Are you considering earning a degree in the health sciences? It’s only natural that you might want to understand the career options that such a degree will offer post graduation. This will help you select the specific degree that best aligns with your unique personal and career goals.
Below, we define the field of health sciences, outline some of the most common health sciences degrees you may be considering, and explore some of the different career paths that each degree can lead to.
While some fields lead directly into a single career or profession, the field of health sciences is incredibly varied.
Generally speaking, health sciences is a term that refers to a group of professions that deal with delivering healthcare, in its various forms, to both humans and animals. Typically, this grouping excludes professionals such as nurses, occupational therapists, and doctors, who must complete specific training required in their fields.
In the academic sense, it is not uncommon to find many different degrees grouped together as health science degrees. For example, at Regis College, some popular health sciences degrees include:
Some colleges and universities may also offer a more general degree called a Bachelor of Science in Health Science, which serves as something of an exploratory degree which exposes the student to the key concepts that underlie many health science careers.
Dental hygiene is the science of what it takes to keep the teeth, mouth, and gums healthy and clean. Dental hygienists are employed by dental offices and other places that need individuals specialized in providing dental care to patients.
As such, dental hygiene is a fast-growing and in demand career; according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the number of job openings for dental hygienists will increase by 6 percent between 2019 and 2029. These jobs pay a median annual salary of $76,220.
If you’re interested in a career in the field, then earning an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in dental hygiene will offer your clearest path.
Diagnostic medical sonographers are medical professionals skilled in the use of high-frequency sound waves. They use these sound waves to create images of the body, which can then be used to diagnose medical conditions and illnesses, amongst other uses. Though the field is often associated with obstetrics and gynecology, sonographers can work in other specialties including abdominal, breast, pediatrics, vascular, and musculoskeletal sonography.
According to the BLS, diagnostic medical sonographers earn a median annual salary of $68,750 per year. The field is expected to grow approximately 12 percent between 2019 and 2029, nearly three times the rate of growth for all occupations. Depending on their specialty, some individuals may carry specific job titles such as:
Earning a bachelor of science in diagnostic medical sonography is the easiest way of breaking into the field.
Nuclear medicine is a field that relies on radioactive materials (also called tracers or radiopharmaceuticals) in order to image various bodily functions. These images are then used to diagnose and treat conditions such as heart disease, cancer, and neurological disorders. One common example of nuclear medicine in action is a PET scan.
Nuclear medicine technologists earn a median annual salary of $77,950, according to the BLS. The field is expected to grow at a rate of 5 percent between 2019 and 2029. These individuals are typically employed by hospitals, but may also find work in physicians’ offices, medical imaging clinics, or diagnostic laboratories.
In order to become a nuclear medicine technologist, you will need to earn at least an associate’s degree in the field. Individuals who earn their bachelor of science in nuclear medicine may have an easier time finding work.
Individuals who study exercise science are interested in human movement and the body’s physiological adaptations to exercise. As a field, it’s related to kinesiology and biomechanics.
Common job titles for those who work in the field include exercise physiologist, fitness coach, and personal trainer, amongst others. Professionals with an undergraduate degree in exercise science often work in non-clinical settings. There are job opportunities in clinical settings as well; for example, performing stress tests on patients.
According to the BLS, exercise physiologists earn a median annual salary of $49,170 per year. The field is expected to grow by approximately 11 percent between 2019 and 2029.
The most common degree held by these professionals is a bachelor of science in exercise science. Such a degree can also act as a precursor to a more advanced degree for individuals interested in pursuing a career in occupational therapy, physical therapy, or athletic training.
Neuroscience refers to the study of the brain and nervous system. This includes the structure of the brain and nervous system, as well as how that structure impacts cognitive function, behavior, and the way that people think. Some medical conditions that are related to the field include Alzheimer’s disease, ALS, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, brain tumors, and others.
Neurologists are physicians who specialize in the treatment of neurological conditions and thus complete rigorous medical training. Neuroscientists, on the other hand, typically hold at least a bachelor’s degree and work in a laboratory setting conducting research. According to PayScale, neuroscientists earn a median annual salary of $79,705.
In order to become a neuroscientist, you will need to earn at least your bachelor of science in neuroscience or a related field. Many professionals go on to pursue graduate studies in the field as well.
