Learn How 6 Professionals Turned Their Careers Around With Online Healthcare Degrees


What do a mortgage broker, operations consultant, two registered nurses, a cancer survivor, and a travelling military wife have in common? Each of them was able to fulfill their careers aspirations in healthcare with a degree they earned online.

With the industry expanding, jobs in healthcare may be just right for those who have a strong sense to serve people and help abate suffering. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2.4 million new jobs are likely to be added to the healthcare industry between 2016 and 2026.

If you are interested in a career in healthcare, you’d be happy to know that people enter this career from all walks of life, in all stages of life, and for all kinds of different reasons. These 6 people share their journey in their own words. Read what they were able to accomplish!

Ever thought life was going nowhere?

Meet Amy Young. Amy traveled the world for over two decades with her husband and their three children. “As a military family we relocated every two or three years, and my attempt at getting a degree was getting nowhere. Just as soon as I enrolled in college, it was time to move again, and the next college would not accept the credits, so I always ended up with many ‘floating’ credits.”

Ever since she was young she had an interest in healthcare which led her to enroll in an online associate degree program in health services administration. An online degree program allowed her to juggle work and study. She says, “I was able to work and take college classes at the same time, and at my convenience. I could be drinking coffee, eating, watching TV or listening to music at any time of day or night while ‘attending’ class online. Many times I was online working on a paper in my pajamas at 2:00 AM!”

Did it pay off? Amy Young certainly thinks so, “I obtained the knowledge necessary to open a nonprofit organization that helps low income and uninsured women receive free mammograms. I was also able to move into administrative positions and receive promotions or a higher pay rate than my coworkers.”

Words of wisdom: “Online degree programs are a wonderful way to obtain your degree if you are focused, committed and organized. If you have a tendency to procrastinate and need a little push to meet your deadlines, you may want to consider taking most of your classes on campus, and maybe one class online to ‘test the waters’ and yourself. If you need to work or need more flexibility with your time schedule, taking an online class is the best way to go. This is especially true for young stay-at-home moms.”

When life gives you lemons, what do you do?

Meet Jeff Solheim, a lymphatic cancer survivor who started his career in nursing and eventually became the founder and director of the nonprofit, Project Helping Hands, an organization that sends medical teams to developing countries. He started doing speaking engagements including motivational speaking and commencement speeches but felt the lack of a degree. He explains, “I started feeling like a bit of a hypocrite, I felt if I was going to continue to speak, I would need to practice what I preach.

He knew if he went back to school it would have to be a program that gave him the flexibility he needed, “My life was very full at the time. I was speaking professionally and running three companies, so I knew taking time to go back to school was going to be a challenge I would have to figure out how to balance.”

His online master’s degree in nursing gave him the credentials he needed. He says, “Although I had already established my career without my master’s degree, having my master’s has increased my confidence so I can better practice what I preach. When I submit my credentials for a textbook, I know that I have the proper credentials for what I’m doing.”

Words of wisdom: He has a few words of caution for individuals thinking of online degrees, “It takes self-discipline to be successful when deadlines are not necessarily as fixed as in traditional education. My advice is to make sure you have the self-discipline to stay on track.”

More than two decades and still in the same job?

Meet Joseph Julian, a registered nurse for more than 20 years and a hospital supervisor for three years when he enrolled in an online nursing degree program. The school, whose program generally takes four years of full-time study to complete, accepted 30 credits of previous coursework allowing him to earn his Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree (BSN) in three-and-a-half years of part-time study, “We had a new chief nursing officer/ V.P. of nursing who desired her leadership staff be a minimum of bachelor’s degree-certified. This is also a requirement of those hospitals seeking to apply for ‘magnet’ status.”

Despite working 12.5-hour shifts, Joseph Julian managed to get a majority of his schoolwork in while his children were at school and his wife working so they still managed some family time. “The course load was very reasonable and my advisor was great in helping me choose classes. The work was challenging but rewarding; the knowledge I gained from each class was applicable to my job and even my personal life. It also surprised me how well thought-out the program was in terms of the curriculum, course delivery and ways to pursue your clinical experiences.”

