Students have a variety of options when it comes to online health science degrees. Earning an entry-level certificate, for example, helps prepare students for work in physical fitness, some laboratory sciences and basic medical assistance positions in hospitals, physician offices and the like. A two-year associate degree covers the basic foundation of health science and can prepare students for work as a dental hygienist or nurse.
Online bachelor’s degrees provide students with more in-depth knowledge of health science and are a necessity for entry-level positions in many fields, including nursing, health informatics, public health, sports medicine and radiology. The bachelor’s degree is also a requirement for students who wish to pursue a master’s degree. The online master’s degree can be a way to enhance a current career or can pave the way to a doctorate degree in health science.
The following guide breaks down online health science degrees, from the most introductory opportunities to graduate work in the field. It also dissects how the field works with online learning, which many students desire but fear. Read on to see what’s out there, learn more and potentially get started on a new educational path.
About Online Health Science Degree Programs
Students who choose to attend the virtual classroom can find many advantages to the online route, including the flexibility of schedules, which has become a hallmark of online learning. Students can attend courses at a time that is convenient for them, from a place that is most conducive to learning. Parents of young children, for example, might find that taking courses late at night is the best way to learn, while those who are working full-time might take advantage of their lunch break or the weekends to catch up on lectures and homework.
For those who are pursuing a degree that requires a minimum of hands-on experience, a hybrid program might be the best option. Hybrid programs are a blend of campus-based and online components. Courses may be taken entirely online, while lab or clinical work is required on campus. This allows students some flexibility in scheduling while helping ensure that they meet the hands-on components of the degree.
Mindy was certain she wanted to pursue a degree in health sciences, but she was uncertain about what she wanted to do once she had the diploma in hand. During the course of earning her online associate degree, courses in communication and ethics truly appealed to her. She narrowed her focus to healthcare administration and upon graduation, began work as an assistant in her local hospital’s administrative office.
Online Associate Degree in Health Science
The online associate degree in health science is a good way to get a foot in the door of a wide range of professions. Those who expect to attend a four-year college and earn a bachelor’s degree or higher might begin with the online Associate of Arts degree or the Associate of Science degree, as these lay an educational foundation that is well-suited to moving on to a bachelor’s degree program. The Associate of Applied Science degree is meant for those who want to enter the workforce at completion of their online associate degree program. This option also works well for students who wish to pursue a job that requires more hands-on training, such as a dental hygienist.
Keep in mind that an online associate degree in health sciences is an interdisciplinary learning experience, so courses vary depending on the school and program. The following curriculum guide is an example of potential courses you may take in an online two-year health sciences program. Specialized courses may be required for health science students who wish to focus on a particular area, such as nursing or physical therapy.
|Current Issues in Healthcare
|Understanding the legal, political and socioeconomic issues surrounding healthcare.
|Understanding the legal implications of licensing, practicing and working closely with employers in the healthcare system.
|Financial Concepts in Healthcare
|Studies of concepts and financial theories, as well as application and fundamental tools of financing in healthcare settings.
|Principles of Leadership
|Study of how leadership is different from management, and the role each plays in healthcare administration.
|Healthcare Delivery Systems
|Understanding insurance companies, health care plans, federal legislation, issues with healthcare delivery and more.
|Ethics in Healthcare
|Learning how to evaluate, understand and make decisions in healthcare from an ethical and legal standpoint.
|An introductory course in statistics with a focus on healthcare topics and financial concerns.
|Communication in Healthcare
|Learning how to best convey information to other healthcare providers, patients, family members, insurance companies and others involved in the care of patients.
Chris was interested in pursuing administration in health services, but during his junior year he took a course in maternal and child health that set him on a new path. He spoke with his advisor, changed his schedule and began working toward an online bachelor’s degree that focused strongly on maternal issues. Chris is now an aspiring obstetrician set to enter medical school in the fall.
