Online Healthcare Degree Programs
As the population ages, the healthcare field increases its demandExternal link:open_in_new for qualified professionals to treat patients. Healthcare professionals are found in environments including hospitals, outpatient clinics, surgery centers, nursing homes, schools and community clinics. Healthcare professionals also work in mobile positions and as home health aides.
If you enjoy helping people and have an interest in medical science, a healthcare profession may be for you. Online healthcare programs enable students to earn a variety of healthcare degrees, from the associate to doctoral level, wherever they are located. The healthcare field is diverse, with opportunities to work with a variety of populations in different settings. Learn more about accredited online healthcare degrees you may pursue to help grow or advance a healthcare career.
Types of Healthcare Degrees
There are many options for online health degrees to choose from. The length and type of program that’s best for you will depend on your career goals. If you’re not yet sure what field of healthcare you want to pursue, you can study for a general degree before choosing a specialty. Use this guide for healthcare degrees online to compare your options.
Associate degree in healthcare
Bachelor’s degree in healthcare
Master’s degree in healthcare
Doctoral degree in healthcare
Associate degree in healthcare
An associate degree is typically a two-year program that prepares graduates for entry-level work in healthcare, typically in roles where they’re assisting more advanced medical professionals. Graduates can also apply associate degree studies to a bachelor’s degree program if they decide to further their education.
You might consider an associate degree in healthcare if you want to enter the healthcare field quickly or if you’re interested in a lower-level healthcare role. You can gain work experience and attend a more advanced program in the future if you choose.
An associate degree in healthcare may lead to different positions, such as:
Medical administrative assistant
Licensed practical nurse
Physical therapist assistant
Occupational therapy assistant
Some positions, like those in nursing, may require licensure in addition to degree program completion.
Bachelor’s degree in healthcare
A bachelor’s degree in healthcare is typically a four-year program. If a student enters a bachelor’s degree program with an associate degree, the student may be able to complete the bachelor’s program more quickly, in around two years. This depends on how many transfer credits your bachelor’s in healthcare program accepts.
You might consider getting a bachelor’s degree if you know you want to advance your education with a master’s degree or doctoral degree, since a bachelor’s degree may comprise prerequisite courses to enter a more advanced healthcare degree program. Be sure to check with your state for licensure and credential requirements.
With a bachelor’s degree in healthcare, you may be able to pursue positions such as:
Biomedical equipment technician
Medical lab technician
Master’s degree in healthcare
A master’s degree in healthcare is an advanced healthcare degree that typically takes one to two years to complete. A student typically would have a bachelor’s degree to enter a master’s in healthcare program, though there are bridge programs like RN-to-MSN that may allow associate degree holders to enter a master’s degree program.
Students might be interested in pursuing a master’s degree in healthcare if they want to work in an advanced healthcare role without having to attend medical school. The position of physician assistant, for example, performs many of the same duties as physicians, including direct patient care. However, only a master’s degree is required to obtain this role.
A master’s degree in healthcare helps prepare graduates for more advanced healthcare positions, including supervisory roles. Someone with a master’s in healthcare might pursue a career such as:
Doctoral degree in healthcare
There are several types of doctoral-level degrees in healthcare, including but not limited to Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), Doctor of Medicine (MD), Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP), Doctor of Public Health (DrPH) and more. Each doctoral degree prepares you for different roles in healthcare. Typically, a doctoral degree in healthcare program takes four to six years to complete.Because a doctoral degree is the highest form of education in healthcare, this type of degree may also lead to higher earning potential for healthcare professionalsExternal link:open_in_new. With a doctoral degree, a graduate might pursue a role such as optometrist, audiologist, chiropractor, dentist, pharmacist, physical therapist, physician, surgeon, podiatrist or veterinarian. Healthcare professionals in roles like these provide direct patient care and may supervise lower-level healthcare workers. Requirements for these careers will vary, be sure to check with your state licensure board and related professional organizations for more information.
11 Types of Online Healthcare Program Options
Within the healthcare field, there’s a variety of specialties you may pursue. These online healthcare programs show the diversity of what’s available.
Health informatics is a field combining healthcare and computer science that involves collecting, storing, analyzing and presenting patient healthcare data in digital formats. Health informatics informs healthcare policy and reform and enables healthcare providers to better collaborate with each other.
You might be interested in studying a health informatics program if you’re interested in the medical field but would rather work with data than directly with patients. Health informatics curriculum may include medical information systems security, statistical methods and health data theory and practice courses.
With a degree in health informatics, you might pursue a career such as medical records and health information technician, clinical informatics manager, chief medical information officer, clinical data analyst or director of clinical informatics.
Healthcare administration is a field that involves managing departments and staff within healthcare environments. Healthcare administrators work in many types of healthcare settings, including hospitals, physicians’ offices, research laboratories, nursing homes, medical records facilities and specialized clinics.
