Healthcare is one of the fastest growing employment fields in the country. Thanks to the enactment of the Affordable Care Act, new careers are opening in the fields of private physician groups, insurance companies, patient advocacy agencies and healthcare systems, to mention a few. With burgeoning job opportunities, many currently working in healthcare, find themselves needing an advanced educational degree in order to continue on their professional path.
In their 2015 Annual Survey of Colleges, The College Board, a well known source for connecting students with educational opportunities, compared the cost of attending a public university in the 1970s to be around $7,833 annually. By 2015, that same education had leapt to a staggering $19,548 for an academic year, with private colleges ranked even higher. These figures are for undergraduate degrees and the cost for a master's or doctorate degree are even higher at an average of $30,000-$120,000 (FinAid.org).
The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates the general salary difference between a bachelor's and master's degree at approximately $12,000 annually. The salary differential jumps to $20,000 for those working in a healthcare professions. Depending on the specialty, the geographic location and economic demographics, not all healthcare employers will pay the premium wage.
Affording Your Degree
Employer Assisted Tuition Assistance
Many healthcare employers offer employees tuition assistance as an employment benefit; especially, if you're working on an advanced degree in a specialized healthcare field. It would be worth checking with your Human Resources department to see if your employer offers such a program.
Federal Student Aid
Financial assistance, supported by the federal government, is available to students entering or returning to college. Various forms of financial aid are available to students; but, for graduate students, this assistance comes in the form of student loans. These loans are typically at a lower interest rate than you can receive from your bank or credit union; but, it's worth it to check. There is an application deadline to qualify for this assistance so be certain to review the information on the Department of Education website Free Application for Federal Student Aid.
Many schools offer reduced veterans' tuition costs for active or retired military personnel. Some schools also extend that benefit to military dependents and spouses. If you are, or have been, a member of the military, be certain to check with your chosen school's Bursar, or Treasurer, Offices to see if your chosen school participates in a reduced tuition benefit for the military.
While pursuing a master's degree is an expensive proposition, the long term benefits may be justifiable. There are schools with lower tuition rates for in-state students; and, special rates for online (or distance education students). Best Medical Degrees, using information from the BLS (Bureau of Labor Statistics), U.S. News and World Report and educational accreditation organizations, has identified ten of the least expensive Health Science master degrees available online.
1. Western Carolina University
Ranked #32 in its Regional Universities ratings by U.S. News and World Report, Western Carolina University offers a very attractive, low-cost option for students wishing to gain a Master of Health Science. The online degree program offers a menu of concentrations from which to choose: Health Education, Health Management, Emergency Medical Care or Nutrition. Located close to Asheville, North Carolina, WCU is accredited by South Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges to offer its 120 undergraduate degrees and certificates and 35 graduate degrees.
Core courses for this MHS include: Systems and Policy in Health Care Credits, Biostatistics for Health Sciences and Research Methodology in the Health Sciences. Subject concentrations allow for study in Health Communications, Training and Development in Clinical Settings, as well as Educational Technology in Health Sciences, etc. Requirements, application process and detailed course information is available at Master of Health Science.
Length of Program: 33 Credit Hours
Estimated Tuition Cost Per Credit Hour: $236.08 (N.C.Residents); $746.23 (Non-Residents)
2. University of Central Arkansas
The Higher Learning Commission (HLC) accredits the University of Central Arkansas, located in Conway, Arkansas. Founded in 1907 as the Arkansas State Normal School, the school now provides 149 degrees and certificates. Ranked #68 by U.S. News and World Report in its Regional Universities ratings, UCA offers a M.S. in Health Science offered 100% online. The program has both a thesis and non-thesis option.
Core courses include, among others, Administration of Health Programs, Biostatistics, Foundation of Research in Health and Applied Science and Epidemiology in Health Education. The program requires 18 hours in core courses and either 33 or 36 total hours dependent on degree option chosen. UCA offers the Emogene Walmsley Fox Health Education Scholarship available for students in their senior year or graduate students. The scholarship is administered through the Department of Health Sciences. More information on this graduate degree may be found at University of Central Arkansas.
