Individuals who earn a master's degree in health science improve patient outcomes and community health by working at healthcare facilities, government agencies, and nonprofit organizations. These professions offer opportunities to assume leadership positions and contribute to a community's overall well-being.
Graduates from health science master's programs go on to work as health educators, dietitians, and medical services managers. Between 2016 and 2026, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that many positions in the field will experience significant growth, with health educator and medical services manager positions projected to see increases of 16% and 20%, respectively.
Before enrolling in a master of health science program, prospective students should look into the various career outcomes common for different degree types. For example, a public health degree typically leads to different opportunities than a degree in health education. The following article discusses many of the options within health science, as well as how to choose the best program and how to transition from graduate school into the workforce.
Should I Get a Master's in Health Science?
A master's degree in health science prepares graduates to hold advanced positions in public health, health education, and health informatics. Specifically, health science master's programs train students to work as health educators, nutritionists, and epidemiologists, depending on their concentration. During a master's program, many students also create professional contacts by completing a practicum or internship experience. Programs may also help participants connect with organizations and agencies, allowing learners to further build their networks.
As students near graduation, master's programs often provide job placement assistance and help graduates prepare for professional licensing or certification examinations. For many career paths, such as epidemiology and health education, professionals must hold a master's degree to meet entry-level requirements.
Before prospective students begin the application process, they should consider whether an on-campus or online program best meets their needs. Students moving directly from an undergraduate program into graduate school may prefer an on-campus option. Alternatively, working professionals seeking to balance multiple obligations may benefit from the increased flexibility provided by an online program. Graduate students in distance-based programs can usually complete their internship or practicum requirements near their homes by arranging a local supervisor/site with their faculty adviser.
What Can I Do With a Master's in Health Science?
The versatility of health science programs prepare graduates to work in a variety of areas. Specialists in health education can work as health educators, dieticians, or nutritionists, while those with a background in public health or laboratory science can find employment as epidemiologists or medical laboratory scientists. A master's degree also helps professionals move into medical and health services management. The BLS projects that many of these positions will grow much faster than the national average over the next decade, offering ample career opportunities for health science professionals.
- Health Educators
Health educators teach people about health science and develop strategies to promote wellness. They may work for hospitals, private organizations, and government agencies, working with individuals and groups.
Median Annual Salary: $53,940*
- Dietitians and Nutritionists
Dietitians and nutritionists advise people and organizations how to use food and nutrition to promote health. They may work in healthcare systems, nursing homes, cafeterias, or for government agencies. Depending on the state, they may also need to secure a license. Although not explicitly required, a master's degree increases competitiveness for these positions.
Median Annual Salary: $59,410*
- Medical and Health Services Managers
Also known as healthcare administrators, these professionals coordinate services throughout a healthcare facility, medical practice, or other health service organization. They oversee an organization's daily operations and design plans that meet legal and regulatory restrictions. Many of these positions require a master's degree.
Median Annual Salary: $98,350*
Epidemiologists investigate patterns of disease in a community, identifying causes and designing plans to reduce negative health outcomes. They also conduct research, educate the community, and craft health policy. These professionals may work in health departments, healthcare systems, or higher education. Most hold a master of science in public health.
Median Annual Salary: $69,660*
- Medical Laboratory Technologist
Sometimes referred to as laboratory scientists, medical laboratory technologists perform tests and analyze substances in a medical setting. Most work in hospitals, medical laboratories, diagnostic clinics, or physicians' offices. Professionals with a master's degree in health science may qualify for managerial positions in a laboratory.
Median Annual Salary: $51,770*
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics
How to Choose a Master's Program in Health Science
A master's degree in health science can lead to career advancement in a variety of fields, including healthcare, public health, and health informatics. Prospective graduate students should first decide whether they want to pursue a master of science in public health, a master of science in health informatics, or a master of science in health education. Each option prepares graduates for different career paths. Once students choose a particular degree type, they can identify the best programs by evaluating several variables, including cost, location, and program length.
The net cost of a master's degree varies depending on the institution type, total course load, and financial aid opportunities. Some programs offer more scholarships or fellowships to help offset costs. Students may also benefit from tuition discounts based on their residency status or student status. For example, many online programs charge all distance learners the same tuition, regardless of their state of residence.
Location can also play an important role in finding the right program. Working professionals or individuals with family responsibilities may encounter difficulties relocating to attend a top program. However, these students may benefit from the increased accessibility of an online degree, which lets participants arrange coursework around their schedule.
Students considering an online option should investigate some of the top online master's in health science programs. Some programs may also offer accelerated options for learners who want to complete their degree in less time. Finally, in addition to these considerations, prospective students should always check a program's accreditation status.