Healthcare administration professionals ensure healthcare operations are legally, operationally and professionally effective. Healthcare administrators may also manage specific healthcare departments, like accounting, supply chain or human resources.
In a healthcare administration program, courses may cover topics such as planning medical and health services, compliance, healthcare budgeting and healthcare staffing.
People who are interested in management and in healthcare may thrive in administration roles. Healthcare administrators collaborate with other healthcare professionals and focus more on behind-the-scenes healthcare work than patient care.
Similar to healthcare administration, healthcare managers ensure healthcare operations run smoothly. Those who work in healthcare management may oversee healthcare systems or facility operations and contribute to organization-wide strategies. Unlike healthcare administrators who may focus on the details and day to day of specific departments, healthcare managers oversee broader operations and contribute to the goals and objectives of a healthcare facility.
In a healthcare management program, expect courses that cover topics like business operations, healthcare management techniques, professional healthcare communications, medical law and risk management. There are healthcare management courses online that teach healthcare-specific management best practices and prepare non-healthcare managers and healthcare professionals for healthcare management roles.
Some healthcare professionals who have worked directly with patients evolve their careers into healthcare management roles. Others enter healthcare management because they enjoy managing and are interested in the healthcare field.
A medical doctor program is a doctoral program that teaches students how to be a physician in a specific area of practice. These programs typically include clinical experience, which is supervised work under a resident doctor.
If you want to become a physician, a medical doctor program is a likely path to take. You might consider this program if you want to achieve the highest direct patient care role available.
After graduating medical school, passing an exam and spending several years in residency are required to become a physician.
A nurse practitioner program is a master’s degree in nursing or a postgraduate degree program that helps prepare students for advanced roles in nursing. Nurse practitioners may be able to diagnose patients, treat illness, promote healthy practices and provide health education. Nurse practitioner programs may also enable nurses to focus on a particular population, such as an online family nurse practitioner (FNP) program or online women’s health nurse practitioner (WHNP) programs. These programs may include both lectures and clinical and practicum hours.
To become a nurse practitioner, you will need to apply for nursing certification and state licensure. Because nurse practitioners often work in similar primary care roles as physician assistants and doctors, these types of programs may be appealing if you want to diagnose and treat patients but don’t want to complete a medical doctor program to do so.
Sponsored Online Nursing Programs
Simmons University info
Master of Science in Nursing (MSN)
Earn an MSN online from Simmons University. Choose from two program options — FNP or PMHNP — and prepare to raise the standard of patient care.
Choose from two program options — FNP or PMHNP
Complete in as few as 24 months
Full-time and part-time tracks available
Georgetown University info
Master of Science in Nursing
Nursing@Georgetown delivers Georgetown University’s MS in Nursing program online, preparing RNs with a BSN to pursue certification in an APRN specialty. Students can earn their degree in as few as 23 months.
Earn your MS in Nursing in as few as 23 months
Choose from one of four APRN specialty areas: AG-ACNP, FNP, NM/WHNP, or WHNP
Gain hands-on clinical experience in evidence-based practice
St. John Fisher University info
Master of Science in Nursing
Earn an M.S. in Nursing online at the Wegmans School of Nursing. Bachelor’s in nursing and RN license-required.
Part-time and accelerated tracks available
Four program options: PCFNP, PMHNP, AGACNP, AGPCNP
University of Southern California (USC) info
Master of Science in Nursing – FNP Program
Nursing@USC delivers the online Master of Science in Nursing program from the University of Southern California Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work Department of Nursing. RN and BSN req’d.
Designed for registered nurses (RNs) with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing
Offers a part-time option for active RNs to earn a Master of Science in Nursing online
Can be completed in as few as 21 months
A nutrition program teaches students principles in nutrition, biological sciences and nutrition research methods, as well as prevention and treatment of health issues as a result of poor nutrition. Nutrition programs and online nutritionist course options help prepare students to work in healthcare settings like naturopathic medicine and to help clients adopt healthy nutrition habits.
If you’re interested in the science of food and in helping people avoid issues like obesity, you might be interested in a nutritionist program. Nutrition programs may also lead to careers as physician assistants, life scientists and preventive medicine physicians, depending on the education pursued.
Occupational therapists work with clients who have experienced a disability, illness or injury and need therapy to perform everyday activities and achieve independence. They work with clients of all ages, including older patients who are experiencing cognitive and physical changes.
A master’s degree in occupational therapy is typically the entry-level educational requirement for occupational therapists,External link:open_in_new according to the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA). In these programs, students may learn about anatomy, evidence-based practice in occupational therapy, kinesiology, life span wellness and physical disabilities. There’s also typically a fieldwork requirement, so students can get supervised experience under a professional occupational therapist.
Pharmacy technician programs may help prepare students to become certified and work as pharmacy technicians, who help pharmacists dispense prescription medication to customers and healthcare professionals in pharmacies and hospitals. These programs cover topics like medical terminology, patient record management and pharmacist assistant duties. These may be associate degree programs or post-secondary education programs.
