Earning a bachelor's degree in health science prepares students for several types of healthcare positions. With broad coursework, a variety of specialization options, and career preparation for a booming field, many students feel drawn to pursue a health science degree. This diploma can also serve as a jumping off point for graduate degrees, allowing learners to go on and work as pharmacists, physical therapists, physician assistants, epidemiologists, and healthcare administrators.
The flexible options and excellent career outlook in the healthcare sector make pursuing a bachelor's degree in health science an exciting option for students.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects rapid growth and lucrative salaries for many positions in these fields. For example, pharmacists make a median salary above $120,000 and have a projected job growth of 6% over the next several years. Additionally, medical and health services managers can expect to earn almost $100,000 a year and should experience 20% job growth between 2016 and 2026. The flexible options and excellent career outlook in the healthcare sector make pursuing a bachelor's degree in health science an exciting option for students.
Should I Get a Bachelor's in Health Science?
A health science degree suits students who know they want to pursue a healthcare-related career in some capacity, whether in management, marketing, or clinical practice. The benefit of this particular focus lies in its comprehensive nature. On-campus health science degree programs generally appeal more to students entering their studies directly after high school. Learners who attend classes on campus often benefit from more in-person time with their professors and peers. Alternatively, for working professionals looking to advance their current careers, an online program may represent a more attractive option. Distance learning allows students to continue working while taking classes at their convenience. Additionally, online students can avoid paying costs related to on-campus living or commuting.
Health science degree students learn the core skills needed to work in the healthcare arena, taking coursework related to communications, research methods, public health, and medical terminology. Students can network with their classmates and teachers to figure out which type of career best matches their interests. Many programs also offer job placement assistance and internships to help participants gain experience in the field. A bachelor's degree in health science represents a good choice for individuals who know they want to work in healthcare and develop a broad skill set.
What Can I Do With a Bachelor's in Health Science?
Because a health science degree can prepare students for many different career paths, these programs feature a wide variety of classes. Graduates can go on to work in a many settings, including hospitals, clinics, public health organizations, nonprofits, and research laboratories. Their duties may include anything from practice management to direct clinical practice, depending on their educational pursuits and career goals.
- Medical and Health Services Manager
These managers coordinate medical services in a variety of locations, including hospitals and clinics. They must stay abreast of changes in healthcare laws and regulations. They may manage an entire facility or a particular department.
Median Annual Salary: $98,350
Projected Growth Rate: 20%
- Occupational Therapist
Occupational therapists assist patients in performing everyday activities, such as getting dressed and brushing their teeth. They help individuals develop or relearn important physical skills, enabling their patients to live more independently. Students who graduate with a health sciences degree develop the foundation needed to pursue a graduate degree in this area.
Median Annual Salary: $83,200
Projected Growth Rate: 24%
- Medical Records and Health Information Technician
These technicians manage medical records and confidential patient health information in both paper and electronic formats. They work to keep records safe, private, accessible, and accurate, often creating classification options to make records easier to manage. Individuals seeking to further separate themselves from their peers can also pursue certification in this area.
Median Annual Salary: $39,180
Projected Growth Rate: 16%
Epidemiologists track patterns of disease in humans and attempt to reduce the risk of illness and injury in communities. This public health position often involves community education, patient interaction, public policy development, research, and fieldwork. Students who graduate with a health sciences degree can apply to master's in public health programs to prepare for work as an epidemiologist.
Median Annual Salary: $69,660
Projected Growth Rate: 9%
- Health Educator
Health educators work in the community to teach people about wellness and promote healthier behaviors. Often employed at schools, hospitals, and nonprofit organizations, health educators usually work within specific communities, such as with children or the elderly.
Median Annual Salary: $45,360
Projected Growth Rate: 16%
How to Choose a Bachelor's in Health Science Program
Students should consider a variety of factors when choosing their health science degree program. Earning a bachelor's degree typically takes four years of full-time study, although students with previously earned college credit or an associate degree can complete their degree in as few as two years. Attending part time or online can also alter the timeline to graduation. Aspiring student should look carefully at course offerings before selecting a program.
Some programs offer specialization options to better prepare graduates for their desired career track, including health informatics, healthcare administration, and clinical manager tracks. Alternatively, other programs offer a more general overview of the allied health field and do not offer specialization tracks. Many programs also require participants to complete an internship or practicum project, allowing students to gain professional experience.
The format of a bachelor's program also heavily influences the college experience. On-campus and online programs each offer different benefits. For example, working professionals may prefer the added flexibility of online programming. A program's format can also influence its price, with many online programs featuring the same tuition for all distance learners, regardless of their state of residence. Online students can also avoid transportation and on-campus living costs.
The location of a program may also represent an important consideration. Pursuing school in an area with a shortage of healthcare providers could provide students with increased employment opportunities upon graduation. Alternatively, it could lead to difficulties in finding internships or fieldwork sites near school.
