Degrees To Consider

We all have raised a glass to “the jobs that pay the bills”. True, not every job is a career. Still, jobs with room for future growth opportunities can be viable career options. If you want a well-paying job that gives you a sense of accomplishment, you should consider a career in healthcare. 

As a healthcare professional, you’ll have a diverse range of positions to choose from and ample opportunities to make a difference in people’s lives. Healthcare associate degrees are often the first step to a lucrative career in healthcare. Here are five healthcare degrees you can choose from. 

1. Master of Science in Occupational Therapy 

Simply put, an occupational therapist (OT) helps individuals with an injury, illness, disability, or any other physical impairment, overcome difficulties in performing personal tasks without much help from others. This could include any daily activity — from eating, dressing, and bathing to completing household chores and doing one’s job or school work. The profession draws on extensive knowledge of how the mind and body work to help people regain the independence they need to lead a full life. 

Though an associate or undergraduate degree can get you hired as an occupational therapy assistant, you’ll need a master’s to qualify for the national examination for licensure in occupational therapy. 

Suppose you’re already working as an OT assistant and don’t want to quit your day job. In that case, you’re probably asking questions like how to get a master’s degree in occupational therapy while juggling work, family, and other life commitments. Another big concern could be whether or not this degree will help you achieve the level of job security and financial stability you’re looking for. While it’s always better to weigh the costs and benefits, you must consider that the job outlook for this field is pretty good. The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts that employment for occupational therapists will grow 14% from 2021 to 2031, representing more than 10,000 openings each year over the decade. 

2. Bachelor of Science in Nursing 

Registered nurses (RN) with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) are the most sought-after professionals in the healthcare job market, with over 3 million new jobs expected by 2031, according to BLS. It’s no wonder 50% of U.S. colleges and universities offer a BSN program to meet the swelling demand. 

Typically, registered nurses work directly with patients to diagnose and manage their health concerns. Medical science, case management, coordinating care and resources, and community nursing are a few areas covered in a typical RN program. Most nursing degrees also have a clinical component, so students can get vital hands-on experience. 

3. Associate of Science in Dental Hygiene

The most common question arises at this point: Do dental hygienists with bachelor’s degrees earn more than those with associate degrees?

Short answer: no. In private dental practice, a bachelor’s degree doesn’t pay more than an associate’s. How do they differ, though? Not as much as you think.

Most dental hygiene programs, whether associate’s or bachelor’s, have similar science class requirements such as chemistry, biology, microbiology, and anatomy & physiology. Also, even if you get a two-year associate’s degree in dental hygiene, you’ll probably have completed at least three years of college credits because of all the prerequisite coursework. For a four-year degree, however, you may have to take some dental hygiene classes alongside dental students in a dentistry program.

Perhaps you’re interested in clinical dentistry and nothing else. That is entirely OK! An associate degree is acceptable if you do not plan to work anywhere besides traditional clinical hygiene. And the best part is, unlike other healthcare occupations, which require a minimum of a master’s degree to qualify for the national exam for certification, you’re eligible to seek licensure for dental hygiene if you’re just an associate program graduate. What’s more, your average yearly take-home pay would be over $75,000, comparable to several other healthcare workers like speech-language pathologists who require a master’s degree and a clinical fellowship to start their private practice. 

Above all else, as a hygienist, your work directly impacts people’s lives. The oral cavity is the gateway to our body’s health. You’ll examine your patients for signs of oral diseases, use different tools to remove tartars, stains, and plaques, and educate them on oral health. All this will benefit them greatly in the long run. 

4. Master of Science in Physician Assistant Studies

In the medical field, physician assistants (PA) are qualified individuals who work under the supervision of physicians and other medical experts. PAs have many responsibilities, including:

  • taking patient histories, 
  • performing physical examinations, 
  • diagnosing and treating illnesses, 
  • ordering and interpreting diagnostic tests, 
  • advising on preventative health care, 
  • designing and implementing treatment plans, 
  • assisting in surgical procedures, and 
  • prescribing medications.

Your training will consist of a year of classroom instruction and clinical rotations, exposing you to a wide range of specializations. 

In light of the possibility of a severe shortage of doctors in the United States by 2030, as predicted by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), there is also a rising demand for professions to help manage a physician’s larger-than-average patient caseload. One such role is that of a physician’s assistant (PA). The growing population of elderly citizens in dire need of care is another significant driving factor behind the increased demand for physician assistants. This is excellent news for those seeking long-term financial security. 

Not only is it the fastest-growing career field, but it’ll also help you draw a handsome salary every year. According to Talent, a U.S. physician’s assistant can expect to earn a median annual salary of $115,011, or $55.29 per hour. The starting salary for an entry-level PA is $94,998 per year, with most experienced individuals earning up to $150,000 per year.

5. Associate of Applied Science in Nuclear Medicine Technologist

Consider pursuing a degree in nuclear medicine technology if you have a passion for technical precision and good bedside practices. 

As a nuclear medicine technologist, you’ll:

  • Examine images and procedures in nuclear medicine for quality and make adjustments as needed.
  • Prepare and administer radioactive drugs (also known as radiopharmaceuticals).
  • Test and analyze specimens in the lab.
  • Demonstrate the capacity to deliver exceptional patient care.
  • Keep the patient and the testing crew as safe as possible against radiation.
  • Collaborate with other medical professionals like medical physicists, nuclear pharmacists, IT experts, nurses, and healthcare administrators.

This career roadmap will also help you acquire essential skills like problem-solving, critical thinking, and decision-making, all of which you can use to pursue advanced career opportunities in the field. 

Notwithstanding limited employment growth, the average annual salary of a nuclear medicine technologist is $103,027. Based on the experience level, the lowest salary can be $66,000 annually, while the highest one can go up to $160,000 annually.

Final Word

This goes without saying that there are many different career paths in healthcare, each with its own set of educational requirements and above-average pay scales. However, with many opportunities to explore, it’s often hard to get off the fence of indecision. Take your time. Focus on the outcome you want. The right choice will never feel wrong. Trust us. 


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here