Health policy is the study of how social, political, and economic factors influence health outcomes and the way people receive medical care. It is an interdisciplinary field that blends economics, medicine, political science, finance, sociology, and more. At the master’s degree level, the focus of a health policy curriculum is influenced the department offering the degree; some programs are offered through medical or public health schools while others are offered through public administration departments. The master’s degree focuses on theory and practical application to prepare students for professional careers in health policy.
Why a Master’s Degree?
An online master’s degree in health policy is for you if you want to work in the professional side of the field. Online master’s degrees allow you to continue working in your current position while you complete your degree and the credentials can help you advance to the next level in your work. Success in the health policy field is based on due diligence, experience, and thorough knowledge of the issues at hand. While a master’s degree won’t leave you with experiential knowledge, it will provide you with the specific knowledge of health policy issues and topics that are relevant in today’s environment.
Getting Into a Master’s Degree Program
Admission to some online master’s degrees in health policy can be competitive. However, you will need the following items to be eligible to apply:
- Bachelor’s degree in a related field
- Passing GRE test score
Inside a Health Policy Master’s Degree Program
The focus of a health policy master’s program is influenced by the department hosting the degree. Some programs will focus more on the business, economics, and finance side of policy issues, while others will focus more on the public service and health agendas. You may also have the option to specialize in a specific area of the field, such as policy analysis, health finance, or health services management. However, you can still expect some overlap in the types of courses in a health policy curriculum. For example, principles of health economics, health information technology, global health policy, program analysis and evaluation, and public policy formation are just a few of the classes you might see in your catalog. Overall, you take courses in finance, management, information technology, economics, and more to develop the broad skill base you need to work in a variety of health policy positions.
Most health policy master’s degree programs require 60 hours of course credit. The best health policy programs can take at least two to three years to complete for a full-time student. However, online programs may take longer if they allow for self-pacing and flexible scheduling, so you can complete the degree in your free time. In an online program, you can expect to attend lectures in a “virtual classroom” where the lessons are delivered via live-streaming or video conferencing. Assignments might include essays, research projects, or mock policy write-ups.
What’s Next for Health Policy Master’s Degree Holders?
A master’s degree in health policy can lead to a number of challenging career in health administration, research, and consulting. Graduates often go on to research analyst or consulting positions with law firms, pharmaceutical companies, medical schools, non-profit organizations, government agencies, and more. With experience, health policy professionals can move into contract consulting, offering their expertise to firms and organizations on an as-needed basis. Graduates can also work in quality control, project coordination, and outreach.
If you would like to pursue a research-focused career after completing the master’s program, you have the option to go on to Ph.D. program in health policy. At the doctoral level, health policy students have the opportunity to hone their research skills, create a niche interest in the field, and publish their independent research work in scholarly journals and magazines. The doctoral degree also makes you eligible to teach at the university level, although competition for these positions can be fierce.