Five Health Care Degrees that Could Pay You Back


Itching for a career change? Take the plunge into an in-demand health care degree with payback potential.

By Katie Tandy

Whether you're a fresh-faced high school grad, a seasoned veteran out of work, or you're simply on the prowl for a career change, a degree in a health care-related field could help you pursue your goals.

To help you in researching your options, we took a look at some degrees that could help you prep to pursue an in-demand career.

The following five health care degrees are ideal for "people who want to help others, people whose jobs have gone away, career changers, and those who want a stable career with a good salary," says Deborah Brown-Volkman, certified career coach and president of life coaching company, Surpass Your Dreams.

Keep reading to learn more.

Degree #1 - Health Care Administration

Are you a natural-born leader with a knack for problem-solving? Getting a bachelor's degree in health care administration could let you hone your natural strengths while teaching you skills that could help you prepare to pursue an in-demand career in health administration.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, "prospective medical and health services managers have a bachelor's degree in health administration."

What You'll Study: The Department of Labor says that typical coursework in health administration programs includes classes in law and ethics, accounting and budgeting, hospital management, and health economics.

Click to Find the Right Health Care Administration Program.

Payback Factor: "More people in health care means more paperwork and things to manage, so demand will grow here," says Brown-Volkman. "Also, if Obama's health care legislation goes into effect, there will be a lot of changes and rules to implement."

The medical and health services manager profession is projected to grow 22 percent from 2010 to 2020 due to the active baby boomer generation requiring more medical services, says the Department.

Degree #2 - Health Information Technology

If you've got a unique combination of interpersonal and analytical skills, obtaining an associate's degree in health information technology could help you prep to pursue a career that utilizes your strengths.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, medical records and health information technicians generally need a certificate, with many possessing an associate's degree.

What You'll Study: Students who pursue an associate's degree in health information technology can expect to take courses on topics like classification and coding systems, medical terminology, computer systems, and health care statistics, says the Department of Labor.

Click to Find the Right Health Information Technology Program.

Payback Factor: "With the movement of medical records online, someone has to enter this information, maintain it, and be able to do something with it," says Brown-Volkman. "Demand for qualified people will grow here."

In fact, the Department projects the growth rate among health information technicians to hit 21 percent, with 37,700 new positions expected to be added from 2010 to 2020.

Degree #3 - Dental Assisting

If you love making people smile and are a whiz at multitasking, an associate's degree in dental assisting could make you flash your own pearly whites. Per the U.S. Department of Labor, this degree is one way you could prep to pursue a career in dental assisting.

What You'll Study: Dental assisting associate's degree programs generally include courses in oral anatomy, dental assisting techniques, and clinical practices, notes the College Board, an educational organization that administers tests like the SAT.

Click to Find the Right Dental Assisting Program.

Payback Factor: According to the Department of Labor, an increased demand for preventative dental care will require dentists to hire more dental assistants to take care of routine related tasks.

For these and other reasons, the Department projects dental assistants to have a growth rate of 31 percent from 2010 to 2020, potentially creating 91,600 new jobs.

Degree #4 - Nursing

If you have equal parts compassion, critical-thinking, and patience, consider earning an associate's degree in nursing - especially if you're interested in pursuing a health care career with payback potential.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, this degree is one route you can take to pursuing a career as a registered nurse (RN). The next step is to get licensed.

What You'll Study: Pursuing an associate's degree in nursing, students will likely take courses in everything from chemistry, anatomy, physiology, nutrition, and psychology and behavioral sciences, according to the Department of Labor.

Click to Find the Right Nursing Program.

Payback Factor: The Department projects nurses to have a job growth rate of 26 percent from 2010 to 2020.

Brown-Volkman is optimistic about these numbers, noting that because "Doctors are getting busier and busier, nurses can help take the burden and demand off of doctors' shoulders."

Degree #5 - Physical Therapy Assistance

If you pride yourself on your physical stamina, people skills, and attention to detail, then a physical therapy assistance associate's degree might be a good fit.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, "most states require physical therapist assistants to have an associate's degree from an accredited physical therapist program."

What You'll Study: Believe it or not, coursework for physical therapy assistance majors doesn't just include anatomy. According to the Department of Labor, these students divide their time between clinical experience and diverse academic coursework, with topics that often include psychology, English, anatomy, algebra, and physiology.

Click to Find the Right Physical Therapy Assistance Program.

Payback Factor: The demand for physical therapy services is projected to spike in response to the health care needs of a growing elderly population.

In fact, the Department projects that from 2010 to 2020, employment of physical therapist assistants will grow by a heart-pounding 45 percent growth rate.

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