What Does a Career in Health Science Entail?
A career in health science can take many different pathways, such as being used in conjunction with a strictly clinical degree and helping you move into management. Others might chart a career path that sends them through the ranks of healthcare administration. A health science career is essentially comprised of whatever you put into it and can take the direction of your true passions and skills.
A health sciences career will require a broad base of skills and knowledge. You will need to know about healthcare finance, but also have excellent communication skills when working with patients. If you move into management, you will need to have a grasp on how to effectively manage your inventories, technology resources, and staff, while delivering top-quality patient care and outcomes.
Healthcare Degree & Career Paths
Components of A Successful Career In Health Science
A successful career in health science can take many different forms, but there are several components that will make your career soar. You will first need to have a passion for healing and helping patients achieve their best outcomes. You will then need a scientific mind that is detail-oriented and disciplined for the rigors of the healthcare environment. With these two foundational elements in place, you can begin a degree program that instills the knowledge and skills you need to truly thrive.
Health science professionals also have the ability to address issues on the clinical side of healthcare while handling the business and administrative aspects of running a healthcare organization. This is often due to the fact that many health science degree holders were already practicing clinicians in the field prior to elevating their careers through education.
How to Earn a Degree in Health Science
Typical Health Science Degree Requirements
Health science degrees all have their own unique set of requirements and larger programs are likely to have more options than smaller schools. Nonetheless, you should expect to take a core set of courses that cover the field from either a technical perspective or with a big-picture, social-science point of view. Some of the courses you might expect to take as requirements for the degree can include, but are not limited to:
- Cultural Diversity in Healthcare
- Health Sciences Research
- Medical Terminology
- Public Health
- Intro to Psychology
- Human Anatomy & Physiology
- Preventative Healthcare
Typical Health Science Certifications Needed
There are no specific certifications needed for a career in this field. However, if you work as a clinician, you might need specific certifications or other credentials to thrive. Even if you have moved into a supervisory or managerial role, a certification in the field can help. After all, you might find yourself short staffed with no extra budget for a contract worker. You'll need current credentials to help out and keep your practice functioning at maximum efficiency. Even if you are primarily in the office performing administrative tasks, it may be helpful to have some clinical certifications, just in case.
A few Health Science certifications you might consider include:
- Emergency Medical Technician Certificate
- Cardiac Electrophysiology Certificate
- Diagnostic Medical Sonography Certificate
- Health Informatics Certificate
- Paramedic Certificate
- Surgical Technology Certificate
Academic Standards for Health Science Degrees
Each program has its own standards for entering and maintaining good standing in its Health Sciences department. Some don't ask for a minimum GPA for admission to the program but will require that you maintain a minimum 2.5 GPA. Others ask that you maintain a 3.0 GPA.
Regardless of the program's requirements, you should always strive for the highest GPA possible. That is because you might eventually consider graduate school. When it comes time to apply for a master's degree, you will see how important GPAs are to later success. Then, when you are admitted to a top graduate program, you will see your salary rise to match your level of academic achievement.
Exam/Experience Needed for Health Science Degrees
Health Science degrees don't necessarily require any specific experience and there is no single examination that allows entry to the field. However, as you are working towards your degree, you should consider pursuing internships or other practical learning experiences. This can be facilitated especially when you pursue an online degree.
That is, an online degree in health sciences will free up more of your time. You will be able to access course materials and study in your off-hours away from work. In the meantime, you can work in the healthcare field and soak up experiences that you can apply to your degree. As your academic knowledge builds, you will find that your coursework is applicable to your work duties.
Important Questions to Ask
How long does it take to earn a Health Science bachelor's degree online?
An online degree can be completed in as little as, say, 3.5 years. It can also take as long as 6 years, but this all depends on you. If you are working in the healthcare field while also taking health sciences courses, you might be advised to take your time with coursework. After all, you are also learning on the job so there's no need to push through to graduation. However, if you are not yet working in the healthcare field, consider cutting your work hours so that you can focus on, and complete, your Health Sciences degree. That is, don't let a stepping-stone job stand in the way of a long-term, rewarding career.
How much does a Health Science bachelor’s degree cost?
A bachelor's degree is costing more all the time, it seems. This is another reason to consider completing your studies as soon as possible. You can also approach your education from a practical, financial standpoint. That is, if you think strategically, you can achieve a health sciences degree with lower costs by first attending a community college for your core curriculum.
If you start with an associate degree from a community college, you can move on to a state university for your bachelor's degree. This approach will cost somewhere in the neighborhood of $30,000. On the opposite end of the scale you could attend a private university in an expensive city and pay up to $300,000.
Does the school have the major(s) you’re considering?
