Nursing and Healthcare Degree Programs

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Nursing and Healthcare

Many drawn toward the healthcare field say that they have a natural inclination for caregiving. Professionals in nursing and related fields are typically the nurturing type and genuinely like offering others a helping hand. If this sounds like you, then you have an innate reason to pursue a career in the healthcare profession. After all, doing something you love or something you feel like you were born to do is rewarding in and of itself! Still, there are plenty of other reasons to begin a career in the healthcare field, and there are also a number of incentives for those already in the profession to seek advanced degrees. Jobs in the healthcare industry are on the rise, and the earning potential for professionals with the proper credentials is virtually unlimited.

Nursing and Healthcare Degrees: Outlook

Many prospective students decide to pursue a degree in nursing and healthcare because of the field’s promising career outlook. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, jobs in healthcare are expected to grow by 18% between the years of 2016 and 2026, adding over two million jobs in nursing and other healthcare positions. These jobs aren’t menial occupations, either. Degrees in nursing and healthcare can provide students with the skills and credentials they need to take advantage of this lucrative occupational boom.

Nursing and Healthcare Degrees: Salary Information

People employed in the nursing and healthcare field tend to be quite well-paid. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual wage for those in the healthcare profession is $63,420. That’s nearly double the average salary for all occupations. Of course, the precise amount you’ll make depends on the type of nursing and healthcare degree you earn and the position you take on. There are several careers in the field that gross over six figures, according to the BLS:

  • Nurse Anesthetists, Nurse Practitioners, and Nurse Midwives: $107,460
  • Physician Assistants: $101,480
  • Optometrists: $106,140
  • Pharmacists: $122,230
  • Physicians and Surgeons: $208,000
  • Podiatrists: $124,830

Are Nursing and Healthcare Degrees Necessary?

If you’re serious about pursuing a career in the healthcare field, a degree is likely a good idea. Jobs in nursing and healthcare requiring a minimum of an associates degree tend to be more lucrative, offer more job security, and have more advancement opportunities. Having said that, there are a few occupations in the field that require only a high school diploma or equivalent: Home Health Care Aides and Personal Care Assistants: $22,170
Opticians: $35,530
Pharmacy Technicians: $30,920

It’s worth noting that although these positions do not require a degree, they are entry-level positions, and they are among the lowest-paying jobs in the field.

Quite a few other jobs in nursing and healthcare require some post-secondary schooling but stop short of requiring an official degree:

  • EMTs and Paramedics: $32,670
  • Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurses: $44,090
  • Medical Assistants: $31,540
  • Medical Records and Health Information Technicians: $38,040
  • Medical Transcriptionists: $35,720
  • Phlebotomists: $32,710
  • Surgical Technologists: $45,160

Many healthcare professionals in the above occupations go on to complete healthcare degrees in order to take advantage of advancement opportunities. For example, it’s common for licensed practical nurses (LPNs) to enroll in LPN to RN degree programs in order to become registered nurses. Medical assistants may also pursue degrees to become RNs, and with advanced degrees, they can eventually become physician assistants or nurse practitioners.

Types of Nursing and Healthcare Degrees
Associates Degrees in Nursing and Healthcare

Associates degrees in nursing (ADN) represent the lowest level of postsecondary education you can earn. Even so, these degrees can provide graduates with the skills and credentials necessary to fill important technical roles in the healthcare field. Often, these positions are well-paid ones too, sometimes even more so than occupations requiring a bachelor’s degree. Consider the following job titles and their respective mean annual wages, for example:

  • Respiratory Therapists: $58,670
  • Radiological and MRI Technologists: $58,960
  • Diagnostic Medical Sonographers and Cardiovascular Technologists and Technicians: $64,280
  • Dental Hygienists: $72,910
  • Nuclear Medicine Technologists- $74,350
  • Radiation Therapists: $80,160

Associates degree programs in nursing and healthcare generally take two to three years to complete, though it is possible to find accelerated programs that will enable you to earn your degree more quickly. Likewise, it may be possible to complete your degree on a part-time basis as well. This will mean that it will take longer to earn your nursing and healthcare associates degree, but you’ll be able to fit your coursework into your schedule, making the program more convenient for your lifestyle. Other flexible learning options may be available as well, such as online programs and hybrid formats, for instance. Associates degrees in nursing are usually obtained from community colleges, though some universities may offer this credential as well.