Programmatic Accreditation for Master's Programs in Health Science
Accreditation signals that a school or program meets certain educational standards. During the accreditation process, schools and programs voluntarily submit to review by an independent, nonprofit accrediting agency. Regional and national accrediting agencies review a school at the institutional level, while programmatic accreditation assesses a single program, such as a business school, social work program, or teacher training program. An accrediting agency looks at variables like graduation requirements, student learning outcomes, and faculty qualifications when determining whether to grant accreditation, and schools must submit to regular reviews to maintain their status.
In health science, several programmatic accrediting agencies evaluate programs, including the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs and the Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH). Accreditation benefits students in several ways. Learners attending an accredited institution qualify for federal financial aid, and an accredited degree meets the licensing and certification standards popular in many health science fields.
Master's in Health Science Program Admissions
The admissions process allows applicants to showcase their strengths and explain why a master's degree in health science will help them meet career and professional goals. Applicants must meet a program's prerequisites -- which often means holding a minimum GPA -- and submit materials like an application, undergraduate transcripts, and letters of recommendation. Some programs also ask applicants to submit their GRE scores.
Because requirements vary depending on the program, prospective students should carefully research the overall process and plan to spend several weeks putting together their admissions packet. Students also need to keep deadlines in mind; some programs only admit students once a year for fall admissions, while others offer several start dates throughout the year and use more flexible deadlines or rolling admissions.
- Bachelor's Degree: Most master's programs require a bachelor's degree, although this degree does not necessarily need to be in health sciences. Some programs may also list prerequisite courses that students must take before enrolling.
- Professional Experience: Programs may prefer candidates with previous work experience in their intended field (e.g., health policy or public health). However, most programs do not require professional experience.
- Minimum GPA: Many programs set a minimum GPA for full admission, which often ranges from 2.5-3.0, although more competitive programs may set a higher minimum. Candidates who fail to meet GPA requirements may still qualify for provisional admission.
- Application: As part of the admissions process, prospective students submit an application detailing their educational background, work experience, and other relevant information. The application may also include a statement of purpose or essay portion.
- Transcripts: Applicants must submit transcripts from undergraduate institutions they attended. Students usually need to pay a nominal fee to obtain these documents.
- Letters of Recommendation: Most programs require two or three letters of recommendation, which should speak to an applicant's academic abilities, professional strengths, and ability to succeed in a graduate program. Students should ask potential letter writers several weeks (or even a couple months) in advance of deadlines.
- Test Scores: Some programs require applicants to submit standardized test scores, such as the GRE.
- Application Fee: Applicants typically need to submit a fee to cover the cost of reviewing their admission materials. However, many universities offer fee waivers to applicants who demonstrate financial need.
What Else Can I Expect From a Master's Program in Health Science?
Within health science, graduate students may pursue a variety of specialties or concentrations, including public health, health informatics, and health education. Before enrolling in a program, prospective students should consider their career goals and design their education around those objectives.
|Public Health||Public health programs emphasize community-level approaches to health, including safety standards, nutrition standards, and disease prevention. Students learn how to analyze data, draw conclusions from research findings, and develop policy proposals to improve health outcomes. Graduates may work for government agencies, healthcare systems, or nonprofit organizations, looking for science-based solutions to public health problems.||Epidemiologist, health educator, researcher, nutritionist|
|Health Informatics||A health informatics concentration emphasizes the use of electronic data -- including electronic health and medical records -- to improve the healthcare system. Students build strong analytical and quantitative research skills. Graduates often work to ensure the accuracy of health records.||Director of health informatics, health informatics consultant, medical information officer|
|Health Education||A health education concentration teaches students methods to promote wellness within groups and communities. Health education students also build strong research and analytical skills.||Health educator, community health worker, health policy adviser|
|Health Policy||This concentration combines the study of health sciences with public administration, training graduate students how to design, implement, and evaluate health policies. Coursework may also cover management, health economics, and public policy administration.||Health policy analyst, healthcare administrator, healthcare consultant|
|Nutrition||Students pursuing this concentration often learn about nutrition-related recommendations and research, nutrition and community health, and the relationship between nutrition and disease prevention.||Dietician, nutritionist, researcher|
Courses in a Master's in Health Science Program
Master of health science programs feature different curricula and graduation requirements. As an example, the topics covered by graduate students in a public health program may vary significantly from the ones covered by individuals pursuing a healthcare administration degree. However, regardless of the focus area, programs tend to offer similar core classes, such as some of the ones listed below.
- Epidemiology and Biostatistics
Graduate programs in public health often include a class in epidemiology and biostatistics, where students learn how to apply stats in public health or healthcare contexts. Graduate students also conduct literature reviews and learn about the relationship between population data and disease.
