Earning Your Dual Degree in Healthcare

Learn the benefits of earning a dual degree and discover the best combinations for a career in healthcare.

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Last Updated: 12/28/2020
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Pursuing a dual degree path comes with far more advantages than just saving time and money, especially if you’re aiming for a healthcare career. Whether you want to combine a bachelor’s level nursing program with an MSN to fast track a nursing career or to stack graduate degrees to reach the top tier of healthcare administration, there’s a dual degree option for every career goal. You can even choose to pair your healthcare degree with an unrelated topic — such as an MBA — to diversify your knowledge and widen your career prospects. Whatever track you choose, doubling-up on degrees can benefit not only your career but also your bank balance. To learn more about the benefits of a dual degree and to see which pairings are popular for healthcare careers, keep reading.

The Value of a Dual Degree Track in Healthcare

Rather than focusing your education on a single topic, dual degrees allow you to build knowledge in multiple areas and thereby expand your professional opportunities after graduation. For instance, completing an MSN and MBA simultaneously gives you knowledge of both the nursing industry and the business world. Here are just some of the benefits of choosing a dual degree track.

Save time and money

Pursuing two separate degrees, such as an MPH and an MBA, would take between four and five years, while you can complete a dual program in as few as two years. By tackling the curricula simultaneously, you avoid overlap between similar topics and graduate more quickly. In taking fewer credits and being in school for less time, you also save on tuition and fees.

Expand your skillset

Pursuing one degree provides you plenty of skills for specific careers, but admittedly not as many as if you graduated with dual degrees. If you pursue a BS/MS in nursing dual degree, for example, you gain the advanced nursing skills needed to work as a nurse practitioner rather than only a registered nurse.

Increase your employment opportunities

With so many exciting and essential jobs available in the world of healthcare, it’s nice to have options. By graduating with two degrees, you increase your career opportunities by double. Or, you may decide to work in one area for a while before transitioning into a role more similar to your second degree.

Up your earning potential

Pursuing dual degrees offers several different ways to increase your earning potential. If working towards a dual program incorporating two different degree levels (e.g., a master’s and a doctorate), you benefit from the highest degree earned. When pursuing two degrees at the same level, you gain the specialized, multidisciplinary knowledge that often commands higher salaries.

Reach more patients

By expanding the number of services or types of care you can provide, you have the potential to help more patients live healthy lives. If you pursue only an MPH, you can only help address public health issues. However, if you pursue an M.D. alongside the MPH, you can provide medical solutions to problems caused by public health illnesses.

Dual Degree vs. Double Major

Although sometimes these terms get used interchangeably, dual degrees and double majors have significant differences. Double majors can be undertaken at the graduate level and typically involves studying two related or unrelated subjects at an equal level. Learners still graduate with a single degree. By contrast, dual degrees involve studying two different subjects and result in you earning two separate degrees at graduation.

Is a Dual Degree Right for Me?

Dual degrees provide many benefits, but you should think carefully about whether this option best serves your needs before diving in. These programs support motivated, focused students who want to challenge themselves by pursuing multiple degrees and opening up their career possibilities. Competitive schools look for accomplished students with a proven academic track record who can handle a heavy course load. Do you feel confident about attending school full-time? Can you balance studying two separate topics simultaneously? Consider these questions carefully before pursuing a dual degree program.

Types of Healthcare Dual Degrees

Several different types of dual degrees in healthcare exist, including those offered at different degree levels. Whether you’re looking to expand your knowledge at the bachelor’s level or find a dual program combining both master’s and doctorate level studies, these options and more can be found.

Double Bachelor’s Dual Degree Programs

Like other dual degrees, those offered at the bachelor’s level bring together two distinct subjects and allow you to graduate with two separate degrees. Most of these programs take an extra year to complete. For instance, at the University of Pennsylvania, you can graduate with a BSN and B.S. in Economics with a concentration in healthcare management and policy.

Bachelor’s + Master’s Dual Degree Programs

Dual degrees combining bachelor’s and master’s level studies are also common within healthcare, with many nursing students pursuing BSN/MSN dual degrees. Plenty of other options exist as well including the B.S./MPH offered at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. Like other dual degrees, they take less time to complete than if you pursued the degrees separately.

Double Master’s Dual Degree Programs

The most common type of healthcare dual degree option, many different double master’s programs exist. Whether you’re looking to pursue an MS/MPH, MPH/MBA, MSW/MBA, or one of the many other dual programs available, these paths put you in good stead to be in high demand and earn top salaries.

