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Doctor of Health Science Vs. PhD

Jun 03, 2019

Although Doctor of Health Science and PhD programs in the field cover similar topics, there are subtle differences, including length and career outcomes. Get details for each degree program and find out about admission standards.

The main differences between a Doctor of Health Science (DHSc) and Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Health Science is the scope or breadth of the programs and the primary skill sets acquired. Both programs prepare students for advanced careers in various areas of health science, but DHSc programs are broader and prepare students for more leadership-oriented positions. PhD programs are more specific in focus through dissertation work and prepare students for research-based careers. Learn more about each degree program's requirements below.

Comparing a Doctor of Health Science to a PhD in Health Science

Doctor of Health Science

DHSc degree programs are typically available in online formats, may require around 45 to 61 credits, and may be completed in as little as 40 months. Although coursework is offered online, some programs may include short residencies, such as a 1-week on-campus seminar, and/or hands-on learning experiences, like a practicum and internship experience. Some of these programs may allow students to focus their studies through specializations like a clinician track, education track, or clinical nutrition track, and may require a dissertation. Students in these programs may take coursework in topics such as biostatistics, health professional education, health care informatics, clinical trials, global health issues, leadership, and health care systems. Graduates with a DHSc may pursue careers in clinical leadership or academia in a wide range of the health sciences, including nursing, therapy, and health care administration.

Doctor of Philosophy in Health Science

PhD in Health Science degree programs are also available in online and hybrid formats, may require around 54 to 75 credits, and are usually completed in 4 to 5 years. Programs are available in full- and part-time formats and typically require comprehensive exams and a dissertation. Several of these programs have additional requirements, such as a teaching practicum or an ethics requirement, that aim to prepare students for their future careers in the field. Coursework for the PhD in Health Science may include topics in grant writing, biostatistics, leadership, research design, data analysis, and issues in health care. Graduates with a PhD in Health Science are prepared for more research-based careers in various areas of health science or academia, but can also take on leadership positions in health and human services practice settings.

Common Entrance Requirements

Admission requirements for a DHSc and PhD in Health Science are fairly similar with most programs requiring applicants to hold a master's or a clinical doctoral professional degree in an area of health. Both programs usually have a minimum GPA requirement of at least a 3.0 and commonly require students to have prior health care experience and/or current licensure where applicable. One of the main differences in admissions between the programs is that PhD programs typically require applicants to submit GRE or MCAT test scores, although some programs may waive the exams if students meet specific criteria. Both the DHSc and PhD commonly require students to submit their transcripts, letters of recommendation, resume or CV, personal statement, and copy of license (when applicable) with an application. Some programs may also require a writing sample and/or an interview process.

DHSc and PhD in Health Science degree programs are available online and prepare students for careers in various areas of the field. DHSc programs may be slightly shorter, typically do not require a dissertation, and may include more hands-on experiences in comparison to a PhD.


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