Health Science Degrees: Program Options & Career Paths

If you’re interested in a healthcare career, you’ll be pleased to know how many health science degree options there are.

These days the healthcare industry is booming. From Baby Boomers aging to the fact that there are more patients with medical insurance—thanks to the Affordable Care Act—this is a recipe for massive demand in healthcare services.

Naturally, the industry needs professionals to help take care of all of these patients. If you want a career that is rewarding on multiple levels, consider the health sciences field. You don’t have to work as a doctor or nurse, or any other sort of therapist and many professionals in the industry go through their day and rarely see patients. In order to take the leap into a healthcare career, it’s a great idea to form an educational foundation with a health science degree from a reputable school.

What is a Health Science Degree?

A health science degree takes an interdisciplinary approach to healthcare. Most programs include a core curriculum that introduces you to a big picture view of the industry and then allows you to choose your preferred healthcare focus, such as epidemiology, administration, informatics or any of a vast number of specialties that include clinical concentrations. The idea is to provide all health professionals with a core understanding of the industry so that they will share a common vocabulary.

Other programs take a broad view of the healthcare field throughout the degree program. Students who wish to focus their work on a specific field might select a double major or complete a minor that informs their education with knowledge from another area. These programs help steer students towards a graduate degree in healthcare administration, public health or even a clinical specialty such as physician assistant or nursing.

Who Should Study Health Science?

A health science degree is intended to prepare students for a career in healthcare. It may be right for those with a strictly clinical aim, such as future doctors, nurses and physical therapists. It can also be good for those who wish to study business, but desire the specific focus and mission of healthcare. It is also a good option for writers and even engineers. The industry relies on many different hands to continue its forward momentum. Consider these examples:

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Artists are needed in healthcare to create anatomical drawings and to provide graphics for all sorts of publications, including newsletters and medical journals.

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Administrators need to have a background in management. A Health Sciences department will focus that skill and knowledge into the healthcare industry.

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Artists are needed in healthcare to create anatomical drawings and to provide graphics for all sorts of publications, including newsletters and medical journals.

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Communications is a vital part of any field and healthcare institutions often rely on their own publications to broadcast their achievements to the wider public. English, Journalism and Communications majors can find a home in a Health Science department and then find careers that help them thrive.

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Computer Scientists.

Healthcare Informatics is where Computer Science meets the healthcare industry. Having knowledge of the contents of a database can often be vital to knowing how to maintain it, so Health Science can work hand-in-hand with Information Technology. Further, budding software engineers might see how their ideas can provide IT solutions to hospitals, doctors and nurses.


When you enter a health science degree program, you will need to work through a core curriculum. This series of courses is designed to provide you with the context in which you will later pursue a career. Note that no two health science departments are identical, so be sure to investigate individual programs to find the specialty areas or other sorts of focus that appeal to you and will best match your career goals.

A core curriculum might include some of the following:

Medical Ethics. Medical professionals must constantly face issues related to how to best allocate resources from an ethical standpoint. This course may challenge fundamental assumptions you have about healthcare.

Issues in Contemporary Healthcare. This course discusses how the healthcare industry is facing new challenges with innovative solutions.

Introduction to Public Health. Maintaining the public health is a vital part of the mission of healthcare and this course will discuss topics related to supporting and spreading wellness for all.

Epidemiology. Using statistical models, you will learn about how disease spreads through populations.

Introduction to Biology. It is vital for all health science majors to have a basic understanding of biology, including human systems.

Introduction to Chemistry. Chemistry is an inherent part of medicine and this course will provide an overview for everyone, and a foundation of knowledge for those who seek to pursue research or clinical studies.

Anatomy & Physiology. The human body is the ultimate focus of every aspect of health sciences and this course will show you all of its parts and systems.

Medical Terminology. You will learn to understand the complex terminology you often hear doctors and nurses using.

Health Science Practicum

As a budding professional, you will want to put your education into practice. This applies to all students, not only those who are working towards professions in clinical practice. When you complete a practicum, you will not only have credits added to your transcript, but you will also have valuable, real world experience when you sit down for your first interview with a potential employer. In fact, you might be able to convert a practicum into a job opportunity, or lay career groundwork with a network of contacts and referral sources.

International Programs

Some schools offer the opportunity to pursue a practicum overseas. You could put your knowledge of public health to the test in a European country and learn how other cultures approach the public good. Alternately, you might study the impact of environment on health in a third world nation. If you have the desire to study abroad to see different approaches to healthcare, pursue a program that offers this as an option. Even if your school does not have such a program, you might be able to participate in another school’s international program and then transfer the credit back to your alma mater. Always seek out solutions that will work best for you and your goals. Your advisor is sure to support you in finding the options that suit you best.

Associates Degree in Health Sciences


An associate’s degree in health science is a great and practical way to start your healthcare career. An associate’s degree generally takes two years to complete and many programs offer a wide range of specialty areas for you to pursue. Once you have completed the degree, you can begin to work in your chosen field. While your peers in four-year programs are working on term papers, you will be gaining valuable experience that will help inform your career for years to come.

Two-year programs can prepare you for success in a wide range of specific disciplines. You can focus your education on administration, for instance, and add a few extra management or accounting courses to your degree to help you hit the ground running in your first job. Others might prefer to study a clinical field such as dental hygienist.

When you matriculate with an associate’s degree, you will have transferable credit that you can apply to your education later. You could choose to work for a few years before returning for an undergraduate degree, or you might choose to apply your associate’s degree to the workforce while taking courses in your off hours.

Bachelor’s Degree in Health Science


A four-year program in health science is likely to be mapped out with the only possible end being a bachelor’s degree. This approach will provide a thorough humanities education with a degree that is broad-based but with a focused health care specialty area.

One educational advantage to pursuing a four-year degree at a single institution is that you get an integrated experience at a college that is likely to provide the resources you need to succeed. For instance, a full four-year institution may have laboratory facilities that are state-of-the-art, whereas a community college may not have the endowment or state funding to support the very latest resources.

Master’s Degree in Health Science


With few exceptions, senior level professionals in health science will want to earn a master’s degree. More and more, a graduate degree is expected for top-level executive roles. When you achieve this level of education, your earnings are likely to see a significant rise as will your personal satisfaction in providing the very best service to the institutions and patients you serve.

Online Health Science Degrees


You can pursue your health science degree online if you so choose. Most programs these days offer at least a few courses online, or offer a hybrid of campus and online courses. These courses are more flexible than campus courses in that you can fit them in around your family and work life.

Even if you already have a degree, you can augment your learning with online courses that can enhance your professional life. You might also pursue certificate programs online. For instance, you can achieve a pharmacy technician certificate online, or you might take courses towards a graduate-level certificate in public health once you are already working in the field with a four-year degree.

Health science degrees come in many different shapes and forms. However, they all provide an education that will propel you into the healthcare industry with job prospects that are personally enriching and financially rewarding. If you are ready to get started, there is no time like the present. Start applying to your dream programs today.

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Tell us a little about yourself and we’ll connect you with schools that offer health science degree programs.