This article provides information about health science degree programs and how this can be a good choice for a career. We also will provide information and links to some good online degree programs in the health sciences space.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics expects the number of healthcare positions to grow nearly 20 percent between 2014 and 2024, making a health science degree one of the most sought-after degrees in the United States today.
Knowing how to choose a health science degree starts by determining what the student would like to do after graduation from a health science program. Health science is a rapidly expanding field that includes a large number of professions, ranging from hospital administrators to doctors to dental hygienists and everyone in between. Students may earn a basic health science degree in just a few months or an advanced degree in years. Online classes allow a growing number of students to complete health science programs and enter the workforce as highly trained, competent healthcare workers.
What is a Health Science Degree?
The term ‘health science’ is an umbrella term for a large group of disciplines relating to the delivery of health care to humans and animals through the application of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Health science professionals use science to deliver health care services.
Degree programs in health science prepare students for graduate studies in health-related fields or for careers in the healthcare industry. Health science programs remain popular because they offer a great deal of flexibility in career choices for graduates. Students can enter the workforce with their first health science degree or pursue further education in medicine, pharmaceuticals, dentistry, nuclear medicine, occupational therapy, and other healthcare professions.
A degree in health science also allows individuals to work in non-clinical healthcare careers, such as medical sales, human services, pharmaceutical manufacturing and distribution, corporate wellness, and medical case management. Students learn the technical and administrative skills they need to work in the healthcare industry. The degree deals with health and wellness services, leadership and policy, pre-professional and rehabilitation services.
Upon completion of some health science programs, graduates can begin practicing right away while others must first pass a licensure or certification test.
Why Earn a Health Science Degree?
The demand for workers with health science degrees is growing rapidly. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimates the demand for medical laboratory technicians to grow 16 percent from 2014 to 2024 and the need for audiologists will grow 29 percent, both of which are much faster than average. The population of the United States is aging and this will likely result in a greater need to diagnose and manage age-related health conditions, such as hearing loss and diabetes, through laboratory procedures.
Most people in the health science industry enjoy comfortable working conditions, usually indoors in climate-controlled facilities. Many graduates with degrees in health science work in hospitals, doctor offices, patient homes, and extended care facilities. Others work in schools, cruise ships, and even sports arenas.
Full- and part-time positions are available in most fields. Some positions, especially those providing direct patient care in hospitals or extended care facilities, require some weekend and shift work.
Choosing Your Degree Path
There are many health science degrees from which to choose. The most common are:
- Associate’s degree: An associate’s degree is useful for those who already hold a certificate or already working in healthcare who want to complete a general overview degree. Graduates can transfer credits towards completion of a bachelor’s degree and begin working towards a specialty in administration, education, or healthcare informatics.
- Bachelor’s Degree: A bachelor’s degree in health sciences still adheres to the interdisciplinary nature of a health science degree but allows the graduate to prepare for specific careers within the field of health science.
- Master’s Degree: A master’s degree in health sciences (MHS) allows students who want to move into public health or administration to become a leader in a specific area of health science, such as research, education, administration, policy, and advocacy. A master’s degree in health sciences also helps practicing professionals expand their skills.
- Doctorate: A doctor of health sciences (DHS or DHSc) is a highly specialized degree intended to prepare professionals for senior roles in health science. The program prepares graduates to conduct research, for example, or teach in advanced clinical and academic settings.
Most require some amount of classroom, laboratory, and clinical training.
Online Health Science Degree Options
A number of health sciences degrees are available through online courses, including healthcare management, healthcare analytics, emergency management, healthcare informatics, environmental health, health aide and more.
Education requirements for a health science degree depend on the student’s ultimate career goals. Depending on their emphasis, curriculums may include classes in natural science, social science, and math. Those who wish to become physicians will spend four years on an undergraduate degree followed by four years of medical school and three to eight years of residency programs, for example, depending on the specialty. A career as a physician’s assistant, in comparison, would require an undergraduate degree followed by only two to three years of post-graduate work to attain a master’s degree. Nearly all professional careers in health science require some amount of post-secondary certificate or degree; many require a master’s degree.
Kaplan University offers several online health science degrees. Distance learning certificate programs include medical assistant, medical billing/coding, and medical office assistant. Bachelor degree programs include degrees in health and wellness, health care administration, health information management, health science and nutrition science. Master’s degree programs include health care administration, informatics, information management, public health, and health education.
Accredited programs have rigorous curriculum in the field of health science. Accreditation is the seal of approval issued by peers within the industry and educational system who frequently examine the coursework and the school to ensure the curriculum is of the highest quality and meets industry standards. Accreditation also assures the degree is and will continue to be relevant to the health care industry. Graduation from an accredited program also ensures that the student’s credits will transfer in the event the graduate chooses to pursue further education.
There are several accrediting agencies for health science degrees, including:
- Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education (CAAHEP)
- Commission on Accreditation of Health Informatics & Information Management (CAHIM)
- Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Management Education (CAHME)
Accreditation assures students, employers, and the public that the graduates of the program meet quality expectations.
Due to an aging population and increasing medical technologies, health science is a growing field with substantial potential. Medical science is a great match for anyone seeking to enter the medical and healthcare fields to provide direct patient care or fill other roles in the healthcare industry.