Types of Associates in Nursing and Healthcare Degrees

Within the broad category of associates in nursing and healthcare programs, there are many different types of degrees one can earn. Some of these include:

  • Associate of Science in Nursing (ASN)
  • Associate of Applied Science in Nursing (AASN)
  • Associates in Healthcare Administration
  • AAS in Emergency Medical Services
  • AAS in Medical Office Management
  • AAS in Healthcare Information Management
  • Associates in Surgical Technology
  • Associates in Medical Diagnostics

Topics Covered in Associates Degree Nursing and Healthcare Programs

Each associate degree in nursing and healthcare will have unique qualities, and the curricula for these programs may vary. Even so, certain topics are covered in nearly every program. Some of these topics include:

  • Anatomy and Physiology
  • Nutrition
  • Biology
  • Arts and Sciences
  • Sociology
  • College Mathematics

Sample Course Titles for Associates in Nursing and Healthcare Programs

Specific course titles for associates in nursing and healthcare degree programs will inevitably vary from school to school. Below you will find some sample course titles to give you an idea of what to expect from an ADN program:

  • Medical-Surgical Nursing
  • Introduction to Pharmacology
  • Concepts of Nursing
  • Dosage Calculations for Professional Nursing
  • Microbiology
  • Dimensions of Professional Nursing
  • Fundamentals of Psychiatric Nursing

Bachelor’s Degrees in Nursing and Healthcare

Bachelor’s degrees in nursing and healthcare are some of the most common types of degrees pursued by individuals hoping to enter the healthcare field. These degree programs are traditional undergraduate offerings that include a strong general education component in addition to the technical education one might find in an associates degree program. Below are some of the most popular careers in healthcare that require a minimum of a bachelor’s degree:

  • Registered Nurses: $68,450
  • Recreational Therapists: $46,410
  • Exercise Physiologists: $47,340
  • Dieticians and Nutritionists: $58,920

Topics Covered in Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing and Healthcare Programs

Because a bachelor’s degree in nursing is a traditional four-year degree, you’ll have to take the full range of general education requirements, including classes in mathematics, English and literature, psychology/sociology, foreign language, and fine arts, for example. In addition to these broad requirements, you’ll also take nursing and healthcare-specific courses. This part of your bachelor's in nursing and healthcare curriculum will cover topics such as those listed below.

  • Anatomy and Physiology
  • Nursing Theory
  • Lifespan Development
  • Statistics in Healthcare
  • Fundamentals of Pharmacology
  • Research Methods in Nursing and Healthcare
  • Leadership in Nursing
  • Population Health

Sample Courses for Bachelors Nursing and Healthcare Programs

The specific list of classes required for your bachelor's in nursing and healthcare degree will be unique to the specific college or university you choose to attend. To give you a general idea of the type of curriculum you can expect, however, we’ve listed some sample course titles below:

  • Introduction to Nursing
  • Health and Illness: Nursing Across the Lifespan
  • Pathophysiology
  • Managing Care of the Adult Patient
  • Community Health Nursing
  • Nursing in An Evolving Healthcare System
  • Pediatric Nursing
  • Fundamentals of Patient Care
  • Communicating and Managing Healthcare Information

Masters Degrees in Nursing and Healthcare

Master’s degrees in nursing and healthcare are advanced degrees that allow healthcare professionals to specialize in a specific area of the field and/or take on leadership roles. These programs are typically two-year offerings that require a bachelors in nursing, healthcare, or a related field prior to admission. Of course, there are exceptions to the rule. Some masters in nursing and healthcare programs offer accelerated degree options that allow students to pursue their bachelors and masters in nursing/healthcare simultaneously. The careers one can pursue after completing a master's degree in nursing and healthcare are rewarding, both intrinsically and financially. Below are some of the many positions available to those individuals with a masters in nursing/healthcare along with their respective salaries:

