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Healthcare Doctoral Degrees

Various healthcare occupations typically require a doctoral or professional degree, including pharmacists, dentists, audiologists, medical scientists, and physicians and surgeons. Audiologists and medical scientists rank among the U.S. occupations projected to grow the fastest between 2010 and 2020, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Psychologists, who need a doctorate for most clinical or research positions, should also see faster than average employment growth during the same time period. (, 2012)

Educational qualifications are becoming more stringent in some healthcare professions that didn't previously require a doctorate. According to U.S. News & World Report, advanced practice nurses can anticipate employers requiring a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree beginning in 2015. Physical therapists will most likely be required to have a doctorate to begin practicing as of 2018.

Healthcare doctorates for clinical practice, research, teaching and administration

Of the different types of healthcare doctoral degrees, some of the most commonly recognized are professional or clinical practice programs for physicians and surgeons, dentists, pharmacists, and other medical or veterinary practitioners. These programs can take three or more years beyond a bachelor's degree to complete, based on factors such as whether attendance is full or part time. Supervised clinical experience or a residency could last from one to eight years, depending on the program and the profession. Some degrees involve several years of post-doctoral education, particularly for specializations. Professional or clinical practice doctoral programs are campus-based.

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) and Doctor of Science (DSc or ScD) degrees predominate in healthcare scholarly research, postsecondary teaching and writing professions. Doctor of Health Administration (DHA) and Doctor of Public Health (DrPH) degrees are most common in high level healthcare management and administration, according to the American College of Healthcare Executives. These doctoral programs generally require from two to five years of full-time study to complete, and they may be offered online or as hybrid programs with online and campus-based components.


Doctoral Degrees Gain Steam in Healthcare Industry, U.S. News & World Report, Michelle Andrews, March 20, 2012,

Fastest Growing Occupations, Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2012,

Healthcare Occupations, Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2012,

Medical Scientists, Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2012,

Psychologists, Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2012,

Which Degree Should I Pursue, American College of Healthcare Executives,