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Best Online Healthcare Degree 2018

Methodologies and Sources

METHODOLOGY

For this analysis, we ranked 118 bachelor’s degrees. To be included in the ranking, each major had to:
  • Be part of PayScale’s 2016-17 College Salary Report
  • Match to a corresponding code in the Classification of Instructional Programs
  • Be offered online at the bachelor’s level at five or more institutions
We scored each major on the following seven data points, using a 10-point scale:
  1. Early Career Median Pay (5 or fewer years of experience),PayScale, 2016
  2. Mid-Career Median Pay (10 or more years of experience), PayScale, 2016
  3. Percent of degree-holders who say their work makes the world better, PayScale, 2016
  4. No. of schools offering this degree online at the bachelor’s level, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015-16
  5. No. of jobs matched to each major,National Center for Education Statistics 2010
  6. Average projected growth rate of all jobs matched to each major, Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2016-26
  7. Total number of openings due to growth and replacement for all jobs matched to each major, Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2016-26

SOURCES

    • Average Rates of Growth of Published Charges by Decade, Trends in Higher Education, The College Board, accessed April 30, 2018, https://trends.collegeboard.org/college-pricing/figures-tables/average-rates-growth-published-charges-decade
    • Health Information Management Major, School of Allied Health, Coppin State University, accessed April 29, 2018, https://www.coppin.edu/info/200131/academic_programs/62/csu_academic_programs/73
    • Healthcare Just Became the U.S.'s Largest Employer, by Derek Thompson, The Atlantic, January 9, 2018, https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2018/01/health-care-america-jobs/550079/
    • Major: Clinical Laboratory Technology, BigFuture, The College Board, accessed April 29, 2018, https://bigfuture.collegeboard.org/majors/health-professions-related-clinical-sciences-clinical-laboratory-science-clinical-laboratory-technology
    • Major: Dental Hygiene, BigFuture, The College Board, accessed April 29, 2018, https://bigfuture.collegeboard.org/majors/health-professions-related-clinical-sciences-dental-hygiene
    • Major: Diagnostic Medical Sonography, BigFuture, The College Board, accessed April 29, 2018, https://bigfuture.collegeboard.org/majors/health-professions-related-clinical-sciences-allied-health-diagnosis-intervention-treatment-diagnostic-medical-sonography
    • Major: Health Services Administration, BigFuture, The College Board, accessed April 30, 2018, https://bigfuture.collegeboard.org/majors/health-professions-related-clinical-sciences-health-medical-administrative-services-health-services-administration
    • Major: Medical Radiologic Technology, BigFuture, The College Board, accessed April 30, 2018, https://bigfuture.collegeboard.org/majors/health-professions-related-clinical-sciences-allied-health-diagnosis-intervention-treatment-medical-radiologic-technology
    • Major: Medical Records Administration, BigFuture, The College Board, accessed April 29, 2018, https://bigfuture.collegeboard.org/majors/health-professions-related-clinical-sciences-health-medical-administrative-services-medical-records-administration
    • Major: Nursing (RN), BigFuture, The College Board, accessed April 29, 2018, https://bigfuture.collegeboard.org/majors/health-professions-related-clinical-sciences-nursing-nursing
    • Mayo Clinic School of Health Sciences, Medical Laboratory Sciences, http://www.mayo.edu/mayo-clinic-school-of-health-sciences/careers/laboratory-sciences
    • Major: Health Sciences, General, BigFuture, The College Board, accessed April 30, 2018, https://bigfuture.collegeboard.org/majors/health-professions-related-clinical-sciences-health-sciences-general
    • Major: Public Health, BigFuture, The College Board, accessed April 30, 2018,https://bigfuture.collegeboard.org/majors/health-professions-related-clinical-sciences-public-health-public-health
    • New Study: Over Six Million Students Now Enrolled in Distance Education, by Brianna Radicioni, Babson College, May 2, 2017, http://www.babson.edu/news-events/babson-news/Pages/2017-babson-survey-research-group-distance-education-enrollment-report.aspx
    • Respiratory Therapists, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, April 13, 2018, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/respiratory-therapists.htm
    • Return on Investment in College Education, The Guardians Initiative, Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges, ©2017, accessed April 30, 2018, https://www.agb.org/sites/default/files/report_2017_guardians_roi.pdf
    • Summary Report for: 29-2012.00 - Medical and Clinical Laboratory Technicians, O*NET OnLine, April 17, 2018, https://www.onetonline.org/link/summary/29-2012.00
    • What is a medical laboratory scientist?, Clinical Laboratory Science, KU Medical Center, The University of Kansas, July 25, 2016, http://www.kumc.edu/school-of-health-professions/clinical-laboratory-science/what-is-a-medical-laboratory-scientist.html
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Best Online Healthcare Degrees 2018

If you're interested in a healthcare career, now may be the best time to begin your education. As of this year, healthcare is the nation's largest employer. To help you get the most for your college tuition dollars, we've done the research to bring you this list of the 10 best online healthcare degrees for undergraduates.

