Is a Thesis Required to Complete a Master’s in Health Policy?

Is a thesis required to complete a Master's in Health Policy? With the influx of online and nontraditional options available to students, the idea of a written dissertation is now debated by members of the healthcare industry. However, with so many issues clouding the sector, from zombie digital health startups and discussion of Amazon coming to the healthcare industry, dissertations are still important. Here is how to check to see if a program requires a dissertation and if any alternatives are available.

Resource: Top 20 Online Health Policy Master's Degree Programs 2017-2018

School Requirements

With the inclusion of online and distance education options for second-career and nontraditional students, the idea of requiring a written research paper for this graduate degree that must be defended before the department is one that has been hotly debated. While several traditional schools still require it for graduation, some institutions list it as a preferred but optional form of a capstone project. This means that students have the option to earn a degree from a program that will not require it; however, most accredited programs still considered it mandatory as it is one of the best ways to ensure that a student can demonstrate mastery of the subject.


Many online schools find it difficult to have a student defend a research paper before a committee; therefore, several alternatives exist to take its place. Students in this field can replace the thesis with a research paper that is submitted for peer review and publication, a case study that is completed with a team, or a portfolio. All of these alternatives serve the same function as the dissertation, which is to demonstrate a student's competency over advanced subjects in the field of healthcare and policy. Students are advised that not all schools will offer every alternative; it is imperative they review dissertation alternatives prior to applying for any program in this field.

Dependent on Specialization

Many graduate programs in this field offer specializations, such as global health and policy, legal issues in healthcare, and more. Each specialization comes with its own requirements and a dissertation may be mandatory; the department that offers the specialization will no doubt be able to clarify for students why the dissertation is offered without alternatives. Other specializations may not require a dissertation and the capstone project could be fulfilled through other alternatives. The capstone requirements are listed on the program page for each school, enabling students to understand the breadth of the degree prior to enrolling.

General Requirements

For schools that require a dissertation, there are a few guidelines that are followed; students should be aware of them prior to choosing to take on a dissertation because it is a long process that requires dedication to research and writing. Most dissertation topics must be approved by the department prior to the actual research, which is then followed by periodic meetings with an advisor to help keep a student on track to meet the dissertation deadline. This is followed by submitting the completed dissertation to the jury or committee for review. Depending on the topic of the dissertation and whether a student has chosen a traditional or online program, the process is completed through an oral or written defense of the dissertation. Once the dissertation is approved, a student has earned the right to graduate.

Students who are at the graduate level of healthcare education have long understood that a written dissertation is not just about demonstrating competency; it's about understanding the changing face of healthcare. While dissertations take time, they are a brilliant way to showcase a student's performance. Now that the answer to the question is a thesis required to complete a master's in health policy, students can begin preparing for this project.

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