Employment related to healthcare should account for almost one-third of all new jobs in the nation between 2012 and 2022, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, and this sector of the economy should show the strongest growth of any industry. Health science degrees can prepare graduates to take advantage of these expanding opportunities. Students in health science programs can pursue a certificate or four levels of degrees. And depending on the degree and the subject, these studies can lead to a variety of clinical and non-clinical career options, ranging from pharmaceutical sales representative to emergency medical technician to hospital administrator to epidemiologist.
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Top Health Science Programs for 2016
Health science programs offered on campus provide opportunities for both classroom and practical instruction. By analyzing such crucial factors as cost, quality and accreditation, as well as other key elements including job placement services and academic and career counseling offerings, we have compiled a list of the best campus health science programs. For inclusion on this list, the schools must be not-for-profit institutions, and they must score highly in peer-based value, which refers to how the school compares to other institutions of similar quality and cost.
To see how our experts arrived at this ranking, please visit our methodology page.
Certificate Programs in Health Science
A certificate may be ideal for someone who is interested in entering this field, but either is not ready to commit to a degree program, or wishes to test the waters to see if health science is a good choice. A certificate in health science is also advantageous for those who have been out of the workforce for a while or need to brush up on their medical skills and knowledge.
Post-high school, entry-level health science certificates are awarded in a variety of fields, including practical nursing, medical assistant, and medical coding and billing. The completion time for a health science certificates ranges from six months to one year, depending on the specialty area. And the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects demand for medical assistants to increase by 29 percent, 2012-2022, which is a much faster rate of job growth than the national average.
A graduate business certificate in health science management is an option for those who want to play a behind-the-scenes-role in health services. For healthcare administrators handling the business side of the industry, a graduate certificate in health science management allows these leaders to better understand such concepts as insurance regulations, organizational behavior and operations management.
Post-high school, entry-level certificate programs in health science can help students make the transition into the world of healthcare. Graduate business certificates in healthcare management can help clinical administrators gain general management skills.
- Medical Records and Health Technicians
Examine patient records to be sure that they are complete and accurate, and assign diagnostic and procedural codes to invoice charges for reimbursement. They also create digital records of the files and verify that this information is safely and confidentially stored and retrieved as needed.
Extract blood from patients, which may be used for blood donations, transfusions or medical tests. They make sure that the blood is properly labeled and corresponds to the blood donor or patient, and provide assistance in the event of an adverse reaction.
- Natural Sciences Managers
Hire, supervise and evaluate such scientists as biologists, chemists, physicists and other members of the staff. They establish administrative policies and standards, monitor and review research projects, and share findings with executive management. Managerial roles often require experience as well as educational qualifications.
Associate Degree in Health Science
An associate degree is useful to students who want more in-depth study than that offered by certificate options. While a certificate may satisfy certain requirements for some entry-level medical jobs such as diagnostic medical sonography, practical nursing, and medical coding and billing, other employers prefer that applicants have a deeper understanding of these areas, as demonstrated by an associate degree in health science. Students seeking such as degree take classes in subjects like medical terminology, pharmacology, and human anatomy and physiology.
What is the prerequisite to enter an associate degree in health science program?
Applicants seeking entry into a health science program offering an associate degree usually need either a high school diploma or a GED.
How long does it take to complete an associate degree in health science?
Most health science programs leading to an associate degree take two years for full-time students to complete.
Who would benefit from an associate degree in health science?
Students looking for a deeper understanding of health-related topics, and those who want to gain a competitive edge in the workplace in such professions as medical technology.
What skills and knowledge are gained through an associate degree program?
Students enrolled in this program may benefit from both classroom and laboratory work, depending on the specialization. They develop a variety of valuable skills such as attention to detail and critical thinking, in addition to learning how to follow rules and protocols and how to perform tests and procedures. Often, courses impart practical information on how to interact with patients, maintain a compassionate and tolerant attitude, and work on teams with other health services professionals.
Is there a demand for graduates with an associate degree in health science?
Yes, the U.S. Department of Labor projects strong growth in the healthcare sector. For example, demand for diagnostic medical sonographers should increase by a whopping 46 percent from 2012 through 2022, which more than triple the 11 percent national average job growth rate.
An associate degree in health science prepares students to assume a hands-on healthcare role, often providing treatment to patients.
- Diagnostic Medical Sonographers
Use imaging equipment to test patients or take composites of specific body parts, such as the breasts, muscles, abdominal cavity, brain or nervous system for a medical diagnosis. They also analyze the images to ensure their quality, accuracy and completeness and decide if further imaging is necessary.
- Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs)
Respond to emergency calls from 911 operators, and diagnose patients on the scene to determine the proper course of action. After performing medical services to stabilize the patient’s condition – which may include CPR or administering medication – they safely transport the patient to a medical facility.
