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20 Most Employable Health Care Degrees 2015

Best Health Care Degrees 2015Recently, OnlineDegrees.com conducted a study to determine which degree fields provide the best "bang for your buck" based on a variety of cost-benefit factors. The findings were used to create our Best Online Degrees tool -- a searchable database of every major included in the analysis -- as well as a top 50 ranking of the most promising degrees of 2015. Of the 50 majors that made the list, nearly half were in medical and health care fields.

It should come as no surprise that as people live longer and new fields of medicine and avenues for health care delivery open up, associated job opportunities are on the upswing. And new medical technologies mean that many of these jobs reward specialized training with high-paying salaries.

We compared expected numbers of job openings and average salaries provided by Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Statistics and Outlook reports to information from the Institute for Educational Sciences' National Center for Educational Statistics in order to determine which degree programs lead to the best ratio of high pay versus investment in tuition and time.

The following list provides details on the best-performing medicine and health care degrees from that study, to help those interested in pursuing professional advancement in the medical field.

As you review our ranking, remember that this analysis is based on historical information which can change, especially in a fast-moving field like health care. Also, remember that the degree classifications used below include categories that might overlap and not necessarily correspond to how majors are listed by certain schools.

With all this in mind, here are the 20 health care fields that offer the best potential return on investment for students:

1. Osteopathic Medicine/Osteopathy

Majoring in osteopathy will introduce you to an alternative medical technique that uses tissue and bone manipulation as a form of treatment and disease prevention. (Note: The high average salary in this field may reflect the fact that some practitioners also have advanced degrees -- including MDs -- in traditional medicine.)

  • Average Salary of Related Professions: $176,530
  • Projected Job Growth (2012-2022): 16.65%
  • Average Tuition Cost Per Year: $9,180
  • Number of Schools Offering Programs in this Field: 25

2. Dental Hygiene

Dental hygienist is the highest-ranking medical support position in this study, a major/job that involves performing dental hygiene procedures, identifying patients' dental health issues, and educating patients on appropriate oral maintenance.

  • Average Salary of Related Professions: $78,070
  • Projected Job Growth (2012-2022): 34.7%
  • Average Tuition Cost Per Year: $10,570
  • Number of Schools Offering Programs in this Field: 404

3. Diagnostic Medical Sonography

Studying ultrasound/sonography technology can prepare you for a career operating and maintaining the vital diagnostic tools used in obstetrics and other medical fields needing non-invasive investigation of tissues and organs.

  • Average Salary of Related Professions: $75,720
  • Projected Job Growth (2012-2022): 41.05%
  • Average Tuition Cost Per Year: $10,270
  • Number of Schools Offering Programs in this Field: 360

4. Occupational Therapist Assistant

While training to become an occupational therapist (OT) may still require an advanced degree, occupational therapy assistants -- who frequently implement the physical therapy plans developed by OTs -- are well paid and in demand, with a far lower cost of entry into the field.

  • Average Salary of Related Professions: $70,150
  • Projected Job Growth (2012-2022): 39.35%
  • Average Tuition Cost Per Year: $8,486
  • Number of Schools Offering Programs in this Field: 176

5. Medical Radiologic Technology/Science

Majoring in radiation therapy will teach you how to implement the radiation treatments prescribed by oncologists, preparing you to manage therapies, patient relations, record keeping, and data collection associated with radiation-based treatment programs.

  • Average Salary of Related Professions: $73,123
  • Projected Job Growth (2012-2022): 26.8%
  • Average Tuition Cost Per Year: $11,512
  • Number of Schools Offering Programs in this Field: 455

6. Surgical Technology

Before the surgeon enters the operating room, those trained as surgical technologists have set the stage: ensuring all tools and equipment are in place and ready to be used, and supporting doctors throughout a surgical procedure.

  • Average Salary of Related Professions: $63,875
  • Projected Job Growth (2012-2022): 32.95%
  • Average Tuition Cost Per Year: $8,163
  • Number of Schools Offering Programs in this Field: 670

7. Health Information/Medical Records Administration

Studying health care records administration will prepare you to create and maintain the record-keeping systems that ensure health care providers are informed and in compliance with complex medical privacy laws and internal/external regulations.

  • Average Salary of Related Professions: $90,940
  • Projected Job Growth (2012-2022): 23.2%
  • Average Tuition Cost Per Year: $14,925
  • Number of Schools Offering Programs in this Field: 164

8. Aerospace Physiology and Medicine

If you're looking for the most specialized degree/profession in this study, working on physiology and medicine applied to those who spend large amounts of time in the sky or outer space is for you! (In case you're wondering, that one school offering this degree is run by the US Air Force.)

  • Average Salary of Related Professions: $90,807
  • Projected Job Growth (2012-2022): 12.83%
  • Average Tuition Cost Per Year: $0
  • Number of Schools Offering Programs in this Field: 1

9. Emergency Medical Technology

While the number of places to study emergency medicine is large, the need for people in this life-saving profession -- which increasingly involves understanding and using complex, front-line medical technology -- is even larger.

  • Average Salary of Related Professions: $58,150
  • Projected Job Growth (2012-2022): 29.6%
  • Average Tuition Cost Per Year: $7,192
  • Number of Schools Offering Programs in this Field: 1,113

10. Clinical/Medical Laboratory Technician

So who processes all those samples our doctors (and occasional employers) send off to "the lab?" Those trained as medical lab technicians, a rapidly growing (and reasonably well-paid) behind-the-scenes medical support profession.

  • Average Salary of Related Professions: $61,500
  • Projected Job Growth (2012-2022): 32.9%
  • Average Tuition Cost Per Year: $8,322
  • Number of Schools Offering Programs in this Field: 324

Keep in mind that salaries noted above are calculated by averaging lower entry-level salaries with the higher pay received by seasoned professionals (and all job levels in between). Similarly, average tuition costs will likely not translate to your chosen school charging exactly that amount. But comparing the statistics associated with one profession relative to another can help you determine if a particular academic pursuit is a smart bet on your future.

Speaking of the future, there is a good chance that a large chunk of yours will be spent working long hours in whatever field you choose to study. So, in addition to using the kind of cost-benefit analysis contained in this article to inform your choice, don't forget to make sure whatever career path you follow involves work you will look forward to doing years or even decades after your last tuition bill gets paid.

Here are 10 more health care degrees that made our list of best bets for 2015:

11. Health/Health Care Administration/Management

12. Respiratory Care Therapy

13. Health/Medical Physics

14. Medicine

15. Pharmacy

16. Chiropractic

17. Dental Assisting

18. Dentistry

19. Health Unit Manager

20. Hospital and Health Care Facilities Administration/Management

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