Top 10 Online Healthcare Degrees Most in Demand

Healthcare services are seeing a record increase in demand in the US. According to the American Hospital Association, there are more than 5000 hospitals in the country. Also, the CDC reports that more than 18 million people work in healthcare.

Given that people in the US are aging and living longer than ever, it stands to reason that healthcare will continue to be a strong employer for many years to come. That’s why more universities are offering healthcare degrees online. After all, earning an online degree allows you to continue to work and take care of your other obligations.

If you want to take up a healthcare career, you would be smart to consider these online options:

#1 Physician Assistant

A PA works under the supervision of a doctor but can do many of the same tasks, such as examine patients, order and diagnose tests and prescribe drugs. There is a major increase in demand for PAs because they can do most of the same work as a doctor but at a lower cost.

To become a PA, you must earn a master’s degree in the field and attend a full time program for approximately two years. It is anticipated that there will be a major increase in demand for PAs in the next 10 years, as much as 30% according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

If you want to become a PA, you should be sure that your program is accredited by the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant.

One of the available online PA degree options can be found at the University of Nebraska Medical Center. Tution is only $400 per credit hour for in and out of state students, and can be completed in two years.

Curriculum includes:

  • Health Care Ethics and Critical Thinking
  • Health Care Management
  • Health Care Policy
  • Clinical Inquiry and Writing
  • Master’s Practicum

#2 Nurse Practitioner

Becoming a nurse practitioner or NP is also a very smart move, with a 30% demand increase anticipated by 2024. An NP is similar to a PA in that they also can do most of the same tasks as doctors, including prescribing drugs, doing physical examinations and ordering tests.

NPs are Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRNs), and must earn a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN). They also have the opportunity to specialize in many areas of nursing, such as pediatrics, geriatrics, mental health and neonates.

Online degree programs in this field take two years to complete. When you are considering an online MSN program, check for CCNE accreditation, which is provided by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing.

For an online NP program, consider the Family Nurse Practitioner program available at Drexel University. This is a CCNE-accredited program and features synchronous online lectures that makes this a highly interactive online program. You will be required to attend classes at a fixed time for most of this program.

Your curriculum includes:

  • Confronting Issues in Contemporary Health Care Environments
  • Advanced Ethical Decision Making in Health Care
  • Quality and Safety in Health Care
  • Research Methods and Biostatistics
  • Evaluation and Translation of Health Research
  • Advanced Pharmacology
  • Advanced Pathophysiology

#3 Nurse Midwife

A certified nurse midwife or CNM is also an APRN who in this case focuses exclusively on women’s health issues and performs gynecological exams, family planning, prenatal care, and examinations of newborns. They often deliver babies and manage a variety of emergency situations during labor.

Like PAs, CNMs are registered nurses and earn their online MSN to become a nurse midwife. The program will take two years to complete full time, and job demand in the field also is rapidly increasing.

One of the best online CNM programs in the US is at the University of North Carolina, where graduating nurses have a 91.3% pass rate for their national certification examination. The program is certified by the Accreditation Commission for Midwifery Education (ACME). Online curriculum features the following courses:

  • Biostatistics for Evidence Based Practice
  • Advanced Physiology and Pathophysiology
  • Advanced Reproductive Dynamics
  • Health Care Policy
  • Theoretical Basis for Clinical Reasoning
  • Research and Best Evidence for Clinical Reasoning

#4 Healthcare Administrator

For healthcare professionals who want to focus on leadership and management in healthcare organizations, becoming a healthcare administrator is a great opportunity. As healthcare costs are rising, demand is rising and people are living longer, it is more important than ever before for healthcare organizations to be managed and operated efficiently.

Most aspiring healthcare administrators earn their master’s degree in healthcare administration (MHA), which takes two years to finish full time. This is a degree worth pursuing: BLS estimates the demand for health services managers will increase 17% by 2024.

The University of Pennsylvania offers a top notch master’s in health administration degree. The online program is an extension of the highly ranked on campus MHA program that was established in 1989. The online program is highly rigorous but has the flexibility that allows you to fit the two years of classes into your busy schedule. Classes include:

  • Financing Health Care
  • Introduction to Health Services Organizations
  • Leadership Ethics in Health Services Organizations
  • Health Services Organizational Behavior
  • Financial Management in Health Institutions
  • Managing Health Care Operations
  • Change Leadership in Health Services Organizations
  • Population Health and Quality Management
  • Health Economics

#5 Pharmacist

You can become a pharmacist by earning an online Doctor of Pharmacy degree. This takes approximately four years full time if you already have a bachelor’s degree, but takes up to six years if you do not hold a bachelor’s. There should be increasing demand for pharmacists in the coming years as people are aging and more patients are taking medications to treat various medical conditions.

