Dual Degree Programs
We offer three dual degree programs that afford students the opportunity to simultaneously complete two degrees with a reduced course load. Students wishing to pursue a dual degree must apply to both programs and be admitted separately. An admissions decision in one program does not affect the admissions decision in another program.
Law & Health Administration (MHA/JD)
The Health care industry is becoming increasingly more complex in both the delivery of services and in organizational structure. Along with this has come competition among providers to a degree heretofore unheard of in health care. As the nation's third largest business sector, the health care industry accounts for about 15 percent of our GDP. As leaders of one of the most regulated industries in the United States, health care executives require extensive knowledge of state and federal regulations, reimbursement, insurance, medical ethics, contract law, mergers and acquisitions, tax laws, and antitrust laws, to name but a few areas. This has created a vigorous demand for legal experts who understand the intricacies of the health care industry as well as health law. To meet the demand for health law experts, VCU developed a dual degree program in law and health administration in partnership with the University of Richmond School of Law, a program established in 1986. Created as a cooperative venture between the universities, the program addresses legal issues that affect organizations, financing, and delivery of health services.
Program Schedule & Curriculum
The major advantage of the MHA/JD dual degree program is the time required to complete it. A three-year curriculum in health administration and a three-year curriculum in law have been combined to create an intensive, four to four and a half year program. Students may begin their studies either in law or health administration and upon completion of all requirements will receive both degrees concurrently. Students enrolled in the dual degree program must complete approximately 120 semester hours of study, 49 in health administration and 70 to 75 in law. The 49 semester hours to be completed in health administration include 46 hours in core curriculum, and at least three credits to be earned during a ten week summer administrative internship. Dual degree students complete this internship in lieu of the 12-month residency. The 70 to 75 semester hours to be completed in law include approximately 40 hours in required core courses. In addition, students must take additional courses as required by each school. The remaining hours are obtained from a wide variety of electives offered at the University of Richmond School of Law.
Career Opportunities for Graduates
Graduates of the MHA/JD program may choose either to work in health administration or to practice law. Choices include positions in corporate offices of multi-institutional health care systems or careers in the public sector, working with various government departments that deal with health care. Many health attorneys are pursuing careers as general in-house counsel or specialty areas such as risk management or hospital personnel. For those who choose to practice health law, opportunities abound: antitrust, employment and labor law, tax law, corporate law, reimbursement consultation, fraud & abuse, administrative law, and litigation in medical malpractice are a few examples. Given the fast paced growth of the health care industry and the increasingly complex legal issues that have evolved, students will be assigned a faculty advisor from each school to help them plan a specialized program to meet their individual interests and needs. Each school has developed specialty "tracks" to help students choose elective courses that will enable the students to achieve a high degree of specialization in health administration law.
In health administration these tracks include:
- management of hospitals and hospital systems
- long-term care administration
- health planning and policy
- health care finance.
In law the tracks include:
- labor and employment law
- hospital corporate counsel
- litigation and medical malpractice
- general health law.
Founded in 1870, the University of Richmond School of Law combines a rigorous academic program with an extensive selection of clinical placements and experiential learning opportunities to create an extraordinary legal education. The Law School’s highly regarded faculty of teacher-scholars includes nationally and internationally recognized experts, and its low student-faculty ratio reinforces a culture of professional mentoring and mutual support. Through individualized attention aimed at maximizing the personal potential of each and every student, we equip our students with the knowledge and skills they need, preparing them to make valuable contributions to the legal system. The school is located on the beautiful 350-acre campus of the University, just seven miles west of the Virginia Commonwealth University’s MCV Campus.
Each program in the cooperative arrangement is fully accredited. The graduate program in health administration is one of only a few in the nation to have been granted the maximum seven year accreditation by the Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Management Education (CAHME). The University of Richmond Law School partner is fully accredited by the recognized standardizing agencies in the United States. U of R is a member of the Association of American Law Schools and on the approved lists of the American State Board of Bar Examiners and the Virginia State Board of Bar Examiners. A law degree from U of R qualifies the holder to seek admission to the bar of any state in the nation.
Students applying for admission to the Dual Degree Program must meet the standards and be accepted by both the Department of Health Administration and the University of Richmond School of Law. Students may either 1) apply to both schools in the dual degree program simultaneously, and upon acceptance into both programs, select, with the assistance and approval of both schools, which school to start in, or 2) enroll in one of the two programs first, and then apply for the other program during that first year of study. However, applying under this latter scenario does not guarantee acceptance into the other school. For more information about the MHA application process, see the MHA Admissions Requirements section.
