What is a degree in Health Science?
A health science degree aims to provide a broad level of education to prepare students in a career in the healthcare field. This degree is flexible, often providing a range of opportunities for various degrees. These degrees may apply to science in human or animal health. It could include areas of nutrition and medicine. Students may learn skills to work in various roles in the industry. A health science degree may include a certificate program, an associate’s degree, a bachelor’s degree, or several post-graduate degree programs. The student may select what level of education is beneficial to their career plans.
On a more specific level, consider what health science means. It is the combination of scientific study and healthcare. Those who focus on this type of career path may be learning to improve and deliver quality healthcare to their patients. There could be many ways to do this. Some work in the public sector. Others work in research. The key differentiator in this type of program is applying science to healthcare.
Students who wish to work in career paths such as physician assistants, diagnostic services, health informatics, and support services may wish to obtain a degree in that specific area of health science. To achieve the degree, students may need to complete a course of study. Some may require exams and certifications. Others may require competency testing. Students may learn this through one of numerous health science degree programs. Here’s a closer look at some of those areas.
Health Sciences Degree Programs
A health science degree comes often from completing a specific educational program. There may be many areas of study possible here. Health professions could range from interdisciplinary programs to allied health. Biomedical may be another area of focus.
What is important to know is that the term health science is far reaching. It applies to many types of degree programs across healthcare. That may include clinical and non clinical positions. There are many areas of specific education a student may wish to focus on. That may include areas such as providing patient care to health care management. Many students may need to select a specific focus for their educational tract within the area of health sciences.
Those wishing to pursue this degree may be able to start at any level. That could include earning a basic certificate. A certificate program is often a short term path. It may provide basic education to students. Many students may move on to an associates degree. This program is often completed in two years, sometimes sooner. Associates degrees in health sciences may be available in person or as an online program. It depends on the type of educational tract the student chooses.
Students may wish to pursue a higher level of education beyond this. One of the options is a bachelor’s degree. This may include a Bachelor in Science in Heath Science. These programs may take up to four years to complete as a full time student. Students may need to meet enrollment requirements. Admission requirements may include completing high school or the equivalent.
In some cases, students may transfer credits from a previous educational tract into a heath science degree. Doing this may depend significantly on the school and the type of course. For students who may be interested in changing their degree program may wish to pursue this option.
From here, students may wish to continue on with their education. That may allow them to complete a graduate program. This type of study may take two or more years to complete. It may allow a student to become an educator in health science. Or, it may allow them to pursue a specific area of interest. This may include natural sciences, liberal arts, global health, or even nonprofit study. Research is a big component of graduate degrees as well.
To compare options, take a look at what you may expect at each level of study.
Associate Health Science Degree Programs
Some may complete an associates degree. This is an option after high school, in many situations. Some career opportunities may require more advanced education than this. However, many students may start with this step.
Students in this type of program may learn about wellness and addressing health issues. They may learn about health care policy, patient education, and best practices in the industry. Most often, students may select their major area. They then take courses in that area to fill out their degree. Some of the courses associate degree programs may offer include:
Students in this course often learn the basics of medical terminology. The course typically focuses on learning the meanings of the words and what they are based on. The prefix, root and suffix of these terms may all covered.
Introduction to Public Health:
In this course students may be introduced to the filed of public health. The history, philosophy and purpose are all topics that could be covered. The course often looks at public health on a community, state and national level. Careers in the field are analyzed as well as case studies relating to the topic.
Health and Human Disease:
In this course students may look at people’s and the effects of disease. The course typically covers basic diseases and how they effect people on a cellular level all the way through body system effects. The effects of diseases on the human body as a whole may be a primary topic of this course.
Introduction to Scientific Analysis:
This course is often a lecture and lab combination which looks at critical thinking and analyzing statistics. Students may learn to look at and analyze all sources of information regarding health and learn to determine their validity. The ability to interpret and analyze data to create conclusions is often a major portion of this course.
Bachelors Health Science Degree Programs
After high school, some students who wish to enter a health science degree program may pursue a bachelor’s degree. Some paths may include learning about health care organizations, supervisory positions, and management roles. Students may learn skills to enable them to work in nuclear medicine technology or informatics. They may obtain skills in many other areas based on their major study. There tends to be a large range of ways to create a path of interest based on the type of career a person hopes to have. Some students may complete courses such as the following. These vary based on the specific healthcare field they choose to pursue.
Health Care Ethics:
This course often covers ethics in the healthcare industry. This course aims to go over the concepts and vocabulary associated with the field. Analysis of and evaluating how to make ethical decisions and how to determine the best course of action.
