Top 10 Online Medical Degrees to Get Right Now

One of the most rapidly growing fields in America today is medicine and health care. The health care job field is growing very rapidly and will keep going for the foreseeable future.

In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that employment of all healthcare workers will soar by 19% by 2024. That is more than 2.3 million new jobs, and no other field will produce that many new jobs in the same timeframe. This booming job growth is largely due to the aging population of the US, coupled with the fact that people are living longer than ever.

This increase in job demand means that there needs to be more workers trained for health care and medical employment. That is why there are many excellent online universities today where you can earn a medical or healthcare degree. Some of these programs can be completed in as little as 18 months while the student continues to work full time.

If you are thinking about a medical or healthcare career, here are 10 online medical degrees you should think about:

Registered Nurse

What They Do

One of the best professions to enter in the medical and healthcare field is nursing. By earning your bachelor of science in nursing online, you can become an RN and make a good salary. And when you earn your BSN and gain some experience in clinical nursing, you will be able to continue your education later with a master’s degree and enter an advanced nursing practice profession (which we highlight later on this page).

RN’s are a critical part of primary care today, as they provide and coordinate the care of patients; educate parents about health problems and conditions; administer drugs, and provide advice and support to patients and families.

Job Growth

Job growth for RNs is excellent, with a 16% increase in demand by 2024. This means there will be at least 439,000 new RN jobs by that time. Also, there is even higher demand for many advanced nursing practice roles that we detail below. You can move into one of those fields later by earning your Master of Science in Nursing.

How Much They Make

The median salary for RNs is $67,490. The top 10% earn more than $100,000 per year. If you decide to become a nurse practitioner or nurse midwife later on with an MSN degree, expect to earn $90,000 per year or more.

Online University Program

You can enter nursing with a bachelor’s degree without an extensive background in clinical or nursing work. However, most of the online programs to earn a bachelor’s degree require you to current be an RN with an associate’s degree or diploma.

One of these is the RN to BSN program at Chamberlain University. If you have an active RN license, you may be able to earn your BSN in as little as three semesters. This program is accredited by the highly respected CCNE (Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education), so you know you are getting a very high-quality degree.

Your classwork in this RN to BSN program includes the following:

  • Transitions in Professional Nursing
  • RN Information Systems in Healthcare
  • Statistics for Decisionmaking
  • RN Health Assessment
  • RN Information Systems in Healthcare
  • RN Evidence Based Practice
  • RN Community Health Nursing
  • Foundational Concepts and Applications

Physician Assistant

What They Do

A physician assistant or PA is one of the most in demand medical professionals in the 21st century. They practice medicine under the supervision of a doctor, and do many of the same things as physicians but at a lower cost.

They will take the medical history of patients, do physical examinations, order diagnostic tests and interpret them, and prescribe medications.

Job Growth

The employment outlook for PAs is fantastic, with a 30% increase in employment anticipated by 2024.

How Much They Make

The median annual salary for PAs is $98,180, and the top 10% earn more than $139,000 per year.

Online University Program

The University of North Dakota has a two year Physician Assistant Studies master’s program. The program starts with an on campus orientation, and then there are two semesters of online classes.

Although most of the coursework in the first year is available online and can be done on your schedule, there are scheduled test dates and times. There also are scheduled times for videoconferences and phone conferences.

In the second year, there are clinical rotations on campus and you must attend each of those for 4-5 weeks.

It has two tracks: One is for a currently licensed and working health care professional with three years of experience. The other is for people who have a scientific background and have some experience in direct patient care.

Your PA classes will include:

  • Medical Human Anatomy and Radiology I and II
  • Human Physiology and Pathophysiology I and II
  • EKG Interpretation
  • Pharmacology
  • Diagnostic Studies
  • Primary Care I and II
  • Professional Issues and Role Development
  • General Surgery Clerkship

Nurse Practitioner

What They Do

A nurse practitioner or NP is another type of primary and specialty care provider who can do many of the same job duties as a doctor. NPs do physical examinations, diagnose conditions, order tests, prescribe drugs, and generally work with the patient like a doctor to manage their health.

