Studying Health Science

I’m interested in studying health science. What can you tell me?

Health science is the combination of several sciences that deal with human health. Subjects such as biochemistry, genetics, public health and medicine contribute to health science. Health science is a good field for people who are curious, critical thinkers and who enjoy helping other people. Some health science professionals conduct research to gain knowledge of health and other health science professionals apply that knowledge to prevent and treat disease. There are many health science professions to choose from. Some require many years of education but other professions take less than 2 years of training to qualify for an entry-level job. Careers in health science generally pay well and many positions offer regular hours, although some professions will require you to be on call or to work rotating shifts. Many of the jobs are physically demanding, since you may have to stand for long hours and lift or turn patients or equipment. If you decide to study health science, you can choose from general undergraduate degree programs in health science and many specialized education programs. With a general degree in health science you will be able to work in healthcare administration or advocacy. You can also use a general health science degree as a foundation for advanced study in a specialized area, such as biochemistry or nursing. If you pursue a specialized bachelors degree in an area like public health or health education, you could find a position serving the public or educating people.

Let's hear some other perspectives

An Interview with Kristeena Stiles

Kristeena Stiles

Student, Associate of Applied Science with Specialization in Healthcare Records,University of Phoenix

“Although I don’t know a lot about my classmates, I can say that they come from very diverse backgrounds. In my classes, there are people over the age of 50 getting their first degree and there are people as young as 18 who came to University of Phoenix just out of high school.”Read the Full Interview

An Interview with Jonathan Post

Jonathan Post

Student, Master of Public Health with Concentration in Health Promotion,University of Texas Health Science Center

“I have realized that it is very important to accept the overwhelming workload as part of the graduate school experience.”Read the Full Interview

An Interview with Thomas P. Bukoskey

Thomas P. Bukoskey

Associate Professor of Physical Therapy,University in Forth Worth, TX

“I would tell a student that an interest in science and a desire to do good should be to main motivating factors for entry into the field of physical therapy.”Read the Full Interview

Health Scientist Overview

Nutritionist,Liann SunquistWatch Her Story
video

What exactly is a health science professional?

Health science professionals work to improve people’s health. Some of them do so by working with patients to prevent and treat disease. Some conduct research to gain new knowledge about how the body works. A degree or training in health science can lead to many careers, which can be grouped into 5 broad categories:

Medical Practitioners

Medical practitioners work with patients and are usually in charge of certain kinds of care for their patients. For example, a family doctor may be in charge of a patient’s overall health while a surgeon directs the surgical procedure that the patient is undergoing. Dentists are in charge of their patients’ teeth and oral health. Physical therapists treat their patients’ ability to move and perform functional activities.

Medical Technicians and Technologists

Medical technicians and technologists provide support to medical practitioners by performing a variety of tasks like setting controls on equipment, preparing patients for procedures and collecting samples of body fluid. Surgical technologists assist during surgery, while x ray images are produced by x ray techs. When doctors request laboratory tests, these are conducted by clinical lab technicians and technologists.

Medical Researchers

Medical researchers seek to understand and find cures for human disease by conducting laboratory experiments and investigating new technologies. They may or may not interact with patients. Medical researchers discover new drugs and develop devices such as artificial organs. They work in universities, hospitals, nonprofit research organizations, government facilities, pharmaceutical companies and biotechnology companies. Most medical researchers’ time is spent in a laboratory.

Healthcare Administrators

Healthcare administrators manage the delivery of healthcare by handling personnel, billing, facility operations and patient admissions. At the highest level are hospital executives who oversee all of the departments in a hospital. Individual hospital departments are run by clinical managers. Within these departments, medical records clerks work with patients’ charts and electronic health records.

Health Educators

Health educators provide instruction and educational materials for health-related topics. They also organize events such as health screenings. They work in a variety of settings including healthcare facilities, educational facilities and local government agencies. Health educators may work one-on-one with patients or organize and teach groups of people.

Let's hear some other perspectives

An Interview with Travis Motley

Travis Motley

Sports Trainer,Impact Strength Performance

“To be honest, what you learn in an internship will be many times more valuable than what you learn out of a textbook. Take your education seriously, but also realize that practical experience in the sport training field is the best kind of preparation for your career.”Read the Full Interview

An Interview with Dawn Spittler

Dawn Spittler

Nurse,Manchester, IA

“The most enjoyable part of nursing is that I am constantly learning.”Read the Full Interview

Personality Quiz

How do I know if health science would be a good fit for me?

Here is a quick quiz to help you decide if you have the personality it takes to succeed as a health science professional. Rate, on a scale from 1 to 5, how well each of the following statements describes you.

I enjoy helping others.

Health science professionals are engaged in work that helps others. Even if you do not work with patients directly, caring about people’s wellbeing will motivate you as a health science professional.

I am curious and enjoy solving puzzles.

Many health science professionals must analyze patient health information and laboratory data to figure out the best solutions to health problems. If you enjoy solving puzzles, health science may be a good fit for you.

I pay attention to details.

Close attention to detail is important in many aspects of health science. As a health science professional, you may need to follow clinical procedures and be aware of subtle changes in test results.

I enjoy teaching and leading others.

Health science educators teach classes, medical practitioners explain medical conditions to patients and public health workers create educational programs. As a health science professional, teaching will be an important part of your work.

I enjoy working on group projects.

Health science professionals often work as part of a team. You will need to communicate with other health professionals about patient care, administrative matters or the management of health programs.

I am sensitive to the feelings and needs of others.

Medical practitioners, health educators and patient advocates must be aware of the emotions of individuals and their families as they receive health information. If you are sensitive to other people, you may be well suited to health science.

I enjoy interacting with people from different backgrounds.

Patients and communities have a variety of cultural and ethnic backgrounds. To provide healthcare, education or other health services to people, you will need to be comfortable interacting with diverse populations.

I am a good communicator.

