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Education and Career Overview for Healthcare

Are you interested in pursuing a career in healthcare? This growing industry may be ideal for individuals interested in treating illnesses, managing disease, and maintaining the general wellness of others. It’s important to note that the healthcare industry is extremely vast and there are a number of different fields to consider. The common goal of them all, however, is to help others.

Degree Options

There are a number of different degree options for those interested in a healthcare career. While most will seek undergraduate or graduate degrees, associate and doctoral degrees are also available.

Associate Degree

While the majority of healthcare professionals will enroll in an undergraduate program, there are some career opportunities for individuals with an associate-level education. Dental hygienists, diagnostic medical sonographers, and radiation therapists, for example, only need an associate’s degree. This degree is a good starting point for those interested in the field, especially if they’re eager to join the workforce quickly. Most associate programs are made up of 60 credit hours of coursework and can be completed in two years.

Undergraduate Degree

There are certainly exceptions, but most healthcare employers require candidates to have, at minimum, an undergraduate degree. A bachelor’s degree in healthcare will provide basic knowledge of the field and prepare candidates for professional work or further education. Programs of study generally consist of 120 credit hours of coursework and can be completed in about four years. Part-time students may require additional time, but those with transferrable credits from high school or an associate’s degree may finish early.

Graduate Degree

For many healthcare occupations, like speech-language pathologists, physician assistants, and occupational therapists, a graduate degree is the standard requirement. Those who complete a graduate-level program will generally earn a higher salary, qualify for more employment opportunities, and experience faster career advancement. Graduate students are usually expected to complete 30 to 60 credit hours of coursework. These programs are generally meant to be completed over a two year period.

Doctoral Degree

Doctoral degrees are also available and cover a wide range of healthcare topics. Many of the highest paying and most technically challenging healthcare occupations require a doctoral degree, including chiropractors, dentists, optometrists, and pharmacists. Program credit requirements vary greatly, ranging from 60 to 120 hours. Depending on previous education experience, current work status, and program type, it can take anywhere from three to seven years to attain a doctoral degree in healthcare.

Fields of Study

Healthcare is an extremely vast field with a multitude of career options to consider. Most educational programs specify a single concentration or allow you to specialize in a single part of the field. Potential areas of study in healthcare include, but are not limited to:

  • Dental Hygiene
  • Exercise Sciences
  • Health Services Management
  • Healthcare Administration
  • Heath Sciences
  • Medical Records Administration
  • Nursing
  • Occupational Therapy
  • Pharmaceutical Sciences
  • Physical Therapy
  • Physician Assistance Studies
  • Public Health
  • Speech Pathology

Career and Salary Outlook

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the career outlook for healthcare occupations is quite good. In fact, employment within the field is expected to grow 18 percent before 2026. This growth is much faster than other occupations, likely due to the need for additional healthcare services to meet the demands of the aging baby-boomer generation. (Based on national data, not school-specific information. Conditions in your area may vary)

While salaries vary drastically on job type, the median annual wage for healthcare practitioners and technical occupations was $64,770 in 2017. This is significantly higher than the median wage for all other fields surveyed. Healthcare support occupations, however, had a median annual wage of $28,710. (Based on national data, not school-specific information. Conditions in your area may vary)


Health Occupations. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Retrieved on August 9, 2018 from:

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