Master’s + Doctorate/PhD/J.D. Dual Degree Programs

If you want to earn the highest level of degree available in healthcare but shorten the amount of time required to do so, a dual master’s/doctorate program could be a great fit. Doctorate options include those focused on research and academia as well as opportunities that lead to higher professional and clinical positions. At Emory University, you can pursue dual JD/MPH degrees among others.

Top Undergraduate + Graduate Degree Combinations in Healthcare

Bachelor of Health Science/Master of Public Health

If you know you want to work as a public health professional, you also know you’ll need an MPH to take on clinical leadership roles. Completing a dual bachelor’s/master’s level program allows you to graduate more quickly and take up meaningful jobs such as state epidemiologist, public health policy advisor, tropical disease specialist, or health educator.

Depending on the program, you may be able to earn all or part of your health science bachelor’s degree online, so be sure to inquire before enrolling. Online MPH programs are also common, making it a possibility that this dual degree combination may be completed entirely online in some cases.

These dual programs take approximately 5-6 years of full-time study, though some schools also offer part-time options. As an example, at Boston University, students must be in their sophomore year before being considered for admittance to the dual degree program.

Bachelor of Arts in Psychology/Master of Science in Mental Health Counseling

Designed for students whose end goal is to work as a licensed mental health counselor, these programs combine a bachelor’s degree in psychology and master’s degree in mental health counseling making it possible to begin that career more quickly than if they completed each degree separately.

In some cases, the bachelor’s degree in psychology may be earned fully or partially online. Make sure you check with an adviser to see which portions you can take remotely. The master’s degree in mental health counseling may have online components but will likely be more patient-centered and therefore will require face-to-face learning.

At Pace University, the curriculum consists of 176 credits total and takes between 5-6 years to complete. After finishing all requirements, you can sit for licensure as a mental health counselor, substance abuse counselor, or loss and grief counselor. Once you finish all M.S. requirements, you will graduate with both degrees.

Bachelor of Science in Community Health/Master of Health Administration

Are you interested in working as a lead administrator of a community health agency or hospital? If so, this dual degree pathway could serve your needs. After building an understanding of health education, wellness across the lifespan, and infectious diseases, the MHA curriculum helps you develop advanced skills in health information systems, healthcare delivery legal issues, and financial accounting for healthcare organizations.

With academic training in both subjects, you can qualify for various leadership roles requiring clinical knowledge and administrative skills.

Both your bachelor’s in community health and your master’s in healthcare administration may be earned fully online depending on the program. Be sure to ask about fully online and hybrid dual degrees in these subjects when searching for schools.

Bachelor of Science in Exercise Science/Master of Science in Exercise Physiology

Whether you’re looking to become an exercise physiologist or want to use the dual bachelor’s and master’s program to prepare for postgraduate clinical programs in physical therapy or occupational therapy, this B.S./M.S. program offers several different graduation outcomes. Most students complete these programs with five years of full-time study.

While the exercise science portion emphasizes physical education and training, the exercise physiology degree focuses on how our bodies respond to physical movement. At Oakland University, you can complete the first 12 hours of the M.S. while still paying undergraduate tuition rates.

For those who want to study on their own schedule, online exercise science degree programs as well as master’s in exercise physiology may exist, but it’s likely that some on-campus visits will be required.

Bachelor of Science in Communication Studies/Master of Arts in Speech-Language Pathology

Designed for those who know they want to work as a speech-language pathologist eventually, this dual degree program allows you to accomplish that goal more quickly and with less in tuition payments.

Like other options in this list, the dual communication students/speech-language pathology program usually require five years of full-time study and can lead to state licensure and certification from the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. The College of Saint Rose in New York is just one of several schools providing this type of dual degree.

Inquire about online master’s programs in speech language pathology as well as online bachelor’s in communications studies if you’re interested in learning remotely. While some campus visits may be mandatory, it’s probable that much of both degrees can be completed virtually.

Bachelor of Science in Nursing/Master of Science in Nursing Informatics

Designed as a standard 4+1 program, the BSN/M.S. in nursing informatics dual degree allows you to earn both in just five years. While the BSN provides the clinical skills needed to work directly with patients and provide lifesaving nursing care, the master’s degree builds knowledge of how data and information can be used to promote and deliver better patient outcomes over time.