Clear communication is essential in coordinating patient care, communicating research findings, giving instructions and managing employees. If you are a good communicator, it will help you in your daily tasks as a health science professional.

I function well under pressure.

Working in the health science field can be stressful because your work can directly affect the quality of people’s lives. If you are not able to function well in stressful situations, health science may not be a good choice for you.

I enjoy working with numbers.

Health science often involves working with numerical data about patients, experimental results, populations or medical billing and finance. To succeed in many health science professions, you must be able to understand and interpret numbers.

Get My Score

*Note that this is not a scientific quiz. The result is simply my rough estimate of how well I believe your personality matches that of a successful health science professional.

By my assessment, a career in health science is probably not a good fit for your personality. Please go to the Admissions Advisor homepage for a listing of other careers you may want to consider.

By my assessment, although a career in health science may not be an ideal fit for your personality, if you are willing to adapt in a few areas, you can still find success in the field. Please see the list to the right for information on the areas that you may need to work on.

By my assessment, your personality is a good fit for a career in health science. Scroll through our site to gain valuable insight into what it will take you to earn the necessary credentials.

Making the Right Choice

Is there anything else I should consider in deciding if health science is the right choice for me?

In deciding whether a career in health science is the right choice for you, you should consider what kind of degree you want to earn and your willingness to consent to a background check and drug testing.

Degree Options

There are many types of degrees offered in health science. You can get a bachelors degree in health science, which would lead to a job in healthcare administration or community health education. You can also continue your studies with a specialized graduate degree and become a medical practitioner or researcher, or work in public health. Another approach is to start with a specialized degree in 1 area of health science. For example, there are associates and bachelors degrees that will specifically train you to work as an x ray tech or surgical technologist.

Background Check and Drug Testing

Some health science jobs and training programs require a background check, drug testing or both. In many training programs, even if you are admitted to the program and have completed your coursework, you will not be allowed to complete the clinical portion of your training in a hospital or clinic if you do not pass a background check or drug test. A background check is a review of both confidential and public information to investigate a person’s history. The information reviewed may include:

• History of drug use
• Criminal history
• History of child abuse
• Driving record
• Past work performance
• Credit history

Psychology Professions

What health science professions can I choose from?

A majority of students who pursue health science degrees eventually continue their education in other related fields. Below is a listing not only of the professions you can pursue with a health science degree, but also of the professions you can pursue after obtaining supplemental education.

Education Required:

Certificate or associates in surgical technology (9 months – 2 years)

Average Salary:

$38,740 (Lowest 10% earned less than $27,510; highest 10% earned more than $54,300)

Work Environment:

Hospitals, doctor’s offices, medical clinics

Job Description:

Surgical technologists, sometimes called scrubs or operating room technicians, assist doctors and nurses in surgical operations. They help prepare the operating room and patient before an operation. Surgical technologists assist during surgery by passing and holding instruments and operating equipment. After a surgical operation, they bring the patient to a recovery room and clean the operating room.

Education Required:

Certificate, associates or bachelors in radiography (2 – 4 years)

Average Salary:

$52,210 (Lowest 10% earned less than $35,100; highest 10% earned more than $74,970)

Work Environment:

Hospitals, doctor’s offices, medical clinics, medical and diagnostic laboratories

Job Description:

X ray techs, also known as radiographers and radiology technicians, produce x ray films called radiographs that doctors use to diagnose medical problems. They prepare patients for x ray examinations, position the equipment to image the body parts of interest, and operate the x ray machine. X ray technicians must follow instructions from doctors and rules about how to safely use radiation.

Education Required:

Certificate or associates in clinical laboratory technology (1 – 2 years)

Average Salary:

$35,380 (Lowest 10% earned less than $23,480; highest 10% earned more than $53,520)

Work Environment:

Hospitals, doctor’s offices, medical clinics, medical and diagnostic laboratories

Job Description:

Clinical laboratory technicians, also known as medical technicians, perform laboratory procedures to analyze samples from patients’ bodies. They prepare specimens and operate equipment under the supervision of a laboratory technologist or a laboratory manager. Some technicians specialize in a particular type of sample such as preparing tissue samples for microscope slides.

Education Required:

Doctor of medicine (4 years of medical school) plus internship and residency (3 – 8 years)

Average Salary:

$186,044

Work Environment:

Hospitals, private practice, medical clinics

Job Description:

Medical doctors care for patients by diagnosing illnesses and prescribing treatments. They examine patients, evaluate their medical histories and order medical tests. They provide patients with advice and education about their conditions. A medical doctor works in 1 or more specialties. For example, pediatricians care for the health of children and young adults. And anesthesiologists provide pain relief and monitor the vital signs of patients during surgery.

Education Required:

Masters (2 – 2.5 years of graduate school) or doctorate (3 years of graduate school) in physical therapy

Average Salary:

$72,790 (Lowest 10% earned less than $50,350; highest 10% earned more than $104,350)

Work Environment:

Hospitals, nursing homes, home healthcare services, doctor’s offices, outpatient clinics

Job Description:

Physical therapists, sometimes called PTs, diagnose and treat people who have difficulty moving and performing functional activities in their daily lives. Physical therapists treat people of all ages who have injuries from accidents or who have medical conditions like cerebral palsy. They help their patients do exercises and stretches and teach their patients ways to improve their mobility. Physical therapists also use specialized equipment to treat patients by stimulating their muscles or stretching ligaments.

Education Required:

Bachelors (4 years) or masters (2 – 3 years of graduate school) in biomedical engineering

Average Salary:

$77,400 (Lowest 10% earned less than $47,640; highest 10% earned more than $121,970)

Work Environment:

Research laboratories, industrial plants

Job Description:

Biomedical engineers create devices to solve medical problems. Some examples of these devices are artificial organs, prosthetics for people who have lost a limb and pumps to automatically inject insulin for people who are diabetic. Biomedical engineers also develop medical instruments, medical information systems and health management systems. Most bioengineers have training in mechanical or electronic engineering as well as in biomedical engineering.