Programmatic Accreditation for Bachelor's in Health Science Programs
Finding an accredited school is incredibly important when selecting an undergraduate program in health sciences. School accreditation ensures that a university meets or exceeds certain standards established by the U.S. Department of Education and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation. Both national and regional accreditation exist. Vocational and for-profit schools often earn national accreditation, while liberal arts schools with higher academic standards typically receive regional accreditation. Attending a program not approved by an accrediting body can make students ineligible for federal financial aid and they may not be able to sit for professional certification exams after graduation. Learners might also struggle to transfer credits between schools with different accreditation statuses.
Students in this field may also want to seek out health science degrees that hold programmatic accreditation. Although no single accrediting agency exists to evaluate all health sciences degrees, the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs awards accreditation to education programs preparing students for 30 entry-level health science occupations.
Bachelor's in Health Science Program Admissions
Because the exact application process can vary widely between different schools and programs, aspiring students should thoroughly investigate a program's requirements well in advance of the application deadline. Both on-campus and online programs share many standard prerequisites. For example, students typically need to supply transcripts, write a personal essay, sit for standardized tests, and submit letters of recommendation.
Many students apply to 6-8 schools. Individuals with previous academic experience at the postsecondary level may transfer credits into their new program or use these previous experiences to waive standardized testing requirements and/or certain prerequisites. Students applying to distance programs should make sure they feel comfortable with the online format and that they can manage coursework without the structure of synchronous classes.
- Minimum GPA: More competitive health science programs often enforce a minimum GPA requirement of 3.0. However, students with a GPA of at least 2.0 can still apply to many schools.
- Application: The Common Application allows students to enter their GPA, test scores, resume, and personal essay into one electronic document, which can be submitted to several schools. Although the overall application process may still take multiple months, the Common App facilitates application completion and submission.
- Transcripts: Official transcripts detail a student's class history, grades, and overall GPA. Applicants must request their transcripts from previously attended schools and pay a small fee to submit these documents to potential health sciences programs.
- Letters of Recommendation: Schools often request multiple letters of recommendation as part of the application process. These should be written by individuals who can attest to a student's work ethic, academic ability, and/or overall quality. Most students ask previous teachers, coaches, or employers for these recommendations. Letters of recommendation can take several weeks to write and submit, and students should give their recommenders ample time to complete this process.
- Test Scores: Many bachelor's programs require applicants to submit SAT or ACT scores, and competitive programs often list a recommended or required baseline scores for admission.
- Application Fee: Almost all bachelor's degree programs in health science charge applicants an application fee, which goes to cover the costs associated with reviewing applications. Fees typically range from $25-$90. Students who demonstrate financial need can sometimes get these fees waived.
What Else Can I Expect From a Bachelor's in Health Science Program?
Health science degrees offer more than traditional core coursework, with many programs emphasizing hands-on electives and/or specializations that students can use to prepare for their desired career track. Each school's offerings vary, so students should investigate the curricula of different institutions to find programs that align with their academic and career goals.
|Healthcare Informatics||Healthcare informatics involves the study of how professionals store, secure, release, and manage health records. Students study new regulations related to privacy and security and focus on improving patient care.||A specialization in healthcare informatics prepares students to work with new medical record technologies and manage electronic health records in hospitals and clinics.|
|Public Health||The public health concentration focuses on the principles of public health management and global health considerations. Classes may cover research methods, epidemiology, and health interventions.||Students hoping to work as public health administrators, epidemiologists, and community health workers benefit from a public health focus.|
|Pre-Physician Assistant||Students hoping to become physician assistants can follow a pre-physician assistant concentration, which covers the prerequisites required to pursue graduate school. Learners may take advanced science classes, such as microbiology and chemistry.||Individuals leave this track prepared to apply to graduate school and go on to earn further licensing as clinical practitioners.|
|Biomedical Sciences||Classes in this concentration cover natural and formal sciences as well as commonly used technologies and interventions. Students also learn how to apply biomedical techniques and the theories behind them.||Graduates can pursue a variety of careers in biomedicine, going on to pursue advanced training and become doctors, immunologists, physiologists, or research assistants.|
|Aging Health Studies||An aging health studies focus may include classes on the human lifecycle, anatomy and physiology, age-related illnesses, and gerontology.||An aging health studies concentration suits students who want to work with senior citizens in nursing facilities, home healthcare agencies, and hospitals and rehabilitation facilities.|
Courses in a Bachelor's in Health Science Program
Although health science programs feature various specialization options, most curricula provide a similar set of core coursework options. The list below contains several classes that students pursuing a health science degree might take.
- Introduction to Psychology
This class introduces psychology as a discipline and delves into current research methods and theories in the field. Specific topics may include social behavior, abnormal psychological disorders, therapeutic methods, and motivation and rewards.
- Anatomy and Physiology
Anatomy and physiology coursework discusses the basic functioning of the human body, from bones and muscles to organ function and hormones. Students learn the structure and functioning of various biological systems, including the skeletal, muscular, and sensory systems. This course is crucial for any student hoping to pursue a clinical practitioner career.
- General Chemistry
This science class covers the world at the molecular level, covering atomic structure, bonding, elements, and the periodic table. Students also learn about basic scientific practices and concepts and applied mathematics. Learners who want to pursue clinical or research careers in health, such as physiologists, need to complete this course.