Length of Program: 33 (Thesis); 36 (Thesis)
Estimated Tuition Cost Per Credit Hour: $255.00
3. Fort Hays State University
Fort Hays State University continues to be one of the most affordable online degrees available. The school, founded in 1902, in Hays, Kansas, receives it's name from its original campus which was located on a frontier military outpost, closed in the late 1880s. The school now enrolls over 11,000 students and has been recognized by U.S. News and World Report for some of its online degree programs in nursing, business and education.
This Master of Liberal Studies provides an emphasis on health science in conjunction with the Department of Human and Health Performance. The program centers on courses such as Introduction to Graduate Liberal Studies, Ways of Knowing in Comparative Perspective, Origins and Implications of Knowledge Society and Information Literacy for Independent Learners. Elective studies include coursework in Health Promotion Programming, Legal Issues in Health and Human Performance, etc. The program is an excellent choice for health/wellness professionals, athletic administrators, coaches and teachers. Fort Hays State University is accredited by Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools. More information on Fort Hays State University is available at Master of Liberal Studies.
Length of Program: 37 Credit Hours
Estimate Tuition Cost Per Credit Hour: $272.71
4. Western Governor University – Washington
In 1995, 19 U.S. governors met to develop a new educational design that differed from traditional higher education and provide educational opportunities for working men and women at an affordable price. Focusing on three areas of study which compliment areas of employment in greatest need of qualified, educated employees. Accredited by NACTE, which is a voluntary peer review including a comprehensive evaluation of the professional education models and methods.
This masters degree is designed to help students qualify for administrative or leadership positions in various fields of healthcare, from insurance administrator, healthcare network administrator, health system executive, etc. Core competencies incorporate studies in Healthcare Strategist, Transformational Leader, Value Innovator, Tactical Manager and Analyst. The degree includes a Capstone Project (a real life situation which allows the student to implement what they've learned). More information on this program may be found at Western Governor University – Washington. This program offers a flat rate tuition structure with tuition cost at $6,000 per year.
Length of Program: 35 Credit Hours
Estimated Tuition Cost Per Credit Hour: $342.85
5. Florida Gulf Coast University
Rated #80 in U.S. News and World Report ranking of Regional Universities, Florida Gulf Coast University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges and offers a Master of Science in Health Science. Established in 1991 in Fort Myers, Florida, this public institution offers 53 undergraduate and 23 graduate degrees for its estimated 4,700 students. There are five colleges within the university in Arts and Science, Education, Health Professions and Social Work, Business and Engineering.
The M.S. in Health Science is an online degree and has a core curriculum requirement including coursework in Statistical Analysis for the HP, Legal & Ethic Aspect of Health Care, Research in the Health Professions and Health Policy Capstone Seminar. The program is designed to develop healthcare leadership and administrative skills as well as healthcare education. Additional information may be found at Florida Gulf Coast University.
Length of Program: 36 Credit Hours
Estimated Tuition Cost Per Credit Hour: $373.38 (Florida Residents); $1,300.66 (Non Residents)
6. Nova Southeastern University
Accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACS-COC), Nova Southeastern University is located in Fort Lauderdale, Florida and was established in 1964 as a private, nonprofit institution. Current enrollment is close to 5,000 and the school offers a Master of Health Science (M.H.Sc.) through its College of Health Science and provided 100% online. Nova Southeastern University has been recognized by U.S. News and World Report for its online programs in graduate nursing, business programs and education programs.
Besides, the generalist track, this M.H.Sc. program includes a variety of concentrations in higher education, sports medicine, forensic investigative technology, leadership in healthcare, risk management and clinical research. All tracks require core course requirements in Current Trends and Cultural Issues in Health Care, Writing for Medical Publication, Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Research Methods, Ethical Issues in Healthcare and Principles of Management in Healthcare. Nova Southeastern University MHSc provides detailed information on this degree.