If you are driven to work in healthcare and a health sciences degree is your goal, you should not compromise with some other degree. That is, if your career aspiration is to work in healthcare administration, a management or other general degree might help, but it won't be quite as good. When you emerge from college with a degree that specifies expertise in healthcare, a hiring manager will take note. Further, your first day on the job won't involve such a huge learning curve. You'll be prepared, and your salary will likely reflect your hard work and preparation.
If the colleges in your area don't specifically offer healthcare courses or a health science degree, consider attending a school in some other area, or online.
How many students graduate “on time,” in four years?
These days, fewer and fewer students graduate within four years. There are many factors that contribute to this, but the government now sets the standard duration of a four-year degree at six years. The only students that seem to graduate within six years with any consistency seem to be those from highly competitive colleges. The students with the least likelihood of graduating within six years were those from open-enrollment institutions.
What kind of accreditation does the program hold? How is it regarded in the field?
Your college should be fully accredited by at least a regional accrediting agency. When you find a program you like, investigate their accreditation. They should have this noted somewhere on their website. If not, contact an admissions counselor who can provide you with that information.
The reason you need a fully-accredited program is that those degrees will be more highly regarded in the job market. Plus, if you decide to return to school for a master's degree, you will find that your credits transfer and that your degree is considered valid by the graduate program.
If you are unsure about this, ask about the successes of a school's alumni. You can also contact potential graduate schools to see if they will accept a degree from your desired program.
To succeed in health sciences, you will likely need a broad range of skills and knowledge. If you take on a clinical specialty, you'll need full training in that area. For the most part, you'll need some familiarity with reading medical charts, full working knowledge of anatomy and physiology, and communication skills.
As for software, you will likely need a strong familiarity with spreadsheets and databases. You should also have facility with word-processing applications as well. You might find that specific practice offices or hospitals have proprietary record-keeping software, or customized versions of applications in wide use.
An Associate Degree in Health Sciences is likely to help you launch your career. This is perhaps the perfect first step towards a bright career because if you stop at this level of education you can assess your options from within the working world. If you're working in a large organization such as a hospital, you might be able to request information interviews in departments that interest you.
Your local community college should offer an associate degree in health sciences. If not, you can find a dynamite program online. The world of online education has a lot to offer. As you study, you might take a range of courses that include, but are not limited to:
- Management of Health Information Services
- Data Management and Statistics
- Healthcare Information Technologies
With a four-year bachelor's degree you can begin to take greater responsibility and earn a higher salary. Though an undergraduate degree is often considered a general degree that offers a great introduction to a field, you can often find programs that offer specializations that will put you on a fast-track to success. Note that you will probably take courses that won't necessarily fit your career goals, but you might be surprised. Sometimes when you step outside of a narrow specialty you can see the bigger picture, which can be invaluable.
- Medical Terminology
- Mental Healthcare
- Public Administration
- Public Health and Policy
- Research Methods
- Writing for Healthcare and Medicine
- Trends in Healthcare
- Biomedical Sciences
- Health Services Administration
- Healthcare Informatics
- Public Health
- Sports Medicine
Once you reach graduate school, you are sure to have a specific focus in mind. You've probably been working for at least five years and you know the field and where you want to go. Plus, you're ready to earn more and gain more status and increase your workplace responsibility. With a master's degree, you can start looking beyond working in the trenches and start setting your sights on the C-suites of a healthcare system or medical technology corporation. Along the way to your MS in Health Sciences, or a Master of Healthcare Administration, you might take some of the following core courses:
- Healthcare Finance
- Health Policy
- Management in Healthcare
- Correctional Health y
- Occupational Therapy
- Integrative Medicine
- Physical Therapy
- Clinical Operations and Healthcare Management
- Clinical Research
- Leadership and Disaster Response
Earning Potential for Health Science Degree Fields and Occupations
The health sciences field heavily rewards education. Unless you take a more administrative track for your career, your skills and abilities will largely come from academia. After all, there are very few researchers or clinical practitioners who learn on the job. Patients and insurers would hardly stand for that.
With that in mind, you should take your health sciences education very seriously, starting with your associate degree. A two-year degree will allow you to get your foot in the door of a hospital or clinic. Your salary will reflect your educational level and will likely start somewhere in the low $20,000 range. With more experience you might be able to raise your earnings as high as $45,000.
However, when you enter the health sciences field with a bachelor's degree, your starting salary might well start at $45,000, or even higher depending on your area of specialization. That is, highly skilled clinicians might start at $60,000 or more. From there, they could see their earnings rise to $75,000 in mid-career, and then around $100,000 when they are seasoned professionals.
Those with a master's degree in a health sciences field should expect even higher salaries. They might start with a salary of $80,000 or more and then end their career earning well into the six figure range.
