Is a Health Care Degree for You?
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In the course of pursuing a health care degree, you'll face a variety of challenges including team-based problem solving and tasks that require you to think creatively on short notice. Communication skills are an absolute must. If you are uncomfortable with engaging in an open exchange of ideas, you might want to consider another path. A degree in the health care field will also require you to pay close attention to detail, since you'll be working with theories and applications that can have life-changing effects if they're not handled properly. Medicine is a career for the dedicated; keep in mind that you may need to work long hours once you have your degree. The field is also constantly changing because of advances in technology, so you should be willing to stay abreast of the latest trends and treatments.
Advice for Earning Your Health Care Degree Online
Employers look for candidates who have a strong educational foundation in a health care field. However, this favorable outlook on education applies only if you graduate from an accredited institution. Many employers look for candidates with regionally accredited degrees. Make sure you research your school's accreditation before enrolling to ensure that you will receive a high-quality education. You should also seek out an institution that will let you put your knowledge into practice through internships. Health care demands hands-on experience for advancement and understanding, so your online degree should come from a school that lets you network with local health care facilities for training and employment opportunities. It is a good idea to talk with local hospitals or health care facilities about potential internship or work-study programs that could coordinate with your degree plan.
Degree programs in health care are designed to help you develop the skills you need to establish a career in the medical field. Ideally, your program will blend biology classes with personnel management and training courses. Classes in human anatomy and physiology are, as expected, the building blocks of a health care degree. You'll also study chemistry, medical history, and specialized areas of the body such as the brain and nervous system. Other courses address the history of the health care profession in the United States, ethics and laws, leadership concepts in health care and management. Whether your goal is to become a nurse or a hospital administrator, you'll need to be steeped in both the theory and practice of medicine.
Common Career Paths
The health care arena is typically a solid one, and the growing number of older people will ensure that qualified degree holders have jobs for years to come. Common positions include (but are not limited to):
Registered nurses make up the largest profession within the health care industry. They are responsible for treating patients, educating them on their illnesses and injuries, taking medical histories and providing preventive care. RNs implement a plan of care suitable for each patient's needs, which may require administering medications, checking vitals, starting and removing IVs, rehabilitation and drawing blood for necessary tests. They must be meticulous about patients' charts to ensure that they are getting the care they need, and they must maintain a patient's confidentiality. Nurses can specialize in working with certain age and population groups, such as children, the elderly, diabetics or hospice patients. They can also work in varied settings, including hospitals and patients' homes.
Employment opportunities are projected to be excellent, with 26 percent job growth expected between 2010 and 2020, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The average annual salary for an RN was $64,690 in 2010.
Medical and Health Services Managers
These professionals are responsible for directing and coordinating the delivery of health services, as well as handling the day-to-day operations of health care organizations. Clinical managers usually have a lengthy background in the area they oversee and use their experience to work their way up to an executive position. Many medical and health services managers coordinate the billing and collection of payment from patients. At the top of the chain are executives who oversee multiple health care facilities.
As with many other careers in health care, employment for medical and health services managers is projected to increase faster than average, with 22 percent growth expected between 2010 and 2020, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This makes for good job opportunities for qualified individuals who wish to pursue this line of work. The best job prospects will be for those with health care experience and business management skills. The median annual salary for medical and health services managers was $84,270 in 2010.
Another fast-growing career in the health care field is that of the physician assistant. PAs work alongside and under the authority of a doctor and perform various health care responsibilities, such as taking medical histories, treating patients, administering diagnostic tests and ordering X-rays. PAs provide basic medical, diagnostic and preventive care. They can address minor injuries with sutures, splints and casts, and offer an array of other treatments typically associated with doctors.
Employment of PAs is projected to grow much faster than average—a whopping 30 percent between 2010 and 2020, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The median annual salary of a physician assistant in 2010 was $86,410, the BLS noted.