An education in health law and policy can enhance your career prospects, give your salary a boost and award you with a functional knowledge of health law and policy that affects your clients and industries.
What Is Health Law and Policy?
Health law and policy centers on federal, state and local legislation relating to health care. Health care providers and insurance companies must follow strict legal requirements when providing services and health coverage to consumers.
Understanding the terminology and policies surrounding health care helps you to serve as an advocate for patients, organizations and corporations. Because health law centers on how consumers and health care agencies interact, jobs for health law and policy lawyers exist on both sides of the transaction.
Health care organizations want to avoid legal issues and remain compliant with the law. At the same time, consumers may need representation when ensuring their rights as applicable to health care access and coverage.
Who Should Pursue a Career in Health Law and Policy?
Working in health law and policy can be rewarding but also challenging. Keeping current with regulations and policies requires continuous study, so you can expect to perform research and investigate case studies regardless of your field.
That said, health law and policy can be an immensely rewarding occupation. Whatever side of a case you are on, it’s your duty to uphold the rules that govern your clients’ work or products. Ensuring legality and upholding ethics are two cornerstones of occupations in health law.
Lawyers Interested in Health Care
If you are already practicing as a lawyer, you can branch out into health legislation and policy work. While you may have studied basic health care legislation while preparing to pass the bar, the health law field is vast and ever-changing.
Guided study on the subject helps prepare you for arguing cases in health care, defending clients or corporations in litigation, and formulating contracts and other legal documentation on behalf of your clients.
If you feel strongly about the health care industry, medical malpractice or other high-stakes litigation, supporting clients as they file lawsuits against corporations may also appeal to you.
Health Care Professionals Interested in Law
If you are a nurse, physician, surgeon or another medical expert, adding health law to your skill set expands your career opportunities and helps you advocate for your patients. While medicine may be your specialty, no medical degree conveys all the knowledge you need to navigate insurance and legislation challenges in your work.
Whether you have a private practice as a physician or work as a nurse at a local hospital, expanding your education into health care policy can prove a benefit to your patients and your career possibilities.
Public Health Professionals
Working in public health requires an in-depth knowledge of policies and local legislation. Earning a master’s degree in a relevant field enables you to better guide your community in obtaining the resources and support they need.
With a background in topics such as government medical programs, laws surrounding privacy and discrimination, and ADA compliance, you will feel better prepared to handle your community’s social and health challenges.
Educators at the College Level
For educators, informing upcoming generations of professionals on the topic of health law and policy can ensure the progress of such policy. Whatever health care or legal subjects you teach, continuing your education can provide further instructional opportunities and help you to keep your expertise current.
How Long Does It Take to Complete a Master’s Degree in Health Law and Policy?
Ultimately, the time required to finish the degree depends on your educational institution, scheduling conflicts and personal abilities. Some schools require a set course of study while others allow for flexible enrollment that suits your needs.
Time Investment for an On-Campus Master’s Program
Traditional in-person degree offerings often stipulate attendance of two to two and a half years to complete the program of study. However, some students prefer to spread their study out over two years to allow for professional and personal development as they attend classes.
Students who are working full time, for example, may prefer a more spread out schedule. In some cases, students spend multiple years working toward a master’s degree when their educational institution has convenient classes available.
Time Investment for an Online Master’s Program
Depending on the program, it should take students about one and a half to two years to complete an online master’s degree program. Course lengths and unit requirements vary, as does your ability to schedule classes as they suit your needs.
By taking a remote course via an online program, such as one of Hofstra Law’s two degree options, you may be able to complete your studies more quickly. If you have room in your schedule, you may be able to finish a 30-unit program in one year.
Many students prefer online degree programs because they can attend classes anywhere. Instead of commuting to school, students work from home or even a coffee shop.
How Long Will It Take Me to Earn a Master’s?
How long it will take you to finish your degree depends on what type of program you enroll in, whether you attend classes part or full time and how many credits your course of study requires.
As noted, there are two primary types of master’s degree programs: traditional on-campus offerings and online, remote study. Degree programs range in length from around 30 units to up to 60 units. The level of difficulty of your program can also influence how quickly you work through the classes.
For example, courses may have in-person requirements, research projects and final papers. The study is rigorous, and you might find that some courses are more demanding and labor-intensive than others. Other courses involve a set number of units plus a capstone.
A capstone is a culminating project whose requirements vary based on the educational institution, program type and industry. In short, your capstone is an opportunity to review and showcase what you have learned through your studies.
Part- or Full-Time Enrollment
Many colleges and universities structure their master’s in health law and policy programs with flexibility in mind. Many offer multiple start dates throughout the seasons, part- or full-time enrollment options with customized schedules and online coursework for the ultimate in location-independent study.
