What Does a Career in Healthcare Entail?
The Healthcare industry is one of the fastest growing industries at this time, and the medical field is calling for more and more professionals to join. While healthcare can prove to be a challenging field to work in, it is equally rewarding. Caring for others adds real value to society.
Healthcare is a very broad sector with many exciting career opportunities to choose from. The education requirements are demanding, often requiring long hours of study, but with a solid education in healthcare you will have the tools that you need to build a successful career. A career in healthcare can open you up to opportunities that you never thought possible.
Healthcare Degree & Career Paths
Components of A Successful Career In Healthcare
Not every person is made to work in the healthcare industry. It takes someone who has compassion, patience, and dedication to excel in the field. You have to have the ability to deal with extreme stress and heartbreak in most healthcare fields. You are seeing and interacting with many people at their worst and helping them make life changing decisions. As you learn and grow in your career, you will find opportunities to develop leadership skills, which can, in turn, help you make lasting impacts in your workplace, and even in your own personal growth.
If you believe you possess these qualities, your first step is to obtain a degree in a health-related field. From there, the opportunities are limitless.
How to Earn a Degree in Healthcare
Why Earn a Healthcare degree?
There are many reasons why you should consider a degree in healthcare. First and foremost, obtaining a degree is essential for most healthcare-related careers. Your degree is a stepping stone to entering the world of healthcare. Second, it demands higher skills, but it also means that you will benefit from higher pay.
Typical Healthcare Degree Requirements
Associates Degree in Healthcare
An associate degree is the first level of qualification for a career in healthcare. The coursework for an associate Degree can typically be completed in 2 years (4 semesters). Curriculum may consist of general coursework in communication, writing skills, and will prepare you to work in a clinical setting. There are plenty of career opportunities for those who hold an associate degree with a healthcare focus.
Bachelor's Degree in Healthcare
A Bachelor's Degree is one of the most popular degrees in healthcare and has become the standard for many healthcare careers. The Bachelor's Degree takes twice as long to obtain as the associates degree: 4 years (8 semesters). You will receive advanced instruction that builds upon your general coursework, while preparing you for your specific field of study.
Master's Degree in Healthcare
A Master's Degree can help give you a competitive edge in the healthcare field. Pursuing your master’s is best if you want to advance in your career and already have previous professional experience. Top level employees may even be required to hold a master's degree.
This degree can take anywhere from 2 to 3 years to complete. Ideally, you will want to have completed a bachelor's degree in a health-related major.
Typical Healthcare Certifications Needed
In addition to receiving a degree in a healthcare related field, it is also important to be aware of certifications that are available. Certifications can give you added credibility in your area of study, while helping you stand out not only as a professional, but also as a leader in your field.
For example, if you have earned a degree in healthcare administration and are looking to expand your role, you may want to look at obtaining a certificate in healthcare financial management or accounting. If your career choice is a dietitian, you could explore board certification in oncology nutrition or pediatric nutrition. Most certification programs require that you complete somewhere between 12 and 20 credit hours.
Academic Standards for Healthcare Degrees
There is a reason why healthcare careers encompass some of the best paying jobs on the market. With occupations including paramedics, nurses, and pharmacists, there is no room for error, especially when lives are on the line. Because healthcare degrees are so important, students are held to very high academic standards. Often times, you must maintain a certain minimum level of achievement in order to stay in your program of study. It is important for those in the field of healthcare to be intelligent, educated, and ready to learn.
Exam/Experience Needed for Healthcare Degrees
Most undergraduate colleges and universities do not require any healthcare background prior to applying the healthcare program. This is because undergraduate programs are designed to help students obtain entry-level jobs in the field.
Because a bachelor's degree is often the basic requirement for many entry-level positions, it is not always easy for students to get experience in healthcare prior to receiving their degree. However, any experience in healthcare, whether through a job, an internship, or a volunteer experience can prove to be beneficial to your studies.
One great way to gain prior experience in healthcare is through volunteer work.
Although unpaid, volunteer work will give you practical experience and also scores points on your college application. Volunteering in the healthcare field will demonstrate to the admissions board that you are serious about following this path. This will give you a competitive edge over other applicants that do not have a background in healthcare.
Important Questions to Ask
How long does it take to earn a Healthcare bachelor's degree online?
In most cases, an online bachelor's degree in healthcare requires 120 credits. As a full-time student, you can complete 30 credits per year, meaning you would earn your degree over the course of four years. If you are a motivated student, there are a few options available to help you earn your degree sooner.
