The field of healthcare appears to be forever changing and expanding. As a result of this, the list of the different types of healthcare degrees is growing as well. These programs span the gamut of degree levels, from certificates and diplomas to doctoral degrees. Within them, there are also many specializations and even sub-specializations. Because of this, it can be quite confusing to figure out which option is best for you when you want to pursue a healthcare degree. Below is an overview of some of the most common options.
#1 Associate’s Degrees
Numerous associate’s degrees in the field of healthcare exist. Generally, it takes two years to complete these degrees, or 60 credits. Some of the specializations are:
- Clinical medical assisting
- Healthcare administration
- Health services administration
- Healthcare management
- Massage therapy
- Dental assistant
- Medical administration
- Medical office administration
- Medical billing and coding
- Medical office transcribing
With the associate’s degree, you can find employment in management associations, medical offices, clinics, hospitals, and so on.
This type of degree will enable you to take on an entry level position in the field of healthcare. It is important to note that while the ADN (Associate’s Degree in Nursing) still exists, but it is being phased out. This is because the federal government is committed to improving the quality of education in its clinical and administrative workforce.
#2 Bachelor’s Degrees
Obviously, the bachelor’s degree is a more advanced than the associate’s degree. It usually takes four years to complete, or 120 credits, although this can be shortened if you already hold an associate’s degree. There are countless bachelor programs in the field of healthcare that you can choose from, but some of the most popular ones include:
- Registered nursing or the BSN (Bachelor of Science in Nursing)
- Healthcare administration
- Health services management
- Health information systems
- Healthcare management
- Long term care
- Systems health administration
#3 Master’s Degrees
If you really want to advance your skills and knowledge, and be rewarded for that with more job opportunities and responsibilities, and a higher salary, then the master’s degree is the way forward. How long it will take to complete a master’s degree in healthcare will depend on your chosen subject, your previous experience, and the school you go to, but it averages to around two years. Again, there are numerous specializations to choose from, with some of the most common being:
- Master of Business Administration (MBA) with a healthcare management specialization
- Master of Public Health
- Health Administration Gerontology
- Health Administration
- Nursing (the MSN or Master of Science in Nursing, with various sub-specializations)
Because of the emphasis in improving the quality of healthcare, the master’s degree is now one of the most popular degrees to have for people wanting to build a career in the field of healthcare. It may be interesting, therefore, to look into the most popular degrees in a little more detail.
Master in Health Services Administration
As such, the Master in Health Services Administration prepares you for a role of leadership within a range of healthcare organizations. You will be responsible for looking into complex healthcare problems, and finding solutions for them. You will prepared to become a critical thinker, while also being equipped with the theory and research skills needed to apply whatever you find to the organization you work in, in an administrative way. The emphasis in these programs is strongly on organizational skills.
Master in Long Term Care Administration
The Master in Long Term Care Administration, meanwhile, is an interdisciplinary study, where you will learn not just about managing healthcare services, but also about gerontology. If you graduate from this degree program, you can work both in the public and private sector, focusing specifically on the services delivered to and developed for the elderly population.
Master in Business Administration
The Master in Business Administration (MBA) is the gold standard in business degrees. The skills you will learn during this program are essential to making sure that the business element of the healthcare sector is properly managed. This includes focusing on quality of service, patient experience, and personnel. Additionally, you will become a go to point of contact for government policy organizations and insurance provider networks. During your degree program, you will learn to see healthcare as a business, finding ways to deliver the highest quality of service at the lowest possible cost. This is a highly strategic role that requires excellent organizational skills.
Master of Science in Nursing
The MSN prepares clinical nurses to become experts in an advanced or specialized field of nursing. Some remain clinical, others go into management, teaching, or research. With an MSN, you will be able to lead and manage other nurses. The specializations you can choose from within an MSN degree are truly endless, but the three most popular ones are Nurse Midwifery, Public Health Nursing, and Primary Care Nurse Practitioner.
Master of Public Administration in Health
Should you complete the Master of Public Administration in Health, meanwhile, you will be ready to take on a position of leadership within the nonprofit or public sector. In this program, you will learn to review existing public policies, as well as developing new ones, focusing on organizational structure and healthcare delivery. There is an emphasis on administration, ethics, and organizational development, all relating to the field of healthcare.
Master in Public Health
Finally, the Master in Public Health usually focuses strongly on epidemiology, aiming to develop professionals who can predict and prevent new and emerging public health threats. Public health has its foundations in epidemiology, which can be viral, bacterial, or behavioral. You will learn to explore what causes diseases and illnesses and how these are distributed, and also public health issues, such as obesity and smoking. You may specialize in certain population groups, or in addressing health disparities found across the country.
#4 Doctoral Degrees
Finally, there are the doctoral degrees, which are the most advanced degrees that can be obtained. In order to be able to complete this, you will need to hold a master’s degree first, although some programs now combine the masteral and doctoral degrees. Some of the most popular types of doctoral degrees are the:
- Ph.D. in Community Health Promotion and Education
- Doctor in Counseling Studies
- Ph.D. in Health Management and Policy
- Ph.D. in Health Services
- Ph.D. in Public Health
- Doctor of Health Sciences
- Doctor of Occupational Therapy
- Doctor of Health Education
- Doctor of Health Care Administration
- Transitional Doctor of Physical Therapy
- Doctor of Management of Nonprofit Agencies
Naturally, the field of healthcare is also made up of those who practice medicine – doctors, physicians, and surgeons. However, this is seen as a separate discipline from the healthcare industry, although there is a significant overlap. The healthcare industry mainly looks at direct resolution of problems and management of the industry as a whole, whereas doctors deal with acute and chronic health emergencies. Further details are available through the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics – Healthcare Occupations section.