Some institutions limit enrollment to specific seasons — such as fall or spring — and may have a pacing guide you need to follow. Because classes start and end when the school dictates, you may need to conform to their routines if you wish to complete your degree on time.
Other schools allow for higher flexibility with enrollment, course order and even timelines for graduation. Taking extra courses beyond the degree recommendation, for example, can expedite your degree award.
Is Earning a Master’s in Health Law and Policy Hard?
Master’s degree programs are rigorous, and rightfully so. While most students find the academics challenging, they also understand that it’s worth the investment and the potential benefits to their careers. However, even getting into a master’s program can prove challenging, depending on the enrollment requirements and your credentials.
In most cases, you must possess a bachelor’s degree to enter a master’s degree program. If you are beginning a career and want to plan the most effective course of study, starting with a bachelor’s degree is advisable. Of course, lawyers who wish to pursue a master’s degree must already possess a bachelor’s degree and a Juris Doctor.
Some programs focused on training and education for lawyers may require exams before entrance. However, the Law School Admission Council explains that passing the Law School Admission Test (LSAT) is not a requirement for admission to some LL.M. programs in the U.S. Hofstra’s online LL.M. program requires that applicants be existing lawyers to qualify.
While some programs might mandate testing before enrollment, most accept a bachelor’s degree as minimum qualifications.
Due to the advanced level of the program, most educational institutions have high expectations for student performance. You must write scholarly papers, take challenging exams and showcase your expertise.
Some courses offer a choice between writing a final paper and taking a cumulative exam, but other courses have strict requirements on essays and tests to earn a passing grade.
Regardless, health law and policy programs can be challenging to complete. Still, many students feel the payoff is worth the investment.
Health Law and Policy Careers and Salary
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics forecasts that health care occupation employment will grow 14% over the next 10 years. More than 1.9 million new jobs will join the industry, including roles that intersect among the health care, legal and government fields.
Careers in health law and policy in the legal field include lawyers, consultants, paralegals, mediators, arbitrators, conciliators and law firm partners. In the health care field, roles such as nursing, health administration, social work, health education, public health and compliance require in-depth health law and policy knowledge.
Strong knowledge of health law and policy supports many roles within government agencies, hospitals, insurance companies and more. And with an astonishing $179 billion value, the health care industry continues to flourish — meaning plenty of work for professionals of all types.
As a lawyer, you already represent and advise clients, perform research, interpret laws and prepare legal paperwork. Specializing in health law and policy gives you the perspective and tools necessary to navigate different areas of legal practice.
For example, you could concentrate on legal practice areas such as:
- Medical Malpractice
- Tax and Nonprofit
- Quality of Care
- General Corporate
- Real Estate
- Elder Law
- Clinical Trials
- Fraud and Abuse
- Health Information Technology
- Health Insurance and Regulation
- Medical Records
- Employment and Labor Law
- Workers’ Compensation
- Corporate Compliance
You might work for a hospital, patient care center, clinic, physician practice, health insurance company or in an independent firm representing a range of clients. You could also serve clients or agencies which defend consumer rights and health care access.
Unfortunately, cases involving medical malpractice are only increasing; the third-highest cause of death in the United States is medical error. However, this means an endless influx of medical malpractice cases for lawyers with a background in health law and policy to prosecute.
The BLS confirms that lawyers make a median wage of $120,910.
As a legal consultant, you provide advice on a contractual or short-term basis to clients who must comply with federal, state and local health care laws and policies. You research problems, communicate with clients, interpret legal documents and recommend the appropriate course of action.
Helping organizations and corporations to operate in accordance with local laws and policies means consumers receive the care they need. It also ensures that companies avoid costly and time-consuming litigation.
The BLS does not report specific salaries for consultants but instead includes them in the same category as lawyers. In many cases, the salaries are similar, too.
Paralegals in health policy and law often work for insurance companies, hospitals, law firms and regulatory departments with the government, like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) or the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
In a general paralegal role, you might work for a law firm or a company with a range of general paperwork duties. Specialized knowledge in health policy and law allows you to work with medical malpractice cases, review insurance policies, terms and medical records, edit contracts, and provide insight on drug and other medical trial processes.
Paralegals (and legal assistants) earn a median annual wage of $50,940.
Mediators, Arbitrators, and Conciliators
The BLS lumps mediators, arbitrators and conciliators together in one category, with a median annual wage of $62,270.
Traditionally, mediators facilitate healthy discussion between two groups or parties who are at an impasse. In the health care field, mediators can serve as neutral parties to help navigate disputes.
