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What Are My Degree Program Options in Healthcare?

Are you interested in helping improve people's health? If so, then you don't necessarily have to become a doctor or nurse to work in the field of healthcare; you might also choose to enter healthcare administration. Read on to learn about available healthcare degrees.

Overview of the Healthcare Field

There are two sides to the healthcare field: patient care and administration. If taking care of patients interests you, you might choose to become a physician, surgeon or registered nurse, all of which require extensive medical training.

If you don't wish to receive medical schooling but are interested in performing clerical and managerial work in a healthcare setting, you might want to pursue a healthcare administration career. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), you'll likely need to earn a master's degree in health services administration, health sciences or business administration (www.bls.gov). However, health information technology positions may only require you to earn an associate's degree in your chosen field.

Important Facts About Healthcare Degree Options

Common Courses Anatomy, physiology, life sciences, English
Prerequisites High school diploma, or equivalent
Online Availability Fully available for both degrees listed
Continuing Education Required licensure for all nursing home administrators; all other credentials are voluntary but recommended by employers

Degrees in Patient Care

Medical Degrees

If you wish to become a physician, surgeon or another doctor, you'll need to earn your M.D. or D.O. and complete a residency in the medical specialty of your choice. According to the BLS, you'll spend four years in medical school, and your residency may last up to eight years. During the first two years of medical school, you'll take courses in anatomy, human structure, and medical foundations.

The final half of medical school will allow you to focus on hands-on training, called rotations or clerkships. You'll complete rotations in general medicine, surgery, obstetrics and gynecology, pediatrics, psychology, and neurology. These rotations should prepare you to select a medical discipline during your residency period.

Nursing Degrees

The BLS reported that if you want to earn a degree in nursing, you can choose to enroll in an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) or Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) program. If you're looking to advance in your career and take on a nursing specialization, you may also apply to a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) program after accumulating experience in the nursing field.

During an undergraduate program, you'll learn skills that will help you interact with patients and provide quality medical care. Some programs might prepare you to take state or national licensure tests to become a registered nurse (RN). Your courses could include:

  • Medical and surgical nursing
  • Pharmacology
  • Pathophysiology
  • Disease prevention

Degrees in Administration

Healthcare Administration Degrees

If you wish to enter the healthcare administration, you could be a hospital administrator, or you could oversee the financial aspects of a doctor's office. The degree you choose to earn will depend on the career you're interested in. To work as a hospital or clinical administrator, you'll usually need to receive your Master of Health Administration (MHA) or a similar graduate degree, according to the BLS.

During an MHA program, you'll learn how to operate a hospital or medical clinic and take care of any legal, financial and insurance issues. You may also need to complete a hands-on residency working under a high-level administrator at a medical facility. Your program might allow you to specialize in a certain field, such as policy analysis or information technology. Courses that you take can include:

  • Medical laws
  • Healthcare economics
  • Marketing health services
  • Organizational management

Health Information Technology Degrees

If you're interested in finding a job in the medical records and technology field, you'll usually need to earn an associate's degree in health information technology. Programs will teach you about medical billing and coding, patient records management and medical terminologies. You'll learn skills applicable to your future career, such as:

  • Overseeing patient records and files
  • Submitting insurance claims electronically and on paper
  • Medical record keeping
  • Following up with patient payments

Career Outlook

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov) reported that from 2016-2026, healthcare occupations were projected to increase by 18%, much faster than the average. In addition, three will be an estimated 2.4 million jobs for these professionals.

Salary Information

Physician and surgeon wages vary by specialization. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov) in 2018, those specialized in anesthesiologists, psychiatrists and surgeons earned a median income of more than $208,000 per year, while pediatricians made the lowest median wage of $170,560. Family and general practitioners made a median wage of $201,100, while internists made a median wage of $194,500, in that same year.

The BLS reported in May 2018 that the median income was $71,730 for registered nurses and $99,730 for medical and health services managers. Medical records and health information technicians earned a significantly lower median wage of $40,350.