Health Science Fields of Study Median Salaries
With this degree, you will work with the information technology systems in a clinic, hospital, or other healthcare institution. Essentially, healthcare informatics is a degree much like Information Technology or Computer Information Systems, but it's focused on the specific needs of the healthcare industry. Your specialized knowledge and dedication to the industry will likely be reflected in your paycheck. The national average salary in this field is $59,000.
The healthcare management field encompasses much of what you'd expect in management but adds the extra complexities of a healthcare environment. You will need to attend to your organizations bottom line while also ensuring that patients receive optimal care. Given that you need to juggle how multiple insurers manage their payments, rapidly changing medical technology, and public health policies, your job will be fast-paced to say the least. The national average salary for healthcare managers is $55,000.
Marketing executives work to improve the public view of their organization. They work to attract new patients and increase revenues. For instance, you might create campaigns that tout your hospital's new MRI technology, or a new heart-health initiative. Marketing professionals also perform market research and determine what areas are in demand and advise the organization on where to invest for the future. Account representatives earn an average annual salary of $51,249.
OT professionals work in the clinical side of healthcare, the part that most people are familiar with. OTs help patients learn or re-learn life skills that may have been unlearned due to a head wound, dementia, or even a mental health issue. The average salary for this career is $65,223.
PTs work with patients to help them recover from injuries, illnesses, or whatever has impaired their physical mobility. They can help patients work with prosthetic limbs or with motility tools such as wheelchairs, walkers, and canes. The average salary for this career is $69,709.
As a medical assistant, you'll work alongside doctors and nurses to support the overall goals of the clinic. Medical assistants can help prepare patients upon intake or provide administrative help in maintaining records, entering data, and more. The average salary for this career is $30,739.
Professionals in healthcare administration oversee the behind-the-scenes operations in a healthcare organization. They might specialize in areas such as accounting, informatics, marketing, or management. You might say they "keep the lights on" so the doctors, nurses, and therapists can do the vital work they do. The average salary for this career is $64,454.
If you study public health, you might work with a hospital in education, helping patients understand various topics like the dangers of smoking or how to eat better. Other professionals in the field study the data behind disease and healthcare delivery. Public health professionals also work in third-world environments to help improve the lives in disadvantaged populations.
These professionals study how drugs interact with the human body at all levels, starting with cellular impact. They typically work for pharmaceutical companies, but also might work in university research centers, among other environments. As a pharmacologist, you'll likely perform most of your duties in a laboratory. The average salary for this career is $97,701.
Field of Study Average Salary by Degree Level
|Field of Study||Associates Salary||Bachelors Salary||Masters Salary|
Health Science Salaries by Occupation
Health sciences is a field that encompasses a range of occupations. It can include deep science work in a laboratory, intimate therapeutic work with patients, or office administration work similar to other businesses. The salary range in this field is thus quite broad. Despite this, most occupations under the health sciences umbrella are rather well-paid.
As you improve your academic credentials, you'll see that your salary rises. When you enter a field with an associate degree, for instance, your pay rate will be on the low end. The benefit to you is that you can begin to get your feet wet in the field with minimal investment. When you decide to advance, you can build on your AA and earn a bachelors, which will raise your pay anywhere from 10-20%, depending on your employer, occupation, experience level, and the status of your school.
Health Science Occupations:
These professionals work with individuals to assess and modify their diets. When a patient is able to effectively manage their diet, they can combat a wide range of disease. Dietitians might work with athletes to improve their performance, diabetes sufferers who need to regulate blood sugar, or people with candida who need to recover.
As a health educator, you'll help people understand a range of health-related issues. You might work with youngsters who need to understand sexually transmitted diseases or teach general seminars on the impact of diet on health. Education can be a large part of preventative care, so this position is a vital part of public health.
Lab techs are a vital part of research and how laboratories work with various samples. As a laboratory technologist, you'll collect samples, maintain them in an organized manner, and assure that they are processed efficiently. Laboratory technologists might also attend to lab equipment, maintain inventories, and keep everything sterile.
Health Services Manager:
This profession comes under many different job titles and descriptions. As a health services manager, you'll oversee the functioning of a healthcare operation such as a hospital, clinic, or small practice. They assure that all operations adhere to governmental policies and regulations. Health services management is vital to the delivery of healthcare for all patients.
How does disease spread? This is the key question facing an epidemiologist. In this field, you will be a large part in containing diseases in the case of an outbreak. Epidemiologists discover the origins of disease and injury and can thus help educate others on how to prevent future problems.
Healthcare Data Analyst:
There are data analysts in many fields. However, in healthcare, you will take the relevant data and discern how to more efficiently deliver care, assess where inefficiencies lie, and improve overall patient outcomes.
With a health science degree, you can likely begin work as a healthcare consultant. You'll work as an independent contractor who is called to assess a health system. You might crunch the data to find where inefficiencies lie, or you might strive to upgrade a hospital's informatics systems. Consultants also are called upon to help with hiring and other human resources concerns.
