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Doctoral degrees for healthcare professionals
Helping you choose which degree to pursue

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What’s the difference between a DHSc, DHA, EdD, and PhD?

Is earning a doctorate a worthwhile investment for you? Whether now or in the future, it depends on your reason for pursuing the degree and your desired career outcome. In addition to the cost and time investment, consider the personal commitment, opportunities for professional advancement, how the desired degree is regarded by others, and your individual motivation to determine if a doctorate is right for you.

A.T. Still University (ATSU) has a variety of doctoral degrees to meet your education needs and professional goals. By first becoming clear on your underlying intention for up credentialing, you’ll be able to create a definitive path to determine which doctoral degree is right for you.

If you desire to teach the next generation of health professionals, consider pursuing the Doctor of Education in Health Professions (EdD) program, which focuses specifically on developing health professions educators.

Looking to step into leadership within the healthcare industry? The Doctor of Health Administration (DHA) program provides health professionals with the holistic knowledge needed to become leaders who influence healthcare systems.

The Doctor of Health Sciences (DHSc) program provides health professionals with the knowledge and skills needed to excel in project management, decision-making, organizational leadership, establishing evidence-based standards, and gaining competencies to apply research to professional practice.

Click on the degrees below to discover the nuances between the most common doctoral programs for healthcare professionals, many of which are offered by ATSU’s College of Graduate Health Studies (ATSU-CGHS).

Doctor of Health Sciences (DHSc)

Doctor of Health Administration (DHA)

Doctor of Health Sciences program

The Doctor of Health Science (DHSc, also commonly abbreviated as DHS) is a post-professional doctorate ideal for scholarly professionals in healthcare leadership roles where advanced theoretical and analytical capabilities are necessary.

Individuals who are best fit for a health sciences doctorate are looking to develop a deeper understanding of how to adapt scientific knowledge to improve health systems and related processes. These individuals are in, or intend to pursue, an advanced professional practice career in a clinical setting, educational institution, administration, or research setting related to healthcare delivery systems.

ATSU’s online Doctor of Health Sciences program prepares students to better understand, effectively manage, evaluate, and implement solutions to the ongoing domestic and global challenges of healthcare access, cost, education, and quality. The 70 credit hour, fully online doctoral program provides health professionals with the skills and knowledge to excel in project management, decision-making, organizational leadership, establishing evidence-based standards, and applying research outcomes to professional practice.

The curriculum develops and enhances the professional competencies needed to provide proficient leadership in today’s challenging and ever-changing healthcare systems. Through the completion of an applied research project, the DHSc program helps students develop a cohesive and relevant research project that has the potential to be published, promoting the application of research to professional practice.

Customized to professional interests, students have the opportunity to focus their health sciences doctorate in one of four concentration areas:

1. Global health

2. Leadership and organizational behavior
3. Fundamentals of education

4. Generalist

DHSc career advancement

If you work in, or aspire to work in, any of the following settings/areas, then the online Doctor of Health Sciences program may be the right degree for you:

• Healthcare delivery systems

• Research practice

• Clinical trials

• Health policy
• Clinical practice

• Healthcare education

• Health administration

• Healthcare informatics

Doctor of Health Administration program

Doctor of Health Administration (DHA) program is a research-focused doctorate that helps healthcare professionals develop theoretical and conceptual knowledge in health administration to actively apply competencies and solutions to health systems and refine system-wide practices.

ATSU’s online Doctor of Health Administration program prepares health professionals to become problem solvers and innovative leaders within the healthcare industry. Blending theoretical and practical instruction, the DHA degree integrates advanced business education with the application of healthcare systems, providing working healthcare professionals with advanced business strategies and innovative healthcare leadership insight to improve and influence healthcare administration systems.

This 100% online health administration doctorate is a 62 credit hour program, consisting of core courses spanning healthcare law, healthcare economics, health information systems, and more, and an applied or theoretical dissertation. The curriculum is grounded in extensive research and provides a full continuum of healthcare-specific knowledge and skills essential for effective industry leadership. Through partnership with the American College of Healthcare Executives (ACHE), DHA students at ATSU engage with industry professionals and mentors to complete the dissertation.

DHA career advancement

If you work in, or aspire to work in, any of the following, then the online Doctor of Health Administration program may be the right degree for you:

• Executive-level management of hospital systems

• Healthcare advocacy leadership

• Healthcare consultant

• Medical director
• Practice manager

• Healthcare insurance administrator

• U.S. military/armed forces administrative officer

• Academic leadership

Doctor of Education in Health Professions (EdD)

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Not a program offered by ATSU

Doctor of Education in Health Professions program

The Doctor of Education (EdD) is an advanced education degree for educators looking to attain leadership roles in higher education. Focused on education system operations, research methods, and current socioeconomic and political issues impacting education systems, to name a few, general EdD degrees provide educators with the skills and competencies needed to create strategies and implement solutions to provide better education.

What’s the difference between a Doctor of Education and Doctor of Education in Health Professions program?