Although occasional campus visits may be required, online BSN and online MSN in informatics programs are available for those students who prefer to study on their own schedule. Be sure to check with your school to see if they offer dual degree tracks that are hybrid or fully online.

Jobs available to graduates include nursing informatics specialist, clinical analyst, and manager of clinical information in various healthcare settings.

Same Subject Dual Degrees in Healthcare

BS/MS Physician Assistant Studies

These degrees pair well together as they allow you to gain all the essential information needed to work as a physician assistant while shaving a full year off undergraduate studies and moving directly into advanced P.A. topics. You can graduate in five or six years of full-time study and qualify to take required licensure examinations. Hofstra University offers a BS/MS in physician assistant studies if you want to learn more about how these programs work. Online physician assistant programs also exist, so be sure to check with schools before applying.

BS/MS Nursing

Whether you’re interested in working as a nurse practitioner, midwife, leader, or educator, you’ll need an MSN. By completing both your BSN and MSN as part of a dual degree program, you can begin your work as an advanced practice nurse more quickly. Most schools, including New York University, require you to enroll in a BSN program first. Program administrators then determine your preparedness for the dual degree offering in the sophomore year.

BS/MS Occupational Therapy

Occupational therapists must hold a master’s degree at minimum, making the dual BS/MS occupational therapy a great option if you know you want to pursue this career. Many schools offer 3+3 programs, meaning you spend three years working toward undergraduate studies and three years on master’s level coursework. Upon completing an accredited program, you can sit for the NBCOT exam. Seton Hall University offers an example of what you can expect from this option.

Though fully online master’s programs in occupational therapy may not exist, it’s possible that you may be able to complete a portion of both your BS and MS in occupational therapy remotely.

Other Popular Undergraduate + Graduate Degrees in Healthcare

  • BS/MS in Pharmacology
  • BS/MS Mathematics/Biostatistics
  • BS/MS Health Services Administration
  • BS Health Sciences/MPH
  • BS/MS Health Education

Popular Pairings for Your Graduate Degree in Healthcare

Deciding to earn dual graduate degrees can set you up for success in the highest levels of healthcare. Whether you want to work in an advanced practitioner role, or you’re interested in senior administrative positions, these degree combinations can be a smart way to reach your career goals.

MBA + Healthcare Master’s Degree

An MBA serves as an advanced business degree that emphasizes topics such as accounting, finance, marketing, management, business ethics, organizational behavior, and economics. In addition to generalist business studies, many schools allow you to choose a specialization, including healthcare management. If you want to combine clinical knowledge with business acumen, an MBA could be a great pairing with your healthcare degree.

MPH/MBA

Combining advanced studies in both business and public health, the MPH/MBA dual degree is an excellent choice if you want to work in high-ranking healthcare positions in corporate, nonprofit, and government settings. Common job titles for graduates include healthcare manager, health economist, policy analyst, and healthcare consultant.

MSN/MBA

If you enjoy helping others and want to possess the training and authority needed to shift corporate culture and create better patient outcomes on a large-scale, an MSN/MBA dual degree can help you achieve this goal. Titles available to you after graduating include chief nursing officer, nursing director, and executive nursing manager.

DNP/MBA

Allowing you to work at the forefront of nursing and business, the DNP/MBA program helps you maintain an important presence in the boardroom and the operating room. The curriculum emphasizes advanced nursing topics alongside important business themes such as governance, finances, and marketing. You may even be able to find online MBA and mostly online DNP programs, making this combination especially convenient. Common titles may include nurse executive, nurse leader, and nurse administrator.

MOT/MBA

If you want to eventually start your own occupational therapy practice, completing a master’s in occupational therapy alongside an MBA ensures you gain the clinical and business skills needed for both. Many schools offer MBAs with a concentration in healthcare management to ensure you develop specialized business knowledge.

MSW/MBA

Many individuals who aspire to senior-level positions in nonprofits and human service organizations choose the MSW/MBA path as it brings together the best of both worlds. The master’s in social work offers advanced training in topics related to helping others, while the MBA ensures you possess the business skills needed to lead a human service organization. Both your MBA and your master’s in social work may be earned online, so check with the schools you’re considering to see if they offer this option.

MPH + Master’s Degree

While other health programs may emphasize research and/or academia, master’s in public health (MPH) degrees focus specifically on practice and clinical skills. Whether you decide to focus your studies on tropical diseases, epidemiology, or global health development, an MPH can complement a wide variety of healthcare studies.