Some schools have accelerated programs that put students on the fast track to earning their degree. This can reduce the four-year time frame by up to 30%. If an accelerated program is too much to handle, you may be able to benefit from year-round learning. Year-round learning is continuous schooling all year long, with no summer break. This type of education allows you to finish your degree earlier and get started in your career faster. If you took AP courses in high school, you may be able to count them toward your college credits, which can in turn, reduce your time and the costs of schooling.
How much does a Healthcare bachelor’s degree cost?
A four-year degree is not cheap by any means. The cost of tuition can vary widely depending on the academic excellence of the university and the specific field of study chosen. You can expect tuition for a bachelor's degree in healthcare to cost anywhere from $24,000-$72,000. The cost of tuition for online degrees usually falls in the lower end of the range. When talking about costs, it is important to factor in textbooks, technology, as well as room and board, as those costs are separate from tuition.
The cost of your education is worth every penny, because it is an investment in your future. You may feel that you are investing too much money in a degree but remember that it will all come back to you. Once you get the career that you've been aiming for, you will be to pay off your student loans and live a comfortable life.
Does the school have the major(s) you’re considering?
This is a very important question to ask yourself. Your major should play a big part in the schools you are considering. Not every college may offer the major of your choice, so doing your homework is the first step of the selection process.
How many students graduate “on time,” in four years?
Only 41% of students actually manage to finish their degree on time. There are a variety of factors that could potentially play a part in unexpectedly extending your college career, such as:
Work. Working over 25 hours per week can get in the way of academics.
Credit Hours. Most colleges will define a full course load as 12 credit hours per semester. If you do the math, you will see that you actually need to take 15 credit hours per semester in order to graduate on time.
Transferring. Many students end up transferring during their college career. Many times, there are hiccups with transferring credits. This can put you behind, or even cause you to end up losing your credits altogether.
Be aware of these common mistakes, so that you don't make them yourself.
What kind of accreditation does the program hold? How is it regarded in the field?
Your school's accreditation is an important aspect of getting your degree. The two most common forms of accreditation are regional and national.
Regional accreditation is the most recognized and most prestigious available. Because of this label, these colleges often have higher tuition and have more competitive admission standards. Regional accreditation accounts for over 85% of colleges across the United States. There are 6 different regions, including:
- MSA (Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools)
- NEASC (New England Association of Schools and Colleges)
- NCA (North Central Association of Colleges and Schools)
- NAC (Northwest Accreditation Commission)
- SACS (Southern Association of Colleges and Schools)
- WASC (Western Association of Schools and Colleges)
National accreditation is less common. National accreditation agencies oversee the accreditation process for career, vocational, and trade schools across the United States. As a result, these schools tend to be less expensive, require less general coursework, and feature a more practical, career-oriented curriculum. Because it is less structured, schools are only reviewed every 3-5 years to ensure that they still meet accreditation requirements.
Being in the field of healthcare will require you to develop and master technology, software, and the proper skills in order to be successful. The use of technology improves the quality, effectiveness, and accuracy of healthcare. Developing the proper skills will help you with your job duties and interacting with patients.
Technology and Software
- Email/Communication Programs
- Presentation Software
- Cloud Based Computing
- Practice Software
- Patient Portal
- Scheduling Software
- Medical Billing
- Strong Communication Skills
- Interpersonal Skills
- Emotional Stability
- Strong Work Ethic
- Time Management
- Ability to Perform Under Pressure
- Ability to Deal with Criticism
- Attention to Detail
Healthcare is one of the fastest growing industries, and that makes a career in the field both highly desirable and readily available. There is such a wide range of careers in healthcare to choose from. Some offer great compensation, while others tend to be more mediocre on the pay scale. For those students who want to pursue a career in the healthcare industry but also maintain a high paying salary at the same time, it is important to evaluate your degree and career choice. Earning 20,000 less could be the difference between having an Associate's Degree instead of a Bachelor's Degree.
Associates Degree in Healthcare
Cost Range from $19,000 - $34,000
Students seeking to obtain an associate degree in healthcare will learn a wide array of invaluable tools, which will prepare them for a clinical setting in the field of healthcare. Students will have a chance to learn about healthcare technology, medical terminology, as well as administrative skills. The associate degree program is designed to prepare students for entry-level administrative jobs, but it doesn't equip students with the tools to take on leadership or management roles as a bachelor's or master's degree would.
