Education for the All-Around Healthcare Professional
The field of health sciences encompasses information technology, medical science, health education, and clinical healthcare roles. Individuals who have interest in a wide range of clinical and non-clinical job opportunities—from dentist to epidemiologist, and everything between—can complete online health sciences degrees that offer more flexibility than campus-based programs. This guide outlines different online health science degree options and potential career paths in this fast-growing field.
Best Online Christian Colleges: Ranking Top Universities for 2018-2019
Deciding which college to go to is no easy task, so ACO evaluated more than 3,500 colleges to give you the information you need to make the search more manageable. Our 2018 college rankings are based on statistical data from trusted sources, eligibility criteria and various ranking factors
Each college must be located in a state (US territories and Washington DC were excluded)
Each college must have at least one online program 1
Each college must have a maximum four-year tuition of $25,000 or a maximum two-year tuition of $5,000
Several individual data points were objectively evaluated to calculate a score for each ranking factor listed above. For affordability, the most impactful data points were tuition2 and grants; for quality, graduation and acceptance rates; for flexibility, part-time enrollment options; and for program, degrees granted in that specific program area. Each score was then weighted, with affordability being the most highly weighted factor for all ACO rankings.
1 Best Vocational Programs included data for both online and campus programs.
2 Both in-state and out-of-state tuition rates were used in our methodology; however, our rankings tool currently only displays in-state rates.
A dash in our Rankings Tool indicates IPEDS data was not available.
Tuition displayed in in-state and per year unless stated otherwise.
Before enrolling in a health sciences degree program, prospective students must first consider all of the options available to them. Whether their interests lie in nutrition, healthcare management, or another area within this field, it’s important for prospective students to find a school that offers their desired concentration and level of study. Taking into consideration factors like cost of enrollment, class size and program count, we have listed the top health sciences degrees and programs that are offered both online and on-campus to help students find the right school. Check out the top options for the 2018-19 school year below.
Earning Your Health Sciences Degree Online
Students that currently have a full-time job or are responsible for taking care of a family may not have the opportunity to attend campus on a full-time basis. Enrolling in an online health sciences degree program can provide some flexibility in a student’s schedule and make it easier for the student to complete their degree program in a timely manner.
The online health sciences degree program may be comprised of a series of lectures, webinars, online presentations, and a virtual classroom setup that students are required to log in to several times throughout the week. If the specific degree program requires clinical experience or has a practicum component, students may need to schedule time on weekends or after working hours to fulfill their hands-on training requirements. Still, the majority of the courses can be taken completely online.
Students need to be comfortable using web-based software programs and technology to access a virtual classroom, interact with students and instructors through online discussion forums, and communicate with their instructor via email regularly. Some teachers may assign group projects so students need to be comfortable collaborating with others in an online space.
Earning Your Health Sciences Degree: Milestone Map
Health sciences degrees prepare students for non-clinical roles in healthcare, such as a health educator or community health worker. Preparation for this career path can start as early as high school when a student excels in math and science courses, and chooses to volunteer at an area healthcare facility or community center during the summer. The following is a sample educational track for a health sciences student:
Excelled in natural science and mathematics; volunteered at a local clinic on weekends.
Completed 4-year Bachelor of Science in biochemistry at an accredited school.
Completed school-approved internship for credits and work experience; obtained references from employer.
Online Master’s Degree
Completed online program in health sciences with a specialization in medical research.
Secured position as a medical scientist with a pharmaceutical company.
Researched the effects of ADHD medication on youth and had results published in a peer-reviewed journal.
Online Program Options in Health Science
Individuals motivated to pursue a long-term career in the field of health sciences need to complete at least a bachelor’s degree to secure a job in the field. Degree programs can take anywhere from two to seven or more years to complete, depending on the level of study, certification training, and whether the student enrolls on a part-time or full-time basis. Since almost all courses can be completed entirely online, some students may manage maintaining a full-time course load while working or taking care of a family. Some programs prepare students for certification and provide job placement assistance, making the online experience that much more rewarding.
