Solving Problems: The Benefits of a Joint Law and Health Care Degree

by CherrellT on June 5, 2012

If your head wasn’t already spinning fast enough from the political, economic and cultural changes shaking the world today, consider one of the newest post-graduate education options offered by an increasing number of American institutions of higher education. Known as a joint JD and Masters of Health Services Administration degree, it’s basically a mash-up of a traditional law degree and a health administration certification. Its intent: To invigorate a complex and problematic health care industry and promote closer cooperation between health professionals and the policymakers responsible for regulating the industry.

Characteristics of a JD/MHSA Degree

Whether you’re planning on practicing law with a focus on the healthcare industry or going into clinical administration or health insurance, you’ll need to have a broad knowledge base of both sides. Most JD/MHSA degree programs last four years and spend 60 to 70 percent of their credit-hours on legal training. The remaining 30 to 40 percent focuses mainly on training non-doctors to consume highly technical research papers, handle human resources issues within a clinical setting, and produce the complicated statistical analysis essential both to the understanding of disease progression and the running of a successful healthcare business.

Requirements for Admission

Basic admissions requirements for most joint JD/MHSA degree programs include:

  • A bachelor’s degree earned with distinction. Some schools set minimum undergraduate GPA requirements, commonly in the 3.0 range.
  • An acceptable score on the LSAT.
  • Concurrent acceptance both to the law school and health-policy graduate school at your chosen university.
  • Initiating your law and health-policy coursework simultaneously. You may be disqualified from the joint degree if you don’t declare your intentions soon after enrolling.

Career Opportunities for Degree Holders

Even before the emergence of the joint JD/MHSA degree, it was not uncommon for healthcare administrators to go back to school and obtain law degrees. If you opt to get one of these joint degrees, you’ll be in demand for plenty of lucrative positions.

  • In-house counsel at health insurance providers and hospital corporations, positions that require in-depth familiarity with pathology and procedure.
  • Non-medical executive positions at these same companies.
  • Associate and partner-track positions at liability and personal-injury law firms that focus on the healthcare industry.
  • Counsel to pharmaceutical firms concerned about navigating an increasingly complicated regulatory environment.
  • Advisory and consulting appointments to government agencies and policymakers that focus on healthcare and its administration.

Social Benefits

Since the joint JD/MHSA degree is so new, few studies have yet been conducted to determine its efficacy. It is clear, however, that graduates of the program have a wider range of career options open to them and higher average starting salaries. More broadly, professionals grounded both in the law and the administration of healthcare may be able to offer fresh insight on the seemingly intractable problems of escalating end-user costs, poor insurance coverage, and the uneven distribution of care that affect the modern healthcare industry.

If you’ve always been fascinated by public policy and the law, consider obtaining a joint law and master’s of healthcare administration degree. You’ll find that career doors open a lot faster for folks who understand the complex but ultimately complimentary relationship between the law and the healthcare industry. You’ll make a decent amount of money and help a lot of people out in the process, too.

Cynthia Yu writes for several higher ed blogs. To read more about degrees in health administration click here.

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