- Health Communications
Health communications focuses on how to deliver health information through multiple channels to a variety of people. This may include giving a diagnosis to a patient or implementing a wellness initiative for a community. The class also examines the factors that can affect communication delivery. Students planning to work in public health and community health education benefit from this class.
- Medical Terminology
Medical terminology tests students on their knowledge and understanding of the specific language used in the field of medicine and health. This includes knowing word roots, suffixes and prefixes, general medical terms, and the written terminology used in healthcare practices. Aspiring clinical practitioners need to complete this class.
How Long Does It Take to Get a Bachelor's in Health Science?
A bachelor's degree in health science typically takes four years and requires learners to complete about 120 credits. However, this timeline can vary depending on several factors. For example, students who only attend school part time may take around six years to graduate. Alternatively, individuals who previously earned an associate degree can graduate with a bachelor's degree in as little as two more years.
Some programs also allow online learners to complete classes at their own pace, meaning they can finish faster or slower depending on their availability. These schools often charge tuition by the credit, enabling distance learners who need to take fewer credits to avoid paying full-time tuition prices. Additionally, some on-campus and online programs allow students of a certain academic standing to take extra classes if they want to. The total credit requirement for a specific program, in combination with a student's schedule and academic history, determine a program's exact academic timeline.
How Much Is a Bachelor's in Health Science?
Earning a bachelor's in health science requires a significant financial commitment. The total tuition cost typically ranges from $24,000-$72,000 for four years of school. Online programs often fall on the lower end of this range. Each credit tends to cost less, and students can avoid paying fees associated with commuting and on-campus housing. However, online learners do need ready access to a computer, internet, and other academic resources.
On-campus programs often cost more, and students should consider the specific traits and format of an on-campus program before enrolling. Private schools rely heavily on funding from student tuition and donations; thus, these institutions tend to cost significantly more than public schools, which receive more state taxes and government subsidies. Students attending an on-campus program out of their state of residency may also need to pay a much higher total tuition.
Alternatively, many online programs charge out-of-state students the same tuition as in-state learners. When determining the total financial obligation for a degree, make sure to also consider the cost of books, housing, transportation, technology, distance learning fees, and/or laboratory supplies and fees.
Certifications and Licenses a Bachelor's in Health Science Prepares For
- Certified Health Education Specialist
Students who wish to become health educators need to pass an examination offered by the National Commission for Health Education Credentialing. Test takers must earn a bachelor's degree from an accredited institution and major in either health education or health science with specific coursework focused on health education. After graduating, they can sit for this three-hour certification exam.
- Certified Professional in Health Informatics
This certification prepares students to find employment in the field of health informatics and data management, working to ensure the privacy and security of electronic records in a healthcare setting. Students must complete a baccalaureate degree and obtain two years of experience in health informatics before they can take this certification examination.
- Physician Assistant Certification
Students who want to pursue clinical work as a physician assistant need to pass a certification exam before they can begin practicing. Learners must complete their health science degree (with a focus on pre-physician assistant studies) and obtain 2-3 years of professional training through a physician assistant program before sitting for the national certification examination.
- Pharmacy Technician Certification
Learners who hope to work in a pharmacy receiving and filling prescriptions, monitoring patient records, and filing insurance claims need to complete their technician certification. After completing a bachelor's in health science, students can take the examination to obtain certification.
- Medical Laboratory Scientist Certification
Medical lab technologists perform a variety of highly specific testing to assist doctors with their diagnoses. To work in this field, students must complete a bachelor's degree with a health science focus, accrue several years of professional experience, and pass a certification exam.
Resources for Health Science Students
This website provides students with additional resources about the connections between the environment and human health. It offers classroom activities, articles, and professional development opportunities.
NIH's website gives students access to science highlights, evidence-based research, games, microscope imaging practice, and answers to common science and biomedical questions.
A health science community portal that highlights recent research and educational resources, MERLOT provides links to academic health journals, professional organizations, and research articles.
Teaching Commons consolidates educational resources from colleges and universities across the country. It includes a section devoted to medicine and health sciences with articles, course materials, and sample lectures that students can listen to.
Khan Academy provides free education videos, lectures, and resources covering a variety of subjects. Health science students can pursue additional training in specific coursework, such as anatomy and physiology.
Professional Organizations in Health Science
Professional organizations offer students enormous benefits in the form of networking, continuing-education opportunities, career services, and job boards. Organizations in health science typically focus on a specific concentration, such as nursing or public health, and provide tailored resources for members.
A nonprofit professional organization, ACHCA provides educational resources; professional networking opportunities; and certification for post-acute, aging, and long-term healthcare service providers.
APHA works to deliver healthcare services to all communities by establishing best practices and influencing federal policy. Membership can provide students with access to internship opportunities and conferences.
This organization brings together food and nutrition experts to improve the general nutritional health of the public. Members gain access to internship opportunities, job postings, and educational resources.
SOPHE links health education professional and students around the country. Members receive access to professional development resources, including continuing-education resources, an annual conference, a job board, networking opportunities, and scholarships.
Offering both student and professional membership options, this organization focuses on the revenue cycle and attempts to decrease the challenges faced by healthcare management. It also provides scholarship opportunities and access to continuing-education resources.