If you’re inclined towards healthcare, you’ve probably asked yourself, “What can I do with a health sciences degree?” Considering the diverse career paths in healthcare today, that’s a logical question. Before diving into career options with a health sciences degree, it might help better understand the subject. For the short answer to your question, skip right to the main section through the table of contents on your left.
If you’re ready to take the first step towards a rewarding career in healthcare, keep reading and learn more about what a degree in health sciences can offer you.
Health science is a diverse interdisciplinary field that applies scientific knowledge to healthcare. It combines natural and behavioral sciences, covering theoretical and practical concepts from various subjects that affect public health. Health science seeks to understand and improve human health through research, education, and practice. This field combines biological, behavioral, and social sciences to study the complex relationships between health, disease, and society. With healthcare being the third-largest industry in the U.S., health science earned recognition as an essential field.
While the curricula may vary, most degree programs in health sciences include practical laboratory classes along with theoretical subjects associated with healthcare. Health science courses aim to enable you to apply learning from STEM disciplines (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) to the healthcare system.
You can expect your curriculum to include the following:
- General and developmental psychology
- Health informatics and basic statistics
- Healthcare management
- Healthcare policy
- Anatomy and physiology
- General chemistry
- Medical ethics
A degree in health sciences can prepare you for rewarding careers across settings such as patient care facilities, hospitals, clinics, government organizations, non-profits, and medical laboratories.
Health science degrees are offered at varying levels, with diverse specializations.
On average, an associate degree in this field takes approximately 2 years to complete. Through an associate degree, you can advance your current healthcare career or prepare for entry-level roles assisting medical professionals. It can put you in a better position to earn a related bachelor’s degree.
Generally, a bachelor’s degree in health sciences takes 4 years to complete. A bachelor’s program can equip you with a foundational knowledge of health science and related subjects. Many healthcare jobs require candidates to earn a bachelor’s degree, and opting for health sciences can open several doors. You can take a strong first step towards a promising career with the right specialization. If you wish to pursue further education or professional certification, you may need to earn a relevant bachelor’s degree to be eligible for specific programs.
A master’s program in health sciences will involve comprehensive study and practical training, focusing on your chosen specialization. Most master’s programs take 1 to 2 years to complete and are designed to help you establish a robust career in your area of interest within healthcare.
The timeline for a doctoral degree in health sciences can range from 3 to 7 years. To obtain a doctorate, intensive study will likely equip you with the knowledge required for a wide range of healthcare managerial positions.
Health sciences courses offer a wide range of specializations, which vary with each university and program. Here are some common specializations you can opt for while pursuing your degree:
- General health science
- Patient care
- Occupational therapy
- Healthcare administration
- Global public health
- Nutrition and Fitness
As an interdisciplinary subject, health science can open up multiple opportunities. Health sciences majors play professional roles in medical and related facilities, working in labs, hospitals, insurance agencies, consulting firms, government bodies, and non-profits. While this plethora of options can be overwhelming, there are 5 main career paths you can choose from once you earn your degree.
These 5 health science career pathways include:
- Health informatics
- Research and development
- Diagnostic services
- Therapeutic services
- Support services
Health informatics is a dynamic field that involves studying and developing methods to collect, analyze, and implement patient solutions by organizing medical information. It essentially blends healthcare with information technology. With the development of electronic health records (EHRs) and health data analytics systems, informatics is growing quickly and is an integral part of the modern healthcare system.
Careers in health informatics do not usually involve direct patient care but tend to require data management skills. This pathway can lead to roles such as healthcare administrator, health information technologist, medical registrar, etc.
Research and development
If you are more inclined towards the scientific aspects of healthcare, you may find it appealing to pursue a career path focused on biotechnological research and development.
The growing need for medical care has driven investments in research to improve the existing healthcare systems. This pathway requires an in-depth study of STEM subjects that play a role in medical care systems and impact public health.
From discoveries to focused analyses, the research and development pathway can be exciting–especially if you want to pursue a career as a toxicologist, epidemiologist, or forensic scientist. Careers in research and development often require additional training or higher education.
As the name suggests, the diagnostic services pathway includes roles that involve detecting, diagnosing, and treating diseases or ailments. If you are inclined towards the study of medicine, medical testing, and disease prevention, then a career in diagnostic services might be right up your alley. Graduates with associate degrees are also eligible for some of these roles.
Phlebotomists, radiologists, laboratory and ultrasound technicians are some professions you could pursue if you opt for a career in diagnostic services. A few roles may require additional training, certification, or registration (these rules tend to differ in every state.
If you want to directly impact the lives of others through healthcare, then you might be suited for a career in therapeutic services. Most therapeutic services professionals interact directly with patients, their families, and other medical professionals. As such, having strong communication skills is a definite advantage. Besides healthcare knowledge, you will need to build and develop problem-solving and ethical decision-making abilities.
Paramedics, occupational therapists, and certified nurse assistants are a part of this career pathway in health sciences. Certain roles may require additional training, certification, or registration.