MHA/MPH

While each of these degrees typically takes two years to complete, pursuing both in a dual degree program cuts your time down to three years of full-time study. In addition to learning about public health and health policy in an MPH, the MHA emphasizes the skills you need to develop programs, manage budgets, and run companies. You can find work as a healthcare CEO, hospital administrator, or program director.

MD/MPH

Are you thinking about med school but also want to use your career to work on healthcare policy? The joint MD/MPH program allows you to develop knowledge in both areas in as few as five years of study. Combining clinical research, healthcare policy, and international health outcomes, these programs lead to jobs in disease prevention, policy development, and health education.

JD/MPH

Combining both a Juris Doctor and an MPH gives you the credentials required to advocate for those with disabilities, serve as a lawyer to a medical facility, or perform a variety of other vital functions at the intersection of law and public health. You should plan to spend four years enrolled before graduating.

MSW/MPH

Combining social work and public health studies makes sense if you want to use the skills from both to improve the health and life outcomes of those susceptible to public health concerns. Most programs take three years to complete and include at least two practicums. Standard job titles for graduates include policy advocate, program developer, and patient services manager.

PharmD/MPH

In recent years, demand has grown for pharmacists who understand the role of population-based healthcare in improving health outcomes. This dual program graduates professionals looking to work in leadership roles as well as those who want to research connections between pharmaceuticals and public health. Plan to spend five years meeting the requirements of both degrees.

MSN/MPH

Combining advanced nursing skills with an understanding of how public health concerns such as pandemics affect communities, this dual program provides the training needed to provide clinical services in community-based health programs around the world. These dual degrees last between 18-36 months and lead to titles such as infection control practitioner and public health nurse.

MOT/MPH

As occupational therapists expand their practices to serve more diverse populations, a need has arisen for them to understand interdisciplinary health policy and consider how the rehabilitation process can influence public planning principles. After completing requirements, you can sit for the NBCOT OT exam. Most programs take three or four years to complete.

DPT/MPH

Requiring four years to complete, the Doctor of Physical Therapy/MPH dual program supports future P.T.s who want to use their skills to help implement more rehabilitation and preventative programs for a broader population range. It also provides them with the skills needed to work on healthcare policy and affect change within the P.T. field.

Although you may be able to earn your MPH completely online, online Doctor of Physical Therapy programs may contain an in-person component, so be sure to do your research beforehand.

MHA + Master’s Degree

Master of Healthcare Administration degrees focus on providing the knowledge and skills needed to take on professional roles within the world of healthcare. While the curriculum at times is similar to an MBA, the MHA emphasizes specialized business studies as they relate to the medical field. Courses emphasize topics such as healthcare economics, health policy, healthcare marketing, and healthcare informatics. It pairs well with many different healthcare degrees, including those highlighted below.

MHA/MBA

Pursuing an MHA/MBA dual degree signals to prospective employers that you’re serious about working as a change agent on the business side of the healthcare industry. These programs, which typically take two or three years to complete, provide a comprehensive education on all topics related to business and healthcare administration.

MHA/MSN

Combing the MHA with an MSN is a great option if you want to work as an administrative leader within the nursing field. This dual degree option provides the skills you’ll need to take on challenging roles as a chief nursing officer, nurse leader, or other high-ranking position. Plan to spend about three years completing requirements.

MHA/MSHI

If the technology side of the healthcare field interests you, pairing an MHA with an M.S. in health informatics can provide the training you need to use health and patient data to effect better outcomes for those in your charge. Most programs take between three and four years to complete and culminate in either a thesis or capstone project.

MPA + Healthcare Master’s Degree

Master’s in public administration programs are designed to support professionals who want to use their skills in policy, leadership, economics, and financial analytics to grow and lead nonprofit organizations, government agencies, and other socially focused endeavors. MPAs pair well with several other healthcare and service degrees, two of which we look at below.

MPA/MSW

While social workers often spend their days focused on serving individuals’ immediate needs, combining an MSW with an MPA provides the credentials needed to take on administrative roles that can affect organizational and community change. Most programs take two or three years to complete.

MPA/MSN

After working on the frontlines of nursing for a time as an R.N., you may find yourself ready to advance your nursing practice while also widening your understanding of health policy and administration. These dual degrees can be completed in as few as two years, including two summer sessions.

Interested to see what else is happening in the world of healthcare? Discover healthcare education trends and stay informed while you work towards your medical degree.