Top 6 Healthcare Degrees You Can Earn Online
The healthcare field is one of the fastest growing career sectors in the country, and advancements in medicine and technology have set the stage for it to continue to grow for years to come. There are several benefits to working in healthcare, including fast-track degree programs, high starting wages, and the ability to make a true difference in the lives of others. However, many of the degrees required to get started in a healthcare career involve intensive on-site training, year-round classes, internships, and practicums to meet degree requirements
The traditional structure of these degree programs are often necessary to teach students the hands-on skills they need to succeed in their field, but many working adult students find the time requirements a major obstacle when juggling their other obligations.
So, is there a way to get started in a healthcare career without spending years studying in on-campus classes?
The short answer is – yes! Many top accredited universities now offer a wide range of online degree and diploma programs in healthcare that students can complete from the comfort of their own home on a flexible schedule. While degrees that involve direct patient care are typically not available in the online setting, there are several healthcare-related fields that do have an online option, and these can help you get your foot in the door to a lucrative, rewarding career.
In the sections below, we will go over some of the top online degree fields available in healthcare, as well as the various career options that you can pursue after graduation from your program.
Healthcare Careers with an Online Degree
Healthcare is more than just doctors, nurses, and surgeons – in fact, there is an entire world of administrative and technical professions that are necessary for the medical system to run effectively. The degree and diploma programs listed below are all available online through reputable schools, and they can be an excellent starting point for moving forward in your journey towards a healthcare career.
1. Health and Human Services
An online degree in human services is based upon learning the skills needed to help individuals and families cope with challenging life situations. While graduates from this degree program are typically not eligible for licensing to provide professional patient counseling, there are several ways to utilize this degree to make a difference in the world around you.
Some of the most popular careers associated with a health and human services degree include the following:
- Human services administrator
- Social service manager
- Victim advocacy
- Community service managers
- Social service specialists
Graduates with a human services degree can work in a variety of settings – from healthcare facilities to juvenile justice centers or community advocacy organizations. The majority of the jobs listed above have positive projected growth for their field, and their starting salaries are typically at or slightly above the national average across all occupations.
2. Health Information Technology
There’s no doubt that the advancements in technology over recent decades have changed the course of the healthcare field, and professionals that understand the technological aspect of the medical world are in high demand. An online degree in health information technology can prepare you to take on the role of analyzing and managing patient care data – which is a vital aspect of a medical facility’s operation.
Health Information Technicians can find employment in a variety of different settings, including:
- Insurance companies
- Technology firms
- Government agencies
- In-patient medical facilities
- Ambulatory healthcare systems
According to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment for health information technicians is expected to increase 15% by the year 2024 – which is much faster than the average across all occupations! This is excellent news for those looking for long-term, stable employment within the medical field.
3. Healthcare Management
If you have a passion for healthcare and a knack for business, an online degree in Healthcare Management may be the right path for you. This degree program focuses on healthcare policy and leadership skills that are essential to making a difference in improving patient care and outcomes.
There are several sectors of the medical field that benefit from the knowledge of skilled healthcare managers, and employment opportunities can be found in the following:
- Hospitals and out-patient clinics
- Long-term care facilities
- Insurance companies
- Managed care companies
This online business degree program is an excellent way to blend the worlds of business management and medical knowledge. In some schools, you may also be able to choose a program concentration that allows you to go even more in-depth into your desired specialization.
4. Medical Billing and Coding
Medical billing and coding is a specialized field that gives graduates the opportunity to find employment at on-site facilities or even as remote employees – making it ideal for those that need a flexible schedule! This online program is not a degree-program; however graduates will earn a career diploma after completion that prepares them to sit for the AAPC Certified Professional Coder exam.
You will likely be required to use a variety of online tools to learn the skills necessary to pass your certification course after graduation, including:
- Online courses in ICD-10 coding
- Virtual work experience simulations
- Online labs
- Videos and 3D representations
- Discussion through online boards with other students
There are a number of different examinations offered to provide you with additional certified credentials after graduation from a Medical Billing and Coding program. Every state has its own set of requirements for working within this profession, and it is important to look into the specific licensing and certification requirements in your state when considering a career in this field.
5. Healthcare Administration
One of the most vital roles within the medical field is that of the healthcare administrators. These essential employees take on a management role within their facility, and they are required to be well-informed on the constantly changing policies and regulations that govern healthcare operation. Many graduates from an online bachelor’s Healthcare Administration degree program go on to earn advanced degrees within the field to expand their knowledge and employment opportunities.
The responsibilities of a healthcare administrator vary based upon the needs of the facility; however the following duties are likely to fall within their job description:
- General office clerical work
- Patient payment and insurance claim management
- Management of lower-level administrative staff
- Development of facility goals
- Maintaining patient records
- Hiring, training, and supervision of other staff members
The annual average salary for those in healthcare administration varies widely based upon the specific industry involved. Typically, higher rates of pay are available for those who work in insurance and employee benefit funds, and these professionals may be able to make over six-figure incomes every year. Like other occupations, those with advanced degrees generally have the opportunity to make substantially more than those with a bachelor’s or associate’s degree.
6. Pharmacy Technician
The pharmaceutical industry plays a major role in nearly every aspect of healthcare, so it’s no wonder that pharmacies across the country are continually on the lookout for skilled workers to help manage the daily operations of the facility. Becoming a licensed pharmacist can be an extremely long process, but for those interested in the field, online pharmacy technician diploma programs can be a great way to get started in a new career.
You will cover several topics during the course of your pharmacy technician program, including the following:
- Pharmacy language and communication
- Various drug actions and interactions
- Pharmaceutical dosage, medical orders, and prescriptions
- Medication errors
- Technology in pharmaceuticals
- The function of various body systems
While an online pharmacy technician program can typically be completed in less than a year, there are other requirements that you must meet before starting your new career. State regulations vary, but you will likely need to pass the Pharmacy Technician Certification Exam, as well as complete an on-site externship to learn vital hands-on skills needed to work independently at a pharmacy.
Working in healthcare is a unique career path that involves a great deal of both challenge and reward. With the flexibility of online learning, you will have the chance to balance your education with your family and work obligations, while still putting yourself in a position to have solid, marketable employment skills after graduation. For those who are interested in working with clients and learning the essential skills of the medical field, earning an online degree or diploma in one of the above occupational paths can be the perfect start to a life-long career.