Health care professionals typically have a hands-on job. They may be monitoring vital signs, analyzing lab work or administering medication. These aren't professions you would typically think you could learn online.
However, as technology is changing so too is the face of health care education. While some undergraduate programs still require students to receive in-person instruction, those already in the field may be able to advance their education to the next level without ever setting foot in a classroom.
For examples, online master's in health care programs make it possible for current registered nurses to become an advanced practice nurse, an advancement that could come with more job opportunities and greater pay. In addition, master's degrees in health care administration may allow current medical professionals to move into executive positions. Other online master's degrees, especiallly in health care, include ones in public health and healthcare informatics.
Why Get a Master's Degree in Health Care?
Going back to school is a commitment of time and money, and you may be wondering if having a graduate degree will really make much of a difference in your career.
Although there are no guarantees that a degree will lead to a better job or higher pay, there is data to support the idea higher education is beneficial. Nowhere is this more evident than within the nursing profession. Take a look at the following chart, with data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), which outlines the various levels of nursing, along with their average annual income and projected job growth.
|Position||Education||Average Annual Income (2014)||Projected Job Growth (2012-2022)|
|Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurses||Certificate and Diploma||$43,420||24.8%|
|Registered Nurses||Associate or Bachelor's Degree||$69,790||19.4%|
|Nurse Practitioners||Master's Degree||$97,990||33.7%|
|Nurse Midwives||Master's Degree||$97,700||28.6%|
|Nurse Anesthetists||Master's Degree||$158,900||24.9%|
While nurses at all levels are in demand, advanced practice nurses - those with a master's degree - are expected to see the greatest job growth in the coming years, according to BLS. What's more, these specialized professionals command average incomes that are significantly higher than those of RNs and LPNs.
Other occupations requiring a master's degree in health care include the following:
- Genetic counselors
- Occupational therapists
- Orthotists and prosthetists
- Physician assistants
- Speech-language pathologists
How Do You Enroll in an Online Master's Degree Program?
Many of today's online degree programs are almost identical to those offered on-campus so it's not surprising the application process is also nearly identical.
Most schools take applications online. Some institutions may request basic information, such your name, address and undergraduate degree, and then follow-up with more details about what is necessary to complete your application. For a graduate degree, you may be expected to supply the following:
- Transcript from your undergraduate degree
- Letters of recommendation
- Application fee
Application fees can vary and may range from $25 to $100, according to the Grad School Info Center on Idealist.com. Some schools may waive the application fee for students who demonstrate financial need or who are participants in programs such as the Peace Corps or AmeriCorps.
Filling out a request form
An easy way to get in contact with schools offering master's degrees in health care is to fill out a request form. These simple forms can be found directly on school websites, but for convenience, you can click the "Find Schools" button below to easily request information about earning a health care master's degree online.
When filling out a request form, you should be prepared to provide the following information.
- Name, street address and email address
- U.S. citizenship or legal status
- Degree area of interest
- Existing student loan information for financial aid purposes
What's the Difference Between an Online and Campus-Based Degree?
At most institutions, nothing except the format in which you learn.
While on-campus programs require you be in a classroom at a specific time, an online master's in health care typically allow students to log-in and study at whatever time is convenient for them.
While on-campus programs require you be in a classroom at a specific time, an online master's in health care typically allows students to log-in and study at whatever time is convenient for them.
Lectures, course materials and discussion questions are typically uploaded to a virtual classroom using a platform such as Blackboard. Students then log-in to the classroom either daily or several times per week to review information and complete assignments. For example, they may be expected to contribute to an online discussion daily or upload classwork by a specified due date.
In some graduate degree programs, students may be required to online at a specific time to take part in a live lecture, class discussion or other activity.
Upon graduation, online students receive the same degree as on-campus students. There is nothing listed on the degree to indicate it was not earned through a traditional, on-campus program.
Health care is a hands-on field, but an online master's degree can be a good fit for busy, working adults. Since course materials can be reviewed at any time, online classes don't have to disrupt a work schedule or require a person to miss important family events. This can be especially important for those who already work long hours, such as LPNs and RNs who may find it daunting to fit classes in between 12 hour shifts.
Since those who pursue master's degrees in health care are often already working in the field, many online programs make use of that experience. For example, some online Master of Science in nursing degrees allow current nurses to meet clinical requirements through their job.
Does Location Matter for an Online Master's Degree in Health Care?
While some master's degrees in health care allow students to complete all requirements - even clinical ones - without setting foot on campus, many others operate as hybrid programs. That means that while much of the learning is done online, there are still on-campus requirements, particularly in degree programs that involve clinical care.
Before enrolling to earn a health care master's degree online, be sure to carefully check for on-campus requirements. If the program has some, be sure the campus location is convenient for you.
1. Occupational Employment Statistics, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Department of Labor, May 2014
2. Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition
3. Long-Term Projections, Projections Central, http://www.projectionscentral.com/Projections/LongTerm4. Application Fee Waivers, Columbia University, http://gsas.columbia.edu/content/fee-waivers5. Don't let application fees stop you from applying to grad schools, Idealist, http://www.idealist.org/info/GradEducation/Resources/Financing/AppFees