Five Useful Degrees For The Health Field


Earning the right degree could leave you well prepped to enter the health care field.

By Tony Moton

Do you picture yourself working in the health care industry, but aren't sure how to turn your vision into a reality? For starters, you'll want to consider enrolling in a health care degree program.

Why? Because a degree in this field could make you more marketable in the job sector, according to Fred Freedman, chief operating officer of health care college Pima Medical Institute.

"Health care still is a growing sector," Freedman says. "With the millions of people who will require treatment, you need highly educated people as health care providers."

In fact, the need for educated workers in the health care industry is further demonstrated by the Georgetown University's Center for Education and the Workforce's 2012 report entitled "Healthcare."

According to the study, the percentage of health care jobs requiring postsecondary education will rise to 82 percent by 2020.

Take a look at these five health degree programs that could help you gain marketable skills for the job market.

Degree #1 - Medical Assisting
Potential Career: Medical Assistant

Looking to pursue a hands-on role where you can assist doctors with clinical and administrative tasks? If so, consider earning an associate's degree in medical assisting to prep for a medical assistant career.

Why it's marketable: According to Freedman, a medical assisting program can bolster a student's chances of entering the medical assisting field.

"Medical assisting is the most popular jumping off point of entry in health care," Freedman says. "A certificate or associate's program creates opportunities for entry-level positions."

In addition, "[this degree] can also be used as a steppingstone to a higher level position of responsibility, such as nursing, lab work, or management."

Click to Find the Right Medical Assisting Program.

What you'll learn: As a medical assisting major, you could prep to perform clinical and administrative tasks in a doctor's office, according to the College Board, a nonprofit research organization that promotes higher education. You'll likely take common courses in medical office administration and insurance, medical terminology, and pharmacology.

Degree #2 - Health Care Administration
Potential Career: Health Care Administrator

Interested in sharpening your leadership skills for the health field? Consider earning a bachelor's degree in health care administration to help prep for a health administrator role.

Why it's marketable: By completing a degree program in health care administration, you could show potential employers how committed you are to working on a facility's management team, according to Freedman.

How so? Because "it's a very well-rounded degree that gives you access to management positions," says Freedman.

In addition, it is a degree that "says that you're serious about health care and can demonstrate your passion in the field," notes Freedman.

Click to Find the Right Health Care Administration Program.

What you'll learn: According to the College Board, health services administration students typically learn the different aspects of managing all types of health care facilities, such as nursing homes, rehabilitation centers, or hospitals. Examples of common courses include health care finance, health care ethics, and human resources management.

Degree #3: Dental Assisting
Potential Career: Dental Assistant

Interested in pursuing a career in the dental care field? Consider earning a certificate or associate's degree in dental assisting.

Why it's marketable: According to Freedman, trying to enter the dental assisting field with a certificate or associate's degree might open up dental assisting opportunities, no matter where you live.

"[Dental assisting] is a skill that literally is transferable across the country," Freedman says. "The skills are the same, regardless of what region they're in."

And keep in mind that if you pass the registered dental assistant (RDA) exam and obtain certification, it could add to your marketability when job hunting, notes Freedman.

Click to Find the Right Dental Assisting Program.

What you'll learn: During a dental assisting program, you typically learn how to help dentists with clinical and administrative duties, including how to sterilize instruments, perform X-rays, and complete medical record keeping, according to the College Board. Dental radiology, oral anatomy, and dental records are just a few of the classes you may take.

Degree #4 - Health Information Technology
Potential Career: Medical Records and Health Information Technician

Do you have an eye for detail and want to put that skill to good use in the health industry? If you answered yes, look into earning a certificate or associate's degree in health information technology.

Why it's marketable: According to Freedman, certificate and associate's degree holders in this field are seen as equipped to handle the complexities of electronic medical records.

And this skill can come in handy, since electronic medical records are becoming the norm in hospitals and general practitioners' offices, says Freedman.

In fact, "a familiarity with electronic medical records makes students more marketable because the records systems are more sophisticated in order to track patient records more seamlessly," notes Freedman.

Click to Find the Right Health Information Technology Program.

What you'll learn: According to the College Board, health information technology students generally learn how to prepare and maintain patient medical records as well as study the laws that protect patient confidentiality. Some common courses you may take include medical terminology, introduction to coding, and health care law.

Degree #5 - Pharmacy Technology
Potential Career: Pharmacy Technician

Interested in putting your people skills on display in the health field? An associate's in pharmacy technology could help you put those skills to work as a pharmacy tech.

Why it's marketable: According to Freedman, formal education in this field could open doors to work in a number of pharmacy settings.

"There are retail pharmacies, hospital pharmacies, and closed pharmacies, where you are filling orders rather than dealing directly with patients," says Freedman. "But if you're comfortable dealing with the public and comfortable with math, the retail pharmacy hires the most pharmacy techs and need the 'soft skills' of dealing with the public."

To increase your marketability for a pharmacy tech position, Freedman emphasizes the importance of passing a licensing exam.

"Licensing makes it more difficult and more stringent for people to get in (the field)," says Freedman. "But it also makes you more marketable, valuable, and desirable to employ."

Click to Find the Right Pharmacy Technology Program.

What you'll learn: As a pharmacy technology major, you could learn how to assist pharmacists by preparing medications and helping customers, according to the College Board. Common courses include topics like drug identification and pharmacologic terms.

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