- Dental Hygienists
Provide a range of dental services including examining patients to see if they have gingivitis or other types of oral diseases. They also take and develop x-rays, remove stains and plaque and apply fluorides and other substances that provide protection to teeth and gums.
Bachelor’s Degree in Health Science
A baccalaureate can help students complete the requirements for a healthcare occupation, or it can be a stepping stone along the educational path to a more intensive medical career. In a 4-year bachelor’s degree program, students generally spend two years in basic health science studies. The third year, they choose a specialization in one of a variety of areas, including physical therapy, public health or occupational therapy. Other specialization areas include psychology, health information technology, nutrition or dietetics. Coursework varies depending on the subject matter.
What is the prerequisite to enter a bachelor’s degree in health science program?
Applicants generally need a high school diploma to enter the bachelor’s degree program. However, some applicants also have an associate degree.
How long does it take to complete a bachelor’s degree in health science?
A bachelor’s degree typically takes four years to complete, depending on the time students can dedicate to academics. It can take considerably less time for students who have an associate degree, however, the exact number of credits that transfer varies from school to school.
Who would benefit from a bachelor’s degree in health science?
A bachelor’s degree in health science would benefit students who want to pursue such careers as nutritionists or dieticians. This degree can also be a launching pad for those planning on achieving licensure as registered nurses. Other individuals suitable for such a program have a basic foundation but want to delve deeper into health science and medicine.
What knowledge is provided through a bachelor’s degree in health science?
At this degree level, students build on their previous scientific knowledge and also continue to hone problem-solving, critical thinking and analytical skills. Depending on the specialty, they gain a background in research, including the basics of research protocol and clinical trials. Students strengthen their organizational, time management and communication skills. Also important are leadership skills developed during the time frame, since some of these graduates may oversee other employers and organizations.
Is there a demand for graduates with a bachelor’s degree in health science?
Yes, according to data from the U.S. Department of Labor. For instance, medical and health services managers – who typically need a bachelor’s-level education – should see employment increase by 23 percent from 2012 through 2022, which is much faster than the average job growth rate for all U.S. occupations.
A bachelor’s degree in health science helps students pursue advanced healthcare careers in which they often have a leadership and decision-making role.
Help people make better decisions regarding the foods that they eat. Nutritionists work with patients or clients, and determine the dietary needs of these individuals, which may include losing weight or decreasing high blood pressure. They develop meal plans that incorporate preferences, and after a period of time, evaluate the plan’s effectiveness and make modifications if necessary.
- Registered Nurses
Provide direct care to patients, which include analyzing symptoms and reading their medical histories to determine the proper course of actions. They also administer medications and other forms of treatment, consult with physicians and other health professionals, and educate the patient and the patient’s family on best practices for dealing with medical ailments.
- Health Educators
Work to make individuals and groups healthier by teaching them about various related topics, instructing them on how to manage health conditions, and advising them on how to find help for these conditions. They also assist doctors in communicating with patients using simple language rather than medical jargon.
Master’s Degree in Health Science
Graduate studies at the master’s level could be beneficial for those interested in roles such as research specialist, health services manager and policy planner. Although candidates can apply for these jobs with a bachelor’s degree, many employers want applicants with more in-depth knowledge – in other words, candidates who have “mastered” these areas as represented by their advanced degrees. Specializations include public health, infectious disease and kinesiology. The program is a mixture of clinical and nonclinical education, and depending on the specialty area, there is a strong emphasis on research, data analysis and critical thinking. A bachelor’s degree is required to gain entry into this program and it generally takes two years to complete a master’s degree in health sciences.
A master’s degree in health science provides additional leadership instruction to help students who serve in management and independent research roles in healthcare.
- Medical and Health Services Managers
Coordinate and oversee medical services in departments, facilities or for physician groups. They manage staff and schedule workers, oversee billing and other financial matters, and check that the facility is compliant with regulations and laws.
- Research Specialists
Study patients and also interview and conduct questionnaires with them to gather data. This information is then compiled and coded, and then processed, analyzed, and shared with scientists or medical doctors.
Investigate the causes of disease and injuries. They look for patterns in infectious diseases and other types of medical conditions and also try to determine the segments of the population that are most vulnerable to particular diseases. They also try to lower the risk of occurrence in the general population.
Doctoral Health Science Degree
A doctorate in health science is the highest level obtainable for advanced studies in a variety of fields. It is beneficial to those who want the most in-depth education available. Normally, these individuals are top administrative leaders in their organizations, or they provide health policy information to government and nonprofit organizations, so they want to be sure that their actions and opinions are as informed as possible. However, they may also be health educators and researchers who need a firm foundation from which to share health information or conduct studies. While specific coursework may vary by school, doctoral programs usually cover such topics as healthcare policy and law, leadership, health informatics and research protocols.