- Medical Terminology
- Health Records Management
- Anatomy and Physiology
- Introduction to Diagnostic Coding
- Principles of Marketing
- Basics of Accounting
- Introduction to Healthcare Law
- Healthcare Informatics
- Patient Safety and Quality
- Healthcare Finance
- Healthcare Policy
Bachelor Degree in Healthcare
Cost Range from $50,000 - $85,000
Bachelor’s degrees help form a solid foundation for those wanting to enter the field, as well as providing the educational background to pursue more advanced degrees. Since a bachelor’s degree means taking more courses and spending more time studying, there is greater opportunity to engage with course content more deeply.
A Bachelor's Degree is also essential if you plan on continuing your education with a Master's Degree in healthcare.
- Ethics in Healthcare Management
- Healthcare Economics
- Quality Assurance Risk Management
- Healthcare Marketing and Strategic Planning
- Legal Aspects of Healthcare Management
- Healthcare Information Management
- Evidence-Based Healthcare Management
- Cultural Competence in Healthcare
Bachelors Healthcare Concentrations: Healthcare Management, Healthcare Information Administration, Patient Safety and Quality, Lifespan Management, Healthcare Law and Policy, and Healthcare Informatics
Masters Degree in Healthcare
Cost Range from $40,000 - $75,000
If you are a student who is interested in earning a graduate degree in healthcare, then the master’s degree is where you will start. The master's level program will emphasize adaptability and the value of change, while equipping students with the tools to apply the most relevant business skills in making decisions that affect healthcare management.
- Laws and Ethics
- Financial Management
- Healthcare Policy
- Entrepreneurship and Marketing
- Strategic Management
Master’s healthcare concentrations are often very similar to the bachelors concentrations available, such as: Administration, Education, Informatics, Gerontology, Operations, Health Policy, Management Operations and Leadership, Health Policy Analysis, Health Financial Management, Health Information Technology, and more.
Career and Salary Information
Healthcare Fields of Study Median Salaries
|Field of Study||Entry-Level||Mid-Career|
Healthcare Salaries by Occupation
As you can see from the chart below, there is a significant difference in annual salaries with higher-level degrees as well as a rise in tuition costs. With an associate degree you can earn an average annual salary of $57,100, but with a bachelor’s you can earn, on average, $22,700 more. However, holding a masters would earn you almost $8,000 more per year than holding a bachelor’s degree. Considering the amount of income you could make in just one year, you could actually pay off the tuition for a whole degree program and still have money left over (if you didn’t have to pay for rent or food, etc.). The point remains, you will make significantly more with a masters than you will with an associates.
Salary by Occupation with Entry Level Salary Range & Mid-Career Salary Range
- Healthcare Administrators oversee the day-to-day operations of hospitals, doctors’ offices, and other clinical types of organizations. They’re responsible for ensuring that the facilities, services, programs, staff, and budgets function properly.
- Dietitian and Nutritionists are experts when it comes to utilizing foods to promote nutrition and disease management. They evaluate patients and advise on how to lead healthier lifestyles and achieve specific health related goals.
- Registered Nurses are extremely important in providing quality patient care in hospitals and doctor's offices, and other health organizations. They coordinate care, administer medicines, educate patients about their health conditions, as well as provide advice and emotional support to patients and their family members through difficult times.
- Recreational Therapists utilize their skill sets to help uplift patients who are suffering from depression, stress, or anxiety. They also help patients recover basic physical and mental abilities. Recreational Therapists will often coordinate arts, crafts, music, dance, sports and games, to help maintain or improve a patient's physical, social, and emotional well-being.
- Nurse Practitioners [also called advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs)] specialize in certain areas of medicine. Nurse practitioners can diagnose illnesses as well as prescribe medications (depending on the state, they may have to prescribe under the care of a doctor). At the same time, they carry out some of the same functions as a registered nurse: coordinating patient care.
- Veterinary Technicians are able to perform tests necessary to assist in diagnosing injuries and illnesses of animals. They are under the complete supervision of a Veterinarian.
- Radiation Therapists are able to help treat cancer and other diseases in patients by administering radiation treatments to patients.