- Ethical Issues in Healthcare
Students planning to work in healthcare systems benefit from investigating the ethical issues faced by providers and patients. This course may cover medical, moral, and socioeconomic foundations related to ethical issues and analyze decision-making processes related to healthcare. Students also learn about informed consent, institutional review boards, and resource allocation.
- Public Health Nutrition
Public health programs often feature a nutrition course, which covers the impact of nutrition on communities. Graduate students study the science behind nutritional recommendations, nutrition needs across the lifespan, and the role nutrition plays in promoting health and preventing diseases.
- Research Methods
Graduate students often take a research methods course, which covers the qualitative and quantitative research skills required for careers in health science. This class trains students to evaluate data and identify methodological problems in research.
Many master's programs for health science majors require students to complete an internship or practicum to obtain hands-on experience. Students work with a faculty adviser to choose a site/supervisor for their practicum, which typically occurs at a hospital, medical facility, government agency, or nonprofit organization. Many programs require learners to complete a minimum number of practicum hours before they can graduate.
How Long Does It Take to Get a Master's in Health Science?
Most master's programs require two years of full-time study. During that time, graduate students must complete the program's coursework requirements, which typically include 30-36 semester credits. Many programs also feature internship or practicum requirements, which can increase a student's graduation timeline depending on how many hours they need to complete before graduating. Because program requirements vary, prospective students should take care to compare the lengths of time required for different programs.
Some health science programs provide an accelerated option that allows students to earn their degree in as few as 12-15 months. Many also provide part-time options for learners balancing school with work or family responsibilities. Students who plan to work while in school may also prefer the flexibility of an online option, which lets them complete coursework at their convenience.
How Much Is a Master's in Health Science?
The cost of a master's program in health science can vary widely. Typically, prospective students pay the lowest tuition rates at a public, in-state school, while out-of-state public institutions and private institutions charge significantly higher rates. Aspiring graduate students often pay at least $10,000 per year for their master's in health science program. In addition to tuition, prospective students should also consider the cost of fees, books, and living expenses.
Graduate students can help limit costs by taking advantage of tuition discounts for in-state residents or distance learning. Online learners may also benefit from avoiding costs related to commuting, parking, and/or childcare, and they do not need to set aside funds for relocation. Financial aid opportunities, including scholarships, grants, and fellowships, can also help offset the cost of a master's degree. When considering programs, prospective students should spend time looking into the research funding opportunities available at each school. Many programs provide funding resources on their website, and students can contact a program representative to gain more information.
Certifications and Licenses a Master's in Health Science Prepares For
- Certified Health Education Specialist
The CHES credential -- awarded by the National Commission for Health Education Credentialing -- recognizes health educators who meet certain educational guidelines and pass an examination. After earning the CHES designation, certified health education specialists must complete at least 75 continuing education contact hours every five years to gain recertification. Employers in this field may require this credential as part of the hiring process.
- Master Certified Health Education Specialist
Professionals who have held the CHES designation for five years become eligible to sit for the MCHES exam. Candidates must pass a 165-question exam and meet continuing education requirements to maintain their certification. Candidates may only take the exam on two scheduled exam dates each year.
- Certified in Public Health
Professionals with a master of science in public health -- earned from a program accredited by CEPH -- qualify to sit for the test to become certified in public health. Current students can complete the 200-question, multiple-choice exam while in school and receive a provisional certification until graduation. Certificate holders must meet continuing education requirements every two years.
- Certified Professional in Health Informatics
Awarded by the American Health Information Management Association, this certification recognizes professionals with a strong background in health informatics. Individuals who hold a master of science in health informatics from a regionally accredited institution qualify to sit for an examination to earn this title.
- Informatics Nursing Certification
Offered by the American Nurses Credentialing Center, this certification recognizes registered nurses who complete training in informatics; earning a master of science in health informatics fulfills this requirement. Candidates must pass an exam to receive their credential, which remains valid for five years.
Resources for Graduate Health Science Students
This assembly connects students in public health and related fields, leading to networking opportunities, chances to present research at an annual meeting, and discounts on publications.
Run by APHA, this job site contains many listings and provides individuals with career coaching, resume writing support, and reference checking. The site also distributes a careers newsletter.
Society of Public Health Education - Awards, Fellowships, and Scholarships
HRSA hosts a page detailing information about its loan and scholarship programs, which target individuals pursuing health-related careers.
NIH offers resources for students and professionals working as health science educators. This site hosts lesson plans, exhibition programs, and material related to environmental health science.
Professional Organizations in Health Science
While earning a master's degree in health science or a related field, graduate students can benefit from joining a professional organization. These organizations often provide career counseling services in the form of resume review programs, job posting boards, and career mentoring. Students can also apply for awards, scholarships, and fellowships. As graduates move into the workforce, these organizations offer networking opportunities, continuing education resources, and educational materials.