Health Sciences Degrees: Bachelor, Associate & Online Class Info

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What kind of job can you get with a health sciences degree? Find out associate's and bachelor's degree requirements, online options and info on courses.
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Studying Health Science: Degrees at a Glance

As a student in a health sciences degree program, you will study a variety of social and physical science topics, in addition to practical business and administration courses. You may need at least a bachelor's degree for certain positions in this field, including those in management. Master's degrees in health services are also becoming more common.

The overall demand for careers as a medical health service manager was expected to grow by 22% from 2010 to 2020, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), while employment of health scientists was projected to grow by 19% during the same time period. Despite a promising employment outlook, opportunities in this field are highly desirable and competition among qualified candidates can be expected.

Associate'sBachelor's
Who is this degree for? - Individuals who want entry-level positions in the healthcare field
- People who are new to social work or are making a career change
- Experienced professionals who want management positions in the health science industry
- Associate's degree holders who want to obtain a higher degree
- Individuals who want to pursue a career in health sciences
Common Career Paths (with approximate annual salary) - Life, physical or social science technician ($45,700)*
- Health science technician ($45,200)*
- Medical health service manager ($96,000 - may vary with experience)*
- Social and community service manager ($63,000 - may vary with experience)*
- Health scientist ($68,810 - may vary with experience)*
Time to Completion Typically 2 years (full-time) Typically 4 years (full-time)
Common Graduation Requirements - Satisfy coursework (approximately 60 credits)
- Maintain GPA standards
- Satisfy course requirements (approximately 120 credits)
- Complete capstone and/or internship requirements
- Maintain GPA standards
Prerequisites - Typically a high school diploma or equivalent
- Placement exams
- Typically a high school diploma or undergraduate transcripts
- GPA requirements
- SAT/ACT test scores
Online Availability Yes Yes

Source: *U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2011 median figures).

Associate's Degrees in Health Science

In a health science associate's degree program, you will learn the foundations of business and health administration, which can lead to a variety of careers. Additionally, many associate's programs prepare students for further education, such as bachelor's degree programs.

Accredited academic institutions may format a degree program as an Associate of Science (AS) or Associate of Arts (AA). Associate programs are generally offered by community colleges, although some distance learning programs are available online.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Associate's degree programs typically qualify candidates for entry-level employment in health science and health services administration positions.
  • There are often opportunities to advance beyond entry-level positions with additional education and work experience.
  • If you want to pursue a higher degree at some point, you may be able to transfer credits to a bachelor's degree program.

Cons

  • It may not be practical to pursue an associate's degree if you know you will eventually pursue a bachelor's degree.
  • You may need to obtain a bachelor's or master's degree to obtain a higher salary or pursue advancement opportunities.
  • You may be in competition with bachelor's degree holders for entry- and mid-level positions.

Common Courses and Requirements

As a student in a health science associate's degree program, you can expect to spend 2 years completing academic coursework and studying independently. Coursework on the following topics is common:

  • Healthcare computer applications
  • Medical terminology
  • Medical office administration and billing
  • Introduction to psychology
  • General biology
  • Algebra

If you do not already have a satisfactory background in math and science (or if your high school coursework is inadequate) you may need to take additional prerequisite or supplemental courses.

Online Course Options

In addition to on-campus programs, health science distance learning options are available. Online programs typically include coursework and requirements that are similar to traditional associate's programs, though they may offer more compressed or flexible schedules. Students should note that some distance learning programs are designed for students who plan to continue their education by transferring to a bachelor's degree program.

Getting Ahead with this Degree

Depending on your interests and strengths, you may want to supplement your health science associate's degree with additional training courses in sales, business or technology. Consider that even a single course can help you learn new skills and introduce you to a specialty or niche market you may not otherwise be qualified for.

Bachelor's Degrees in Health Science

The format of bachelor's degree programs vary with each academic institution. Some degree programs are designed for individuals who have completed an associate's degree, while others lead to graduate study or career placement. Due to the variety of careers available in the healthcare industry, it is common for bachelor's degree programs to expose students to a range of topics.

Students need approximately 4 years to complete a health science bachelor's degree program. Degree requirements typically include coursework, independent study and an internship (if applicable).

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Full- and part-time study options are typically available to students in a bachelor's degree program.
  • As nearly all careers in health services are expected to be in high demand over the coming years, employment opportunities appear positive - particularly for those with bachelor's and master's degrees.*
  • A bachelor's degree in health sciences can lead to a variety of career paths.

Cons

  • You may compete with master's degree holders for management positions.
  • Even entry-level positions may require relevant professional experience, regardless of an applicant's academic credentials.
  • Because of rapidly-changing technology and healthcare laws, you may need to take professional development or continuing education courses to stay on top of current trends and regulations.
  • Degree programs and employers may require a background check.

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Common Courses and Requirements

Students need approximately 4 years to complete a health science bachelor's degree program. It is common for bachelor's degree programs to expose students to variety of health-focused topics. Degree requirements typically include coursework, independent study and a capstone requirement or internship. A typical curriculum may include courses in natural and social sciences, in addition to biomedical terminology, microscopic anatomy, pharmacology and pathophysiology.

Online Course Options

Online health science course options are available. If you are interested in an online program, ensure that you meet the qualifications and prerequisites prior to enrolling. Some programs are designed for students with previous college credit (typically an associate's degree) who want to complete a bachelor's program, while other programs are designed for experienced professionals who want to advance their careers. Online degree programs are often very similar to traditional, on-campus programs; however, they typically allow for more flexibility in scheduling.

Stand Out with this Degree

Specializing in a niche may make you more marketable to future employers. Some degree programs may allow students to specialize in a particular concentration, such as pre-physical therapy, environmental health and safety or general health sciences. If your school doesn't offer tracks or concentrations, consider taking a few elective courses in business, technology or a related topic that interests you and that is marketable in your field.

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