Introduction to Epidemiology:
This course often covers the history and development of epidemiology. The course typically relates this topic to public health and disease. Diseases of all types may be covered as well as the topics of epidemics, pandemics and communicable diseases.
Principles of Leadership:
This course is designed to teach leadership in the healthcare industry. The focus tends to be primarily on how to lead and the different styles of leadership and management. Learning when and how to apply the different methods and different styles based on the situation faced.
This is a general course that may cover health policy on all levels. Understanding it and interpreting it at a local, state, and national level. Students may cover topics such as cost analysis, quality control, and handling of ethical issues.
Masters Health Science Degree Programs
Health sciences graduates often complete programs such as these in a master’s degree in health sciences. Graduate level programs tend to focus on more specific areas. Many times, students complete these programs to further advance current career paths. They may also use them to pursue educational research. There are many paths of option to consider here.
Courses differ for each path. Here are a few examples you may expect in a graduate program.
The purpose of this course is to cover research methods. Students may learn how to conduct and write research in the proper format. They may also learn the use of databases, how to interpret research and how to use the data to draw conclusions.
Communications for Healthcare Professionals:
In the course students may learn the different methods to communicate with different people in the healthcare industry. Communicating on multiple levels from with the media to organizational are often covered as topics in this course. How to effectively and properly present these communications may also be a topic of this course.
This course may go in depth on the practice and importance of leadership in the healthcare industry. The students may learn all of the different types and approaches to leadership. The students often learn how to effectively lead and apply the different types of leadership based on the situation encountered.
Strategies in Health Policy:
In this course students may look at the implementation of health policy and how it is applied on varying levels. Analysis of these policies and how to interpret them may also be covered as a part of this course. How to implement and enforce these policies in the workplace may also be a topic in this course.
What can you do with a degree in Health Science?
Students who earn a health science degree typically use it to advance an existing degree or pursue a new career path. It may help prepare some students for graduate or professional programs. This may include areas such as occupational therapy, physical therapy, healthcare administration, community health, or chiropractic programs. Students completing a health science degree may be able to work in either clinical or non-clinical settings. The type of coursework completed typically defines the position the student may work in later.
Some students may work to earn their bachelor of science degree as a first step. Career opportunities at this point may include some entry level work. Some students may need to sit for a certification or exam after completing their coursework.
Other students who are already working as health professionals or have completed a bachelor’s degree may wish to continue their studies. In these cases, they may apply to graduate school. Health science is one area of graduate studies.
Students completing a degree in heath science may work in a range of fields. Some of the typical professionals for those who obtain a bachelor’s degree in health science may include the following.
Medical and Health Services Managers
Medical and health services managers have a 2020 median salary of $104,280 per year according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The job growth is projected at 32% for the next 10 years. People in this position work to improve efficiency in healthcare services and set goals for their departments. They are also responsible for recruiting and creating schedules for employees. This position usually only requires a bachelor’s degree.
A claims adjuster works to evaluate, investigate and settle insurance claims. They determine whether the insurance covers the claims. This position also may include the authorization of payments and ensuring claims are not fraudulent. A bachelor’s degree is typical for this position. A claims adjuster, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, has a 2020 median salary of $68,130 with a growth rate of -6%.
Health Education Specialist
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median pay is $48,140 per year, with an expected growth rate of 13%. In many cases, someone in this position often needs to have at least a bachelors degree. People in this position often evaluate and assess the health needs of the community in which they work. The often teach people how to manage health conditions and implement health plans for the community.
Pharmaceutical Sales Representative
According to the BLS, a pharmaceutical sales representative has a median salary of $65,420 per year. The position has a growth rate of 2%. For this position, a bachelor’s degree may usually be required. People in this position often work to identify customers for their products through multiple means. Negotiation of prices and preparing sales contracts and orders may also be a part of this position.
According to the BLS, a dietitian has a median salary of $63,090 per year. The growth rate for this position is 8%. To do this job, one often needs to have at least a bachelor’s degree. When in this position some of the duties may be to assess the nutrition and health needs of patients. Documenting the progress of patients and counseling patients on issues of nutrition could also be keys to this position.
An occupational therapist according to the BLS has a median salary of $86,280 per year. This position has a 16% percent rate of growth and typically requires a master’s degree. A person in this position often evaluates and assesses a patient’s needs. They may also determine if special equipment is necessary for the therapy to be successful.
Prosthetics Orthotics Specialist
Someone working as a prosthetics or orthotics specialist may expect a median salary of $70,190 per year according to the BLS. This position has a growth rate of 17% and often requires at least a master’s degree. People in this position may evaluate the needs of a patient and make adjustments and repairs as necessary to the devices in use.
