Laws regulating the health care industry continue to become more complex as the government and corporations try to navigate issues like privacy, safety and liability. Health care compliance officers help businesses ensure that their practices are in line with regulations and laws. Typically, health care compliance education is offered as a certificate to accompany a master's in business administration or a law degree. However, there are some dedicated master's degree programs in health care compliance, as well as degrees in health care administration, regulatory compliance and health law that all include training on health care compliance.
A master's program in health care compliance is an advanced degree, and students are required to meet specialized criteria for admission. Students applying for a master's degree program in health care compliance are typically required to have completed a relevant undergraduate or graduate degree. For example, at the University of California San Diego requires a medical, health care, legal or related degree for its master's program in health law. The program also requires that students have a minimum of three years of relevant work experience. Undergraduates with exceptional grades and references may be admitted. Northwestern University says that work or research experience in a related field is preferred but not required. Programs don't require students to take the GRE for admissions.
Most master's degree programs in health care compliance include two years of course work. Students take fewer courses at the graduate level, so each semester includes only two or three classes. At Northwestern University, students take 11 courses total in the master of science program in regulatory compliance. The health care compliance track includes courses like Healthcare Regulatory Environment, Healthcare Compliance Programs, Healthcare Regulatory Enforcement, and Healthcare Billing Models and Systems. Other classes in a health care compliance program may include quality systems, biostatistics, clinical research design, project management and clinical research essentials.
Most master's degree programs require the completion of a thesis, but health care compliance programs typically don't. At Northwestern University, students must complete a capstone project, which is similar to a thesis. The project must bring together the knowledge that students have gained in the core curriculum while adding some original research. Students work with a faculty adviser to ensure that the project is contributing to knowledge in the field.
Graduates with a master's degree in health care compliance or a related degree have a number of career options. Northwestern University reports that career options include clinical research coordinator, medical scientist, pharmaceutical project manager and, of course, compliance officer. Graduates may work in a variety of settings, from research clinics to medical centers to private companies. Salaries can range from $40,000 per year to more than $80,000, depending on the position and the level of experience.