Master of Public Health. Applicants must have an undergraduate degree; training in science, medicine, or social sciences, although not mandatory, will prepare students for these programs.
What are the admissions requirements? To enter an MHS program, students must have at least a bachelor’s degree and a GRE or MCAT score. Some programs prefer applicants with a strong quantitative background, including college-level coursework in mathematics or statistics. Some programs require applicants to have specific professional experience, such as managerial work in a healthcare field.
A master's degree in health science qualifies you for a host of public health-related careers. Some careers are general enough to be open to anyone with an MHS, while others are only available to health professionals with specializations.
Research Scientist. Research scientists investigate issues relating to medicine, healthcare, and wellbeing. They often work in labs in academic environments conducting experiments, clinical trials and research studies. A doctoral degree may be required for upper-level work in this area, but there are roles within these research environments for those with a master's, such as a senior clinical research associate.
Labor statistics indicate that research scientists can expect a salary of about $78,000, with incomes ranging from $48,000 to $118,000. The job outlook for research scientists is solid; the prospects for research jobs in medicine are growing almost twice as fast as the average occupation in the U.S.
Epidemiologist. MHS graduates can become epidemiologists, working on research and analysis of patterns of disease, educating the public about health risk, and influencing health policy. Epidemiologists keep communities safe by tracking the potential for harm from disease.
Epidemiologists can expect to make a salary of approximately $69,660, with pay ranging from around $43,000 to more than $113,000. The most lucrative epidemiology jobs are those in scientific research institutions and hospitals. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), epidemiology jobs are likely to increase by around 9 percent between 2016 and 2026, a bit more rapidly than the average rate for all U.S. occupations. A master's degree is required for this position; a bachelor's degree is not sufficient.
Biostatistician. MHS graduates who have focused on technical aspects of health science can find work as biostatisticians. These professionals, who typically have well-honed skills in mathematics, critical reasoning, and life sciences, use data to explore medical-, health-, and other biology-related questions that have real-world consequences. Working with the federal government and healthcare institutions, they can help draw conclusions that will affect the health of entire communities.
Statisticians make good money, with an average salary of $84,060; salaries in this field range from around $50,000 to more than $130,000. This is an extremely fast-growing field. Job growth for statisticians is predicted at 33 percent between 2016 to 2026, close to five times the growth rate for the average U.S. occupation. A bachelor's degree is sufficient to find a job in this field, although those with a master's degree earn substantially better pay.
Healthcare Administrator. MHS graduates, especially those whose studies focused more on managerial aspects of healthcare, are well positioned to work as healthcare administrators. These important leaders are responsible for coordinating service delivery in medical and healthcare institutions such as hospitals, clinics, and medical practices. They perform high-level management duties such as hiring and training staff, managing and updating business processes, and overseeing compliance with billing requirements and legal regulations.
Healthcare administrators are well-compensated, making a median salary of $98,350. Salaries range from around $58,000 to $176,000. These professionals can expect very strong job prospects—employment for healthcare administrators is expected to increase by 20 percent between 2016 and 2026, almost three times the rate of average U.S. occupations.
Healthcare Consultant. Usually working with healthcare organizations such as hospitals, medical groups, insurance companies, non-profit organizations, and pharmaceutical firms, healthcare consultants help these institutions identify and address problems, take proactive steps for sustainable growth, and find ways to improve their processes and profitability. This work involves qualitative and quantitative research, such as designing studies and interviewing employees and then conveying findings to management via reports, meetings, and consultation. Healthcare consultants help keep the medical system efficient.
Healthcare consultants earn a median salary of $77,000, with a range from $51,000 to $122,000. Bonuses, profit-sharing, and commissions are likely to increase pay even more; experienced consultants in this area may be taking home close to $150,000 a year or more. A master's degree is required for the highest-paying jobs.
Regulatory Affairs Specialist. Healthcare is a highly regulated field, so institutions throughout the sector need professionals who can help them track, understand, and comply with regulations and requirements. Graduates for MHS programs often have a strong grasp of the technical and structural realities of healthcare, which they can leverage successfully into regulatory-related careers. These specialists enjoy varied job tasks that range from intensive research to consultation with executives to implementation of training procedures.
Salaries for regulatory affairs specialists average around $66,000, but can reach as high as $88,000 or more with bonuses and profit-sharing. Those in this profession are able to follow career paths into directorship and vice president roles within their organizations.
Health science graduates work in a wide variety of occupations that address real-world, health-related issues. Their careers are often fulfilling and challenging since they are positioned to address complex societal and technical concerns and to help improve health and wellbeing throughout society.
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