The healthcare industry is expected to grow 13% over the next ten years, adding 2 million new jobs to the marketplace. If you’re interested in joining one of the fastest-growing industries in the country, the first place to start is your education.
A wide variety of medical degrees are available that cater to various fields within healthcare. Many of these degree programs are available online, even from top medical colleges and universities. Below, we’ll outline the medical degrees you can get online, how the programs work, and how to choose the right one.
100% Online vs. Hybrid Programs
Due to the hands-on nature of most medical professions, there is still a need for in-person practical education. Therefore, 100% online degree programs are usually for existing licensed medical professionals looking to continue or upgrade their education level. Online programs for entry-level medical students will likely be conducted in a hybrid format. Some students must participate in laboratory coursework or learn how to do a blood draw. These types of tasks are simply impossible to perform from home. Students in hybrid programs will either attend a local college for in-person learning or partner with local teaching hospitals and clinics to receive practical, hands-on instruction.
Top 5 Medical Degrees That Can Be Earned Online
There are several paths to choose from within the medical field, but some degree options will prove to be better than others. You can set yourself up for success by choosing a majorthat is in demand, pays well, and has room for promotion. For example, within the general umbrella of nursing, there is an impressive variety of specializations and promotions to pursue after receiving your initial degree and license. Let’s look at some of the top majors within the healthcare industry and all the opportunities they hold.
The nursing workforce is projected to increase by 27.6% between 2021 and 2031, over five times the national average across all occupations. However, as an entry-level nursing professional, the median annual wage is the lowest on our list at $48,070. After earning a nursing major degree, there are a variety of tracks to follow through specialization, which often leads to a pay increase. Nurses interested in receiving their master’s degree can work to become Nurse Practitioners with a median annual salary of $120,680, a significant step up from a first-year nurse. Here are a few examples of job titles held by nursing majors:
- Licensed Practical Nurse
- Triage Licensed Nurse
- Pediatric Licensed Nurse
- Registered Nurse Practitioner
- Acute Care Nurse Practitioner
- Surgical Nurse Practitioner
2. Radiology technology
The second major on our list is an entry point into an exciting career path within radiology technology. Professionals in this field perform diagnostic imaging exams by administering X-rays, CT scans, MRI scans, and sonograms. This occupation is projected to grow 6% by 2031, an average rate of growth that will add 17,000 jobs to the marketplace. The typical entry-level education requirement would be an associate degree, but higher education is also available. The median annual salary for a Radiology Technologist is about $61,980, well above the national average. Graduates of radiology technology degree programs will go on to hold occupations such as:
- X-ray Technician
- Registered Radiologic Technologist
- Radiologic Technician
- Computed Tomography Scanner Operator
For more information on how to continue your radiology technology education, check out our guide outlining the Best Online Bachelor’s in Radiology Technology Degree Programs.
3. Respiratory therapy
One of the fastest-growing fields on our list is respiratory therapy. With over 135,800 new job openings projected by 2031, respiratory therapy employment will increase by 14%. The median annual salary for professionals in the respiratory therapy field is $61,830, and at least an associate degree is required for entry-level positions. Although Respiratory Therapists are not doctors, they are qualified to diagnose and treat acute and chronic cardiopulmonary conditions. They work alongside physicians to provide the right level of care for patients of all ages. Some common job titles for Respiratory Therapists include:
- Certified Respiratory Therapist
- Inhalation Therapist
- Registered Respiratory Therapist
- Oxygen Therapist
If you’re interested in pursuing a fulfilling career in respiratory therapy, look at our list of the Best Online Respiratory Therapy Degree Programs.
4. Physician assistant
Physician Assistants (PAs) take the lead in job outlook on our list, with a projected workforce increase of 27.6% by 2031. This increase will account for nearly 12,700 new jobs added to the marketplace each year until then. The median annual salary also tops the list at $121,530. PAs do not hold a doctorate degree but work under the direct supervision of a physician and perform many of the same tasks. They work within most specialties to examine, diagnose, and treat patients through their lead doctor. This occupation requires a master’s degree, which students can earn online, most ending in practical clinical rotations before graduation. For a complete guide to the best online Physician Assistant degrees, review the Best Online PA Master’s Programs and the overall Best Online PA Degree Programs.
5. Healthcare administration
Covering the paperwork side of the medical industry is the Healthcare Administrator. This field holds a variety of occupations that handle everything from medical billing and coding to hospital-wide management. Professionals on this career path can expect to make a median annual salary of $100,170 and can work toward making even more as they progress through higher education and earn promotions. With the workforce expected to grow 6.7% by 2031, we can expect to see an average workforce increase across the field through occupations such as:
- Medical and Health Service Managers
- Healthcare Administrators
- Healthcare Directors
Dive deeper into your healthcare administration field by leveling up your current degree or getting started at the entry-level. We cover every level of online education available for healthcare administration through our pages dedicated to online Associate, Bachelor, Master, and Doctorate programs.
How to Choose an Online Medical Degree Program
Working in the healthcare industry will give you a job that pays well for your specialized skills, provides job stability through high demand, and holds plenty of room for promotion and professional improvement. If you’re ready to take the plunge into healthcare, it’s time to narrow your medical degree options and choose the right program. There are several factors to consider as you research potential colleges and universities:
- Pick a major. Determine the suitable occupation for you by carefully considering the duties, compensation, and educational requirements of each career path you’re interested in. Think about the day-to-day work of each occupation. Would you like to work one-on-one with patients as a nurse or operate behind the signs as a lab tech or healthcare administrator?
- Verify accreditation. Unfortunately, some online “schools” claim to provide legitimate education for medical careers, but they lack accreditation from the agencies that matter most. If you participate in an unaccredited program, all the hard work you put into your degree may not be valid with other institutions, licensing exams, or employers. Be sure the college you attend is accredited and recognized through the U.S. Department of Education.
- Talk to current students and faculty. Once you pick your program, reach out to the school faculty you’re interested in and ask them questions. Request a meeting with a current student and get a first-hand account of what it’s like to attend the program. You can gain insight into the workload, faculty dynamics, and overall school experience.
- Reach out to recent graduates. Find alumni of the degree program or school through social media or the alumni office. Get the perspective of someone who has completed the program you would like to attend. Ask them questions about what they liked, what they wished they knew, and what they would change.
Interested in another degree instead?
Learn more about online degrees, their start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.