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Most Employable Health Care Degrees 2016

Most Employable Health Care Degrees 2016

While investing in any degree will likely have a big effect on your career trajectory, if you choose to major in health care, you may be looking at particularly high returns. That's because many health care jobs are in high demand and will continue to be for some time, thanks to an aging population, longer life expectancies, and increased access to health services.

There are a wide range of careers available in the field, from assistant-level patient care to highly specialized areas that require advanced training. What's great about choosing a health care major, however, is that you can always decide to build upon your knowledge and explore new career paths as you gain experience.

But the big question is: Which health care degrees lead to the best employment opportunities? OnlineDegrees.com recently published a list of the Most Employable Degrees of 2016, which compiled and analyzed data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the National Center for Educational Statistics in order to rank programs based on their potential return on investment. We evaluated each major on a number of cost-benefit factors, including:

  • Number of jobs matched to the degree
  • Average annual salary of all job matches
  • Average projected job growth rate (2014-2024)
  • Average concentration of jobs per 1,000
  • Number of schools offering programs in the field
  • Average in-state tuition for these programs

Below, we pulled out the health care degrees from that ranking to highlight which majors offer students the best employment potential. Based on our analysis, here are the top 20 health care degrees of 2016:

1. Public Health

If you're more interested in health issues that affect an entire population versus one-on-one patient care, a public health degree could be a great choice for you. In this career, you'll work on important tasks such as infectious disease prevention and control, public health education, community initiatives, and more.

  • Average annual salary, 2014: $77,518
  • Average projected job growth, 2014-24: 26%
  • Number of schools offering programs in the field: 271
  • Average tuition cost, 2014-15: $12,974

2. Nursing Practice

Becoming a registered nurse could be a smart career move, as there simply aren't enough of them to fill available positions nationwide. Although you can become an RN with just an associate degree, RNs today often choose to pursue a bachelor's degree before taking the national licensing exam, since many healthcare organizations prefer that credential. Nursing students take a combination of classroom lectures in the sciences, and practical clinical training.

  • Average annual salary, 2014: $90,487
  • Average projected job growth, 2014-24: 25%
  • Number of schools offering programs in the field: 185
  • Average tuition cost, 2014-15: $14,902

3. Family Practice Nursing

Very similar to a general nursing degree, a family practice nurse learns how to care for patients of all ages. These professionals typically work in health care clinics, physician's offices, or hospitals.

  • Average annual salary, 2014: $79,477
  • Average projected job growth, 2014-24: 30%
  • Number of schools offering programs in the field: 228
  • Average tuition cost, 2014-15: $12,544

4. Psychiatric/Mental Health Nursing

Yes, there's another nursing degree on this list (we told you that they're in high demand). This degree specializes in an area of nursing that deals with mental health. Coursework will have more of a psychiatric bent than the general nursing degree route.

  • Average annual salary, 2014: $79,477
  • Average projected job growth, 2014-24: 30%
  • Number of schools offering programs in the field: 59
  • Average tuition cost, 2014-15: $8,551

5. Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology

From working with an aging population likely to develop hearing issues, to working with young children who have hearing or speech developmental delays, this major will position you for a healthy career diagnosing and treating ear and speech problems.

  • Average annual salary, 2014: $88,213
  • Average projected job growth, 2014-24: 30%
  • Number of schools offering programs in the field: 149
  • Average tuition cost, 2014-15: $6,624

6. Medical Radiologic Technology/Science

Another important area of health care that is more on the diagnostic side of things is medical radiologic technology. This degree can help prepare you to become an ultrasound technician, use X-ray equipment, and/or focus on radiation therapy.

  • Average annual salary, 2014: $84,723
  • Average projected job growth, 2014-24: 27%
  • Number of schools offering programs in the field: 346
  • Average tuition cost, 2014-15: $9,694

7. Communication Sciences and Disorders

This pre-professional degree program is focused around the science of speech, hearing, and language. Like audiology and speech pathology, this field of study prepares students to treat people with speech delays, hearing problems, and other related issues.

  • Average annual salary, 2014: $88,213
  • Average projected job growth, 2014-24: 30%
  • Number of schools offering programs in the field: 119
  • Average tuition cost, 2014-15: $7,516

8. Dental Hygiene

If you've been for a dental checkup recently, you probably realized that you spend more time with the dental hygienist than the dentist. This fast-growing field is in need of new graduates as people's dental care needs increase. Hygienists perform cleanings, take X-rays, and help educate patients on proper oral hygiene.

  • Average annual salary, 2014: $92,460
  • Average projected job growth, 2014-24: 35%
  • Number of schools offering programs in the field: 366
  • Average tuition cost, 2014-15: $9,647

9. Adult Health Nursing

Coming in as the fourth nursing degree in the top 10, adult health nurse programs focus primarily on treating and managing the care of adult patients. Learning about the many chronic health conditions that adults commonly develop is a major focus of these studies.

  • Average annual salary, 2014: $79,477
  • Average projected job growth, 2014-24: 30%
  • Number of schools offering programs in the field: 96
  • Average tuition cost, 2014-15: $16,471

10. Pharmacy

In keeping with the theme of an exploding health care market, pharmacists are needed now more than ever. As more and more medicines are developed and access to treatment improves, pharmacies and hospitals will be looking to grow their pharmacy staff.

  • Average annual salary, 2014: $115,710
  • Average projected job growth, 2014-24: 25%
  • Number of schools offering programs in the field: 124
  • Average tuition cost, 2014-15: $12,220

Here are 10 more majors that made our list of the best health care degrees for 2016:

11. Pediatric Nursing

12. Geriatric Nursing

13. Maternal/Child Health and Neonatal Nursing

14. Women's Health Nursing

15. Physical Therapy

16. Speech-Language Pathology

17. Medical Informatics

18. Dental Assisting

19. Diagnostic Medical Sonography

20. Pharmacy Technician/Assistant