With a background in health law and policy, you offer expertise and an understanding of the legal complexities behind medical malpractice, workplace injury and other cases. With your support, both parties can avoid litigation and resolve their disputes in less costly ways.
In an arbitrator role, you help patients and care providers negotiate terms of settlements. Instead of pursuing litigation, patients agree to arbitration of their disputes. Once both parties agree on the conditions, a case can resolve more quickly than if it proceeded to court.
Arbitration is a legal process that can also help physicians and hospitals save on malpractice insurance costs. Therefore, it’s often a desirable avenue for resolving legal conflicts.
While mediators tend to be neutral parties who encourage discussion, a conciliator typically intervenes with relevant advice and legal perspectives. Conciliation is another voluntary proceeding that can help avoid litigation.
Law Firm Partner
Though becoming a law firm partner requires a significant investment in your career, a Master of Laws or Arts in Health Law and Policy can positively impact your efforts. In general, making partner takes at least five years.
The timeline depends on many factors, but developing expertise in health law and policy — and attracting new clients to the firm — could hasten your rise. PayScale confirms that law firm partner salaries average $187,068 per year.
Registered nurses typically work in hospitals, clinics, physicians’ offices, patient homes and care facilities. Becoming a nurse requires a Bachelor of Science degree in nursing, an associate degree in nursing or a diploma from a nursing program (such as one offered by a hospital).
With expanded health law and policy qualifications, you can help advocate for patients and understand insurance and health care legislation as it applies to your patients’ experiences. You can also advise your organization on the legalities of processes and care guidelines.
According to the BLS, the median pay for nurses is $71,730 per year.
Health Care Administrator
Health care administrators oversee staff, facilities, programs and more without direct patient interaction. Hospitals and other health care facilities operate like complex businesses and require technical, legal and health-related expertise.
The BLS categorizes medical and health services managers in one category, with a median annual wage of $99,730.
Social workers typically address child welfare and human services in their communities. As a social worker, you might work for a government agency, hospital, school, corporation or private practice. With your health law and policy education, you can research and understand services and policies which benefit your clients.
The BLS states that social workers’ median pay is $49,470 per year.
A health educator typically works in community settings such as for nonprofit agencies, colleges and more. You might develop wellness programs for specific populations, create data surveys and informational reports, and interact with communities.
Knowledge of health law and policies enhances your ability to understand and navigate health care programs and laws on behalf of your community. Per the BLS, health educators make around $46,080 per year.
A range of roles serves populations via the public health sector. Jobs are available for nurses, social workers, health educators and more.
Compliance roles exist in nearly every industry, and health care is no different. Health care compliance jobs involve investigating a company, corporation or organization’s compliance with health laws and policies.In addition to investigating and reporting on the state of compliance, you also recommend and implement training and other programs to increase compliance.
Compliance officers make a median annual income of $87,050 in pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturing, per the BLS, and $71,900 in insurance and employee benefit funds jobs.
What Education Do You Need for a Career in Health Law and Policy?
To become a lawyer, you need a bachelor’s degree, a Juris Doctor and state bar examination licensure. Other careers have separate requirements, such as a nursing degree for RN roles in health policy or a paralegal certificate for legal assistant jobs.
But to pursue a career in health law and policy, you need either a Master of Arts or Master of Laws degree in addition to other degree and licensing requirements. To qualify for the Hofstra Health Law and Policy LL.M. program, applicants must be lawyers. These master’s degree programs provide an in-depth education that supplements your existing degree or experience.
Earning a health law and policy degree with Hofstra University, for example, requires a 30-credit-hour commitment.
Master of Laws in Health Law and Policy
While earning a Master of Laws in Health Law and Policy, you will study topics like the American legal system, the Affordable Care Act, Medicare and Medicaid, drug development, biotechnology, public health, and disability and discrimination.
The LL.M. program teaches you about critical issues surrounding health care policy and practice. Throughout the program, you’ll demonstrate your knowledge of systems and legal steps toward legislation and advocacy.
You’ll also learn more about how health and law connect, working with health care experts and professionals from multiple fields.
Master of Laws Health Law and Policy Curriculum
The Master of Laws in Health Law and Policy curriculum with the LL.M. program involves critical thinking, writing, health care industry collaborations, developing demonstrative knowledge of policy and increasing your confidence in health care litigation.
The Hofstra Law Master of Laws curriculum covers 25 credit hours of coursework plus five capstone credits.