Education Required:

Bachelors (4 years) or masters (2 – 3 years of graduate school) in health administration

Average Salary:

$80,240 (Lowest 10% earned less than $48,300; highest 10% earned more than $137,800)

Work Environment:

Hospitals, doctor’s offices, nursing homes, medical clinics

Job Description:

Healthcare managers, also known as healthcare administrators or healthcare executives, manage the business of healthcare facilities. Their duties vary, depending on whether they are in charge of a specific clinical department or an entire facility. In a small doctor’s office, 1 health administrator oversees several areas such as personnel, billing, budgeting and patient flow. In a larger practice, 1 health administrator might oversee each of those areas.

Education Required:

Bachelors (4 years) or masters (2 – 3 years of graduate school) in health education

Average Salary:

$44,000 (Lowest 10% earned less than $26,210; highest 10% earned more than $78,260)

Work Environment:

Hospitals, medical clinics, elementary and secondary schools, colleges and universities, public health departments, nonprofit organizations, corporate businesses

Job Description:

Health educators inform individuals and communities about health-related topics. For example, health educators in colleges and universities may organize events for students about sexual activity and alcohol use. Health educators in cancer clinics may work with individual patients and their families to explain their diagnoses. In state and local government, health educators work in public health departments on programs such as educating children and their families about proper dental care or providing information to help people quit smoking.

Job Outlook

What is the job outlook for health science professionals?

The job outlook for health science professionals is generally good. Some jobs in the field have very good or excellent job outlooks. The job outlooks by category follow:

Medical Practitioners

Job opportunities for medical practitioners will range from good to very good. Doctors job opportunities will also be very good. Employment for doctors is expected to grow at a rate of 22%, which is much faster than the average for all occupations, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics employment projections for physicians and surgeons. For physical therapists, job opportunities will be good with a predicted employment growth of 30%. For both doctors and physical therapists, job opportunities will be especially good in rural and low-income areas, and in settings and specialties where elderly patients are often treated.

Medical Technicians and Technologists

The job outlook for medical technicians and technologists ranges from good to excellent. The Bureau of Labor Statistics job projections for surgical technologists predict that jobs will grow at a rate of 25%, which is much faster than the average for all professions. Medical and clinical laboratory technicians will have excellent job prospects. Employment data for clinical laboratory technicians predict job growth of 16% and more job openings than there are qualified job seekers. Jobs for x ray techs, also known as radiologic technicians, will also grow faster than average. Radiologic technician job projections also suggest that employment will increase by 17%.

Medical Researchers

The job outlook for medical researchers is excellent. Biomedical engineers are expected to have a job growth of 72%, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics projections for biomedical engineer employment. For medical scientists, the job outlook is very good but not as good as it has been in the past. Jobs are expected to increase by 40%, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics medical scientists employment projections. This rate is much faster than the average for all other professions.

Healthcare Administrative Professionals

Healthcare administrative professionals have a job outlook that ranges from good to very good. Healthcare managers will have good job prospects. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projections for healthcare manager jobs predict a job increase of 16%. Medical records clerks will have very good job prospects with a 20% increase in jobs. Job openings are expected to result from clerks who retire or leave the occupation.

Health Educators

Job prospects should be favorable for health educators. Employment growth of 18% is expected, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics projections for health educator jobs. This rate of growth is faster than the average for all professions. Health educators with experience in internships or volunteer jobs will have better job prospects.
Profession Employment 2010 Projected 2020 Average Growth
Advanced Practice Psychiatric Nurse 2737400 3449300 26%
Clinical Research Coordinator 49300 53100 8%
Anesthesiologist Assistant 83600 108300 30%
Audiologist 13000 17800 37%
Biological Scientist 35800 38000 6%
Biologist 35800 38000 6%
Biomedical Engineer 15700 25400 62%
Cardiovascular Technologist Or Technician 49400 63900 29%
Chiropractor 52600 67400 28%
Clinical Data Manager 25100 28600 14%
Clinical Nurse Specialist 2737400 3449300 26%
Clinical Psychologist 154300 188000 22%
Clinical, Counseling, Or School Psychologist 154300 188000 22%
Community Health Worker 121300 147700 22%
Counseling Psychologist 154300 188000 22%
Counselor 31600 38400 21%
Critical Care Nurse 2737400 3449300 26%
Cytogenetic Technologist 169400 188600 11%
Cytotechnologist 169400 188600 11%
Dental Assistant 297200 388900 31%
Dental Hygienist 181800 250300 38%
Dental Laboratory Technician 40900 41200 1%
Dentists Specialist 7800 8700 12%
Dentist 130700 158300 21%
Diagnostic Medical Sonographer 53700 77100 44%
Acute Care Nurse 2737400 3449300 26%