The two most important considerations in evaluating a candidate for admission to the University of Richmond School of Law are the candidate's Law School Admission Test (LSAT) and the candidate's undergraduate performance. The admissions committee at UR also take into consideration an applicant's leadership potential, extra curricular activities, recommendations, employment experience, maturity, motivation, and character. Interested students may familiarize themselves with the admissions standards applied by UR by reviewing the statistical information about median grade point average and median LSAT score in the Official Guide to ABA-Approved Law Schools, published annually by the American Bar Association and the Law School Admission Council.
Medicine & Health Administration (MHA/MD)
Integration of administrative functions with clinical domains is necessary to deliver the most efficient and highest quality care. As health care organizations evolve in response to environmental pressures, physicians will be sought to lead these organizations. To meet the demand for physician leaders, VCU's Department of Health Administration and VCU's School of Medicine developed a Dual Degree Program in Medicine and Health Administration. This innovative program satisfies the demand for budding physicians who know early in their careers that they wish to pursue administration in tandem with a medical career. In five years, students complete both the MHA and MD degrees and are trained for roles as healthcare executives and medical care leaders who are knowledgeable about the organization, financing, and delivery of health services.
Program Schedule & Curriculum
After acceptance in the MHA/MD Program, the student meets with the MHA Program Director to design an appropriate course of study. The bulk of MHA courses are taken during full-time matriculation in the student's fourth year of study (Fall, Spring, and Summer semesters). The remaining courses are arranged during the final year of medical school. To allow maximum flexibility, a few courses may be taken in either the traditional MHA or the hybrid online MSHA. Medical school courses are counted as electives in the health administration portion of the curriculum.
Admissions Requirements & Application Timeline
Students applying for admission to the Dual Degree Program in Medicine and Health Administration must meet the standards and be accepted by both the Department of Health Administration and the VCU School of Medicine. Typically, students apply to the MHA portion of the program by February 1 during any of the first three years of medical school.
Before beginning the health administration portion of the Program, the student must purchase and complete prerequisite modules in accounting and economics by July 1 (unless the student has taken these courses within five years). This is a self-directed process wherein the student purchases the learning materials and works at their individual pace. Following this self-study, the student is required to complete a web-based competency exam in each discipline. Details regarding modules will be provided upon acceptance to the program.
Health Administration & Information Systems (MHA/MSIS)
Our three year dual MHA/MSIS degree integrates technical IT expertise with healthcare management skills to give graduates access to these and other positions within the healthcare field. The didactic coursework is complemented by a 10-week summer internship in a healthcare organization during which students apply their classroom knowledge to practical IT management challenges.
National policy changes, technology innovations, and pressures for increased value create an urgent need for individuals skilled in healthcare information technology management. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that 51,000 healthcare IT professionals will be needed in the future for the nation's healthcare providers to successfully become meaningful users of healthcare IT. The Office of the National Coordinator for Healthcare IT notes the need for:
- Practice workflow and information management redesign specialists
- Clinician/practitioner consultants
- Implementation support specialists
- Implementation managers
- Technical/software support personnel
- Health information management and exchange specialist
Students must apply and be accepted to both programs. Students may either apply to both programs prior to starting either, or they may apply to the second program after matriculating into the first. All prerequisites for each program must be satisfied prior to starting the program.
MHA Prerequisites: basic preparation in microeconomics, financial accounting, and statistics as well as working knowledge of college-level algebra.
MSIS Prerequisites: evidence of competence in selected prerequisite areas of information systems including: application programming, systems analysis and design, database, telecommunications, and hardware/software. Evidence of this competence may include formal course work, comparable training within a work environment, or significant, relevant and recent work experience in the field. Students enrolled as majors in the program who do not have formal background or equivalent training must take the appropriate undergraduate courses to satisfy the prerequisites prior to taking program courses. The required undergraduate courses are: INFO 300, INFO 350, INFO 360, INFO 361, INFO 370, INFO 364 and a course in calculus.
The curriculum allows students to earn both the MHA and the MSIS in a total of 78 credits rather than the 89 credits that would be required to obtain the degrees separately. Students in the combined degree program will follow the same schedule as regular MHA students, including the two lockstep years.
Students will take all courses required for the MHA, all core courses required for the MBA, and nine additional courses in the MS in Information Systems program, including INFO 610, INFO 620, and INFO 630. Students whose undergraduate degree is not in Information Systems may also be required to take additional undergraduate prerequisite courses before taking the graduate Information Systems courses, as determined by the program advisor. A 3-credit, ten-week internship is required and must have substantial global, entrepreneurial and/or experiential components related to both degrees. The six Information Systems courses to be taken in addition to INFO 610, INFO 620, and INFO 630, must be approved by the program advisor.