Is a Health Science Degree Right for You?

An online degree in health science can be a gateway to a variety of careers in healthcare. In this field, students gain a foundation in the scientific bases of health care knowledge, learn about aspects of disease and disability, and discuss current challenges in public health and ethical and professional issues.

From there, the degree can lead to or advance careers in growing health care fields such as nutrition, physician assistant, or dental hygiene. It is a great degree for students who want to work in the healthcare industry, but have not yet made a decision regarding their specific career path. The broad scope of a health science curriculum makes it possible for you to pursue a number of different careers.

Advice for Earning Your Health Science Degree Online

Health science degree programs usually include life science courses that come with a lab component. As a result, the best programs will not be available completely online and you will be required to complete labs on campus. Some programs also offer specializations in areas like healthcare management or pre-med.

If you are looking for a specific area of expertise, explore programs that offer concentration options. It’s also important to look for programs that are accredited by a recognized regional or national accrediting agency, as well as the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs, which awards specialized accreditation to health science disciplines.

Required Courses

Online Health Science degree programs include required courses in laboratory sciences like microbiology, anatomy and physiology, and statistics. Major courses focus on different aspects of healthcare, the industry, and practice. Required courses may include:

  • Health Law
  • Healthcare Delivery Systems
  • Epidemiology
  • Public Health
  • Principles of Nutrition

Common Career Paths

Some potential careers for those with a bachelor’s degree in Health Science include:

Physician Assistant

  • Expected Growth: 30%
  • Average Annual Salary: $87,585

Physician assistants help doctors and surgeons provide patient care. They examine patients, diagnose illnesses, and provide treatment. A master’s degree as well as completion of an accredited program for physician assistants is required to practice in this field. However, a bachelor’s in health science would provide the foundation for pursuing a master’s degree.

Physician’s assistants must also be licensed by The National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants. The above salary and employment growth figures were gathered from the BLS, and represent average incomes.

Dental Hygienist

  • Expected Growth: 38%
  • Average Annual Salary: $69,410

Dental hygienists assist dentists with oral care. They clean teeth, perform x-rays, and discuss treatment plans and oral care with patients. Because of the level of technical skill involved, dental hygienists usually need a degree or certificate in dental hygiene to enter the profession. There are certificate programs and associate degrees in dental hygiene, as well as bachelor’s and master’s degrees. Graduates of a bachelor’s in health science degree program, therefore, could put their education toward a master’s, which is generally required for clinical practice, research, or teaching. Figures above were provided by the BLS.

Respiratory Therapist

  • Expected Growth: 28%
  • Average Annual Salary: $56,700

Respiratory therapy is a specialty field of medicine that provides care for patients who have difficulty breathing. Respiratory therapists are trained to examine patients for cardiopulmonary disorders, perform diagnostic tests, help doctors develop treatment plans, and monitor progress.

Typically people can enter the profession with an associate degree, though employers prefer more education. Courses offered by health science degree programs, such as anatomy and physiology, pharmacology, and mathematics, would be beneficial, though students would also need to take more specialized courses that teach students how to perform diagnostics tests and assess patients. You must be licensed by The National Board for Respiratory Care or other certifying organization to practice respiratory therapy. Figures above were provided by the BLS.

Nutritionist

  • Expected Growth: 20%
  • Average Annual Salary: $54,405

Nutritionists use their knowledge of food and nutrition to help people make better choices and lead a healthy lifestyle. Depending on their employer, nutritionists and dietitians evaluate the nutritional needs for different communities, design meal plans to meet these needs, and educate clients about nutritional health.

Nutritionists need at least a bachelor’s degree and may also need to be licensed to practice. Licensure varies by state, and requirements typically include a bachelor’s degree in nutrition or a related area, supervised practice, and passing an exam. Figures above were provided by the BLS.

Athletic Trainer

  • Expected Growth: 30%
  • Average Annual Salary: $45,070

Athletic trainers prevent and treat muscle and bone injuries. They provide first aid, apply preventative devices like bandages and braces, and prescribe and carry out rehabilitation programs for injured patients. Athletic trainers usually work for sports teams, at colleges and university, or in physician’s offices. Some will travel with sports teams to games and provide on-site care. A bachelor’s degree is required to work as an athletic trainer, and many also have master’s degree. Figures above were provided by the BLS.

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