Whereas most EdD programs are generic, the Doctor of Education in Health Professions program at A.T. Still University is specifically focused on curriculum and instruction in health professions education. Focusing on teaching health professionals how to educate others on their individual roles and responsibilities within healthcare delivery, graduates of the Doctor of Education in Health Professions program excel as leaders in the rapidly expanding field of health professions education.

While both types of EdD degrees are best suited for professionals who desire to transform education and lead and implement change, ATSU’s online EdD degree is designed for practicing clinicians, healthcare educators, healthcare leaders, and healthcare directors who desire to pursue their passion to teach others.

According to the NIH’s National Library of Medicine, graduate programs in health professions education (HPE) are considered a key contributing strategy to a health professional's transformation from competent clinician to academic leader. The “professionalization” of the HPE workforce is driven by numerous institutional and regulatory changes, including institutions creating career tracks for clinicians who’ve made education the focus of their professional roles and accreditation bodies requiring residency leaders to have the “requisite specialty expertise and documented educational and administrative experience.”

In addition, with the implementation of the Next Accreditation System and the Clinical Learning Environment Review program, program directors are expected to grow and develop educational expertise among faculty, thoroughly understand how to review curriculum, and create and maintain a comprehensive evaluation reporting system. When determining which EdD is right for you, focused graduate programs in health professions education are the best bet for healthcare professionals looking to teach and lead the next generation of healthcare providers.

Unique in its class, ATSU’s education in health professions doctorate involves practical experience-based teaching rather than research-based teaching. While most EdD programs are practice-based, those who pursue an education doctorate typically focus on exploratory qualitative research to influence organizational decision-making.

Dedicated to teaching health sciences curriculum and instruction, ATSU’s online EdD program specializes in developing healthcare provider educators to teach within their field of healthcare expertise, offering advantages over generic EdD programs.

The fully online EdD in Health Professions is a 55 credit hour degree program with no residency required. Through completing the comprehensive Doctoral Research Project, students develop a manuscript that can be submitted to a peer-reviewed journal for publication. The Doctoral Research Project gives students a critical edge in networking and the opportunity to be published.

EdD Career Advancement

If you work in, or aspire to work in, any of the following, then the online Doctor of Education in Health Professions program may be the right degree for you:

  • Professor at a college or university in a multitude of health professions
  • Health professions clinical educator
  • Director of medical education department or program

Doctor of Philosophy

Please note this is for comparison only and the a Doctor of Philosophy degree is not a program offered at ATSU.

A Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) degree is the most common doctorate that can be attained in almost any academic area of study. This doctoral path typically prepares students for careers in research-oriented fields and higher education roles.

PhD program curriculum is more theoretical and study-based, with the end goal of mastering a specific field of study or adding research to a body of existing academic literature. While doctoral curriculum varies by university and field of study, it often includes teaching methods, educational research and evaluation, and dissertation topics. This doctorate typically encompasses 120 credit hours.

A PhD is the research degree, meaning, students are required to produce original research in new subject or knowledge area, typically in the form of a dissertation. The dissertation is then defended before a panel of experts in the related field of study.

According to the United States Department of Education, research doctorates, such as the Doctor of Education and Doctor of Health Administration, are equivalent to the PhD. The main difference is other doctoral degrees allow for various methods of research to be realized through applied approaches, whereas the PhD is strictly theoretical and requires a dissertation.

Which healthcare doctorate is right for you?

When determining which doctoral degree to pursue, the decision comes down to your reason for earning the degree and desired professional outcomes. While the path to earning a doctoral degree requires dedication and hard work, it’s a fast-track way to advance into leadership and achieve your career goals. Healthcare is booming and in need of leaders, and a doctorate from ATSU-CGHS will help position you for success.

So, what’s the difference between a DHSc and a DHA? What’s the difference between an EdD and a DHSc? What’s the difference between a PhD and a DHSc? Here is a quick comparison:

Doctor of Health Sciences
3-5 years
Applied research project
Management and decision analysis

Healthcare delivery systems

Healthcare outcomes

Evidence-based practice
Doctor of Health Administration
3-5 years
(option to choose between applied and theoretical)
Healthcare law and policy

Financing/economics of healthcare

Health information systems

Quantitative methods
Doctor of Education in Health Profession
2.5-5 years
Doctoral Research Project (DRP)
Teaching strategies

Instructional design and planning

Student assessment

Qualitative and quantitative research
Doctor of Philosophy
3-8 years
(consisting of a body of original academic research)
Field courses or independent study

Quantitative research methods

Statistical and scientific interference
Data analysis
Not offered by ATSU
*Credit hours, time to completion, and research requirements are based on ATSU-CGHS's online doctoral programs. Credit hours and time to completion may vary across universities and programs.

**PhD credit hours and time to completion are based on industry averages. ATSU-CGHS does not offer a PhD program, this is for comparison purposes only.

†For example purposes only. This does not encompass the full extent of curriculum offered.