Healthcare is one of the fastest-growing industries in the United States. As aging Baby Boomers require more care, obesity rates continue to climb and threats of viruses like Ebola and SARS become more commonplace, there is no question that medical professionals of all varieties are in high demand. Whether you have an interest in the administrative side of the equation, the medical and scientific sides or just a desire to deal one-on-one with patients, there is a medical career out there for you.
The majority of medical careers require applicants to have a college degree of some kind. While you could potentially select from dozens of options, the following three degrees include some of the most popular and the most potentially lucrative ways to prepare for a career in the healthcare industry.
1. Master’s Degree in Nursing Anesthesia
One of the most popular careers in the medical industry is that of nurse. In order to become a registered nurse, a bachelor’s degree may be required, or students can undergo a more hands-on program that takes slightly less time to complete.
While working as a registered nurse can be a fulfilling and rewarding career in its own right, many nursing professionals want to advance within the field. To enjoy promotions, an increased earning potential and more respect in your line of work, one option is to specialize in a niche area of nursing. One of the best-paying options in nursing is to study nursing anesthesia at the master’s level.
Nurse anesthetists, who may sometimes be called advanced practice registered nurses, will almost always work in the surgical field. This may be in a hospital, which is the most common place of employment, but some nurse anesthetists can work in out-patient clinics as well. Their primary job will be to help patients get the care they need before, during and after surgical procedures.
In smaller procedures, that may mean applying a local anesthetic onto the affected area of the body, monitoring the patient and determining whether more or less will be needed later on. Larger, more invasive surgeries require a more complex process of putting the patient under with anesthesia, which has to be even more carefully monitored. Nurse anesthetists will also help the patient after the procedure to address pain and handle any side effects of the medication.
This master’s degree, like most, will take students roughly one to two years to complete. To help accommodate the schedule of a busy nurse, it can be entirely completed online thanks to accredited online colleges. However, there are some prerequisites in place that aspiring nurse anesthetists will have to meet before they can formally enroll into the program. Generally, in order to be accepted into a master’s program in the field, you will first need to have a bachelor’s nursing degree, be a registered nurse and have a minimum of three years of experience in the nursing industry.
2. Bachelor’s Degree in Physician Assisting
One of the biggest misconceptions about the medical industry is that physicians call the shots and are responsible for most of what happens in a hospital, private practice or clinic. In reality, there are a variety of support personnel, many of which have medical training, who work to help physicians on a daily basis. If you are looking for a career that can net you substantial pay as well as a fulfilling job, then consider earning a bachelor’s degree in physician assisting.
A physician assistant, or PA, is tasked with practicing medicine on a team headed up by a general practitioner, or doctor. Physician assistants might assist psychologists, prepare for physical therapy sessions, work in a family medicine practice or assist in the surgical ward of a large hospital. Wherever physicians can be found, physician assistants are also nearby.
Some of the many potential duties of a PA could include reviewing the medical history of a new patient, overseeing diagnostic exams, getting details about symptoms, diagnosing basic medical problems and helping patients learn more about their treatment options and how to handle new types of medications. Depending on the place of work, shifts can be long and physically demanding for physical assistants, but the rewards will include knowing that you are helping others on a daily basis. In addition, physician assistants can earn average salaries of $90,930 per year, which is an impressive number when compared to other careers requiring just a bachelor’s degree.
Becoming a physician assistant will require four years of hard work and determination. However, what it won’t require is students physically attending lectures in a college classroom. The physician assisting bachelor’s degree can be earned through accredited online colleges, which will make the entire process much simpler for busy students. Over the course of your four-year degree program, expect to study courses including anatomy, physiology, pharmacology, biology and patient communication.
Before you can enroll into the physician assisting degree of your choice, you will need to be a high school graduate, have a minimum grade point average and complete either the SAT or the ACT with acceptable minimum scores.
3. Bachelor’s Degree in Healthcare Administration
Not everyone involved in the healthcare industry is trained in medicine. The administrative side of the equation is an integral one, and it includes those administrators who manage employees, handle payroll and deal with insurance companies to provide payment on behalf of patients. One of the most important jobs in this field is that of healthcare administrator. With just a bachelor’s degree, a healthcare administrator can earn a median salary of $88,580 per year in the United States, and the demand is only growing with a predicted hiring increase of 23% over the next decade.
Earning a bachelor’s degree in healthcare administration starts with meeting the program’s prerequisites. The exact requirements for this degree program will vary from college to college depending on the school’s competitiveness. Generally, however, every student will require an absolute minimum of a high school diploma or an equivalent general education degree.
It may also be necessary to show proof of transcripts, submit references or sit for math and science exams to gauge your readiness for the program. Once you’re enrolled, you can prepare for approximately four years of study on campus or through an accredited online college. Whatever option you choose, your curriculum will largely consist of courses like healthcare ethics, personnel management, marketing, accounting, public relations and business communication.
Once you have earned your degree in healthcare administration, you can pursue a variety of different job titles within the medical profession. You might work in a private practice, in a hospital, in a nursing home, in a clinic or even for a large insurance provider. Common job titles include health information manager, department head, assistant administrator, health service manager or nursing home administrator.
There are a number of different ways that you can prepare for a career in the healthcare industry. For the greatest chance of success, however, consider an online degree in a subject like healthcare administration, nurse anesthetics or physician assisting.