NPs have the opportunity to specialize in certain populations, such as adult health, geriatric health, mental health, and neonates.

To become an NP, you need to earn your Master of Science in Nursing or MSN.

Job Growth

The number of jobs for NPs is rising quickly, and it is anticipated that there will be a 31% increase in demand for NPs and other advanced nursing practice professionals. This is largely because more people want advanced health care services, but the cost of seeing a doctor is quite high, and an NP can usually provide the same level of care at a lower cost.

How Much They Make

The median annual salary for all NPs is $98,190, with the top 10% earning more than $140,000.

Online University Program

Duke University offers a high-quality Master of Science in Nursing program that uses distanced based technologies. All of the core classes in this MSN program are offered online one time per semester. Note that the program also has on-campus intensive sessions that are best experienced in person.

When you are enrolled in the program’s Physical Assessment course, you will need to come to campus three times.

Your classes will include:

  • Nurse as Scholar I and II
  • Population Health in a Global Society
  • Professional Transitions – Advanced Nursing Practice
  • Advanced Physiology Across the Lifespan
  • Physical Assessment and Diagnostic Reasoning
  • Clinical Pharmacology for APN
  • Advanced Practice Nursing in Primary Care

Certified Nurse Midwife

What They Do

A certified nurse midwife or CNM provides dedicated care to women, including gynecological examinations, family planning and care during and after pregnancy. They also deliver babies, handle emergency care during labor, and can be called to help a doctor during a cesarean birth.

To become a CNM, you need to earn your MSN degree with a specialty in certified nurse midwifery.

Job Growth

Like all advanced nursing practice roles, CNMs are in high demand, with a 31% increase in demand expected by 2024. In the case of midwives, this is because many of the services that a physician specializing in gynecology can do, the CNM can do at a much lower cost. This type of cost efficiency is wanted more and more by health care companies.

How Much They Make

A nurse midwife earns a median salary of $92,500 as of 2015.

Online University Program

Georgetown University has an online CNM program that is designed for registered nurses to enter advanced nursing practice. All graduates of this 27 month program are eligible to become certified as nurse midwives. Graduates also are eligible to take the exam offered by the American Midwifery Certification Board.

Most of your classes can be completed online, with several on campus intensive planned throughout the duration of the program. Your classes will include:

  • Health Care Ethics
  • Principles of Advanced Physiology and Pathophysiology
  • Advanced Concepts in Pharmacology
  • Research Methods and Biostatistics for Health Care Providers
  • Primary Care of Women
  • Ambulatory Primary Care of Women
  • Women’s Reproductive Healthcare I and II
  • Advanced Women’s Health Care Seminars

Registered Nurse Anesthetist

What They Do

Nurse anesthetists or CRNAs provide anesthesia services before, during and after various types of surgeries and medical procedures. They also are trained to provide pain management and emergency or trauma care.

A CRNA will talk to the patient before any procedure that requires sedation and will ask if they have any allergies to medications, and also what drugs they currently are taking. This is extremely important for anesthetic to be given safely.

As with other advanced practice nurses, a CRNA can do most of the work of a full anesthesiologist at a lower price point for the medical facility.

Job Growth

The job growth for all CRNAs is expected to be much faster than average at 19% by 2024. CRNAs may be in especially high demand in underserved areas, such as inner cities and rural regions.

How Much They Make

The median salary for CRNAs is $157,140, and this should continue to rise as the demand for their advanced nursing services will only climb.

Online University Program

Drexel University has a well regarded Nurse Anesthesia program that is 28 months in length that starts every January. After you finish the program, you are eligible to take your National Certification Examination that is offered by the National Board of Certification and Recertification for Nurse Anesthetists (NBCRNA), the Council on certification of nurse anesthetists.

The coursework is provided online with most of the courses being taken on your schedule. There will also be some on campus visits required throughout the program. You can do your clinical rotations in your home area, however.