Medical professionals in support services work behind the scenes to ensure that the healthcare systems function as intended. The required skillset may vary, based on the nature of your role in this pathway, but having good organizational and leadership skills will be good.
If you’re aiming for a career in support services, it is important to pick a specialization since this path includes a broad range of roles – from medical librarians to hospital maintenance engineers. Educational requirements may vary for each role and state.
According to ZipRecruiter, in Washington, D.C., the average annual pay in the ‘Health Sciences Degree jobs’ category is $74,745–-as of March 2023. Here are some of the highest-paying jobs health sciences degree jobs:
Median Annual Pay (2021): $121,530
Job Outlook (2021-31): 28% (Much faster than average)
No. of Jobs (2021): 139,100
Under the direction of a physician, physician assistants (PAs) examine, diagnose, and treat patients. Physician Assistants often work to assist teams of physicians or surgeons in medical procedures. All U.S. states require PAs to obtain and periodically maintain their certification.
Medical and Health Services Managers
Median Annual Pay (2021): $101,340
Job Outlook (2021-31): 28% (Much faster than average)
No. of Jobs (2021): 480,700
Also often referred to as healthcare administrators, medical and health services managers – as the name suggests – are responsible for the planning and coordination of medical and health services. While their title and role may differ, their job typically involves recruiting staff, training them, managing finances, and organizing records.
Median Annual Pay (2021): $97,410
Job Outlook (2021-31): 10% (Faster than average)
No. of Jobs (2021): 17,900
Biomedical engineers focus on advancing technology and medicine to improve human health. They often work in research laboratories and manufacturing firms to design equipment such as artificial organs and machines that help diagnose medical conditions.
Median Annual Pay (2021): $95,310
Job Outlook (2021-31): 17% (Much faster than average)
No. of Jobs (2021): 20,800
Medical scientists conduct research to investigate the causes of diseases and to develop new treatments and preventative measures. They work to improve our understanding of human health and diseases and to develop new diagnostic tools, treatments, and cures for illnesses. Most medical scientists earn doctorates in health sciences or biology, specializing in focused niches such as neurology, cardiology, etc. They only generally require licenses if they are practicing medicine in patient care environments such as hospitals or clinics.
Median Annual Pay (2021): $85,570
Job Outlook (2021-31): 14% (Much faster than average)
No. of Jobs (2021): 133,900
Occupational therapists help people overcome physical, mental, or even emotional barriers that prevent them from performing tasks they want to do in their daily lives. They work with individuals with various conditions, including developmental delays, physical disabilities, mental health issues, and injuries. The main goal of occupational therapy is to improve the person’s ability to perform daily activities, such as self-care, work, leisure, and social interaction.
Median Annual Pay (2021): $82,790
Job Outlook (2021-31): 6% (As fast as average)
No. of Jobs (2021): 16,400
Radiation therapists are responsible for the controlled administration of doses of radiation to patients with diseases such as cancer. They often work in teams, operating linear accelerators and similar medical machinery. Radiation therapists are usually seen in hospitals and require additional licenses and certification in some states.
Median Annual Pay (2021): $78,830
Job Outlook (2021-31): 26% (Much faster than average)
No. of Jobs (2021): 8,600
Epidemiologists investigate patterns and causes of diseases in human (and sometimes animal) populations. They study the distribution of health and disease in different demographics and use this information to develop strategies to prevent epidemics. They usually work in laboratory settings, where they conduct research, commonly for government agencies.
Median Annual Pay (2021-31): $61,650
Job Outlook (2021-31): 7% (As fast as average)
No. of Jobs (2021): 74,700
Nutritionists work in hospitals, outpatient care centers, government agencies, or even at their clinics. They counsel clients and suggest healthier eating habits and diets to prevent diseases. They analyze their patients’ medical information to suggest effective nutritional plans. Many colleges offer health sciences degree programs with specializations in nutrition and fitness.
Health science is a broad field that encompasses various aspects of healthcare, from research and policy to patient care and education. Pursuing a degree in health sciences opens up numerous career opportunities, including roles in research, diagnostic services, informatics, healthcare administration, and more. With a growing demand for qualified healthcare professionals, a degree in health sciences can lead to a fulfilling career helping others and contributing to the betterment of society.
Whether or not you will benefit from a health sciences degree depends primarily on your personal goals and aspirations. Many students find it worthwhile to pursue a health sciences degree.
Students generally pursue health sciences degrees to:
Prepare for graduate or professional healthcare programs
Advance their healthcare careers to the next level
Change roles or even industries
If any of these reasons strongly resonates with your goals, a health sciences degree may be worth pursuing.
Before enrolling, it’s best to make sure that your program matches your personal and career objectives.
Today, health sciences majors can be seen in many professional settings, which include:
Federal or state government agencies
According to ZipRecruiter, in Washington, D.C., the average annual pay in the ‘Health Sciences Degree jobs’ category is $74,745–as of March 2023. Health science is broad, and the pay range varies with each profession. On the higher end, many health science professionals earn over $100,000 annually.