A pharmacy technician works under a pharmacist to deliver customer service to patients in need of medicine. In this position, you will fill prescriptions and help manage inventories.
Dental Hygienist: These professionals clean teeth in a dentist’s office. Some choose to extend their education and work more closely with dentists or periodontists in the surgical theater.
These nurses are RNs who specialize in mental health. You might work on-on-one with a patient, in a psychiatric hospital, or in a group home for the mentally ill. You will also work with family members to help institute treatment plans or to learn more for a patient's case history.
Annual Salary by Occupation (Range)
|Occupations||Entry Level Salary Range||Mid-Career Salary Range||Late Career Salary Range|
|Health Services Manager||$48,950||$61,050||$66,000|
|Healthcare Data Analyst||$54,600||$67,800||$70,800|
Health Science Scholarships
The Christie Foundation:
Aimed towards Parkland College in Champaign, IL, this foundation awards $125,000 each year to students in the Health Sciences field. Whether you are headed to medical school, or desire to be a physical therapist, you should apply for this scholarship. The Christie Foundation also provides scholarships for graduate Health Sciences students attending the University of Illinois.
Samaritan Health Services:
Health Sciences students can apply for one of several annual awards. Preference is given to students who would practice in Oregon or Arizona, and their website specifies three Oregon counties: Benton, Lincoln, and Linn. Samaritan oversees six total scholarships:
- Benton County Scholarship
- Nursing Excellence Scholarship
- Jeanne Hazleton Scholarship
- Larry A Mullins Scholarship
- John C. Erikkila, MD, Scholarship
- Virginia Welch Scholarship
Robert D. Kruse Memorial Scholarship Fund:
Students with a minimum 2.5 GPA who are enrolled in an accredited degree or certificate program are encouraged to apply. This fund particularly rewards students who are in areas of particular need by the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio. Nursing students, however, are not eligible. Some current needs include:
- Occupational Therapists
- Medical Laboratory Technicians
- Ophthalmic Technologists
- Medical Laboratory Scientists
Professional Health Science Organizations
American College of Health Care Administrators
ACHCA is a professional association that endeavors to strengthen the field of Healthcare Administration with education, certifications, and career development opportunities that benefit individuals and institutions alike. Their educational opportunities include mentoring programs as well as self-study programs.
American Public Health Association
APHA supports public health professionals with opportunities for education, professional networking, and fellowship. Their stated goal, however, is purely altruistic and seeks to support the public health and well-being. The organization publishes two publications and hosts an annual convention where professionals can share research.
American Association of Healthcare Administrative Management
AAHAM is the premier association for those who are in healthcare management. They offer advocacy, education, and general information serving those in administrative areas that include:
- Admitting and Registration
- Data Management
- Medical Records
- Patient Relations
Choosing an Accredited College
When you seek out a college for Health Sciences, make sure that they are fully-accredited and have an otherwise good reputation. Look for a regional accreditation. If you are unsure about an accreditation, you might want to contact a few potential employers and ask them what they look for in this regard. Their human resources departments will surely have guidelines that will be of help. Suffice it to say that most long-standing public and private institutions will be able to provide accredited courses for you.
Online vs On-Campus vs Hybrid
These days you have three choices for your educational environment: online, on-campus, and hybrid. Online education has many advantages, including the ability to continue working while you study. An asynchronous program will enable you to access your course material at any time of the night or day. The key difficulty will come when you have to schedule yourself and muster the self-discipline to study after work.
If enrollment statistics are any measure, on-campus programs are still preferred by most students. However, learning outcomes are about the same for on-campus as for online students. Nevertheless, students find that having structured course times and due dates are helpful for their academic life.
Finally, hybrid courses have arisen to bridge the gap between online and on-campus education. These programs require that students attend courses or other educational events on-campus at least once per semester. This will give you the opportunity to mix and mingle with your fellow students, and the resulting professional networking could be a boon to your career.
Does the College Have Post-Graduate Job Placement Help & Assistance?
Job placement probably won't be a problem for you, but you will appreciate when a college offers job fairs or other recruitment events on campus. Before you register for classes, ask your admissions counselor about your school's resources for your eventual job search. After all, if you are studying a career-oriented field of study, you need to have some sort of outlet for launching your brilliant career.
Why You Need to Consider How Rating/Accreditation Can Affect Your Salary
You need to consider the rating/accreditation of your college because your career path will depend on it. That is, a diploma from a highly rated institution will garner more job offers and a higher salary. That's because students in these schools have a well-earned reputation for handling larger workloads. Furthermore, if you are already working and wish to participate in your employer's tuition reimbursement program, they will probably offer higher percentages for higher-rated, accredited colleges or universities.