Average Salary Growth 2006 - 2011

Profession 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011
Health Specialties Teacher 91260 95440 102000 103340 103960 99210
Advanced Practice Psychiatric Nurse 59730 62480 65130 66530 67720 69110
Clinical Research Coordinator 107970 113170 123140 127000 129320 128230
Anesthesiologist Assistant 74270 77800 81610 84830 87140 89470
Anesthesiologist 184340 192780 197570 211750 220100 234950
Audiologist 61110 63660 65500 66850 69840 71000
Biological Scientist 63560 66240 68030 69430 71310 73050
Biologist 63560 66240 68030 69430 71310 73050
Biomedical Engineer 78030 79610 81120 82550 84780 88360
Cardiovascular Technologist Or Technician 43990 46530 48640 49730 50720 52160
Chiropractor 81070 81390 81340 80390 79820 78780
Clinical Data Manager 69080 72150 74790 75220 76070 77280
Clinical Nurse Specialist 59730 62480 65130 66530 67720 69110
Clinical Psychologist 66110 68150 70190 72310 72540 73090
Allergist Or Immunologist 142220 155150 165000 173860 180870 184650
Clinical, Counseling, Or School Psychologist 66110 68150 70190 72310 72540 73090
Community Health Worker 37410 38590 39950 40530 41250 41250
Counseling Psychologist 66110 68150 70190 72310 72540 73090
Counselor 40280 40710 42240 44400 44380 44850
Critical Care Nurse 59730 62480 65130 66530 67720 69110
Cytogenetic Technologist 50550 52410 54050 55620 56870 58120
Cytotechnologist 50550 52410 54050 55620 56870 58120
Dental Assistant 30850 32280 33170 34000 34140 34740
Dental Hygienist 62430 64910 66950 67860 68680 69760
Dental Laboratory Technician 34910 35850 36990 37690 37980 38550
Dentists Specialist 108340 120360 142070 153570 162190 168000
Dentist 140950 147010 154270 156850 158770 161750
Dermatologist 142220 155150 165000 173860 180870 184650
Diagnostic Medical Sonographer 58110 60590 62660 63640 64900 65800
Acute Care Nurse 59730 62480 65130 66530 67720 69110

Salary By Percentile

Profession 10th 25th 50th 75th 90th
Health Specialties Teacher $39210 $53560 $79860 $126130 $187200
Advanced Practice Psychiatric Nurse $44970 $53770 $65950 $80390 $96630
Clinical Research Coordinator $64180 $88040 $114770 $154620 $187200
Anesthesiologist Assistant $60690 $76370 $88660 $104890 $120060
Anesthesiologist $143000 $187200 $187200 $187200 $187200
Audiologist $43000 $55080 $68390 $83540 $101200
Biological Scientist $40100 $54450 $70790 $85050 $106320
Biologist $40100 $54450 $70790 $85050 $106320
Biomedical Engineer $51380 $64800 $84670 $108540 $134150
Cardiovascular Technologist Or Technician $27430 $36240 $51020 $66310 $79290
Chiropractor $31120 $45770 $66060 $96570 $142570
Clinical Data Manager $39840 $52330 $73880 $97410 $119710
Clinical Nurse Specialist $44970 $53770 $65950 $80390 $96630
Clinical Psychologist $39060 $50820 $67880 $88030 $110410
Allergist Or Immunologist $55190 $112020 $187200 $187200 $187200
Clinical, Counseling, Or School Psychologist $39060 $50820 $67880 $88030 $110410
Community Health Worker $22900 $29720 $37840 $50560 $64710
Counseling Psychologist $39060 $50820 $67880 $88030 $110410
Counselor $23220 $32190 $42030 $56430 $70200
Critical Care Nurse $44970 $53770 $65950 $80390 $96630
Cytogenetic Technologist $39550 $48220 $57010 $68320 $78160
Cytotechnologist $39550 $48220 $57010 $68320 $78160
Dental Assistant $23080 $27950 $34140 $40820 $47420
Dental Hygienist $46020 $56950 $69280 $83310 $94850
Dental Laboratory Technician $21070 $27370 $35590 $46280 $59360
Dentists Specialist $81810 $114620 $162260 $187200 $187200
Dentist $74490 $102090 $142740 $187200 $187200
Dermatologist $55190 $112020 $187200 $187200 $187200
Diagnostic Medical Sonographer $44950 $53830 $65210 $76060 $90640
Acute Care Nurse $44970 $53770 $65950 $80390 $96630

Education Requirements

How long would it take me to become a health science professional?

Depending on the profession, it can take as little as 9 months to become a health science professional or as long as 17 years. Most positions as technicians take 1 to 2 years to qualify for, since you must obtain a certificate or associates degree. It usually takes 4 years to become a technologist, since a bachelors degree is required. Becoming an administrator or an educator often takes 6 years, since a masters degree is usually required.

The longest career path is becoming a researcher or a doctor. Becoming a medical doctor takes 11 to 16 years. You would complete a bachelors degree, an MD, an internship and a residency in a medical specialty such as pediatrics, internal medicine or surgery. Becoming a medical scientist takes 14 to 17 years. In this time you would obtain a bachelors degree, complete an MD-PhD program in a biomedical science field and conclude your training with a postdoctoral position as a junior researcher with an advisor.

Areas of Study

What can I expect to learn while pursuing health science?

While pursuing an education in health science, you can expect to grow in both knowledge and skills.

KNOWLEDGE

Epidemiology

Epidemiology is the study of how diseases are caused, distributed and controlled. Descriptive epidemiology characterizes disease outbreaks. Analytical epidemiology searches for causes or factors that are associated with a higher likelihood of disease. Field epidemiology helps in developing and evaluating interventions to control and prevent health problems. In addition to infectious disease, epidemiology includes the study of chronic disease, environmental problems and injuries.

Environmental Health

Environmental health studies the impact of our surroundings on human health. Diseases such as asthma and cancer can be caused by environmental risk factors. Environmental health is often divided into categories by natural elements such as air quality and water quality, and by manmade elements such as housing quality and hazardous waste management. The fields of chemistry, toxicology and engineering contribute knowledge to environmental health.

Medical Ethics

Medical ethics is the application of values to the practice of medicine. The precept “First, do no harm,” which is taught in medical schools, is a simple example of medical ethics. Medical ethics also deals with complex issues such as patient privacy, end-of-life care and informed consent for treatment. Other issues in medical ethics are similar to ethics in other professions, for example, professional boundaries and conflicts of interest.

Human Growth and Development

The study of human growth and development in healthcare examines how people’s health needs and abilities change over their lifespan. Behavior or lack of ability that is typical at 1 stage of life may be a sign of disease at another stage of life. Human growth and development covers physical, mental and social concerns at life stages from infancy to old age. This field also examines differences in individuals caused by culture, religion, physical variation and personality. A growing concern in healthcare is the physical and mental health of the aged, known as geriatrics.