Medicare and Medicaid Law
Medicare and Medicaid are crucial government-funded programs that enroll over 58 million people in health care each year. Learning about the law surrounding Medicare/Medicaid programs — including recent changes — ensures you can understand and address challenges with program coverage, including fraud.
Bioethics and the Law
Bioethics discusses topics such as patient rights, physician responsibilities and societal interests. You’ll explore law, medicine and ethics, exploring new and existing technology, legislation and medical research.
Law of Medical Product Discovery, Development and Commercialization
Because pharmaceutical and biotechnology products are so widely marketed, you must learn about the commercialization of medicine and health care devices. Understanding food and drug laws, efficacy and government agency involvement as they relate to medical products is essential for your ability to argue cases and understand upcoming legislation.
Business Transactions in Healthcare
The business transactions course explores the Affordable Care Act as well as its effects on the health care industry and its economy. You will become familiar with case law and regulations that apply to health care transactions.
Understanding how the health care industry functions — and how different parts merge — aids in your ability to think critically and ethically about the transactions.
Public Health Law, Policy and Ethics
Public health law concentrates on ethics and policies and how they affect the health of communities and populations. You will learn about vaccination, addiction, obesity, genetic testing and other issues.
The ADA: Statutory Interpretation
The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 has influenced many legal decisions and policy changes. Understanding what it outlines and its purpose gives you a broad perspective on how organizations and corporations will interpret it.
Representing Healthcare Providers
A course on representing health care providers instructs you on the day-to-day practice you may encounter as a lawyer. You will learn about federal and state laws and how they affect your routine cases and decisions.
Health care compliance, involving specifics like HIPAA and HITECH, is an overview of the law that is applicable to not only lawyers but other industry professionals and agencies. Compliance encompasses a range of health law and policy concepts, and as such, is a culmination of many topics.
Master of Arts Health Law and Policy
Earning a Master of Arts in Health Law and Policy involves developing practical knowledge of health law and policy for fields outside the legal industry. Thought leadership is the primary concentration, and you will learn how to address and navigate legal topics with a health-focused perspective.
Master of Arts in Health Law and Policy Curriculum
While working toward your MA in Health Law and Policy, you will learn about the integration of health care and the legal field. You will also learn to be an articulate and knowledgeable speaker on health care concepts as they apply to the legal field.
The Master of Arts course of study varies from the Master of Laws in that it concentrates on patient advocacy and the business side of health care. An MA in Health Law and Policy highlights the consumer side of health care and how you can help your clients address common issues.
Hofstra Law Master of Arts Health Law and Policy curriculum spans 25 credit hours of courses plus a five-unit capstone.
Introduction to the American Legal System
The MA curriculum begins with an introduction to the American legal system, an ideal starting place for professionals outside the legal field. You will learn about U.S. laws and government institutions, including how the lawmaking process works.
Health law is another unique component of the Master of Arts program. It investigates legal problems in the health care system, another helpful perspective for medical professionals who may not have a background in law.
Medicare and Medicaid Law
The course examines Medicare and Medicaid, plus other federally funded health care programs, and highlights policy issues. You will learn about patients’ rights as they relate to coverage under such programs.
Bioethics and the Law
While lawyers may have an in-depth understanding of the law as it relates to bioethics, this course serves to inform professionals in other fields. The bioethics course investigates patient rights, physician responsibilities, and the betterment of society.
Law of Medical Product Discovery, Development and Commercialization
The course for the MA program is identical to the LLM option and covers pharmaceutical and biotechnological products. Both legal and ethical angles are explored in the course.
Business Transactions in Healthcare
Concentrating on the Affordable Care Act and the health care industry as a commercialized business, this course helps students understand case law and regulations which impact and regulate health care transactions.
Public Health Law, Policy and Ethics
For professionals entering the public health sector, a discussion of public health law and policy sheds light on the ethics and policies governing public health topics like epidemics, pollution, bioterrorism and more.
The ADA: Statutory Interpretation
This survey of the Americans with Disabilities Act follows the LLM program outline and discusses statutory interpretation, legislative history, agency interpretation, judicial decisions and more.
Representing Healthcare Providers
While lawyers benefit most from this course, the curriculum is also relevant for professionals in health care clinician or management roles. Understanding regulatory issues plus federal and state guidelines provides a strong base from which to advise your hospital, company or client.
Incorporating the dynamics of HIPAA and HITECH with other health care privacy guidelines helps professionals understand the components of health care compliance.
Career Benefits of a Master’s Degree in Health Law and Policy
While many rewarding careers exist working in health care — and directly with patients — many professionals want to pursue career advancement.
One way to advance a patient-focused career is by earning a higher education and transitioning into a management, administration, compliance or clinical role. A master’s degree in health law and policy is an ideal tool for achieving such a transition.
