Healthcare degrees are extremely valuable for preparing students to enter one of the world’s fastest-growing industries. As the baby boomer population ages and demand for healthcare grows at twice the rate of the national economy, the Center of Education and Workforce predicts that 5.6 million healthcare jobs will be created by 2020. In particular, the nursing field is primed to grow by 26% over the next decade and suffer a shortage of around 800,000 registered nurses. Though some low-skill jobs exist, more than 80% of healthcare jobs now require individuals to invest in post-secondary education.
Below we’ll look at how budding healthcare professionals can receive their education at a great value and reap tremendous job stability.
Types of Healthcare Degrees
Degree programs in health-related professions are abundantly found at all academic levels, so it’s important to choose the right one to avoid wasting your time or money. If you’re not aiming for the four-year university path, community colleges offer several two-year Associate of Science (A.S.) or Associate of Applied Science (A.A.S.) degrees in healthcare. Most programs found at the associate level are centered in dental hygiene, health science, medical assisting, medical billing, nursing, pharmacy technician, health information technology, and medical office management. At the baccalaureate level, Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) and Bachelor of Science (B.S.) are commonly found for professional roles in healthcare administration, nursing, allied health, mental health, social sciences, nutrition, athletic training, and health education.
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For individuals aiming higher, you’ll also discover several graduate degree options available to unlock leadership positions. Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) programs lead to several concentrations to excel as a nurse practitioner, nurse anesthetist, nurse administrator, nurse midwife, or clinical nurse specialist. Other popular options include the Master of Public Health (MPH) and Master of Health Administration (MHA). To legally practice medicine, you’ll need to attend medical school to receive a professional doctorate degree, such as a Medical Doctor (M.D.), Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (D.V.M.), Doctor of Psychology (Psy.D.) Doctor of Nursing Practice (D.N.P), or Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm.D.). Ph.D. programs specialized in medical research could also be useful.
Online vs. Traditional Learning
Online healthcare or social science degrees are a growing alternative to traditional brick-and-mortar programs, especially for busy working nurses and healthcare professionals. Online courses offer students the ability to plan their schoolwork around their own hectic schedules while completing assignments from the comfort of home. Whether you’re advancing in your current career path or switching careers entirely, online degrees are advised for those with the organizational skills and motivation to tackle work on time. Since transportation, parking, housing, meal plan, and laboratory fees are non-existent, online degrees often are smart financial moves too.
In some cases, healthcare degrees will not be offered online simply because of the rigor of the academics and the requirement for patient contact hours. Hybrid formats combining online coursework with on-campus meetings and clinical rotations are becoming popular for healthcare programs. This way students still benefit from physical interaction with instructors and peers while reaping the rewards of flexible convenience. Whichever mode you choose, verify the accreditation status of the university you’re considering to ensure a high-value education.
For information about specific online healthcare, medical and social science degrees, check out our comprehensive collection of affordable online degrees in healthcare:
Healthcare Management/Healthcare Administration
Health Science and Health Education
Behavioral and Social Science Degrees
Financial Aid Options
It may seem impossible to find the resources to pay rising tuition costs to earn your healthcare degree, but several financial aid opportunities are available to reduce the monetary burden. Grants are among the best financial aid for healthcare students because they don’t need to be repaid. Once you submit your application, you’ll automatically be considered for the Pell Grant and FSEOG Grant. Through the HRSA, grants are also given to cover full tuition for financially needy students enrolled in nursing degree programs and committed to providing three years of full-time service in healthcare facilities with critical nursing shortages.
Most students have to utilize federal student loans, such as the Perkins Loans, Direct Loans, Subsidized or Unsubsidized Stafford Loans, and PLUS Loans, to finance their healthcare degree too. Since these loans must be repaid with interest starting six months after graduation, be cautious in your borrowing to avoid mountains of debt. Another excellent funding option is tuition reimbursement, which involves your employer covering the costs of your degree. Due to the shortage of qualified health professionals, many facilities are starting these reduced-cost programs to advance their employees and boost patient care.
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Saving Money with Scholarships
Scholarships are available to cut the costs of healthcare degree programs thanks to funding from universities, government agencies, national organizations, and private foundations. Like grants, scholarships offer free tuition money that won’t need be repaid. Ranging in value from $100 to full tuition coverage, scholarships are typically awarded to healthcare professionals based on academic merit, clinical experience, financial need, and service commitment, although sometimes scholarships are awarded for very unique reasons. It’s recommended that you talk with your college’s financial aid office and your academic advisor on scholarships available in your local region. Some national scholarships in healthcare include:
• NIH Undergraduate Scholarship Program – The National Institutes of Health awards up to $20,000 per academic year to full-time undergraduate students enrolled at accredited U.S. institutions who are committed to biomedical, behavioral, or social science health-related research careers.
• Tylenol Future Care Scholarship – For undergraduate and graduate students with at least one year of school remaining, the Tylenol Future Care Scholarship fund offers ten annual awards of $10,000 each and 30 awards of $5,000 each as financial support for healthcare-related degree programs.
• Promise of Nursing Scholarships – Sponsored by the Foundation of the National Student Nurses Association (FNSNA), the Promise of Nursing Scholarships grant between $1,000 and $5,000 to U.S. citizens enrolled in state-approved schools of nursing to receive a diploma, associate, or baccalaureate degree.
To research scholarships based on college major, explore the links below:
- Counseling Scholarships
- Forensic Psychology Scholarships
- Gerontology Scholarships
- Health Education Scholarships
- Health Informatics Scholarships
- Health Science Scholarships
- Healthcare Administration Scholarships
- Healthcare Management Scholarships
- Human Services Scholarships
- Nursing Scholarships
- Psychology Scholarships
- Public Health Scholarships
- School Counseling Scholarships
- Social Science Scholarships
- Sociology Scholarships
- Scholarships for Women
Career Paths in Healthcare
Earning a health-related degree opens plentiful job opportunities in virtually every facet of today’s booming medical field. Depending on their level of education, nursing graduates can work as Licensed Practical Nurses (LPNs), Certified Nurse Assistants (CNAs), Registered Nurses (RNs), Nurse Practitioners (NPs), Certified Nurse Anesthetists (CRNAs), or Certified Nurse Midwives (CNMs). For graduates with a business-based degree, healthcare careers can lead to the lucrative titles of hospital administrator, pharmaceutical project manager, practice manager, healthcare consultant, and health information manager.
Those focusing in on direct patient care can also use their specialized healthcare degrees to work as psychologists, physical therapists, occupational therapists, speech therapists, counselors, physicians assistants, veterinary technicians, social workers or medical doctors. Radiation therapists, dental hygienists, respiratory therapists, and prosthodontists are usually credited for having the highest ROI in the healthcare field. Ultimately, healthcare is a broad field that offers a wide variety of sub-specialties with favorable job outlook and high salary potential for nearly anyone wishing to join in making the world a healthier place.
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