Tylenol Future Care Scholarship
The Tylenol Future Care Scholarship is a prestigious, merit-based scholarship offered to students through the Tylenol organization. The scholarship requires that students send in their resume, as well as draft answers to two, 500-word essay questions. Students should write their essay on the career path that they want to follow. The acceptance committee will subsequently review the application materials and pick a handful of students who stand out in the areas of leadership and academic excellence, and who overall have a genuine passion for their careers. Tylenol awards scholarship money to those students who meet and exceed their expectations of what an exemplary student should be. A maximum of $10,000 will be awarded per recipient. All application materials must be turned in before the Spring deadline.
Health Resources and Service Administration Bureau of Health Professions Scholarship
The BHPr Scholarship is offered to students through the United States Public Health Service. This scholarship is made specifically for students who come from disadvantaged backgrounds and who exhibit the need for financial aid. In addition to these specifications, students must also choose a major that is in the field of healthcare. They must be a resident of the United States, or otherwise be classified as a permanent resident or national. Any other scholarship requirements are set by participating schools. The maximum scholarship amount awarded is $15,000. The deadline for applying for this scholarship is June 30th.
Sharps Scholarship Program
The Sharps Scholarship Program is offered by Sharps Compliance. This scholarship is only available to students who are residents of the US or Canada and who are currently enrolled, or have the intention to enroll in, an accredited university. In order to be considered for this scholarship, the student must be registered for school for either the fall or spring semester following the application deadline and must choose a program in healthcare. Students will be required to answer a 1,250-1,500 word essay on the subject of "how to prevent accidental needle stick injuries." Applicants selected will be based off the quality of their essays (due October 31st). Winners will be awarded a $750 - $1,500 award.
National Institute of Health Scholarship Program
The National Institute of Health offers its scholarship program to students who, not only come from disadvantaged backgrounds, but who also aspire to pursue a career in either social, biomedical, or behavioral science. This scholarship awards students with a maximum of $20,000 per year in tuition, education, and living expenses. The scholarship is renewable up to 4 years. Those who apply must be a U.S citizen, registered as a full-time undergraduate student in an accredited U.S. college or university, and maintain a grade point average of 3.3 or higher OR be in the top 5% of students in their class, and be in exceptional financial need. March 3rd is the application deadline, and March 31st is the deadline for letters of recommendation to be submitted.
Choosing an Accredited College
When you are choosing a college there are many aspects to consider including affordability, academic excellence, and program choice. Accreditation is an extremely important aspect that you should consider for a variety of reasons, especially since it will affect the financial aid you can receive and even the job that you could get upon graduating. Accreditation is one element of your college decision that you should not take lightly. If the institution you attend does not have the proper accreditation, then you could be subject to several disadvantages, including:
- Disqualification from employer tuition assistance
- Inability to transfer credits
- Lack of prerequisites for graduate school
- Disadvantages for employment
Online vs. On-Campus vs. Hybrid
Since we are living in the age of technology, it is only natural that there are options to take your college courses online. But don't forget that there's still the brick-and-mortar campus option, or even a hybrid option that combines the best of both worlds. Now, if you are just graduating from high school, then you might be more comfortable in an on-campus type setting where you will be able to have face-to-face communication with your instructors and ask questions. This affords you the option to live on campus, or if you happen to already live near campus, you can live at home while attending on-campus classes.
If you work part-time, or have a family to take care of, online classes may be a better option for you. Online classes give you the flexibility you need to juggle your busy life and earn your degree at the same time. Online courses are often cheaper, and you also get to save money on room and board, all while choosing when you want to study and where.
A hybrid is a unique program that offers both options. In this program, you will mainly be studying online, but you will still be required to visit the campus for residencies, testing, and networking opportunities.
Does the College Have Post-Graduate Job Placement Help & Assistance?
Many colleges offer career services and job placement programs to help you get on the fast track to employment. Although you may assume that all colleges offer this service, some don't provide as much assistance as you are led to believe. The best programs for post-graduate assistance include help with job placement both before graduation and continued support as you advance in your career. These programs can also assist you in preparing your resume so it maintains a competitive edge on the job market, work with you as you prepare for job interviews, and advise you on your job performance.
Why You Need to Consider How Rating/Accreditation Can Affect Your Salary
Did you know that your salary is not always just based on what level of degree you received, but it also could be based on what school you attended? Many employers actually have their own rankings and rating systems of schools. That is to say, if you received your degree from a college that was accredited by a low rated agency, your salary may actually be decreased by a certain percentage where a high-ranked, well-known, accredited school, can raise that mark significantly.