  • Genetic Counselors: $74,120
  • Nurse Anesthetists, Nurse Midwives, and Nurse Practitioners: $107,460
  • Occupational Therapists: $81,910
  • Orthotists and Prosthetists: $65,630
  • Physician Assistants: $101,480
  • Speech-Language Pathologists: $74,680
  • Respiratory Therapists: $58,670

Types of Masters in Healthcare and Nursing Degree Programs

There are numerous master's in healthcare and nursing degree programs available and even more concentration and specialization options. Don’t allow this abundance of options overwhelm you, though. Remember that the masters nursing and healthcare degree program you choose should align with your specific academic and career interests. Here are some examples:

  • Master of Science in Nursing
  • Masters in Health Services Administration
  • Masters in Public Health
  • Masters in Long-Term Care Administration
  • Masters in Health Informatics

Since masters degrees in nursing and healthcare programs are so specialized, it’s impossible to pinpoint a generic or standard curriculum. That said, students enrolled in these programs can expect to take in-depth courses that explore highly specific topics directly related to their career interests and goals.

Types of Doctoral Degrees in Nursing and Healthcare

Doctorate degrees in nursing and healthcare are terminal degrees. This means they represent the highest level of education a healthcare professional can attain. These academic programs are complex, time-consuming, and highly involved pursuits and can take between five to seven years to complete. In addition to a rigorous curriculum, students enrolled in nursing and healthcare doctoral programs are almost always required to prepare and defend a doctoral thesis and complete a clinical residency program. This commitment of immense time and effort yields a hefty reward, however. Positions requiring a doctorate in nursing and healthcare command a great deal of respect in the healthcare field and allow top professionals in healthcare to earn a handsome salary. Below are some examples of such positions alongside their respective annual wage:

  • Audiologists: $75,980
  • Chiropractors: $67,520
  • Optometrists: $106,140
  • Pharmacists: $122,230
  • Physical Therapists: $85,400
  • Physicians and Surgeons: $208,000+
  • Podiatrists: $124,830

Types of Doctoral Degrees in Nursing and Healthcare

Various top positions in healthcare require different types of doctoral degrees, however. Some of the terminal degrees in this field are listed below:

  • Doctor of Medicine (MD)
  • Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP)
  • Doctor of Philosophy in Nursing (Ph.D.)
  • Doctor of Nurse Anesthesia Practice
  • Doctorate in Healthcare Administration
  • Doctor of Public Health
  • Doctor of Pharmacy
  • Ph.D. in Health Informatics
  • Doctor of Health Sciences

Frequently-Asked Questions About Nursing and Healthcare Degrees

Q: Can I complete my nursing and healthcare degree online?

A: Yes. No matter what level of nursing and healthcare degree you desire, there’s a good chance you can find an online nursing and healthcare degree to fit your interests, career goals, and schedule. More and more students interested in the field of healthcare are pursuing associates, bachelor’s, master’s, and even doctorate degrees via distance education. Many of these programs require some campus visits, though, especially at the masters and doctoral levels, so be sure to check with your chosen school or university and be prepared for these more traditional requirements.

Q: Will I be required to obtain licensure in addition to a degree in nursing and healthcare?

A: Probably, though it depends on your specific career goals. Registered nurses, for example, must pass a certification exam and be licensed by the nursing board in their state. Often, nursing and healthcare degree programs will provide specific instruction and curricula designed to prepare students for licensing exams and certification requirements.

Q: Can I pursue a degree in nursing and healthcare while working in the field?

A: Yes. Working in the healthcare field while pursuing a degree is a popular choice for many types of healthcare professionals, including nurses. Some nursing and healthcare degree programs are specifically designed for working professionals, and those that require a clinical experience may allow students to fulfill this requirement at their places of employment.

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