Career Benefits to Lawyers Who Earn an LL.M. in Health Law and Policy
While all professional lawyers possess a Juris Doctor degree and pass their state’s bar exam, not all lawyers learn the ins and outs of health care laws and programs. Enhancing your knowledge of health administration, public health and other areas enables you to represent pharmaceutical and other companies in court.Whether you focus on transactional counsel or litigation, a background in health law benefits your case.
In transactional capacities, you advise clients, draft contracts and policies, and negotiate contract terms. You might focus on research, advocacy and negotiation. With the addition of a master’s degree in health law, you can advise clients or corporations on avoiding medical malpractice, ensuring adherence to federal, state and local laws, and draft contracts appropriate to your clients’ interests.
In contrast, as a litigation attorney, you represent clients in civil lawsuits. For litigation lawyers, education in health policy enables you to take on health industry clients from hospitals, corporations and insurance companies. You can use your knowledge of health policies and legislation to address lawsuits and appeals.
Career Benefits to Other Health Care Professionals Who Earn an LL.M. or MA in Health Law and Policy
Outside of lawyers, many other health care professionals benefit from earning an LL.M. or MA in Health Law and Policy. While lawyers may choose the Master of Law option, registered nurses, public health sector professionals and social workers may opt for the Master of Arts degree.
While the LL.M. degree concentrates more heavily on court-related aspects of health care — such as arguing cases — the MA offers a generalized course of study applicable to many career paths.
If you hope to become a site administrator for your health care organization, for example, earning an MA will help you understand and discuss applicable legislation and programs.
In addition, the health care industry often demands higher education. For many positions, minimum hiring requirements might include a master’s degree in a relevant subject.
The BLS also suggests that occupations requiring a master’s degree will grow 18.4% between 2012 and 2022. Of the jobs anticipated to become available in the coming years, health care and social assistance occupations may offer a combined 255,000 new roles.
Salary Benefits of Earning an LL.M. or MA in Health Law and Policy
Depending on your current field and qualifications, you may earn a salary increase through completion of an LL.M. or MA in Health Law and Policy.
Highest-Paying Legal Jobs: How an LL.M. or MA Can Help
Earning a master’s in health law and policy can boost your earning potential as a lawyer. The highest paying legal jobs include titles such as:
- Trial lawyer: median pay of $99,000/year
- Intellectual property lawyer: median pay of $137,000/year
- Tax attorney: median pay of $99,000/year
- Employment and labor attorney: median pay of $87,000/year
- Real estate attorney: median pay of $74,000/year
- Chief legal officer: up to seven figures
- Judge: median salary of $66,000/year
- Member of Congress: $174,000/year
- Law school professor: $105,000/year base pay
- Litigation support director: average of $80,000/year
- Law firm administrator: up to $750,000/year
While some of these roles are outside the expertise of a health law and policy lawyer, most can also apply to the health industry. For example, trial lawyers work in all industries and fields. You could handle litigation involving insurance, pharmaceuticals and more. As of 2020, Statista notes, large companies in the United States will spend $24 billion per year on litigation — and part of that could go toward your salary.
As an intellectual property lawyer, you could guide patents and copyrights for medical devices and similar products. In employment and labor cases, you can explore topics such as ADA compliance, HIPAA regulations and more while defending or pursuing cases.
And, since many health care corporations hire legal officers, you may find a role as a chief legal officer of a health insurance or technology company. Becoming a law firm administrator for a law firm that specializes in health law and policy could also be a long-term career goal.
Salary Benefits of a Master’s in Health Law and Policy for Other Careers
While you might need a master’s degree to apply for many occupations in health care and social services, there are also benefits for your earning potential.
According to the BLS, full-time workers whose highest level of education was a master’s degree earned $12,000 per year more than workers with a bachelor’s degree. Differences exist based on the industry and type of role, but earning a master’s degree could enhance your potential earnings — not only for the immediate future but throughout your career.
Overall Benefits of a Master’s Degree in Health Law and Policy
You know that earning a master’s degree can enhance your career opportunities as well as your salary. But there are additional benefits to earning a master’s degree that is highly relevant to your career. In today’s job market, the most notable benefits of a master’s degree include:
- The opportunity to expand your professional circle and learn from other experts
- Additional confidence in your abilities and a renewed passion for your career path
- A stronger foundation in specialized knowledge that makes you more competitive in job pools
Statista notes that a master’s degree in health professions and related programs is the third most commonly pursued degree. Because more professionals are pursuing such degrees, you might need one to remain competitive in your industry.