What Is a Doctor of Medical Science Degree?

As a healthcare professional looking to advance your career, you may wonder if a Doctor of Medical Science (DMSc) degree offers the right education for your professional aspirations. Unlike the numerous degrees focused on clinical work or healthcare administration, a DMSc degree is meant to bridge the gap between clinical education and organizational leadership.

Healthcare needs more professionals who can assess the needs, challenges, and goals of a care facility to make successful strategic decisions. If this closely aligns with your personal and professional interests, here’s an overview of what a DMSc degree is, the importance the education can have on the current healthcare system, and what to look for in a degree program.

What Is a Doctor of Medical Science?

A Doctor of Medical Science degree is a professional doctorate that provides advanced training in healthcare leadership. A typical DMSc degree program builds critical thinking, accounting, managerial, and strategic thinking skills through exploring the structure and dynamics of the healthcare system. As a result, this program teaches effective leadership techniques for driving the industry forward.

The goal of a DMSc degree program is to draw upon your clinical experience while giving you insight into the administrative side of organizational processes. By having this well-rounded knowledge, leaders are better able to create policies and make decisions that improve patient care and operational efficiency.

DMSc degrees are often tailored to physician assistants, who already have a background working with patients and navigating various aspects of the healthcare environment. However, there are a number of programs that accept a variety of healthcare professionals. For example, at Northeastern University Bouvé College of Health Sciences, the DMSc degree is available to any individual in the healthcare field who hopes to expand their knowledge and skills to advance their career.

Keep in mind that a DMSc is not the same as a PhD in medical science. According to Robert M. Baginski, MD, program director of the Doctor of Medical Science in Healthcare Leadership at the Bouvé College of Health Sciences, “Since a DMSc degree isn’t a PhD, it’s not an academic doctorate. It’s a professional doctorate, which gives you additional education and training in a specific field.” The latter is an academic doctorate, which is usually designed for biomedical scientists who want to go into research, education, or other biotechnology fields.

The Importance of a DMSc Degree

The rapid growth and transformation of the global business world has created an increasing need for skilled leaders across all industries. In fact, according to a global survey of senior strategists, only 35 percent of participating organizations focus on developing market-beating strategies, while only 24 percent believe they are allocating resources effectively.

This disconnect in strategic thinking in most industries, including healthcare, is attributed to several recent shifts in business, including:

  • Evolving technologies: These constant changes and upgrades have changed how and where companies do business.
  • Increasing demand for work-life balance: As a result of the global pandemic, an emphasis in work-life balance has reshaped business culture and employee relations.
  • Expanding consumer awareness: As more consumers place value in social responsibility, social engagement and stewardship is now at the forefront of business operations.

These shifts are particularly important when considering the leadership needed in the healthcare sector. From budgets and staff development to community awareness and health regulations, healthcare outcomes depend on a multitude of interconnected factors that healthcare leaders need to understand.

In addition to these common operational obstacles, future healthcare leaders will have to contend with challenges such as:

  • Healthcare provider shortages
  • Increased healthcare costs
  • Slow technology adoption
  • Growing health insurance hurdles

Having quality leadership in healthcare is crucial for setting goals, building resilient organizations, and developing strategies to balance these complex operations. Earning a DMSc degree can help you gain the interdisciplinary leadership skills needed to analyze healthcare environments and improve them through innovation.

“Education is key if you want to advance your career,” says Baginski. “You need the credentials to do so. And in this case, the letters ‘DMSc’ after your name shows others that you have the training and education to lead.”

What to Look For in a DMSc Program

Not all DMSc programs will have the curriculum, instructional model, or entry requirements that best suit your individual career goals. Therefore, here are the most important questions to consider when comparing degree programs.

1. Who is the Degree Designed For?

Each institution has its own requirements for entry. Many DMSc programs limit their admissions to physician assistants. However, if you have another type of medical background, be sure to choose programs that align with your professional experience.

The Bouvé College of Health Sciences’ DMSc program is available to anyone with a healthcare background, such as nurses, medical technologists, or physical therapists. The DMSc degree also offers the following concentrations in the second year of the program:

  • Business Management for Healthcare
  • Health Informatics (Practice)
  • Health Informatics (Research)
  • Health Law
  • Interdisciplinary
  • Pharmacy and Health Systems Science
  • Public Health

It’s incredibly important that a DMSc program fits your professional background, not only to ensure your admittance, but also that the curriculum matches your career goals and interests.

2. Does the Curriculum Fit Your Interests?

It’s a good idea to thoroughly research programs you’re interested in to ensure the curriculum focuses on the skills you want to develop. “Some programs offer clinical degrees where they train you on how to be a better clinician, while others are healthcare leadership degrees,” says Baginski.

Consider taking a closer look at the following coursework factors to help identify your academic interests in your DMSc degree:

  • What topics are covered, and how much of the coursework is devoted to each area?
  • Are there opportunities for concentration, and do they align with your professional goals?
  • What are the qualifications and professional backgrounds of the faculty?
  • Is this program taught by industry experts, which offers more real-world insight and better opportunities for networking?

3. Does It Apply to Your Career?

A doctoral degree is a big commitment, therefore you should think carefully about whether it’s necessary or beneficial for your career aspirations. To be successful in healthcare leadership, you need to be passionate about making a difference, motivating others, creating a long-term vision, and solving problems from an administrative standpoint. If this aligns with your personal and professional goals, a DMSc program can help you get there.

4. Does It Accommodate Your Needs?

Improve your chances of succeeding in your education by choosing a program that accommodates your specific needs. Do you plan on attending full-time or part-time? How many credits are required, and what enrollment options are available? For example, if you need flexibility as a working student, be sure to look for programs that offer hybrid or online education.

Try to have your personal criteria worked out before you start comparing schools. By speaking with an admissions counselor, you can find out if the program structure has worked well in the past for students in a similar situation. “Contact the schools you’re interested in and talk to a representative,” says Baginski. “Don’t just email back and forth. Set up a meeting, talk to them, and ask your list of questions.”

5. Can You Afford it?

Understanding the full cost of a degree program can help you determine whether or not this investment makes sense. Explore all your options for payment, including:

  • Personal savings
  • Grants
  • Scholarships
  • Federal loans
  • Fellowships
  • Assistantship opportunities
  • And more

If you plan to stay with your current employer while in school, find out whether the company offers tuition assistance to further reduce your educational costs. With the right planning, you can fund a postgraduate degree without taking on a huge financial burden.

Also aim to find a program that offers the right balance of educational value and cost-efficiency. If you plan to pay out of pocket, you should ask about the college’s tuition payment structure and policies to make sure you can move forward at your desired pace without interruptions.

Take the First Step Toward a Career in Healthcare Leadership

If a Doctor of Medical Science in Healthcare Leadership sounds like a good fit for your career needs, it’s beneficial to contact the schools you’re interested in for more detailed information. Whenever possible, set up meetings with admissions counselors or departmental representatives who can answer all your questions.

Some schools, like Northeastern University’s Bouvé College of Health Sciences, have faculty representatives who encourage engagement with their applicants. “I have made myself available by Zoom or telephone for every potential applicant to talk and go through their questions,” says Baginski. “I encourage everyone to take advantage of that. Do that at every place you’re interested in and get a really good feel. Then apply after you’ve found the program that fits most of your criteria.”

Download Our Free Guide

A group of doctors standing in a hallway.
Career Guide

Everything You Need to Know About Becoming a Leader in Healthcare

Four people are sitting around a table with a laptop. Two are wearing a nurse's uniform, the other two are wearing business professional attire.