Healthcare Systems

The study of healthcare systems examines how healthcare is regulated and delivered to patients in multiple settings. Components of a healthcare system include personnel, hospitals, government, payment mechanisms and managed care. Some healthcare systems that can be examined and compared are the U.S. healthcare system, socialized medicine and military healthcare.

SKILLS

Healthcare Information Systems

While studying health science, you will learn about how healthcare information systems are organized and how to use them. Healthcare information systems store electronic health records, which contain information about patients. Some common issues in healthcare information systems are computer and network requirements, privacy and the role of information systems in making medical decisions.

Public Speaking

As you progress through your education in health science, you will have opportunities to practice and improve your public speaking. Courses in public speaking will teach you basic skills. During an internship, practicum or clinical training you will also be able to practice public speaking in a health-related setting as you interact with patients, administrators or members of the community.

Written Communication

Your health science curriculum will teach you how to communicate clearly in writing. English composition and professional writing courses will build foundational writing skills. As you progress through your education, you will have many opportunities to improve your written communication skills by writing research papers and reports for courses in science and policy.

Medical Terminology

As you study health science, you will learn medical terminology. The field of healthcare uses specialized terminology that relate to parts of the body, diseases and measurements. Use of medical terminology is important in practicing and assisting with medical care, conducting laboratory tests and understanding medical research. Medical terminology is also used in preparing medical billing and insurance coding information.

Statistical Analysis

Your coursework in health science will include statistical analysis. You will learn how to perform statistical tests to determine if values are significantly different. Health science uses statistical correlation and regression to determine if factors are related. For example, statistics can be used to determine if a disease occurs more often in a particular group of the population than it does in the population as a whole. You will also gain the basic statistical literacy needed to understand research papers.

Academic Degrees

What academic levels are available in the field of health science?

The academic levels available in health science are the associates, bachelors, masters and doctoral degrees. Most technician jobs require an associates degree. Working as a health educator, healthcare manager and research coordinator usually requires a bachelors degree. Some jobs in healthcare administration, public health and health education will also require a masters degree. And doctoral degrees in health science are required for careers in academia, research and high-level leadership positions.

Select the degree level you are interested in:

  • Associate’s
  • Bachelor’s
  • Master’s
  • Doctorate

Associates Degree

Associates degrees in health science can offer marketable skills and preparation for more advanced study. Associate of Applied Science (AAS) degrees are offered for professions such as licensed practical nurse, pharmacy technician, physical therapist assistant and surgical technician. Associate of Arts (AA) and Associate of Science (AS) degrees often offer coursework tracks to prepare students for future studies in fields such as nursing, dental hygiene or physical therapy.

What are the different types of associates degrees that I can earn health science?

Associate of Arts AA

An AA degree provides an introduction to the field of health science with broad exposure to classes in the liberal arts and humanities. This degree is intended for students who plan to transfer into a bachelors degree program.

Associate of Applied Science AAS

An AAS degree in health science focuses on the most practical aspects of the career. This option is a good choice for students who want to start working directly after graduation, but it can also be used to transfer into a bachelors degree program.

Associate of Science AS

An AS degree provides introductory study in health science with a course focus on social and physical sciences. This option is intended for students who plan to transfer into a bachelors degree program.

How long will I have to study to earn my associates degree in health science?

An associates degree in health science typically takes 2 years to complete and requires 60 credit hours.

What types of courses will I take while studying for my associates degree in health science?

While studying for your associates degree in health science, you can expect to take general education courses, health science core courses and health science electives. Health science core courses in an AA degree program include subjects such as psychology, chemistry and human anatomy and physiology. In an AS degree program, core courses include subjects such as medical terminology, medical law and ethics and epidemiology. The courses in an AAS degree program are related to job skills for a particular profession. For example, an AAS program for physical therapist assistants requires coursework in anatomy and physiology, pathology and physical therapy modalities.

What types of jobs can I hope to secure with an associates degree in health science?

With an associates degree in health science, you can secure a job as a records clerk or a medical technician. You can also transfer into a bachelors degree program in general health science or a specialized bachelors degree program. To qualify for a job as a medical technician, your associates degree must be awarded in a specific area of practice. Associates degree programs can prepare you for jobs such as:

• Radiographer, also known as x ray tech
• Emergency medical technician (EMT)
• Clinical laboratory technician
• Nurse
• Dental hygienist
• Physical therapist assistant
• Surgical technologist

What should I consider when deciding upon a school to earn my associates degree in health science?

In general, when deciding upon a school to earn an associates degree in health science, you will need to consider what you plan to do with the degree. If you intend to begin work directly after obtaining you associates degree, you will want to choose a program that meets the requirements for licensing and professional certification in that profession. If you are planning to transfer into a bachelors degree program, make sure that the 4-year colleges you are interested in will accept transfer credits from your associates degree.

If you want to become a surgical technologist, look for a training program accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP). Graduation from a CAAHEP-accredited program will allow you to earn a professional certification, which will help you to qualify for jobs.

If you are considering an associates degree in radiography to become an x ray tech, choose a training program accredited by the Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology (JRCERT). Radiography programs accredited by JRCERT meet commonly accepted standards for the radiology professions and meet the educational portion of state licensing requirements.

If you plan to become a medical or clinical laboratory technician, look for a training program accredited by the National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences.

What about getting an online associates degree in health science?

If you are interested in pursuing an associates degree in general health science, getting an online health science associates degree may not be a bad option. There will not be any major drawbacks to pursuing your health science associates degree online as a broad introduction to the field of health science. However, if you are interested in pursuing an associates degree to enter a specialized career in health science, you may not have the option of obtaining your health science degree online. For example, in physical therapist assisting, there are no online health science programs offered.

Bachelors Degree

There are 5 types of bachelors degrees available in health science. The type of bachelors degree that you earn is less important than what area of health science the degree program focuses on. Bachelors degrees in health science can prepare you for careers in health administration, public health or working as a healthcare technician. If you are seeking a general education in health science, the Bachelor of Health Sciences (BHS) is a good option.