Using PayScale's 2016-17 College Salary Report, we examined 118 bachelor's degree programs to find out which majors brought the greatest return on investment — in money, time and personal satisfaction. Read more about our methodology here.

The following online healthcare degree programs were our winners. As you can see, each one differs in content and requirements, and some degree programs may not be offered 100 percent online (because they require on-campus clinical components, for example. Read on to learn what type of education students might expect from these top 10 majors.

1
Nuring

The first major on our list has the distinction of being offered as a bachelor's degree program in the largest number of online colleges — by a huge margin. This is likely due to the fact that it also has the largest number of projected job openings, a demand that must be filled. Nurses play a critical role in the healthcare industry, providing nurturing care for the sick, promoting health and wellness through patient education and listening carefully to the needs and concerns of patients in order to provide the best possible medical care. A nursing education program should emphasize these skills.

Nursing degree programs all differ, but coursework usually includes such subjects as anatomy and physiology, chemistry, nutrition, pharmacology, psychology, health assessment and nursing strategies for adults, childbearing families or the mentally ill.

Featured data points:

  • Number of schools offering this degree online, 2015-16: 418
  • Early career median salary, 2016: $57,500
  • Projected total job openings, 2016-26: 210,900
  • Average projected job growth rate, 2016-26: 19.40%
  • Job titles aligned with this degree program, 2015-16: 2
2
dental_hygiene

With its combination of high early-career pay and high job growth rate, dental hygiene comes second on our list for the best online healthcare degree of 2018. Though many students who major in dental hygiene do so in order to become dental hygienists, this major could potentially lead to other careers, including health educator, or it could become a stepping stone to dental school.

Students majoring in dental hygiene learn how to help people care properly for their mouths and teeth. This means that courses usually include such subjects as nutrition, physiology, dental anatomy, dental hygiene techniques, dental materials, radiography (for use in taking and reading X-rays) and preventive dentistry. You likely will also hone your attention to details and people skills and learn to become comfortable working in people's mouths.

Featured data points:

  • Number of schools offering this degree online, 2015-16: 23
  • Early career median salary, 2016: $65,400
  • Projected total job openings, 2016-26: 43,300
  • Average projected job growth rate, 2016-26: 22.75%
  • Job titles aligned with this degree program, 2015-16:2
3
health_information_management

As healthcare laws for hospitals, physicians and insurers continue to change and electronic medical records evolve to become more comprehensive and efficient, the role of health information managers and administrators should grow in importance. Online health information management programs train students to become professionals who help to guide hospitals and healthcare practices by collecting and analyzing patient data and ensuring compliance with various healthcare laws.

The No. 3 major on our list of best online healthcare degrees typically leads to a bachelor's degree. It prepares you to be at the forefront of these changes, providing training in medical terminology, computer technology, coding and billing, as well as such topics as human resources management, health law, pharmacology and quality improvement.

Featured data points:

  • Number of schools offering this degree online, 2015-16: 86
  • Early career median salary, 2016: $41,700
  • Projected total job openings, 2016-26: 36,400
  • Average projected job growth rate, 2016-26: 19.80%
  • Job titles aligned with this degree program, 2015-16: 1
4
medical_laboratory_technology

In order for doctors to properly diagnose and treat patients, medical tests must provide them with crucial information. According to the Mayo Clinic,as much as 60 to 70 percent of a physician's medical decisions are based on laboratory tests. Urine, blood and tissue samples must be collected and analyzed by trained professionals with in-depth knowledge about laboratory equipment and the techniques for detecting diseases or abnormalities. An online medical laboratory technology (sometimes called clinical laboratory technology) program can prepare you for this kind of work, which heavily involves science, math, computer and equipment knowledge, critical thinking and attention to detail.

Courses in this major usually include laboratory math, medical computer software, clinical chemistry, biological information such as the study of blood and urine and more.

Featured data points:

  • Number of schools offering this degree online, 2015-16: 21
  • Early career median salary, 2016: $48,500
  • Projected total job openings, 2016-26: 38,700
  • Average projected job growth rate, 2016-26: 18.70%
  • Job titles aligned with this degree program, 2015-16: 2
5
healthcare-administration

With the second-highest number of schools offering this bachelor's degree via distance education, healthcare administration is a major that could prepare you for work running, or helping to run, a healthcare service facility. As our nation continues to evaluate how best to deliver and pay for effective healthcare, well-trained administrators will be needed to lead this change and oversee how facilities operate.

Typical coursework emphasizes leadership and communication skills — crucial components of this career — as well as subjects such as accounting, healthcare law and policy, anatomy and physiology, healthcare finance, long-term care and aging, human resources management and statistics.