Words of wisdom: “I feel associate-level nursing programs are basic preparation for the NCLEX-RN exams and a basic working knowledge, but a bachelor’s degree is necessary in today’s healthcare world. This degree is a stepping stone for advance practice practitioners such as nurse practitioners, nurse anesthetists or clinical nurse specialists. Take it from someone who has been a nurse for 25 years now: you can never regret getting it. A BSN can only help your career.”

Three years, two degrees, one class at a time

Meet Linda Rich, an operations consultant at a physical therapy rehabilitation management company. Linda travels five days a week and helps hospitals and other facilities manage their rehab programs. In three years, she earned both a bachelor’s degree in healthcare management and a master’s degree in human resources. She explains why she chose the degrees she did, “I looked at the healthcare industry — there are a lot of MBAs and people managing the business. But in my opinion, human resources are what drive our business. I felt like there were already a lot of people tending to the business, so I decided to focus on how to improve human resources.”

She explains how she managed to fit two degrees in such a short span of time while still working, “I started my bachelor’s degree program but life just kept getting in the way. I was never able to finish it, though I only had one course left to complete. Because so much time had lapsed, I had to retake some courses. I took one class at a time, most of the time. There were two or three times that I took two classes at once, but it was a little more than I could handle. One class really worked for me and kept me going.”

Words of wisdom: “You need to first determine your needs. What kind of time off do you have? How is this going to fit into your schedule? Choose the program that fits you. They’re not all the same. Some require you to be in front of a webcam at a certain time to be part of a true classroom setting. That doesn’t give you much flexibility. Choose the program that gives you the advantage to tend to your needs and be able to better your career at the same time.”

Time for a second career?

Meet V.J. Sleight who had been working as a mortgage broker for over 20 years. The profession allowed her the time and freedom to pursue her passion of helping others quit smoking. But she says, “There were several times where my lack of a formal education had limited my opportunities.” Sleight lost out on job opportunities because she didn’t have a degree even though she had the experience and knowledge about cessation. On one occasion she says, “I was hired to give a talk to doctors and at the last minute had to find another speaker to share the platform because I didn’t have a degree. So I didn’t want the lack of a formal education to be a hindrance.”

Sleight decided to go back to school beginning with just one class to earn her online master’s degree inhealthcare. “When I started, I knew that eventually I wanted to write books and deliver talks to both smokers and healthcare professionals about cessation.”

“For me there was no typical day, which is why online was perfect for me. I am very disciplined, so I would read/research/write whenever I had free time. Sometimes that was in the middle of the night — having online library access was great.”

How did earning this online degree help Sleight? “Probably the biggest benefit is the confidence my degree gives me. My educational credentials are no longer questioned, and the degree rounded out my knowledge about cessation.”

Words of wisdom: “Know your endgame. If you don’t know how you can use your degree, having an online degree might not help you. Find an accredited school, and be honest: If you can’t work independently or you need someone looking over your shoulder, online education is not for you.”

Nursing, or business? Or both?

Meet Alicia Sable-Hunt, a registered nurse who dreamed of creating a delicious nutrition bar that met the specific dietary needs of cancer patients. She had only one problem: her bachelor’s degree in nursing hadn’t included any business classes. She decided to earn an MBA in marketing online before entering the business world. Today, she’s the president and founder of Sable’s Foods and Edwards-Hunt Group, a medical consulting group. “My inner drive to learn and experience combined with an entrepreneurial spirit drove me to continue my education.”

How was her experience? “To sum it up: exhilarating, exhausting, lonely, and the best and worst time of my life. The time and commitment required to do both at the same time was exhausting and lonely. I spent 18-20 hours per day, in an office (Edwards-Hunt Group) or kitchen (Sable’s Foods), building my businesses. There was no time for a vacation or holiday, very little time for friends and family, all of which leads to a very lonely existence. But the end result is two businesses that I am proud of. The sacrifice was worth it.”

Words of wisdom: “It is critically important to perform a realistic self-assessment. An individual needs to know what motivates them in a scholastic environment (e.g. do they need the structure of attending a moderator-led class in a physical location three times per week), how they absorb information (e.g. visual vs. reading vs. lecture) and their commitment level (e.g. include the time and cost of commuting to a class into the decision).”


  • Healthcare Occupations, Occupational Outlook Handbook, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, April 2019, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/home.htm
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