What are the different types of bachelors degrees that I can earn in health science?

Bachelor of Arts BA

The BA degree has a social services and public policy orientation. Some schools offer programs in health administration and public health policy as BA degrees.

Bachelor of Science BS

The BS has a science orientation. Many health science subjects are offered as BS degrees, for example, health education, radiography, sonography, nuclear medicine, health administration or clinical laboratory science.

Bachelor of Health Sciences BHS

The BHS, also known as a Bachelor of Science in Health Science, provides a basic education in health science and health administration. This option is a good choice for students who are interested in healthcare administration, sales or social services. It can also prepare students for professional and graduate programs.

Bachelor of Public Health BPH

The BPH, also known as a Bachelor of Science in Public Health, prepares students for careers in public health, environmental health, health administration, epidemiology or health policy.

Bachelor of Health Administration BHA

The BHA degree provides a basic education in administration and management of healthcare services. This option is a good choice for students who want to work in healthcare administration.

How long will I have to study to earn my bachelors degree in health science?

It typically takes 4 years and 120 credit hours to complete a bachelors degree in health science.

What types of courses will I take while studying for my bachelors degree in health science?

The types of courses that you will take while studying for your bachelors degree in health science depend on the focus of the degree. A BHS or general degree in health science will require core courses in biology, chemistry, anatomy, physiology and microbiology. You can also expect to take courses in psychology, medical ethics and global health issues. Students may choose to take electives that prepare them for courses that are prerequisites for graduate degrees in fields such as medicine, nursing or public health. Some programs include an internship during the final year at a healthcare facility.

If you pursue a degree in public health science, you can expect to take courses in general public health, epidemiology, environmental health and infectious diseases. A degree in public health policy will include courses in policy, law and political science. Most public health programs include a practicum at a public health agency or nonprofit organization.

A bachelors degree in health administration will require courses in general administrative subjects such as human resources, accounting and financial management as well as more specialized courses in healthcare organization and health information systems.

If you pursue a bachelors degree in a healthcare specialization, the courses that you take will be tailored to a specific career. For example, a program in nuclear medicine technology will involve courses in biology, chemistry, physics, anatomy and physiology. The fourth year of the program provides education in a clinical setting with hands-on study of radiopharmacy, radiobiology, radiation safety and patient care.

What types of jobs can I hope to secure with a bachelors degree in health science?

With a bachelors degree in general health science, you can qualify for jobs as a laboratory technician, patient advocate, community health educator, healthcare manager or clinical research coordinator. You can also pursue work in pharmaceutical sales or the medical insurance industry. You can also continue your education by applying to a graduate degree program in medicine, dentistry, occupational therapy, physical therapy, nursing, physician assistance or public health.

With a bachelors degree in health administration, you can become a healthcare manager for a group practice of doctors or work in hospital administration. A bachelors degree in public health will prepare you for jobs in public health departments and nonprofit organizations. There are many other bachelors degree programs that will qualify you for a specific type of job in health science, such as health education or radiography.

What should I consider when deciding upon a school to earn my bachelors degree in health science?

In deciding upon a school to earn your bachelors degree in health science, consider the type of job you plan to hold after graduation. Investigate whether this type of job requires state licensing or professional certification. If it does, make sure that you choose a program that meets the educational portion of the requirements for licensing or professional certification. If you plan to continue your education with an advanced degree, consider whether the bachelors degree program will allow you to meet the admissions requirements for the advanced degree. Most advanced degree programs require a bachelors degree from an accredited college or university. To check the accreditation of a school, use the Database of Accredited Post-secondary Institutions and Programs maintained by the U.S. Department of Education.

If you want to pursue a degree in a specific area of health science, there may be a specialized accreditation agency that accredits these bachelors degree programs. For example, if you want to earn a bachelors degree in radiography, which is also called x ray technology, make sure the degree programs that you consider are accredited by the Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology (JRCERT). JRCERT-accredited degree programs meet commonly accepted standards for the radiology professions and will satisfy the educational requirement for state licensing.

If you are considering a bachelors degree in health administration, make sure that the school you choose is accredited by the Association of University Programs in Health Administration (AUPHA). For a bachelors degree in health information management, look for a program that is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Health Informatics and Information Management Education (CAHIIM). CAHIIM-accredited programs and AUPHA-accredited programs meet commonly accepted standards for the health administration profession.

In deciding on a school to earn a bachelors degree in biomedical engineering, look for programs accredited by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET). ABET-accredited degree programs meet commonly accepted standards for engineering professions.

What about getting an online bachelors degree in health science?

Obtaining your health science bachelors degree online is not generally recommended. Careers in health science require interpersonal skills, physical skills or both. An online health science program will not offer you the opportunity to learn skills in dealing with patients and their families, hiring and motivating employees and providing education to the public. You will also not be able to learn the skills that you need to perform medical procedures on patients in an online health science school.

One exception is the bachelors degree in health information management. Since this type of program focuses on managing electronic health records, an online health science bachelors degree is an acceptable choice.

Masters Degree

Many careers in health science require a masters degree for advancement or for broader job prospects. Some states require health educators who work in schools to hold a masters degree. A masters degree in public health is required to work in most public health departments. Many health science professionals who are preparing for promotion will pursue a masters degree to gain credentials and education in administration.

What are the different types of masters degrees that I can earn in health science?

Master of Education MEd

The MEd is a professional degree emphasizing applied research in education. The MEd in health education prepares students to work as health educators in a variety of settings.

Master of Science MS

The MS degree provides advanced education in science, with an emphasis on research. The MS in Public Health (MSPH) is similar to the MPH but requires a research project.

Master of Health Science MHS

The MHS prepares students for advancement from clinical jobs to managerial and educational positions. Some MHS programs are offered to any student with a background in healthcare. Other programs are specific to professionals in a discipline, such as occupational therapy or rehabilitation therapy.

