What Does it Mean to Study Health Services?
Earning a college degree in health services can lead to many different opportunities in the healthcare industry. Health services degree programs can be an excellent source of general knowledge about health and applied science. As the degree program progresses, students supplement this general knowledge by selecting a healthcare specialty, such as healthcare management, emergency services or counseling.
Health services degree programs are available at nearly every level of study, from associate degrees all the way up to PhD programs. More and more healthcare professionals are choosing to earn their health services degrees online, in order to complement their existing career development.
Types of Health Services Degrees
The field of health services offers many different educational and professional concentrations. Most health services college degree programs require students to complete a core curriculum of general education courses in mathematics, the humanities and social science, as a foundation for the advanced courses in your health services concentration.
As a health services major, you may take courses in:
- Public Health
- Health Policy
Some common health service specialties include:
Health Services Administration
Many health services majors, particularly those enrolled online, choose to concentrate their studies on health services administration. These degree programs usually combine coursework in liberal arts, management theory, and applied health services information, with the goal of teaching students how to handle the finances of health organizations, to deal with health services personnel, and to manage the many state and federal departments covering the health services profession. Courses may cover:
- Healthcare administration
- Health law
- Health finance
- Health care economics
- Health planning
- Health regulation
- Health science ethics
Mental Health Services
The field of mental health services is growing as our society increases its knowledge about mental disorders. Many people have finally come to accept mental illness as a true physical illness rather than a character defect, and as such, funding and research in the field has increased considerably.
Many health services students concentrate their studies on mental health. As in health services administration, a mental health services major must complete liberal arts curriculum requirements as well as extremely specific coursework.
Mental health services professionals combine science and social work. Students who major in mental health services usually complete specialized courses such as:
- Case management
- Health research methods
- Wellness and community development
- Clinical reasoning
- Evaluation and research methods
- Aging and mental health
Nursing students must complete a rigorous course of medical study. In the second year of undergraduate study, most nursing majors enter the field through an internship or other school-related program. Hands-on experience is of extreme importance in the education of nurses. Nursing students usually complete specialized courses in:
- Human anatomy
- Abnormal psychology
- Foundations of nursing
- Nursing care of children and older adults
- Nursing care of the childbearing family
- Clinical rotations
Before nursing school graduates can practice as registered nurses in the United States, they must complete the national standardized test known as the National Certification Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX).
What Can You Do With a College Degree in Health Services?
Health service providers combine basic human compassion with innovative and highly developed medical technologies in order to maintain the wellness of our human community. Some jobs in the field do not require more than a high school diploma, while others require at least a bachelor's degree. Increasingly, master's degrees are required for upper-level positions in healthcare management and related services.
Hospitals perform a wide range of medical care services, such as surgeries, consistent nursing care, and medical diagnostic services. Some hospitals focus on specific areas such as mental illness, cancer, or pediatric care. The arrangement of workers needed to staff a hospital depends upon the hospital's size, location, funding, management style, mission and philosophy.
Nursing and Residential Care Facilities
Nurses and nursing aides provide the most direct care of all professionals in the health services industry. Nursing care facilities administer nonstop personal nursing attention and treatment to patients who cannot care for themselves at home but do not require the breadth of services provided by hospitals. Residential care facilities include establishments like drug and alcohol rehabilitation centers and assisted-living homes. Most nursing and residential care facilities workers have educational backgrounds in nursing and psychiatry, and are trained to work as home health aides.
Many physicians and surgeons set up group practices, which help them to lower individual expenses and to afford expensive malpractice insurance. Many employees of physicians' offices work as physicians, surgeons, and registered nurses. Some offices employ aides and administrative staff.
Dental health services professionals, of course, are providers of dental care, assisting patients via dental hygiene treatments or dental surgery. Larger dental offices may employ managers and administrative staff, but most employees in dental offices work at an assistant level.
Some patients prefer to be cared for at home, with the help of a home healthcare provider. Most home healthcare providers work under a physician's supervision and have access to new medical technologies. Most are trained as personal or home healthcare aides, though many providers have an educational background in nursing.
Offices of Specialized Medical Practitioners
Many practitioners of other specialized forms of healthcare may have a private practice or may work through contract with a hospital. These include podiatrists, speech pathologists, dieticians, physical therapists, optometrists, chiropractors, and others. Also in this category are alternative medicine practitioners such as acupuncturists and hypnotherapists. Many workers in specialized medical practitioners' offices are professional-level employees, though some offices also hire aides and administrative support.
Outpatient Care Centers
Many patients are in need of medical care that can be provided on an outpatient basis. There are many specialized facilities that offer this care, such as substance abuse centers, kidney dialysis centers, emergency centers, and mental health centers. Many outpatient care centers employ a large number of social workers and registered nurses.
Ambulatory Healthcare Services
The ambulatory healthcare services segment of the industry is small, but includes vital medical services such as ambulance services and blood and organ banks. Many employees of ambulatory healthcare services have backgrounds in ambulance driving and ambulance attendance.
Workers in diagnostic laboratories perform medical testing services for larger medical outfits such as hospitals, or sometimes directly to an individual patient. Medical diagnosis is a very specialized field in which workers use technology to perform blood analysis, take X-rays, or conduct other important tests. Many professionals in the diagnostic laboratory segment of the health services industry have specific training as X-ray technicians or medical equipment preparers.
Salary Expectations for Careers in Health Services
Health services salaries depend upon the size, location, and mission of the employee's health care establishment. Health services providers who work in major hospitals, for instance, usually earn more than professionals working at a residential care facility or as a home healthcare provider. Earnings for hospital staff are typically higher because hospitals generally require their employees to have higher levels of training and education. The average annual salary for most hospital workers is usually greater if the hospital is large.
Those who wish to work in a health services management position generally need to have a higher level of education. Management positions usually pay more than other positions in the health services field, but the earnings depend upon the duties and responsibilities required by the job and upon the levels of experience and education held by the manager.
Health services establishments that must be continually staffed, such as residential care facilities and hospitals, often offer their employees premiums for overtime, weekend, and holiday work, and hours spent on call. Many health services establishments offer tuition reimbursement to encourage employees to receive more education in the field.
- "Healthcare: Millions of jobs now and in the future," U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Accessed April 24, 2015, http://www.bls.gov/careeroutlook/2014/spring/art03.pdf
- "Home Health Aides," U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook, January 8, 2014, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/home-health-aides.htm
- "31-1011 Home Health Aides," U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2014, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes311011.htm