Online Degrees in Health

The American health care industry has a strong heartbeat. For 2016-26, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that more jobs will be added in the health care field than in any other. More than one million jobs are expected to be added in the practitioner category over the next decade, especially in registered nursing; almost a million new jobs are expected to be added in the health care support field, including roles such as medical and nursing assistants.

To start your health care career — or to take your current one to the next level, earning a degree online may help to improve your job prospects. While BLS growth projections indicate plenty of opportunities for careers in this field, competition for jobs may be tough in high-demand facilities and popular urban centers. For many of these jobs — home health aides and dental assistants — applicants should be able to qualify with a two-year associate degree or less. But careers as a licensed practical nurse, registered nurse, or physical therapist may require a higher level of education, such as a bachelor's or master's degree.

Due to the hands-on nature of many of the professions in the public or private health care facilities, degree programs may require clinical or laboratory experience. While students in an online degree program can complete non-clinical studies remotely, online degree programs often have partnerships with local facilities that make it possible for students to gain clinical practice.

Online courses of study, such as bachelor's degree bridge programs for registered nurses, can allow working health care professionals to build on their industry experience with online courses in theory. Nurses, medical or laboratory technicians, and other professionals may also opt to pursue graduate degrees online. Jobs as a hospital and medical administrator typically require a graduate degree. Other programs like an online MBA or master's degree in medical administration prepare professionals to advance to department head or facility administrator roles.

Individuals who enter health care professions are likely driven by a range of goals and interests, such as:

  • Long-term career stability
  • Ongoing education incentives and support; employers may help to offset or reimburse tuition costs for programs that bolster the employee's credentials
  • Personal satisfaction from working in a community dedicated to patient care and research
  • The potential of working across a range of medical specialties and locations around the nation

When it comes to career advancement and opportunities, health care professionals can often benefit from the modular way in which their skills are built in this field. For example, certified nursing assistants can attend two- or four-year colleges to complete training to become a registered nurse. Once in the registered nurse role, these individuals can then enroll in online graduate degree programs to advance their educations and qualify to become health care administrators.

Occupations In-Demand for Health
Job Openings (2016-26)
Average Salary (2016)
Total Employment
Projected Job Growth (2016-26)
Registered Nurses203,600$73,5502,906,84015%
Nursing Assistants193,600$28,5401,453,67011%
Home Health Aides167,700$24,280820,96047%
Medical Assistants95,000$33,580646,32029%
Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurses62,700$45,710702,70012%
Fitness Trainers and Aerobics Instructors54,800$43,720280,08010%
Dental Assistants45,900$38,690337,16020%
Nonfarm Animal Caretakers45,200$25,170190,52022%
Coaches and Scouts42,000$42,540235,40013%
Pharmacy Technicians37,500$33,060417,72012%
Source: 2016 Occupational Employment Statistics and 2016-26 Employment Projections, Bureau of Labor Statistics,


Projected new jobs by major occupational group, 2016–26, Career Outlook, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor,

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