PA Doctorate

Comparing Doctor of Medical Science Degrees: An In-Depth Look

As I’ve been considering furthering my education over the last few years, I made the following grid to keep track of new PA doctorates across the country. Comparing Doctor of Medical Science degrees is becoming increasingly complicated as new programs are opening all of the time.

This chart is not a comprehensive representation of my research and thus isn’t entirely reflective of my decision-making process but it highlights a few important points:

How I Choose My DMS Program

  • Degree
    • The DMS/DMSc is the newest doctoral degree for PAs with varying degrees of clinical relevance. It also represents a move toward a new identity as a doctoral-level practitioner. Contrast that with the Doctor of Science in Physician Assistant Studies (DScPAS) from Massachusetts College of Health Professions. I would find it hard to take a “Doctor of Assisting Someone Else” very seriously. 
  • Curriculum
    • I’m going back to school to be a better clinician. Period. I’m not interested in healthcare law, policy, or disaster preparedness. Those are no doubt interesting and helpful courses for those in public health but they won’t help me better care for my patients. I wanted a clinical doctorate and so the curriculum had to be obviously clinical.
      • In the updated Doctor of Medical Science Comparison Grid, quasi-clinical tracks are listed as “Advanced Practice” as they’re often advertised.
  • School
    • I wasn’t/am not very concerned with a school’s reputation as long as they have a solid program. Most of the listed programs are associated with a school that also offers a Master’s-level PA program, but only one is associated with a medical school: Lincoln Memorial University.* 
  • Cost
    • This is a no-brainer, right? Cost matters. Degree creep is real and a real moneymaker for universities. LMU’s program is among the most expensive but, as I’m hoping to demonstrate here for the benefit of all who might question this decision, I think it’s worth it. 
  • Duration
    • This one is pretty straightforward as well. While I naturally wanted something manageable, I was willing to go as long as needed. I have considered several traditional PhD programs, up to 4 years in length, but none would have made me a better clinician. I also considered returning to medical school but only one (LECOM) offers PAs advanced standing.
  • Residency requirements
    • AKA “on-campus” requirements. A hallmark of yesterday’s correspondence courses was the ability to “complete your degree at home, through the mail”. While that may have been suspect in years past, distance learning is common if not preferable today. Between MOOCs (massive open online courses) and intimate virtual classrooms, there is little reason to believe that e-learning is less effective than on-campus learning for most subjects. Most major universities have at least some online offerings. But it’s not perfect as some skills must be observed, practiced, and critiqued in person. A hybrid program offers this opportunity. 
  • Miscellaneous
    • I am interested in medical writing and informatics but didn’t make it very far in this part of my research. I also considered a few healthcare-specific MBAs; you can see how they stack up at the bottom of the chart. 

The Doctor of Medical Science Comparison Grid

How Should You Choose Your DMS Program?

Choosing the best DMS program will depend on several factors, including your academic and career goals, personal preferences, financial considerations, and the specific program curriculum. Keep these general tips in mind when comparing Doctor of Medical Science degrees:

  1. Determine your goals: Start by clarifying your academic and career objectives. What are of healthcare are you particularly interested in? What are your long-term career aspirations? Understanding your goals will help you identify DMS programs that offer what you’re looking for.
  2. Research the programs: Look for DMS programs that have well-established and reputable undergraduate and graduate programs, PA programs, or medical schools. Consider factors such as faculty expertise, research opportunities, curriculum, and alumni success. Look for program rankings, reviews, and publications that assess the quality and reputation of different programs.
  3. Review faculty and mentors: Investigate the faculty members in your field of interest. Look for professors who are renowned experts, have published relevant research, and have a track record of mentoring successful graduate students. Accessible and supportive mentors can greatly enhance your academic experience and professional growth.
  4. Talk to current and former students: Reach out to current students and alumni of the programs you are considering. They can provide insights into the program’s strengths, weaknesses, and overall experience. Ask about the quality of instruction, research opportunities, job placement, and the level of support provided by the university.
  5. Consider financial aspects: Evaluate the financial implications of attending each DMS program. Look into tuition fees, available scholarships, assistantship opportunities, and the cost of living in the area. Assess your financial situation and determine what you can afford or what funding options are available to you.
  6. Visit the campus or attend virtual events: Whenever possible, visit the campuses of the universities you are considering. Attend information sessions, speak with faculty and students, and get a feel for the campus environment. If visiting in person is not feasible, explore virtual events, webinars, and online resources provided by the universities.
  7. Check accreditation and reputation: Ensure that the universities you are considering are properly accredited by recognized accrediting bodies. Accreditation ensures that the institution meets certain quality standards and that your degree will be recognized by employers and other academic institutions.
  8. Trust your instincts: Ultimately, trust your instincts and choose a university where you feel comfortable and confident about pursuing your Doctor of Medical Science degree. Consider the overall fit, including the university’s culture, values, and support services that align with your needs and aspirations.

Remember that the “best” DMS program is subjective and varies based on individual preferences and goals. It’s essential to choose a program that aligns with your aspirations and provides the resources and opportunities you need to succeed in your chosen field.

*Since this article was first published, ATSU and SIU have launched DMSc programs.

11 thoughts on “Comparing Doctor of Medical Science Degrees: An In-Depth Look

  • I’d update the Rocky Mountain University section to show that it IS clinically focused, depending on the tract. I finished mine in Psych there, and it was very much clinically relevant/focused

    • We would be happy to do that but all we have to go on is the published curriculum, which at our last review wasn’t convincing. For example, the psych track had only 3 classes (9 credits) that appeared to be directly relevant to clinical practice. We don’t feel that having *some* clinical content merits the designation of a “clinical degree”.

      If we are mistaken, please help us understand. We really want the DMS remain something clinicians can be proud of.


    Sure-no idea about the other tracts, but I will say for Psych:

    I had probably 6 classes specifically in Psych, with a course project that could/was based in Psych. I needed to submit treatment plans, both to the classroom, as well as instructor, and defend my decisions. Lots of teaching. Lots of reading. Definitely clinically-focused

    • Thank you for sharing, Dr. Van Eyck. We love the idea of having specialty-specific DMS training.

  • Can you please add High Point University to your DMS spreadsheets. I am happy to provide any information you need.

  • Diane Sims

    Butler University has a DMS Bridge Program. It is for new graduates (must matriculate in less than 6 months of graduating from ARC-PA program) and has a different curriculum and admission process than the other DMS program.

    I think this one should be added as well to the list.

  • Butler University launched our DMS Bridge Program last June and would be excited to be included in your program comparison information. Thank you!

  • University of Lynchburg does have a clinical focus as an Advanced Clinical Practice option which allows for the student to do a clinical fellowship during the didactic.

    • We’re glad to hear that, Matt, but we’ve not been able to get anyone to expound on that. The curriculum doesn’t suggest a robust clinical focus. If you’re a Lynchburg student/grad, perhaps you could help us understand how this is accomplished?

  • Hi,

    Butler University’s DMS just added 2 new concentrations: Foundations of Critical Care and Foundations in Orthopedic Care. Please add these to the list!
    You can find the curricula here:

    Butler additionally has 2 certificate options :



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