Master of Health Administration MHA

The MHA provides advanced education in administration and management of healthcare services. This option is a good choice for students seeking employment or advancement in healthcare administration.

Master of Public Health MPH

The MPH prepares students for careers or advancement in public health, environmental health, health administration, epidemiology or health policy.

How long will I have to study to earn my masters degree in health science?

In general, completing a masters degree in health science takes 2 to 3 years. Programs vary in requirements from 30 to 60 credit hours.

What types of courses will I take while studying for my masters degree in health science?

While studying for your masters degree in health science, you can look forward to advanced coursework in your specialty.

MPH programs require courses in biostatistics, environmental health, epidemiology, behavioral science and healthcare systems. In an MHA program, you can look forward to courses in healthcare policy, management, finance and accounting. In addition to coursework, MHA and MPA programs require a supervised experience working in the field of study. This experience may be called a residency, practicum, internship or field experience, depending on the program. MHA and MPA programs do not generally require a thesis.

MHS programs and MS programs in general health science require courses in science and statistics, as well as courses in a concentration such as biostatistics, health services or aging studies. A special project may be required in an MHS program. In an MS program, coursework will include research design and research methods. A thesis based on original research will also be required.

In an MEd program, you will take courses in the planning and development of education programs, educational techniques and educational research issues and design. Depending on the program, a thesis may or may not be required.

What types of jobs can I hope to secure with a masters degree in health science?

With a masters degree in health science, you can work as a healthcare manager or administrator, a health educator or a public health professional. Public health professionals work in public health departments as policy analysts, food safety inspectors and epidemiologists. They also work in health advocacy, policy and research for nonprofit organizations. Healthcare managers and administrators work in hospitals, group medical practices, health insurance companies and government. Health educators work in schools, college and university campuses, companies, hospitals and community organizations.

You can also continue your education with a doctoral degree in your field or a related field. For example, after obtaining an MPH you can continue to a PhD in public health. Or you can pursue a PhD in microbiology to study disease vectors.

What should I consider when deciding upon a school to earn my masters degree in health science?

If you are considering a masters degree in health administration, make sure that the program you choose is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Health Informatics and Information Management Education (CAHIIM) or the Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Management Education (CAHME). Programs accredited by CAHIIM and programs accredited by CAHME meet commonly accepted standards for the health administration profession.

If you are considering a masters degree in public health, choose a school or program accredited by the Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH). Graduation from a school or program accredited by CEPH is required for some jobs and fellowships.

If you are considering a masters degree in biomedical engineering, you should choose a program accredited by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET). Graduation from an ABET-accredited degree program tells prospective employers that your education meets commonly accepted standards for the engineering professions. A degree from an ABET-accredited program is also helpful for licensing as a Professional Engineer (PE). As of 2012, biomedical engineers do not need to be licensed, but this may change.

Physical therapy masters degree programs should be accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE). Completion of a CAPTE-accredited program is required in order to be licensed as a physical therapist.

What are the requirements for admission into a masters degree program in health science?

Most masters degree programs in health science require a bachelors degree. However, MPH programs may require a doctoral degree or 2 years of full-time work experience related to public health.

What about getting an online masters degree in health science?

Whether it is a good idea to pursue a health science masters degree online depends on the orientation and purpose of the degree. An online health science masters degree with an orientation toward policy or administration is an acceptable option, especially for a busy professional who is already working in the field of study and needs additional knowledge and skills for advancement. For specializations in clinical practice such as physical therapy, an online health science degree is not an option. Jobs in physical therapy require knowledge of hands-on techniques, and for that reason online health science masters degrees in physical therapy are not offered.

Doctorate

Doctoral degrees in health science can prepare students for careers in health science research or for high-level positions in professional practice. The Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) degree is the minimum requirement for many jobs in research and academia. Other health science doctorates are designed for experienced professionals in public health and health education.

What are the different types of doctorates that I can earn in health science?

Doctor of Philosophy PhD

The PhD is a research degree that provides advanced training. Students in PhD programs have the ability to tailor their coursework to their interests more than they do in professional degree programs. PhD programs are available in health science subjects including public health, health education, health policy, health economics and health services.

Doctor of Education EdD

The EdD in health education is a professional degree oriented toward the highest level of professional practice in health education. It differs in focus from the PhD in health education, which focuses on research. This option is a good choice for experienced health educators preparing for high-level positions in health education.

Doctor of Public Health DrPH

The DrPH is a professional degree oriented toward advanced public health practice. Its focus is different from the PhD in public health, which is oriented toward research. The DrPH is intended for experienced public health professionals who are seeking high-level positions in public health policy and administration.

Doctor of Science ScD

The ScD degree is offered by a few schools of public health in the United States. It is equivalent to a PhD. This degree is more commonly awarded in Europe.

How long will I have to study to earn my doctorate in health science?

It takes from 3 to 7 years to complete a doctoral degree in health science. Programs require from 54 to 96 credit hours. Factors affecting the length of time include the specific doctorate program, the student’s other degrees in the field and the research required for the dissertation.

What types of courses will I take while studying for my doctorate in health science?

The courses that you will take in a health science doctorate program depend on the type of degree that you choose to pursue. In a PhD or ScD program, you will take substantial coursework in research methodology and statistics. Additional courses will cover scientific subjects related to the student’s research interests and dissertation. A dissertation is required based on original research.

In an EdD program in health education, you will take courses in epidemiology, theories of health behavior, health communications and planning health education programs. You will also choose electives and complete a dissertation based on an applied research experience.

A DrPH program requires courses in public health law and ethics, leadership, financial management, program development and research. Both a practicum and a dissertation are required. Some dissertations are based on independent research. Others may be based on case studies, policy analyses, program evaluations or design of public health programs.

What types of jobs can I hope to secure with a doctorate in health science?