Speech Language Pathologist
A speech language pathologist is projected to have a median salary of $80,480 per year according to the BLS. This position has a 25% growth rate and requires a master’s degree. In this position one often evaluates the level of speech and swallowing difficulty in a patient. They may also identify courses of treatment and teach families and individuals how to cope with these types of disorders.
According to the BLS a pharmacist has a median salary of $128,710 per year. There is a -3% growth rate for this position and a doctorate is preferred for this position. A pharmacist fills prescriptions for patients based on the instructions from a medical doctor. They may also check for interactions with other possible medications and provide services such as flu shots and other vaccinations.
A physician assistant, according to the BLS, has a median salary of $115,390 per year. There is a growth rate of 31% for this position though it may require a master’s degree. A physician assistant takes patient medical histories and may examine patients. They diagnose illnesses and may also prescribe medicine.
According to the BLS a healthcare social worker has a median salary of $57,630 per year. This position often requires a minimum of a bachelor’s degree and has a growth rate of 13%. A person in this position typically identifies people and communities that need help. In this position one also maintains case files and provides psychotherapy services.
What are important qualities or skills for a physician assistant to have?
Physician assistants often work hand-in-hand with patients. They may need to have skills to examine and diagnose patients. They may need critical thinking skills to assess situations to provide such diagnoses. These individuals may need to be quick thinkers as some work in emergency medicine. Others may need skills to handle specific tasks such as assess conditions to prescribe treatment or medications.
Many times, physician assistants may also interpret diagnostic tests. Depending on where they work, they may also need surgical skills. Some may work with surgeons to provide surgical procedures or assist in a surgical location. Other times, they may work as a part of a larger team. Good communication skills could be a big part of the skills these individuals need to have.
Physician assistants may also need other qualities and skills. This may include an understanding of healthcare systems. They may also need to understand health care policy when it comes to decision making.
Aside from good communication, these professionals might need to be compassionate. They may work closely with patients in providing care. Those patients may be struggling with pain or life threatening conditions. Many times, these assistants could also nonjudgmental, self-controlled, and confident. They may be outgoing and engaging to those they work with, enhancing their ability to maintain good relationships with their patients. Sometimes, they may need to handle stress well. This means they may need to be calm under high stress situations. That could include providing care after a long eight-hour shift. More so, these professionals may need to be honest to establish trust with patients.
What type of job responsibilities do a physician assistant typically have?
A physicians assistant often examines, diagnoses, and treats patients. Those in this field may prescribe medications to treat health conditions. They may provide examinations and provide necessary treatment. This may include tasks such as giving an immunization or setting a broken bone. These individuals may also work to diagnose and manage disease. That may include in a short-term and long-term application. They may also work to promote wellness.
The job duties for those in this field may also include some management skills. For example, they may need to provide information and direction to others on the team. They may also need to lead in an office setting. While assistants work under medical doctors, they may still provide direction to nurses who are providing care. This often depends on the type of work they do.
Where do physician assistants work?
These professionals typically work in many environments. They often assist medical doctors. Anywhere medical doctors work may provide an opportunity for assistants as well. Many may work in a family practice. This may include providing care to children through seniors. Others may work in primary care settings with a focus. That may be geriatrics or pediatrics. Some assistants may work in the fast paced environment of emergency rooms and other emergency medicine settings.
Some physician assistants could work in rural and medically underserved communities. In this case, they may provide the primary care for those in the area. The physician may only be available one or two days a week. Some may also make house calls to patients. This may include for homebound patients. Some also visit nursing homes, assisted living communities, or skilled nursing centers.
Keep in mind a physician assistant often handles patient care. By comparison, a medical assistant may provide more administrative tasks. They may work in some of the same environments. Yet, their work load could be significantly different.
Health Science Degree Certifications
Health science degree certifications are a short, non-degree program of study. A certification may help some students advance their current education. Some of these certifications may help those working as healthcare professionals to study specific skills. There may be many potential certificate programs to consider. Some of them may include:
- Community health worker
- Pharmacy technician
- Home health aide
- Patient access & scheduling coordinator
- Dental assisting
- Medical coding & billing specialist
- Sonogram technologist
These and other certificate programs may fall in line with specific fields such as medical assistant technology certifications, respiratory care certificates, or surgical technology certificates.
Learn More About Opportunities in Health Science
Students interested in health sciences may find a range of programs to consider. Each one could be a bit different. Often, a good starting point is looking at the end goal. What type of work do you wish to do? Where do you wish to work? What interests you in providing health care? Using this information, it may be possible to determine which health science degree program is a good starting point.
Many of these programs are versatile. They may offer flexibility. More so, some may be available as online programs. Students wishing to obtain or advance their degree may find a wide range of ways to achieve those goals in health sciences.