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What is a Health Science Degree?
Degree programs in health science teach how the human body functions in health and disease and explore how environmental and social factors can impact both of these conditions.
The typical curriculum is broad-based, covering the basic sciences, health research, and healthcare systems. A health science degree can lay the foundation for further study and a degree in a specific health field such as nutrition, exercise science, or physical therapy. Here is a list of sample courses:
- Anatomy and Physiology
- General Biology
- General Chemistry
- General Psychology
- Health Communications, Promotion and Education
- Research Methods in Healthcare
- Healthcare Systems
- Introduction to Public Health and Public Health Agencies
- Introduction to Health Services Administration
- Ethical and Legal Issues in Healthcare
Associate Degree in Health Science - Two Year Duration
Associate degree programs in health science provide foundational research and laboratory knowledge for individuals who may go on to study specific health-related disciplines, such as nursing or public health.
Bachelor’s Degree in Health Science - Four Year Duration
Students in bachelor’s degree programs in health science typically choose a concentration, such as healthcare informatics (records), public health, pre-physician assistant, biomedical sciences, or aging health studies. Graduates with a bachelor’s go on to work in various settings: hospitals, clinics, public health organizations, non-profits, and medical and research labs.
Coursework at this level of education varies between concentrations. These are among the common core courses:
- Introduction to Psychology – theories and research methods in the field
- Anatomy and Physiology – basic functioning of the human body; bones, muscles, organs, hormones
- General Chemistry – atomic structure, bonding, elements, the periodic table, basic scientific practices, applied mathematics
- Health Communications – various ways of delivering health information
- Medical Terminology – the language of medicine and health
Master’s Degree in Health Science - Two Year Duration
At the master’s level, concentration options expand to include health education, health policy, and nutrition. Graduates with a master’s may become dieticians, nutritionists, healthcare administrators, or medical laboratory technologists.
Core coursework regardless of specialization includes:
- Epidemiology and Biostatistics – the relationship between population data and disease; applying statistics in health and healthcare
- Ethical Issues in Healthcare – ethical issues that impact decision-making related to healthcare, such as informed consent and resource allocation
- Public Health Nutrition – the impact of nutrition on communities
- Research Methods – evaluating data and identifying research technique problems
- Practicum – a hands-on internship at a hospital, medical facility, government agency, or non-profit organization
Doctoral Degree in Health Science - Four to Seven Year Duration
The goal of doctoral programs in health science is to teach students the skills they need to conduct high-level research, often in one these three key areas:
- Community, Public, and Specific Population Health – research and analysis of the effects of cultural and economic differences on health and healthcare
- Health Informatics – managing healthcare information systems
- Kinesiology – how and why exercise and physical activity can be used to promote health
Degrees Similar to Health Science
In this degree program, students study cell biology, evolutionary biology, marine biology, and plant biology to understand living organisms.
The field of molecular biology is concerned with genetics, with the structure and the relationships between four molecules in the body: proteins, fats, carbohydrates, nucleic acids.
Epidemiology is the scientific foundation of public health. It studies how often diseases occur in different groups of people and why.
This degree field is concerned with the complex relationships between the body, nutrients, and health. Classes cover human nutrition and how the body processes nutrients.
This is the study of human movement and how to help people live healthier lives through exercise and rehabilitation.
This field is, of course, closely aligned with health science and may therefore be another education option for students with an interest in the healthcare field in general.
The field of nursing is another career option within healthcare.
This degree field focuses on evaluating and managing programs concerned with widespread health threats.
Health Services Administration
Degree programs in health services administration focus on all facets of overseeing healthcare facilities, including managing staff, enforcing safety and patient treatment standards, and controlling costs. Courses for this degree field include human resources, policy making, and financial management.
This field of study looks at the chemical, biological, and social factors that affect humans. Coursework includes physics, chemistry, human health law, environmental safety, and toxicology.
Degree programs in pharmacy teach the science and practice of preparing and dispensing medicinal drugs.
Pharmacologists study how drugs and medicines work so they can be used in the right way. The work naturally involves an understanding of chemical and biological interactions.
Skills You’ll Learn
The wide scope of training that health science students receive generally leaves them with numerous transferrable skills:
- Attention to Detail
- Computation and Data-processing
- Report Writing
- Researching, Organizing, and Presenting Information
- Understanding Statistical Data
What Can You Do with a Health Science Degree?
A health science degree can lead to many different career paths, both within and related to health and healthcare:
Healthcare and Medical Technology
At the undergraduate level, in particular, health science is often an initial or starting point degree that can lay the foundation for working in many sectors of healthcare, including nursing, physical therapy, occupational therapy, respiratory therapy, medical laboratory technology, and paramedicine (paramedics).
Epidemiology / Research
This field is concerned with researching the causes and evaluating, monitoring, and reducing the spread of diseases. A key part of the role is communicating findings to public policy makers. Common employers are health institutes; health departments at various levels of government; and private companies, such as pharmaceutical firms.
Biostatistics / Health Informatics
Professionals in this field design experiments and surveys to collect various kinds of healthcare data. They analyze this data to uncover trends and create reports explaining their findings. For example, they may discover connections between specific health issues and lifestyles. Opportunities in this sector often exist with government agencies and with research and development firms.
Healthcare administration is about managing healthcare facilities. The work involves coordinating client health services and overseeing staff, scheduling, billing, and budgets. Professionals in this field work in hospitals, clinics, nursing homes, and other healthcare/wellness facilities.
Public Health Project Management
Working in these positions involves training and managing staff and volunteers that provide health/medical services and general assistance to people dealing with health problems or facing emergency situations like natural disasters or wars. Employers in this sector include NGOs (non-governmental, typically non-profit organizations) and social work associations.
Health and Safety Engineering
Health and safety engineering is focused on ensuring that consumer products and work environments are safe. Those who work in the field assess health and safety regulations; identify potential hazards in facilities, machinery, and equipment; and investigate accidents. Employers include government agencies, technology and manufacturing firms, and construction companies.
Specialists in this field translate medical jargon into layman’s terms. Their work may entail writing press releases about medical advancements or treatments, medical brochures, newsletters, or medical research grants.
The goal of environmental science is to protect both environmental and human health. Working in the field involves collecting data, developing plans for such things as pollution control, and sharing information with governments, businesses, and the general public. Many environmental scientists work with government agencies, either on a full-time basis or as a contracted freelance consultant.
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