With a PhD or ScD in health science, you can become a professor or conduct research for a government agency or nonprofit organization. With a DrPH, you can work as a manager, director, advisor, researcher or educator in public health. An EdD will qualify you for jobs administrating health education organizations and setting policies for health education programs.

What should I consider when deciding upon a school to earn my doctorate in health science?

If you are considering a doctorate in public health, make sure that the Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH) accredits the school or program you choose. CEPH accreditation tells you and potential employers that your doctoral program meets commonly accepted standards for public health. In addition, some jobs and fellowships require a degree from a CEPH-accredited school or program.

When choosing a physical therapy doctorate program, make sure each program you consider is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE). In order to become a licensed physical therapist, you will need a degree from a physical therapy degree program accredited by CAPTE.

What are the requirements for admission into a doctorate program in health science?

The admission requirements for a doctoral program in health science depend on the type of program that you apply to. The DrPH and EdD degrees are intended for practicing professionals. Admission to some DrPH programs requires that candidates have an MPH degree from a school accredited by the Council on Education for Public Health and at least 2 years of professional experience in public health. EdD programs require candidates to have completed a masters degree with coursework in health science.

PhD programs vary in their requirements. Some require completion of a masters degree prior to admission. Others only require a bachelors degree.

What about getting an online doctorate in health science?

An online health science doctorate is not a possibility for many subjects in health science. Even if 1 is available in your field of study, it is not a good idea to pursue an online health science PhD. This is because PhD programs require a close relationship with a faculty advisor and knowledge of hands-on research techniques.

For professional doctorates, pursuing a health science doctorate online is more advisable. As of 2012, there are 2 accredited schools offering the DrPH health science doctorate online and no online EdD programs.

Licensing Information

What else should I keep in mind when considering studying health science?

After you complete your education in health science, licensing or professional certification is required to work in many health science jobs.

Surgical Technologist Professional Certification

Surgical technologists are not required to have professional certification, but most employers prefer to hire technologists who do have certification. There are 2 options for certification. The Certified Surgical Technologist (CST) designation is offered by the National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting. And the Tech in Surgery-Certified (TS-C) is offered by the National Center for Competency Testing. To earn either of these certifications, you will need to complete a training program accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) and pass an exam. To earn the TS-C, you can substitute on-the-job training or work experience for the CAAHEP-accredited training program.

X Ray Tech Licensing and Professional Certification

X ray techs, also known as radiology technicians or radiographers, are required to be licensed in most states. Each state has different licensing requirements. The American Society of Radiologic Technologists maintains a list of links to state licensing requirements for x ray techs and other radiology technologists.

The American Registry or Radiologic Technologists (ARRT) offers professional certification to radiology technicians. Professional certification is not required to work as an x ray tech, but 37 states use ARRT exam scores in the process of licensing radiologic technicians. Many x ray technicians obtain professional ARRT certification to help qualify for jobs as well as for state licensing.

Clinical Laboratory Technician Licensing and Professional Certification

Some states require clinical laboratory technicians and other laboratory workers to be licensed. Each state has different requirements. You can learn about your state’s requirements by contacting the department of health or board of occupational licensing.

Professional certification is not required for clinical laboratory technicians, but it can help you to obtain licensing and many employers prefer to hire applicants who have professional certification. Several associations offer professional certification, including the American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP), the American Medical Technologists (AMT) and the American Association of Bioanalysts (AAB). Check with potential employers to see which certification is most valuable in your area.

Medical Doctor Licensing

Medical doctors must be licensed by the state that they work in to practice medicine. Medical scientists who perform medical tasks with patients, such as drawing blood or giving medication, must be licensed medical doctors. All states, U.S. territories and the District of Columbia require licensing applicants to have graduated from an accredited medical school and to pass the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE). You can check with the Federation of State Medical Boards to find out more about the medical licensing requirements in your state.

Physical Therapist Licensing

Physical therapists must be licensed in all states. The requirements vary by state, but typically a physical therapist must graduate from an accredited education program, pass the National Physical Therapy Examination and pass any state exams.

Nursing Home Administrator Licensing

Most healthcare managers and administrators are not required to be licensed. However, all states and the District of Columbia require licensing for administrators in nursing homes. These administrators must have a bachelors degree, pass a licensing examination, complete a state-approved training program and pursue continuing education.

Health Educator Professional Certification

Professional certification is not required for health educators. However, some states require that health educators be certified in order to work in a public health department. The Certified Health Education Specialist (CHES) certification is offered to health educators by the National Commission of Health Education Credentialing. In order to obtain the certification, applicants must pass an examination and have completed at least a bachelors degree in health education.

Biomedical Engineer Licensing

Though most biomedical engineers work in laboratories, some biomedical engineers hold positions that require them to interact directly with the public. In these kinds of positions, biomedical engineers must be licensed by the states that they work in.

Questions & Answers

Select a category to find answers to your questions

Resources

What are some other resources that can help me learn more about pursuing a degree or certificate in health science?

Surgical Technology

Bureau of Labor Statistics – Surgical Technologists

Association of Surgical Technologists

X Ray Technology (Radiography)

Bureau of Labor Statistics – Radiologic (X Ray) Technologists and Technicians

American Society of Radiologic Technologists

Medical and Clinical Laboratory Technology

Bureau of Labor Statistics – Clinical Laboratory Technologists and Technicians

Medical Science

Bureau of Labor Statistics – Medical Scientists

Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology

Physical Therapy

Bureau of Labor Statistics – Physical Therapists

American Physical Therapy Association

Biomedical Engineering

Bureau of Labor Statistics – Engineers

Biomedical Engineering Society

Medicine (Medical Doctor)

Bureau of Labor Statistics – Physicians and Surgeons

Health Education

Bureau of Labor Statistics – Health Educators

Healthcare Management and Administration

Bureau of Labor Statistics – Medical and Health Services Managers