Completing a 2-year associate degree in health sciences prepares students for entry-level positions in the healthcare field shortly after high school. An associate degree can also prepare students for a bachelor’s degree later in their educational career, if they choose to continue this path. The online associate degree program covers introductory courses in medical terminology, pathophysiology, pharmacology, nutrition, and a series of foundational courses found in other types of healthcare degree programs.
Most employers prefer candidates to have at least a bachelor’s degree in health sciences, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. A 4-year degree program provides comprehensive study of several key disciplines, including social sciences, natural science, human anatomy, and mathematics. In many cases, the health sciences department of a college or university is affiliated with a hospital or community clinic, making it easier for students to seek out internship opportunities or obtain hands-on experience while completing their degree. Online students may be required to complete a clinical component to fulfill graduation requirements. Hands-on training requirements vary by school and can be a valuable addition to the educational experience. Some 4-year degree programs also offer specialized courses in preparation of the Certified Health Education Specialist (CHES) exam, which opens students to a wealth of professional opportunities.
Health educators and healthcare professionals interested in taking on a leadership or managerial role within their organization may consider completing a master’s degree in health sciences online. These programs typically take at least two years to complete and are comprised of online courses, a comprehensive thesis or essay, and a final oral presentation. Students may have the option to specialize in a certain area, such as health professions education, public health administration, or healthcare informatics. Completing a master’s program can open up new career opportunities in a competitive job market and also increase salary potential.
Health Sciences Programs: Learning Outcomes
Online courses in health sciences at the associate’s degree and undergraduate level typically include core courses in natural science, mathematics, and social science. Some degree programs offer academic pathways to prepare students for a graduate program, entry-level position, or specific non-clinical professions. They may focus on health care studies, clinical informatics, public health, heath care advancement studies, or research studies, for example. Master’s degree programs may include a hands-on training component, health education curriculum development courses, and evaluation courses. Examples of courses offered in most online health sciences degree programs include:
An introductory course for healthcare administrators and those involved with the decision-making process on policies and procedures within an organization. Covers topics such as profitability, regulation, cost management, and pricing.
Legal and Ethical Considerations of Healthcare
Study of health care policy, legal issues, and ethical decision making in the healthcare environment. Also covers topics related to health care policy, legal and political factors that affect the health care system, and socioeconomic forces.
Healthcare Financial Management
Covers accounting and finance topics applicable to healthcare organizations. May include general and managerial accounting principles, financial accounting, financial management, and financing and investments. Provides students with a solid understanding of the healthcare financial environment.
Healthcare Delivery Systems
Study of the organization of health care systems in the United States and how health policies regulations, health insurance requirements, affect society today.
Introductory course covering all topics of nutrition and healthy eating habits for individuals at all life stages. Helps prospective educators learn key principles of nutrition for infants, pregnant women, and the aging population.
Finding Your Focus within Health Sciences
Since there are several options for specialization within the health sciences degree and opportunities to choose either clinical or non-clinical career paths, students need to take the time to consider what type of career they are most interested in as early.
For example, those who wish to focus entirely on non-clinical studies or research studies may fare well with an online bachelor’s degree that prepares them for a master’s degree specializing in research. Those who hope to pursue a career as a health educator may want to complete a bachelor’s degree program that prepares them for the CHES credential and offers graduate job placement opportunities. Here are some key things to consider when choosing an online health sciences program:
Decide which online degree program suits your lifestyle and educational goals.
Determine whether the degree offers specialization to prepare for certification, an advanced degree, research studies, or other academic pathways.
Confirm whether the degree includes an internship requirement or other in-person components.
Make sure you meet minimum GPA and other academic requirements.
Confirm that the online program is accredited by the CAHME and the CEPH (learn more about accreditation in the following section).
Inquire about support services specifically for online students, such as on-campus event invitations, technology support services, and career placement options.
Review federal and private financial aid options.
Learn about tuition costs for the entire program, including any travel or lab equipment purchases.
Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Management Education (CAHME)
The mission of the Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Management Education (CAHME) is to advance the quality of healthcare management education for all educational institutions. It develops and maintains certain criteria for educational standards, provides assistance and advising for continuous improvement, and serves as the accrediting party for graduate programs in health sciences and other healthcare degrees.
Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH)
The Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH) accredits colleges and universities with programs centered on public health practice at the local, state, national, and international level. CEPH accreditation proves to an employer that the school has met certain educational standards and fulfilled all CEPH criteria for excellence in education.
From High School to Master’s: Health Sciences Track
Preparing for a career in health sciences can take anywhere from two to five or more years after graduating from high school. Here is a closer look at the enrollment timeline for students interested in graduating with an online degree in health sciences:
Time to Complete
Obtain High School Diploma or GED
Complete an Bachelor’s Degree Program
Earn CEHS credential
Obtain Real-World Experience
Complete Online Master’s Degree Program
2 to 3 years
Serving as a health researcher or community health worker can be a rewarding career path and knowing what area the individual wishes to specialize in early on in their educational career can put the professional on the fast track to success. Aspiring health sciences graduates can get a head start on their career by attending networking and career events while still in school, volunteering at an area clinic or other healthcare organization, and doing the following:
Seeking out internship opportunities at an area healthcare facility or healthcare organization during high school and college.
Requesting letters of recommendation from volunteer coordinators, college professors, and employers at every opportunity.
Completing an online self-study program to prepare for the CHES.
Completing professional development courses in their area of specialization to advance in their career.
The employment forecast for health sciences degree majors looks bright: The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports employment of health educators and community health workers is projected to grow 13 percent through 2024. Most employers prefer to hire candidates with a least a bachelor’s degree and certification may be required. Those who wish to advance in their career by taking on a managerial role or pursuing clinical studies can explore master’s degree options with various specializations.
Individuals who do not want to work in an office or healthcare setting may consider science, technology, or administrative roles after completing a bachelor’s degree in health science. These candidates may find work in a medical laboratory, science lab, or explore careers in healthcare informatics. Others may pursue a career in healthcare administration where they are responsible for overseeing operations of a clinic or play a role in organizational decision-making processes. Careers following the clinical route show steady job growth as well, with job openings up to 8 percent through 2024 for medical scientists and epidemiologists, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
National Median Annual Salary (2014)
Minimum Education & Licensure
Health Information Technician
Organize and maintain health information data; use classification systems and work within databases and registries.
Associate’s Degree; Certification
Medical Laboratory Technologist
Collect samples and perform various tests under the direction of a physician or surgeon.
Educate patients and populations about health-related topics and develop and evaluate programs in a healthcare setting.
Bachelor’s Degree or Master’s Degree; Certification
Specialize in an area of research; may be involved with clinical trials and scientific investigation projects.
Investigate sources of disease and injury in human subjects; may be involved with research projects and community education
Since the field of health sciences is fairly broad, individuals who choose to specialize in a certain area may seek out certification or licenses in that specific field. Some states offer state licensing programs for those who are seeking community health positions. Many employers prefer those seeking health educator positions to at least hold the Certified Health Education Specialist (CHES) credential and certain degree programs offer preparatory courses for this specific certificate.
Similar Online Public Health Programs
If a degree in health sciences sounds appealing but doesn’t feel like your ideal option, consider some other related educational paths in the field of public health. A health sciences degree isn’t the only pathway to enter the various non-clinical sides of the healthcare profession. Alternative degree programs include:
Study of the theory and practice of healthcare in society today and challenges many individuals and communities face when trying to obtain healthcare and maintain optimal health at every stage of life. Graduate programs center on counseling, teaching, and providing consulting services to various populations.
Intensive study of the composition of food and how certain foods are metabolized by the body. Graduates may serve as a nutritionist or health and wellness advisor in their community, creating programs that ensure clients and patients are meeting their nutritional needs.
Prepare students for a career as a medial or health services manager, or healthcare administrative positions. These programs focus more on the business side of healthcare with financial management courses, leadership training, and the study of healthcare policies and procedures.