Featured data points:

  • Number of schools offering this degree online, 2015-2016: 204
  • Early career median salary, 2016: $37,800
  • Project total job openings, 2016-26: 36,400
  • Average projected job growth rate, 2016-26: 19.80%
  • Job titles aligned with this degree program, 2015-16: 1
6
diagnostic_medical_sonography

Diagnostic medical sonography is projected to experience the highest rate of growth of all 10 online healthcare degree programs on our list. People in this healthcare specialty are crucial in assisting physicians and therapists by providing high-quality images of tissues, organs and, of course, unborn babies still in utero, so proper training in this field is vital.

Training for this work often includes coursework in human anatomy, medical terminology, microbiology, physiology and pathophysiology, professional ethics, ultrasound physics (including wave theory), vascular technology and more. But this education program also is grounded in working with patients, developing communication skills and empathy.

Featured data points:

  • Number of schools offering this degree online, 2015-16: 7
  • Early career median salary, 2016: $57,700
  • Projected total job openings, 2016-26: 31,200
  • Average projected job growth rate, 2016-26: 24.55%
  • Job titles aligned with this degree program, 2015-16: 2
7
radiologic_technology

Without X-rays and radiologic imaging equipment, physicians would find it nearly impossible to diagnose and treat abnormalities, diseases and injuries. This technology must be treated with extreme care, by trained professionals who have learned how to operate and maintain it. Plus, proper training can mean the difference between spotting a serious problem and missing it completely. Increasing advancements in technology means the need for trained professionals to operate it will grow, making this one of our best online healthcare degrees.

Expect coursework in areas such as anatomy and physiology, radiobiology and protection, radiographic exposure, radiographic positioning and radiologic physics. Plus, you'll develop your attention to detail, spatial awareness and even listening and communication skills, to help you learn to work effectively with patients.

Featured data points:

  • Number of schools offering this degree online, 2015-16: 11
  • Early career median salary, 2016: $45,100
  • Projected total job openings, 2016-26: 40,600
  • Average projected job growth rate, 2016-26: 16.70%
  • Job titles aligned with this degree program, 2015-16: 3
8
public_health

If you're interested in making a larger-scale impact on the healthcare industry, healthcare policy or the health of communities, this major could be a great choice. It might lead to graduate school or to work as a public health educator, a healthcare manager or administrator, a community health worker or even a school health teacher. Although it's rare to find undergraduate online public health degrees (it's usually a graduate program), they do exist. A public health degree program can provide you with insights into how government actions, lack of access to healthcare, health education and funding all affect the spread, treatment and prevention of diseases.

Courses may cover such varying topics as infectious diseases, nutrition, biostatistics, ecology, environmental health, human physiology and management of health service organizations.

Featured data points:

  • Number of schools offering this degree online, 2015-16: 16
  • Early career median salary, 2016: $38,300
  • Projected total job openings, 2016-26: 79,400
  • Average projected job growth rate, 2016-26: 19.58%
  • Job titles aligned with this degree program, 2015-16: 4
9
health

If you're interested in a healthcare career but aren't sure exactly where you fit best, the 9th online healthcare degree program on our list may be the right one for you. A health major may lead to a bachelor's degree, and the coursework is intended to provide broad-based instruction in a wide range of health and wellness topics, from exercise science, chemistry, biology and nutrition, to subjects that touch on healthcare administration, such as ethical and legal issues, electronic medical records, research methods, health promotion and public health.

Your studies may take you into the field to work alongside health educators, paramedics, clinicians or nonprofit volunteers, and they may assist you in determining whether you're interested in post-graduate work.

Featured data points:

  • Number of schools offering this degree online, 2015-16: 21
  • Early career median salary, 2016: $35,700
  • Projected total job openings, 2016-26: 17,200
  • Average projected job growth rate, 2016-26: 16.30%
  • Job titles aligned with this degree program, 2015-16: 2
10
respiratory_therapy

This major received one of our highest scores among graduates for its level of personal meaning in their careers. And why wouldn't it? After all, few experiences are more frightening than the inability to breathe. A respiratory therapist can make a huge impact on saving a life, so studying this specialty may be very rewarding.

This major provides training in anatomy and physiology, chemistry, physics, pharmacology, therapeutic and diagnostic procedures, equipment, patient assessment and cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), not to mention an emphasis on interpersonal, analytical and problem-solving skills. Additionally, nearly all states require respiratory therapists to pass a licensure or certification exam in order to practice.

Featured data points:

  • Number of schools offering this degree online, 2015-16: 18
  • Early career median salary, 2016: $46,200
  • Projected total job openings, 2016-26: 35,600
  • Average projected job growth rate, 2016-26: -2.33%*
  • Job titles aligned with this degree program, 2015-16: 3

*This major makes our list because of the impressive projected growth rates of respiratory therapist jobs (23.4 percent) and health specialties teacher jobs (25.9 percent) However, when averaged with respiratory therapist technician jobs, which are seeing a 56.3 percent decline in job growth, the overall projected growth for the three occupations becomes a negative rate.

Methodologies and Sources