Health sciences is a broad career field containing many of the fastest-growing careers in the nation, according to a 2014 report released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Workers in the health sciences field can begin their careers at just about any level of educational attainment -- from physicians with full medical doctor (M.D.) degrees on down to aides and technicians with a high school diploma or career certificate -- but bachelor's degrees in health sciences can be an important step on the road to career advancement for modern health care professionals.
A number of colleges and universities encourage students to specialize their health science bachelor's curriculum as they enter the latter half of their degree plan. Depending on the institution, specializations may include occupational therapy, health services management, biomedical engineering technology, health care informatics, pre-med and pre-physician assistant, among others.
Path to an online health science bachelor's degree
Online bachelor's degree programs in health sciences and degrees in alternative medicine typically consist of a liberal arts and sciences core with a major concentration of health sciences courses at both the introductory level and the upper division. Here is a list of subjects that students are likely to cover during their health sciences curriculum:
- Social psychology
- Medical ethics
During the last year of a four-year program, students typically begin to focus their interests with elective coursework that pertains to their chosen field of interest. Students who enhance their degree specialization with the appropriate electives can acquire the advanced knowledge and skill often preferred by employers in multiple health sciences disciplines:
- Health education
- Radiological technology
- Respiratory therapy
- Laboratory science
- Clinical research
- Healthcare administration
- Alternative medicine
- Health administration
Some online bachelor's degrees in health sciences also incorporate a clinical internship that must be taken either at a regional campus or a school-affiliated learning center or teaching hospital. Hands-on training in a health sciences specialty allows students the chance to build practical skills and make professional contacts in the working world of medicine and health sciences.
Returning students already established in the medical field may receive credit for prior medical training at certain institutions, which allows them to focus their academic energy on core liberal arts and sciences courses required for graduation. Many programs today feature distance learning options, particularly in the humanities and non-laboratory sciences, so students with busy work schedules or family lives can complete much of their health sciences bachelor's degree online.
Health sciences specialization and careers
An online bachelor's degree in health sciences can lead to careers in physical therapy, health administration, public health, counseling and more. Here are a few common job titles in the health sciences and their 2014 median annual salaries, as reported by the BLS:
- Diagnostic medical sonographer: $67,530
- Medical and health services manager: $92,810
- Clinical laboratory technologist: $59,430
- Nutritionist or dietitian: $56,950
- Radiologic technologist: $55,870
Health science bachelor's degrees can also serve as a potential springboard to graduate-level education in the health care field, which opens up even more potential career options:
- Occupational therapist: $78,810
- Orthotist or prosthetist: $64,040
- Physician assistant: $95,820
The health care and social assistance industry contains the three fastest growing occupational sectors in the country according to the BLS. Positions in home health care services, individual and family services or outpatient, laboratory and other ambulatory care services are growing at a faster rate than any other field, with nearly 2 million new jobs expected to emerge between 2012 and 2022.
Bachelor's degrees in health sciences can be useful in various capacities across these fast-growing industries, and students who dedicate themselves and choose their specializations wisely can graduate into the workforce.
Health sciences career paths
Health care is growing at twice the rate of the economy as a whole, or 22 percent from 2008 to 2018 according to BLS figures. That translates into an estimated 3.2 million new jobs. Health care degrees give you access to a range of potential opportunities in the health care industry. Graduates can decide whether to continue their education while also pursuing a professional-level health career, or explore one of many bachelor-level opportunities.
Graduate or professional degree
Earning a master's degree in a field like counseling or health care administration can help expand potential career options in the industry. For example, a bachelor's degree program in exercise science could potentially lead to a master's degree or doctorate in physical therapy.
Bachelor's-level health care degrees can also allow one to enter the workforce, where a graduate has the potential to take a clinical or administrative job at a public health agency, hospital, clinic or insurance company. Some pharmaceutical corporations also potentially hire health sciences graduates for sales and laboratory science positions.
Health Science, Browse by Career Cluster, Occupational Information Network, http://www.onetonline.org/find/career?c=8
Bachelor of Science in Health Sciences, Cleveland State University, http://www.csuohio.edu/sciences/dept/healthsciences/undergraduate/health_sciences.html
Bachelor of Science in Health Science, Northeastern University, http://www.cps.neu.edu/degree-programs/undergraduate/bachelors-degrees/bachelors-health-science.php
Medical and Clinical Laboratory Technologists and Technicians, Occupational Outlook Handbook 2014-15 Edition, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/Healthcare/Medical-and-clinical-laboratory-technologists-and-technicians.htm
Dietitians and Nutritionists, Occupational Outlook Handbook 2014-15 Edition, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/Healthcare/Dietitians-and-nutritionists.htm
Radiologic and MRI Technologists, Occupational Outlook Handbook 2014-15 Edition, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/Healthcare/Radiologic-technologists.htm
Medical and Health Services Managers, Occupational Outlook Handbook 2014-15 Edition, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/Management/Medical-and-health-services-managers.htm
Diagnostic Medical Sonographers and Cardiovascular Technologists and Technicians, Including Vascular Technologists, Occupational Outlook Handbook 2014-15 Edition, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/diagnostic-medical-sonographers.htm
Occupational Therapists, Occupational Outlook Handbook 2014-15 Edition, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/occupational-therapists.htm
Industries with the fastest growing and most rapidly declining wage and salary employment, Employment Projections, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, http://www.bls.gov/emp/ep_table_203.htm