Nutrition is the study of how food and nutrition impacts human health. This can include everything from obesity and weight management, to health and wellness, to disease prevention, and more. In addition to understanding the science of nutrition, those who work in the field must also understand the role that social, economic, environmental, and cultural factors play in nutrition.
Dietitian and nutritionist are two common job titles for individuals who work in the field. According to the BLS, these individuals earn a median annual salary of $61,270 per year, and the field is expected to grow by approximately 8 percent between 2019 and 2029.
A bachelor of science in nutrition is a standard means of entering the field. Some professionals go on to earn a related graduate degree as well.
Public health professionals perform a number of important duties. At the local level, this includes educating their community about health-related issues and generally promoting health and wellness. At the state, national, and international levels, these professionals work to inform policy that impacts healthcare. As such, public health professionals have the power to shape and impact millions and even billions of lives.
According to PayScale, individuals with an educational background in public health make an average annual salary of $56,000 per year; though this varies substantially by the specific position. Here’s a look at the national average salaries for some commonly-held public health job titles:
According to the BLS, the number of available job openings for public health workers is expected to grow by 13 percent from 2019 to 2029. A bachelor’s degree in public health is the typical entry-level requirement to break into the field.
The field of social work is focused on helping families, individuals, groups, and communities deal with complex issues in a holistic way, often through a social environmental approach. The field is especially concerned with the physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing of vulnerable populations such as children, the elderly, the impoverished, and those with psychological disorders.
The most common job title for those who work in the field is social worker. Social workers are employed throughout society, and can be found in schools, hospitals, mental health clinics, senior centers, private practice, prison, corporations, and even elected offices. According to the BLS, social workers earn a median annual salary of $50,470. Demand for social workers is expected to grow by 13 percent between 2019 and 2029.
Individuals interested in pursuing a career as social workers will typically earn a bachelor’s degree in social work, sometimes referred to as a BSW.
Sport management is a field interested in the complex issues that underlie the sports industry. This includes health, fitness, nutrition, and exercise science, along with communication and management skills that are required for working in the industry.
Common job titles for those in sport management include athletic administrator, athletic director, athletic coordinator, and coach. Salary can vary substantially depending on the exact job title and place of employment. For example, the BLS states that athletic coaches and scouts earn a median annual salary of $34,840, but individuals working at prestigious institutions can earn substantially more. Similarly, athletic trainers earn an average salary of $48,440 per year.
Individuals interested in the field will typically earn a bachelor of science in sport management.
Therapeutic recreation is a field that uses specialized treatments to meet a patient’s unique needs, whether they be emotional, physical, cognitive, or social. It is also sometimes called recreational therapy. Individuals who work in the field often directly assist individuals with injuries, disabilities, or illness, with a goal of empowering said individuals to live healthy, active, and independent lives.
The most common job title for those in the field is therapeutic recreation specialists. According to the BLS, such individuals earn a median annual salary of $48,220. Demand for therapeutic recreation specialists is expected to grow by 8 percent from 2019 to 2029, about twice as fast as the growth rate for all occupations.
A bachelor of science in therapeutic recreation is one of the most common degrees pursued by individuals interested in the field. This degree can also act as a springboard for those interested in pursuing a master’s degree in recreational therapy or occupational therapy in the future.
If you are interested in a health sciences career, choosing your specific field of interest is just the first step in achieving your dreams.
It’s also important to carefully evaluate the specific program and college or university that you are considering before you choose to enroll, says Cathy Fuller, the department chair of Health and Fitness studies at Regis College. Some key factors she advises students consider are the faculty—who you’ll be learning from—as well as the shape that the academics will take.
“Our faculty are very involved with the students,” says Fuller. “The small class sizes lets us know our students individually allows us to see their strengths and areas where they need assistance and work in small groups or one-on-one.”
Fuller also points out that the highest quality programs will offer students a means of gaining hands-on experience while earning their degree.
“At Regis, the labs are very hands-on and interactive, and for programs with clinical requirements, students have had very strong clinical placements,” she says. “Other non-clinical programs require students to do two different internships, which helps get them out into the workforce during their training.”
Want to learn more about pursuing a degree in the health sciences at Regis College?