Posted June 23, 2015 by

The Top Ten Graduate Degrees for Prospective Health Care Professionals

Smiling practitioner examining the patient, her assistant taking notes

Smiling practitioner examining the patient, her assistant taking notes. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

Healthcare is and has always been one of the best fields to enter when looking for good job prospects and competitive salaries. It doesn’t matter if you are a social butterfly or would rather be behind the scenes, healthcare has a job that fits you. Many of the best jobs in healthcare require a graduate or professional degree of some kind. These degrees are offered through schools such as Rocky Mountain University of Health Professions (RMUoHP). Here is a list of the top ten graduate degrees in healthcare:

1. Healthcare Administration

This is a great degree for individuals who want to work in a healthcare setting, but don’t really see themselves as part of a hands-on healthcare team. Healthcare administrators typically work behind the scenes handling things like insurance, billing, scheduling, facility management, and a whole host of other administrative tasks. A graduate degree will usually take two years of full-time study. Classes include administrative of public and private facilities. Individuals in this field earn around $80,000 a year.

2. Physician’s Assistant

A PA is a med-level practitioner who is able to have their own patient load, prescribe medications, and perform routine procedures under the supervision of a medical doctor. PA’s will often work in hospitals and clinics as the supervisor on duty. Admission into PA graduate programs is very competitive. Individuals need a background heavy in life sciences, chemistry, and math. The master’s program takes three years of full time study in classes on human anatomy, pharmacology, and patient treatment. PA’s can expect to earn around $91,000 a year.

3. Physical Therapy

Physical therapists help people recover from illness or injury using a combination of exercise and therapeutic techniques. They work in hospitals, clinics, sports facilities, and even private practice. It takes three years after completion of a bachelor degree to obtain a Doctor of Physical Therapy degree. General salaries for PT’s are around $80,000 per year.

4. Nurse Practitioner

Nurse Practitioner programs are for registered nurses with an ASN or a BSN degree. With the advanced masters in nursing practice, nurse practitioners are able to see patients on their own, prescribe medications, perform some medical procedures and supervise nurses and other staff members. Individuals entering a program with an associate’s degree in nursing can finish the program in three years. With a bachelor degree, the program will take about two years. Nurse practitioner programs require coursework in advanced math and science as well as nursing and clinical experiences. Many programs will allow nurse practitioners to specialize in a particular area of medicine such as women’s health, labor and delivery, psychiatrics, or nurse administration. Nurse practitioners earn about $96,000 a year.

5. Speech-Language Pathology

Speech therapists help to diagnose and treat individuals with speech difficulties, either as a physical/mental disorder or as a result of trauma. They will work in a variety of settings including schools, hospitals, and private clinics. Graduate study in speech pathology takes about two years of courses in linguistics, therapy techniques, and internships. Speech therapists earn around $70,000 per year.

6. Clinical or Counseling Psychology

Psychologists are licensed mental health professionals with a doctor of philosophy or a doctor of psychology degree. They are counseling and research experts who help individuals, families, or organizations with trauma and life experiences. Degree programs require at least three years of study beyond a bachelor’s degree and one year of internship experience. Psychologists earn around $70,000 per year.

7. Optometry

Optometrists are mid-level practitioners who treat eye problems and perform diagnostic health exams. They are able to prescribe contact lenses, write glasses prescriptions, and treat many ocular health issues such as most infections, abrasions, and irritation. Optometrists need a doctor of optometry degree which takes three years of coursework in human anatomy, math, optics, and patient care as well as a year of internship/residency experience. Most optometrists work in private practice or as an associate in a larger practice. They usually earn $97,000 annually.

8. Pharmacy

Pharmacists are health professionals who fill prescriptions and counsel patients on the proper use of medications. They can also give immunizations. Most pharmacists work in in-patient pharmacies or in commercial or private pharmacy companies. The doctor of pharmacy professional degree takes four years to complete and focuses on human anatomy, chemistry, ethics, and pharmacology. Pharmacists make almost $117,000 a year.

9. Dietetics/Nutrition

Registered dieticians are healthcare experts in nutrition. They work with patients to help them create a diet and exercise regimen that will bring them optimal health. Dieticians usually work in hospitals, nursing homes. Clinics, and even private practice. The master’s degree in nutrition science takes about two years and focuses on human anatomy and nutrition practices. Nutritionists earn around $55,000 per year.

10. Clinical Laboratory Science

Medical lab technicians are the behind the scenes experts who receive the lab specimens (blood samples and other specimens) and perform the diagnostic work. Then they report the results to the physician’s team. A master’s degree in clinical lab science can take about two years to complete and requires courses in biology, microbiology, and health and safety. They make close to $48,000 annually.

As witnessed by this list, healthcare can be both lucrative and rewarding. If you enjoy direct patient contact, there are many healthcare programs to choose from. If you prefer to work alone or with only a few others, both healthcare administration and laboratory sciences can provide a great career in the right environment. Start researching your graduate program today!

My name is Lizzie Weakley and I am a freelance writer from Columbus, Ohio. I went to college at The Ohio State University where I studied communications. I enjoy the outdoors and long walks in the park with my 3-year-old husky Snowball.

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