What Can You Do with a Health Science Degree?
Here’s what you can do with a health science degree: Almost anything in healthcare, from hospital clinician to public sector administrator.
The healthcare industry is experiencing phenomenal growth, and to meet the demand for service providers in the health science field, colleges and universities are educating students in order to fill the wide array of careers that healthcare provides. A health sciences degree is an example of a program that introduces students to interdisciplinary topics that apply to healthcare, but also focuses in on a specialty area that helps them hone their expertise.
So, what can you do with a health science degree? There are numerous specialty areas available to consider. One might think of a hospital campus as a miniature city where every sort of worker can practice his or her trade. To follow this analogy, a health sciences degree provides the specific language needed to conduct business in that town. While skills may translate to other industries, the healthcare sector requires a specific understanding of medicine and patient care, and every healthcare worker works, in some way, to support its patients.
Where Do You Want to Work?
Since health science is such a broad field, you have a lot to choose from. Once you are sure where you want to work in the field, you can narrow down your options.
Where you prefer to spend your workdays can influence the type of work you would like to do. Some of the more common places for healthcare workers to be found include the following environments:
|Hospitals||Long-term Care Facilities|
|Mental Health Facilities||Clinics|
|Doctor’s Offices||Government Offices|
Within most of these places, the work is divided according to each person’s particular talents, interests and education. Some will work directly with patients as clinicians, others will spend time performing administrative or technology tasks and some may be in leadership roles in a school or governmental building. The possibilities are really endless for those in health sciences.
Those who want to work with patients and use a hands-on approach to healing and rehabilitation typically work in clinician roles. These specialists include the following:
- Physical Therapists: You’ll help people recover from injury and surgeries. Some patients need to relearn how to walk with or without a prosthesis, others may need help with fine motor control.
- Medical Assistants: You’ll work in doctor’s offices, clinics or hospitals and perform clinical as well as administrative tasks. A good medical assistant is vital to the daily operations of most organizations.
- Occupational Therapists: As an OT, you’ll help people re-learn how to conduct the business of daily life. You might teach people to use the bathroom again or help someone acclimate to a new lifestyle post-surgery.
- Physicians: Medical doctors are the life-blood of the healthcare industry. You might choose a specialty, such as cardiology, or work as a generalist.
- Research Scientist: Researchers are constantly seeking new methods for healing the sick. You might specialize in cancer treatments or diseases of the liver. There are a multitude of areas that could use more research and learning. For this job, you will probably work in a lab most of the time. Researchers sometimes do work with those suffering from disease or injury, but primarily in the context of conducting tests.
- Dental Hygienist or Technician: Whether you are a technician or an oral hygienist, your daily life will entail working with the mouth. Supporting the dentist may be a part of your routine, but you’ll have some autonomy as you clean teeth, and work with clients to update their records and teach them about dental hygiene.
Before you make the decision to work in one of these areas, make sure that you are fully aware of the environment you’ll be working in. Your specialty may bring you into close quarters with injury, disease, mental health issues and bodily fluids including blood. For many of these professions you will need patience and a strong constitution. You may also deal with people who resist the advice of their caretakers and who may be difficult, at best.
Some people find that they are geared towards management positions, and might opt for a healthcare administration track. An administrator might work in a hospital, or in close proximity to the clinicians, but they still maintain a distance because they perform most of their work in an office or general headquarters. Administration can include a wide array of workers who help keep healthcare organizations running smoothly and efficiently. These areas of administration include the following:
- Finance: Every hospital or clinic needs a financial officer to invest funds and to even help raise investment capital for a new wing or other expansions.
- Health Informatics: This is the IT department of a hospital. You will work with healthcare software and systems. Your job could also include designing and maintaining databases of patient records. Most patients will never see you, but all of them will rely upon you to keep their medical histories safe and up to date.
- Accounting: Every organization needs an accountant to audit the books, allocate funds, and to make sure that all expenditures come in according to budget. Knowing the priorities and problems that healthcare organizations face will help you be the best accountant possible for a clinic, hospital or other healthcare facility.
- Marketing and Public Relations: Hospitals and medical facilities need to maintain strong relationships with the wider community, and marketing and PR professionals work to provide the “face” of the facility to the public. If you are inclined to journalism or writing, this could be the profession for you.
Public Sector Roles
Some people like to take a bigger picture view of healthcare and might choose to work in public policy or in areas in the wider community. Many will work for government agencies, but also non-profits, government contractors and even traditional healthcare environments such as hospitals. If this sounds like you, you might consider the following career tracks:
- Public Health: Public health experts work in a wide range of environments, including private hospitals, but they often work for city, state or federal government. If you like to study the big-picture issues related to health, this may be the right path for you.
- Epidemiology: This is the study of how disease spreads. If you have a love for statistics and systems and want to work with a wide array of populations, you might choose to work with public health officials to stem the spread of disease.
- Health Education: Love to teach but want to focus exclusively on healthcare? Health educators keep everyone informed as to how they can avoid getting sick or injuring themselves. You might even find yourself creating educational films, posters or pamphlets to keep the public current on health safety issues.
- Environmental Health: If you are interested in environmental health, you could be involved with the water systems and how to keep bacteria at bay. You might also work to study the impact of fluoride in the water. Some environmental health experts look at the impact of toxic waste or with many other intersections of environment and health.
Advantages of a Health Science Degree
When you earn a degree in the health sciences, you may find there are several positions to choose from.
For those who are unsure of which path to take upon entering college, health science can provide a solid background and basic education and then focus on a specific industry that will likely need your talents.
When you are able to show an employer that you have devoted your education to the industry, they are likely to be impressed. While all clinicians need to choose a specialty or a focus, administrative and IT professionals will be rewarded when they show that they are educated in the business and technology sides of the healthcare industry.
Which Degree Suits You
Getting a health science education starts a with a certificate, such as a pharmacy technician certificate, and then advances from the 2-year associate’s degree level all the way through the PhD or doctorate. Here’s a general run-down of degree types:
You’ll specialize in a clinical field, but can also receive a two-year diploma in healthcare administration.
A four-year degree can put you in the higher salary and status categories. However, if you want a high-level clinical position, you may need a master’s degree.
A master’s degree may bring higher salaries as well as more opportunity for advancement. This level is required of many therapy positions, such as occupational therapists and physical therapists.
These professionals often are in public health, epidemiology or hold a PhD and work as researchers or educators.
Healthcare offers so many opportunities that you are sure to find your calling somewhere in the industry. A health science degree can put you on the path to success for a lifetime. The time to get started is now, so start researching programs today.