Your CRNA classes include:

  • Chemistry and Physics
  • Advanced Principles of Nurse Anesthesia
  • Clinical Practicum
  • Advanced Pathophysiology for Nurse Anesthesia
  • Research Methods
  • Evaluation and Translation of Health Research
  • Quality Improvement and Safety in Health Care

Physical Therapist

What They Do

Physical therapists or PTs assist injured people to improve their range of motion and movement, as well as manage pain. These therapists are a very important part of rehab after surgery. PTs also help patients with long term diseases to maintain their independence.

For example, a PT will help a person with arthritis to reduce pain and inflammation through therapy. This helps that person to improve their quality of life and to remain independent.

PTs are taught in graduate school to learn many different advanced therapy techniques to provide care for their patients. They will learn PT exercises, training in function movement, and specialized movements of muscles and joints to make it easier to move and reduce pain.

You must earn your Doctor of Physical Therapy degree to become a PT. You also must pass the National Physical Therapy Examination that is given by the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy.

Job Growth

Physical therapy is one of the most in-demand professions in the US, with a 34% increase in job demand anticipated by 2024. This means that we should see approximately 71,800 new PT jobs by that time, from the current 210,000.

How Much They Make

PTs make a median salary of $84,000 as of 2015. The top 10% earned more than $119,000. Home health care services seems to be the areas to work in with the highest salary.

Online University Program

If you want to earn your physical therapy degree online while you still work, you can attend Northeastern University, which will provide you with the skills and tools you need to become a licensed physical therapist.

This program has several specializations available if you are interested in pediatrics, orthopedics, geriatrics, women’s health and business management.

Your core classes include:

  • Differential Diagnosis and Medical Screening
  • Diagnostic Imaging
  • Pharmacology
  • Motor Control
  • Clinical Nutrition
  • Health Aging
  • Pediatric Nutrition
  • Sports and Fitness Nutrition
  • Pharmacology
  • Fostering Change in Health Behavior

Occupational Therapist

What They Do

An occupational therapist works with injured, ill and/or disabled patients and help them to develop, recover and improve the skills they need to live a normal life.

Some of what occupational therapists do include:

  • Review medical history of patient
  • Evaluate their needs and condition
  • Develop a personalized treatment plan for each patient
  • Help each patient with a disability to do specific tasks, such as teaching someone with a stroke how to get dressed with one hand.
  • Evaluate the home or workplace of the patient and determine if there needs to be improvements made so the patient can live normally on their own.

Job Growth

The field of occupational therapy is another in the healthcare and medical field that will see very rapid growth by 2024: 27% increase. Because people are living longer, they tend to suffer from more illnesses and diseases that affect the aged, such as Alzheimer’s, arthritis, dementia and others. This is causing a major increase in growth for these positions.

To become an occupational therapist, you must earn a master’s degree that is accredited by the American Occupational Therapy Association.

How Much They Make

Occupational therapists earn a median salary of $80,150 with the top 10% earning more than $116,000.

Online University Program

A.T. Still University offers an Advanced Master of Science in Occupational Therapy that will help you to advance your skills in occupational therapy.

This program can be done entirely online, but you will usually need to complete your clinical hours in your own area with an approved health care provider. For those who already are occupational therapists, you can do your clinical hours under supervision in your own facility.

Required classes in this accredited program include:

  • Statistics
  • Research Methodology
  • Advances in Sensory Integration Theory and Practice
  • Holistic School Based Practice
  • Critical Thinking in Pediatric Intervention
  • Evidence Based Practice for OT Clinicians I and II

Speech Language Pathologists

What They Do

A speech language pathologist assesses, diagnoses and treats people who have communication and swallowing disorders. Problems with speech, language and swallowing can be due to many medical problems, such as brain injury, stroke, hearing loss, Parkinson’s disease, autism and others.

A speech language pathologists work with patients who have problems with speaking and using language. Some of their patients may be unable to say a word. Others may speak with some difficulty, or have problems completing sentences. They also may work with people who cannot understand language or those with problems with their voice.

Job Growth

Job growth for speech language pathologists is looking excellent, with 21% growth anticipated by 2024. That is much faster than average. This growth is being caused by an increase of older people in the population and with that comes people who have health disorders such as stroke and hearing loss that can cause problems with speech and communication.