In addition to passing an exam to become a pharmacy technician in the state where you want to work, continuing education and a background check may be required.
Physician assistants work under the supervision of physicians but perform many of the same tasks physicians do in healthcare environments like doctors’ offices, hospitals and residential care facilities. They diagnose and treat patients, prescribe medications, order tests and X-rays and perform medical procedures. A physician assistant role may be a good option for students who want to perform medical primary care but don’t want to go through medical school to do so.
According to the American Academy of PAs (AAPA), a master’s degree and license are requirements to become a physician assistantExternal link:open_in_new. Physician assistant programs may enable students to specialize in a certain medical field or prepare to work with a specific patient population. Online physician assistant programs include lecture courses and clinical placement, where students work under physician supervision.
After completing a PA program, an additional step for how to become a physician assistant includes passing the Physician Assistant National Certifying ExamExternal link:open_in_new.
Physical therapy programs are doctoral programs that prepare graduates to work as physical therapists. Physical therapists help injured and ill people regain and protect physical functions through preventive care, treatment and rehabilitation.
In physical therapy programs, students may learn about anatomy, applied physiology, therapeutic modalities, movement science and neuroscience. These programs include lecture courses and clinical internship practice under the supervision of professional physical therapists.
Registered nurse programs may be associate, bachelor’s or master’s degree programs in nursing. In order to become a registered nurse, an applicant must become licensed in the state where they want to work, which requires graduating from an approved nursing program and passing the National Council Licensure Examination.
Nursing programs may teach students topics like human anatomy and physiology, microbiology, nursing informatics and acute/chronic health problems. Registered nurse programs may also prepare students for the national exam with practice tests.
You may be interested in a registered nurse program if you’ve worked as a medical assistant and want to get your nursing license to provide more direct care to patients.
Speech pathology programs may help prepare graduates to become speech pathologists, who help clients overcome speech impediments and swallowing disorders as a result of a disability, illness or injury. They create treatment plans to improve speech, language and swallowing and work with individuals on their treatment.
You might be interested in a speech pathology program if you’d like to help people improve their communication. Speech-language pathologists must have at least a master’s degreeExternal link:open_in_new in speech pathology in order to practice, according to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA).
In speech pathology programs, students may learn topics related to speech sound learning, articulation, fluency, stuttering, language disorders, voice disorders, motor speech disorders and swallowing disorders. In addition to class course work, speech pathology students complete practicum hours under speech pathologist supervision.
Additional Educational Options
In addition to degree programs, there are online courses and postgraduate certificates that enable healthcare professionals to advance their education and possibly their healthcare careers. These options may be able to benefit healthcare professionals who want to gain knowledge in a new area, change careers or work with a different population or in a new specialty.
Online short course
Online healthcare short courses are less time intensive than degree programs, taking anywhere from a few weeks to several months to complete. They may cover a specific topic in depth or present a broad topic in a high-level overview. In some cases, online courses come directly from full degree programs. This type of healthcare learning may give students a way to learn about a topic without having to dedicate a full-time schedule to school.
Online courses may be a good option for people who aren’t sure if they want to commit to a full program and who want to see what a program might cover. This type of learning may also be an option for healthcare professionals who want to learn more about a topic without having to dedicate the time and financial resources to a full program all at once.
Postgraduate certificate programs provide certificates upon completion of the program and are geared toward those who have completed a master’s degree or higher. Most postgraduate certificate programs take less than a year to complete, but some may take longer depending on the program.
Postgraduate certificates may help professionals advance or change their careers. These programs provide certification that the graduate has obtained specific knowledge, which may be a requirement for certain careers.
A postgraduate certificate may help a healthcare professional become more specialized, expand their practice or obtain a leadership position in their field. If you want to advance your healthcare career or move into a new area of healthcare, you may be able to complete a postgraduate certificate program instead of getting another degree to do so.
What are the best healthcare degrees?
The best healthcare degree depends on your career goals. Whatever degree you’re interested in, consider an accredited program. Accreditation is important because some graduate programs and licenses require it to be considered for entry.
Is a healthcare degree worth it?
A healthcare degree may be worth it if it enables you to pursue work you’re interested in. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment in healthcare occupations is projected to grow 15%External link:open_in_new from 2019 to 2029, which is much faster than average for all occupations. The healthcare field is projected to add more jobs than any other occupational group during that time.
What is the easiest medical field to get into?
While there’s growing demand in healthcare, the medical field is still competitive. To find fulfilling work in medicine, professionals need to have a passion for helping others and a commitment to further their education and practice.
What degrees can you get in the medical field?
Associate, bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees can help you enter the medical field. It helps to narrow down your desired career path first so you can choose a degree program that maximizes your time and financial investment.