Length of Program: 37 Credit Hours
Estimated Tuition Cost Per Credit Hour: $400.00
7. Trident University International
Accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) Senior College and University Commission, this proprietary school was started in 1998. This MS in Health Science (MSHS) offers four concentrations in Public Health, Health Information, Global Health Security and Environmental and Occupational Health and Safety. This degree is designed for those students who want to advance their careers in healthcare and its ever changing facets.
Core coursework for the MSHS includes: Cultural Diversity in Health Sciences, Scholarly Writing in the Health Sciences, Biostatistics and Research Methods for Health Sciences. Depending on the concentration chosen, coursework will focus on appropriate topics, intended to increase the students ability to develop knowledge and skills to obtain administrative or leadership roles in healthcare. Trident University offers a generous tuition discount for military personnel, families and retirees. Information on tuition and degree requirements can be located at Trident University International.
Length of Program: 40 Credit Hours
Estimated Tuition Cost Per Credit Hour: $510.00; $375.00 (Military, veterans and families)
8. Cleveland State University
Originally founded in 1929 as Fenn College, Cleveland State University is situated in Cleveland, Ohio and was established by the Ohio General Assembly under its current name in 1964. With over 17,700 enrolled students, CSU is located in the heart of the city and provides 8 colleges and 200 major areas of study on both the graduate and undergraduate level. Accredited by the Higher Learning Commission, CSU provides a Master of Science in Health Science that is completely online and may be completed in two years.
Application to the MSHS curriculum requires a bachelor's degree in a health related field. Core courses for the master's degree includes Issues in Health Sciences, Leadership Roles in Health Sciences, Research and Analysis in Health Science, Culture and Health Care Seminar in Health Care Professions. The degree requires a Capstone Project, regardless of whether the thesis or non-thesis option is chosen. You can find specific information on this MSHS at Cleveland State University.
Length of Program: 36 Credit Hours
Estimated Tuition Cost Per Credit Hour: $556.40
9. University of Saint Francis
This university is a private, nonprofit institution founded in 1847 and has been ranked #36 in U.S. News and World Report's rating of Regional Universities. Affiliated with the Roman Catholic Church, St. Francis has a long history of advanced education for healthcare professionals and has been offering online degrees for the past fifteen years.
The University of Saint Francis offers a Master of Health Science (MHSc) with three curricula options in clinical, health education or health leadership. The program is 100% online and is developed for working professionals and may completed in 18-24 months. Accredited by the Higher Learning Commission, the degree was one of the first one of its kind offered online. Application information and details may be found at University of Saint Francis.
Length of Program: 30 Credit Hours
Estimated Tuition Cost Per Credit Hour: $607.00
10. Excelsior College
This Albany, New York college was established in 1971 by the New York State Board of Regents and holds accreditation from the Middle States Commission on Higher Education. Through it's distance education presence, current enrollment at Excelsior College is at an impressive 40,103 students with over 1,000 of those Master of Science in Health Science students. Excelsior College offers a generous credit transfer program (up to 50% of previous graduate coursework) and is military friendly, providing substantial tuition cuts for military veterans and Department of Defense employees.
Four options are available for graduate students in health science which include Healthcare Informatics, Public Health, Health Professions Education and a generalized, non-specialized tracks. There are 18 credit hours of core requirement courses in Graduate Research and Writing, Health Care Policy, Politics, and Power, Ethics and Health Care, Health Care Delivery Systems and Research, Applied Statistics or Biostatistics and Leadership. The Excelsior College Master of Science in Health Science (MSHS) page provides additional information.
Length of Program: 36 Credit Hours
Estimated Tuition Cost Per Credit Hour: $645.00; $295.00 (Military Veterans)