For an online PharmD option, consider the University of Colorado-Denver. Coursework includes:

  • Clinical Skills Foundation
  • Immunology
  • Evidence Based Pharmacy Practice
  • Advanced Drug Literature Evaluation with Clinical Applications
  • Instructional Methods with Seminars in Pharmaceutical Care
  • US Pharmacy Practice Fundamentals
  • Patient Centered and Clinical Communications
  • Professional Skills Development
  • Healthcare Informatics

#6 Optometrist

If you are interested in working in eye health, an excellent potential career is an optometry. This program takes four years to complete and you will earn a Doctor of Optometry degree. This program focuses on anatomy, biochemistry, optics, visual science, as well as the diagnosis and treatment of diseases.

The job demand in this field is healthy, with a 27% increase in demand in coming years.

For an online program in optometry, consider NOVA Southeastern University:

  • Optics and Visual Optics
  • Advanced Optics and Visual Optics
  • Independent Study in Optics I-IV

#7 Healthcare Informatics

Healthcare informatics is a very quickly growing field. It has to do with the acquisition, storage and retrieval of healthcare information. The large growth in this field is being spurred by the use of electronic health records. EHRs are being used to store and share patient health information so that patient care can be provided more efficiently across many healthcare providers.

Earning a healthcare informatics master’s degree is a smart investment in your future because BLS anticipates that the demand in this field will increase by at least 15% in the next 10 years.

Northwestern University offers an excellent Master in Health Informatics program with the following courses:

  • American Health Care System
  • Fundamental Health Informatics
  • HIT Standards
  • Legal, Ethical and Social Issues
  • Biostatistics
  • System Acquisition and Lifecycle

#8 Health Information Technology

With a master’s degree in this field, you can become a highly paid health information technician or health informaticist. These professionals are a very important part of every administrative healthcare team. They help to bring in advanced technology into facility operations and patient care. This helps to drive down medical errors and increase efficiency.

One of the best online master’s programs in this degree speciality is at Southern New Hampshire University, offering a Master of Science in Information Technology – Healthcare Informatics:

  • Healthcare Informatics
  • Management of Information Technology
  • Object Oriented Application Technology
  • Technical Communication
  • Operating Systems
  • Telecommunications and Networking
  • Principles of Database Design
  • Capstone in IT

#9 Biomedical Engineering

Biomedical engineers are engineers on one hand who combine engineering principles with medical and biological science to design medical devices, computer systems, and equipment that improve healthcare outcomes. This career field is especially important today, given that so many patients’ lives are dependent upon advanced medical devices.

With a master’s degree in this field, you can expect 23% job growth in the next eight years.

Colorado State University is known to have high quality technical programs, such as its master’s in biomedical engineering program:

  • Bioengineering
  • Quantitative Systems Physiology
  • Principles of Human Physiology
  • Materials Engineering
  • Cell/Tissue Engineering
  • Biological Physics
  • Process Control and Instrumentation
  • Digital Signal Processing
  • Advanced Composite Materials

#10 Physical Therapy

After many accidents, strokes and illnesses, patients often need help to return to normal physical activities. Physical therapists work with doctors to develop innovative rehabilitation plans to assist their patients to recover as much mobility as possible.

Physical therapists obtain a master’s degree in physical therapy, and there are now online master’s programs in the field available. Most of the programs take three years. Job demand should hit 34% in the next eight years, making this a booming career field with nearly endless demand in many parts of the US.

Most of the physical therapy online programs that are available are for practicing physical therapists who wish to earn their Doctor of Physical Therapy degree, such as at Northeastern University with these courses:

  • Differential Diagnosis and Medical Screening
  • Diagnostic Imaging
  • Pharmacology
  • Comprehensive Case Analysis
  • Clinical Nutrition
  • Health Aging
  • Pediatric Nutrition
  • Sports and Fitness Nutrition

Check to confirm that your online PT program is accredited by the American Physical Therapy Association.

Written by Robert Sanchez
Robert Sanchez is HealthGrad.com's Chief Editorialist. Robert Sanchez has over 10 years experience in the Healthcare field and more recently has become an avid writer advising on career and job topics in this exciting field.

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