What is the prerequisite to enter a doctoral health science program?
Applicants usually have a master’s degree in health science or a related subject.
How long does it take to complete a doctorate in health science?
For many students, it takes four years to complete a doctoral degree in health science. This varies according to the university, and it depends on the time students have to dedicate to completing the extensive requirements for graduation from doctoral programs.
Who would benefit from a doctoral health science degree?
Individuals who want a leadership role in healthcare administration, those who plan to teach health education at an advanced level and conduct research, and those who hope to play a contributing role in shaping health policy would all benefit from a doctorate in health science.
What skills and knowledge can doctoral health science programs provide?
Students pursuing a doctorate in related fields learn how to manage healthcare facilities such as hospitals and nursing homes. These leadership obligations include handling such aspects as staff, budgeting and billing and confirming that the organization complies with regulations. Depending on the specialization, these students learn how to conduct research experiments and design projects, and they apply statistical techniques to analyze data. In addition, students pursuing a doctorate degree in health science gain enhanced communication skills so they can teach classes, write proposals and explain complex research findings.
Is there a demand for graduates with a health science doctorate?
Yes. While there’s no crystal ball to tell you if your degree choice is a hit or a miss, the U.S. Department of Labor foresees a promising job outlook for those with advanced degrees. For example, demand for college professors–who generally require a PhD – should increase by 19 percent through 2022, which is faster than the projected average job growth nationally.
A doctorate degree provides the background for senior leadership positions, policy making roles or academic environments.
- Nursing Administrators
Oversee the delivery of nursing services in large facilities. They recruit, hire and supervise a staff of nurses and develop policies that determine how nursing services are carried out. They also handle the nursing budget and other financial healthcare matters.
- Health Policy Analysts
Develop and analyze data that can result in more efficient healthcare delivery. They perform cost-analyses, evaluate existing programs, and help to design and implement future programs.
- Post-secondary Educators
Teach university and college-level courses on health-related topics. They create and develop lesson plans, instruct students and answer questions during office hours. Instructors evaluate progress through oral examinations, homework assignments, written tests, papers and other classroom work.
Choosing a Health Science Degree Program: What You Need to Know
The quality of a health science degree program varies from school to school. Don’t be fooled by chatty school administrators and flashy websites. Look beyond the pretty packaging to ensure that the program you select is capable of meeting your goals and providing you with the type of educational background you need. These four questions can help you objectively evaluate a health science degree program.
1.Are the school and program accredited?
This may be the most crucial question to ask when choosing a health science degree program. Schools must meet certain standards to be accredited, so without accreditation, the quality of the program is questionable. In fact, if you attend an unaccredited school, you may not be able to apply for financial aid and employers may not recognize your degree. Schools can seek accreditation from agencies approved by the U.S. Department of Education and bodies like the Higher Learning Commission. The program itself should be accredited, and a quality health science program is frequently accredited through an organization such as the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs.
2.Will your credits transfer?
This is another reason why it is important to make sure that the school and program are accredited. If not, credits rarely transfer to another school. However, just because a school is accredited does not mean that credits automatically transfer because acceptance varies from school to school. For example, you completed your associate degree in health science at one school (School A), and now you want to transfer to another school (School B) to complete your bachelor’s degree in health science. Before you select the school at which you take coursework for your associate degree (School A), you should contact School B to see if they accept the credits you earn from School A.
3.Which specializations are offered to choose from, and what types of classes will you be able to take?
All training programs are not created equal, and they also don’t offer the same specializations. For example, at the associate degree level, some programs have a specialization in billing and coding or diagnostic sonography, while another one offers an emphasis in nursing and medical office administration. A student may decide to get an associate degree in diagnostic sonography and also take elective classes in healthcare leadership, but this may not be an option if the school doesn’t provide medical administration classes.
4.What are the graduation and job placement rates for health science students?
Do most of the students who start the program end up graduating? If so, how long does it take them? For those who don’t graduate on time, is this related to factors beyond their control? For example, health science students specializing in nursing have to attend a clinical practicum. However, if clinicals are delayed because there are not enough placement opportunities, it causes a domino effect and students are delayed from graduating, which postpones entry into the job market. Another key question: What type of help is available for students who may have difficulty with the health science coursework?
Also, does the program help graduates find jobs where they can utilize their health science degree? Are there any partnerships with employers? Does the program have a placement office to help students identify potential jobs? Does the school help students prepare for interviews and write resumes? These are all questions that may determine how quickly you are able to find a job.
When choosing any degree path, there is usually a level of uncertainty. How do you know you won’t complete your education and then the job becomes obsolete? Consider this: 10 of the 20 fastest growing occupations in the country are in healthcare, according to the BLS.