How Much They Make

In this field, the median salary as of May 2015 was $73,410, with the top 10% earning more than $114,000 per year. Generally, working in a nursing home or residential care facility will provide the highest salaries.

Online University Program

The University of Northern Colorado has a Master of Arts in Speech Language Pathology that is entirely online. This program has a clinician/researcher model that will prepare you for this field and will make you a life long learner with a very strong foundation in evidence-based practice.

Throughout the 2.5 year program, the student will gain valuable experience in coming up with clinical questions, looking at research, collating data, and evaluating outcomes.

There are several times during the program when you will need to report to campus for some of the coursework. You also must complete a 12 week internship in a healthcare setting in the last summer of the program.

After graduation, you will be able to sit for the National Examination in Speech-Language Sciences (NESPA).

Your classes include the following:

  • Foundations of Research and Writing
  • Professional Issues
  • Disorders of Language and Literacy in Children
  • Speech Production Disorders
  • Clinical Practicum in Speech Language Pathology
  • Diagnostic Practicum in Speech Language Pathology

Medical Sonographer or Cardiovascular Technologist

What They Do

Diagnostic medical sonographers and cardiovascular technologists and technicians, which include vascular technologists, are in great demand today. They operate many types of special imaging equipment that are used in many advanced medical tests. The test results and images are used by doctors to assess and diagnose many different medical problems.

There are many types of sonographers that may focus on these areas:

  • Abdomen
  • Breast
  • Pediatric
  • Obstetric
  • Musculoskeletal

Cardiovascular technologists can work as catheterization technologists, EKG technicians and vascular technicians that work on creating images of blood vessels.

Job Growth

Given how much medical technology has improved in the past decade, there is no surprise that demand for these types of workers has soared 26% by 2024. Doctors rely on ultrasound and other image technologies to make diagnoses without doing an invasive and expensive medical procedure.

Ultrasound is the most inexpensive form of diagnostic imaging, so there will be a strong demand for professionals with ultrasound skills especially.

How Much They Make

The median salary for cardiovascular technologists is $54,000, while for diagnostic medical sonographers, it is $68,970.

Online Degree Program

Depending upon where you work, you may need to get an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in this field. You should look for programs that have been accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs.

One program to consider to earn your Diagnostic Medical Sonography Bachelor’s Degree is Adventist University of Health Sciences.

Like most online bachelor’s in this field, you need to already be a registered sonographer with a certificate or associate’s degree.

Required classes are:

  • Sectional Anatomy 3
  • Technical Writing 3
  • Legal Aspects of Healthcare
  • Marketing and Healthcare
  • Diagnostic Imaging
  • Educational Methodology
  • Issues and Trends in Healthcare
  • Pathophysiology

Radiation Therapists

What They Do

Radiation therapy is yet another medical field that is booming with growth. Radiation therapists help with treating cancer and other serious diseases by administering very precise and targeted radiation therapy.

They are trained to use machines called linear accelerators. These device send high energy x-rays into the cancer cells in the body of the patient.This leads to them shrinking or being destroyed.

Job Growth

Jobs are expected to be plentiful in this field as the risk of cancer goes up the longer people live. It is anticipated that future advancements in cancer treatment and detection will lead to even higher job demand.

As of 2024, it is expected that there will be 14% job growth for radiation therapists.

How Much They Make

The median salary in this field is $80,220 as of May 2015.

Online Degree Program

Most online programs require you to already have a certificate in the radiation therapy field, which you can usually do at a community college.

The University of Nebraska has an online Bachelor of Science in Medical Imaging and Therapeutic Sciences. To be admitted, you already need to be working as an imaging and radiation science professional with either an associate’s degree or certificate.

Classwork for this bachelor’s degree program includes:

  • Principles of Critical Injury
  • Health Care Ethics and Critical Thinking
  • Scanning the Health Care Environment
  • Management in Health Care
  • Case Studies and Journal Review
  • Principles of Education for Healthcare Professionals
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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