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Overview of Healthcare Degrees

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Healthcare providers have varied academic preparation. There are many entry-level positions that are available to individuals who have earned an associate degree or certificate. These are usually technical or lower-level administration positions. Careers available with a bachelor's degree may include some leadership and management positions. Those interested in in upper-level management or educational or research positions will need a master's or doctorate. At the highest levels professionals may study and train to become medical administrators, working to manage hospital and clinic facilities.

Healthcare jobs take place in a wide array of locations. In some cases people work in private practice settings, which are typically small office spaces that serve a limited group of patients. Hospitals tend to vary in size from fairly small to very large institutions with thousands of employees. These settings provide job placements in a number of departments. Healthcare jobs may also be found in private rehabilitation or care facilities, such as drug treatment or elder care

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Associate Degrees

There are a wide variety of programs available at the associate degree level that may prepare an individual for a career in the healthcare field. The type of degree a student chooses to pursue will be largely dependent on his or her professional goals. For instance, an associate degree in healthcare management may prepare graduates to find entry-level jobs in medical settings, working in such positions as Patient Information Coordinator, Clinical Documentation Specialist, or Medical Records Clerk. A healthcare management program will cover such topics as how to run a medical office, maintain health records, medical billing and coding, and other skills necessary to work in a medical office setting. Other associate degrees in this field may be offered in health sciences, health information technology, or healthcare administration, to name a few. These degrees can be found at community colleges, vocational schools, and technical schools, and typically take around two years to complete. Admission to an associate degree program typically requires a high school diploma or GPA. Tuition will vary depending on the specific program and school, but a large percentage of these programs will cost under $10,000 a year.

Bachelor's Degrees

Just as with the associate degree level, there are many options available for bachelor's degree-seeking students who wish to pursue a career in healthcare. For those who wish to do clinical work, there are of course options in nursing and pre-med. However, there are also an array of programs that may prepare students for other healthcare jobs, such as a degree in health information management, healthcare administration leadership, or health and human services. The degree that a person chooses will depend on what kind of career they are seeking. Those who are looking to work in care facilities, such as with the elderly or with the disabled, but who are not looking to get into management, may be interested in a degree in health and human services. Students in this type of program will take classes such as community and public health, health informatics, social implications of medical issues, and communication skills.

Those interested in gaining leadership positions in the healthcare field might earn a degree in healthcare administration leadership. In this type of program, students will take classes that prepare them for leadership roles in a variety of healthcare settings. Example courses include healthcare systems and operations, economics of healthcare, and managing population health. Bachelor's degrees in healthcare can be found at colleges and universities, and typically take four years to complete.

Admission to one of these programs will require a high school diploma or GED. Depending on the school, there may be a GPA requirement and other requested material, such as an admissions essay. Costs vary, and students can expect to pay anywhere from less than $10,000 a year to upwards of $30,000 a year.

Master's Degrees

There are a number of degrees available at the master's level in the field of healthcare. A master's degree may be appropriate for someone who wishes to attain advanced leadership or management positions within the field, or who wants to go into education. Those working in the field of nursing will also find many opportunities to advance their career at the master's level. Some degree options include a master's in healthcare informatics, healthcare administration, or healthcare delivery.

Students enrolled in a healthcare informatics program will learn how to manage healthcare information systems in various medical setting through classes such as healthcare policy and law, strategic healthcare planning, healthcare finance and reimbursement, and organizational leadership and governance. Upon graduation, individuals will be able to work in such job positions as informatics consultant, clinical data analyst, or director of medical information. Another option is a master's in health care delivery, a degree which covers a broad base of information that will allow graduates to find work in settings where healthcare services are delivered to patients. Examples classes that students will take include healthcare management, law and health promotion, healthcare systems and design, and health economics, policy, and payment models.

Admission requirements for one of these programs will include a bachelor's degree in a related field, letters of recommendation, and a personal statement. Tuition varies by program and school, and students can expect to pay anywhere between under $10,000 to $20,000 or more a year.


Doctoral Degrees

Doctoral degrees are available in a variety of healthcare fields. The type of doctoral degree that most readily comes to mind for many would be a medical doctor degree, but there are plenty of other options available for those wanting to pursue advanced positions in the field of healthcare but who are not interested in a career as a medical doctor. For instance, doctoral degrees are available in health administration or healthcare management.

Students enrolled in a health administration doctoral program might choose a specialization in an area like healthcare quality and analytics, where they will develop the ability to work in various healthcare organizations analyzing the quality of the services being provided and coming up with ways to improve safety and patient care. Example classes include innovative business practices in healthcare, program evaluation in nursing and the health sciences, healthcare policy processes, and health data analytics in quality. A dissertation will also be required. Potential jobs open to graduates include clinic director, healthcare analyst, and hospital business manager.

Healthcare management doctorate degrees are commonly offered as a specialization option within a business administration doctoral program. This type of program enhances a student's business knowledge and skills, while also teaching them what they will need to know in order to apply that knowledge to a healthcare setting. Example classes include financial economics, strategic management, healthcare marketing, quality management in healthcare, and strategies for healthcare leadership. Students will also complete a dissertation. Upon earning their doctorate graduates will be able to find jobs in a variety of higher-level managerial and leadership roles in various medical facilities, overseeing everything from research to administration.

In order to be accepted into one of these doctorate programs a student will need to have already earned a master's, preferably in a related field. They will also need to have work experience in the field and submit a resume of this experience. Test scores, a statement of purpose, minimum GPA requirements, and letters of reference may all also be required, though exact requirements will vary based on the program. A degree at this level can take anywhere from two years to four or more years to finish. Tuition will vary, and students can expect to pay close to $14,000 or more a year, and may pay upwards of $25,000 a year.

Certificate Programs

There is a large variety of certificates available within the healthcare field. Those interested could pursue anything from a technical certificate that will prepare them for a specific job within the industry, to a specialized clinical certificate for working nurses to help better serve their patients. The type of certificate that a student chooses to earn will depend on where they are in their career and what their goals are. For instance, someone looking to get started in the industry as a technician of some sort might take a certificate to become a phlebotomist or a dialysis technician. They may also be interested in pursuing a medical office assistant certificate or a billing and coding certificate. These kinds of certificates can be found at community colleges, four-year colleges, technical schools, and vocational schools, and generally only require a high school diploma or GED to be admitted. Certificate programs at this level can cost as little as $5,000 a year or less, and can often be completed in less than a year.


There are many specialties within the field of healthcare. Working as a nurse or a doctor may be the the most popular jobs that come to mind, but the truth is there are many career paths available as well. While our guide goes over some, there are still plenty of others available to those who are interested in a career in the healthcare industry. Just some of the specialties available include:


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