Online Bachelor’s Degree in Health Science
For many career fields in health sciences, a bachelor’s degree is the minimum requirement for entry-level work. An online bachelor’s degree usually begins with general education courses such as literature, mathematics and social sciences, then moves into more health science-related courses. A bachelor’s degree typically takes between four and five years to complete. Upon completion, students might choose to go directly into the workforce or they might use their bachelor’s degree as a stepping-stone to more advanced education. Review the curriculum chart below for an example of some of the courses students may take during the last two years of their online bachelor’s degree program.
|Cultural Considerations in Healthcare
|Focuses on issues in healthcare related to culture, diversity, customs, rituals, alternative healthcare choices and the like.
|Disabilities and Special Needs
|Studies on dealing with an aging population, those with special requirements and patients with chronic life challenges.
|Health Promotion and Prevention of Disease
|Develops skills and knowledge to help students work closely with community members to promote healthy habits and screen for diseases among the population.
|Topics in Maternal and Child Health
|This course looks at the unique needs of mothers and children, from prenatal period through delivery and early childhood.
|Focus on writing for major publications, including research methods, grammar, structure, citations and more.
|Healthcare for the Aging
|Discussions on living wills, legal implications, life choices, cultural mores, treatment options and other end-of-life issues.
|Students choose their own path of online study, which often coincides with their career goals upon graduation.
|Focuses on the dangers of a changing world, including how to be reactive and proactive in the face of bioterrorism issues.
Andrew chose to earn his online master’s degree in general health sciences and near the end of his first year he accepted an internship with a community outreach program. He was offered a full-time position with them upon graduation and immediately began working with various programs for the community, from those that offered basic nutrition for growing children to those that screened for diseases.
Online Master’s Degree in Health Science
An online master’s degree in health science aims to help students gain mastery in the field. Students have the opportunity to specialize their learning by focusing on a particular area. As a result, master’s degrees are available in a wide selection of specialties, such as sports medicine, health law, forensic investigations, risk management and clinical research.
The online master’s degree can establish a graduate as one of the top candidates in their field, as well as provide the strong foundation for doctoral work. The master’s degree can be completed in one to three years, depending on the online program. The following is a sample curriculum for someone pursuing a general health sciences curriculum.
|Current Trends in Healthcare
|In-depth discussion about the newest advances and expectations in healthcare, including biomedical devices, cultural issues, patient empowerment and more.
|Epidemiology and Statistics
|Understanding how epidemics begin, spread and are treated, including analyzing population data for trends and solutions.
|Writing for Publication
|Expanding on healthcare writing by focusing on peer-reviewed research, reputable publications and evidence-based writing.
|Advanced Research Methods
|Developing skills to analyze, evaluate and determine research methodology, including comparison of various paths to research and their advantages or disadvantages.
|Ethical Issues in Healthcare
|Focus on the ethical considerations of healthcare, including cultural differences, language barriers, informed consent, allocation of resources, euthanasia, institutional review boards and more.
|Principles of Healthcare Management
|Focus on strategic planning, organizational management, decision making, resource management, conflict and the concepts of power.
|U.S. Health Policy
|Understanding the history of U.S. policies and laws in healthcare, including recent legislation and long-term implications.
|Developing a community-based health promotion and disease intervention with the oversight of faculty. Locations are arranged to be convenient and accessible to the online student.
Online Doctorate Degree in Health Science
Earning an online doctorate represents the height of professional study. It says a student has reached the pinnacle of education for their profession, and they are now highly qualified to pursue the path they choose. Many of those who pursue a doctorate do so in order to move into teaching or research, but graduates may also pursue a non-academic position in the health sciences field.
Online doctoral degrees might take as little as a year to complete, but that depends entirely on a student’s specialization as well as the student and their schedule. Some students have the luxury of taking many years to complete their final dissertation, while others – such as those in medical school – must adhere to a strict schedule.
Because a doctoral education is so specialized, it is difficult to generalize exactly what students learn. The following curriculum is an example of potential core courses.
|Clinical Competence in Healthcare Delivery
|Students must show competency in communicating with peers, patients and others in the healthcare industry, and proving competence in their chosen specialty, based on exam scores and observation by faculty.
|Professionalism and Healthcare Ethics
|This course builds on previous ethics courses to focus on more intense issues, such as dying with dignity, euthanasia, genetic testing, transplant ethics and more.
|Global Health Policy
|A look at health on a global scale, including how different countries deal with the same issues, healthcare in third-world situations and similar case studies.
|An in-depth discussion on healthcare records, changing legislation, privacy laws and the like.
|Evidence-Based Medical Practice
|A study of proven ways to practice medicine, including analysis of case studies, data points, reports and peer-reviewed journal publications.