The Best Graduate Healthcare Degrees in 2020

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Many Americans take their health very seriously. They track their daily steps and workout routines, take vitamins to boost their immune systems, and even log their daily dietary intake. For this reason, the healthcare industry has no shortage of career opportunities and is poised for extreme growth over the next ten years.

The public interest in health and wellness has created a new sector of employment and career paths that go far beyond traditional roles, such as doctors or nurses. Professionals in the health industry can now specialize in fields according to the age and health conditions of their patients, from premature birth to hospice care. There is a wealth of trainers and physical therapists who help patients achieve their various fitness goals. And as the industry grows, so does the infrastructure, making the billing and insurance sectors vital to the efficiency of the system.

Healthcare is currently the country’s largest employer, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (2019), and jobs in the healthcare industry are projected to be among the fastest growing over the next decade, accounting for nearly one-fifth of all new jobs created between 2018 and 2028— adding about 1.9 million new jobs. As the industry grows, so too does the opportunity for a new career path.

Many online and on-campus graduate-level programs provide a strong foundation for a career in healthcare. They also offer in-depth training and opportunities to incorporate research and statistical data into one’s preexisting clinical expertise. Many of these programs also require a certain amount of hands-on care as well, such as internships, rotations, or volunteer activities.

Discover the most in-demand career paths and degrees in the health industry in 2020.

Methodology

  • The majority of the data comes from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The average annual salary data is based on the year 2018, and the projected job growth data is calculated for the years 2018 to 2028.
  • Some of the newer positions, such as in health information, do not currently have direct listings.
  • Although there are hundreds of healthcare positions, this piece focuses on those with annual salaries of $50,000 or more (with rare exceptions) and an above-average expectation of growth over the coming decade (more than 5 percent).

Master of Science, Genetic Counseling

  • Affiliated career: Genetic Counselor
  • Average annual salary: $80,370
  • Projected growth: 27 percent

Genetic counseling requires a blend of biological science and interpersonal skills. Counselors work with families and individuals who want to have children to assess the medical, physical, or familial risks associated with inheritable conditions, such as congenital disabilities and genetic disorders.

Counselors work at medical centers, laboratories, or private clinics and acquire genetic information through detailed interviews with patients about family medical history going back several generations. They share this information with healthcare providers and family members to inform patients of specific risks that may require closer observation from their primary provider or the mother’s OB-GYN. This career requires strong counseling skills to help families cope and discuss different options if they are given difficult news.

There are a variety of graduate-level programs nationwide that provide either a degree or a concentration within a broader health sciences program. While most programs require on-campus courses, schools such as Boise State University offer online programs.

University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences

In the University of Texas Genetic Counseling Program at Houston, students learn and receive training at the largest medical center in the U.S., and faculty members are current healthcare professionals in the genetics field. The 45-credit program includes coursework along with the opportunity for a clinical rotation which requires students to work with patients and analyze genetic information. The curriculum covers human and prenatal genetics, cancer genetics, research and statistics, ethics, and developmental biology.

  • Location: Houston, Texas
  • Accreditation: Accreditation Council for Genetic Counseling
  • Format: On campus
  • Tuition: $10,070 for in-state students, $30,000 for out-of-state students
  • Program length: Two years
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Featured Professor: Myla Ashfaq

Myla Ashfaq is an assistant professor of international genetics at the University of Texas Health Science Center. She is also a certified genetic counselor at the same teaching and research facility. Originally from Pakistan, Ashfaq earned a bachelor’s degree in genetics from Wesleyan University and a master’s degree in human genetics and genetic counseling from Stanford University. Past research and publications have covered the topics of hereditary cancer, neurofibromatosis, and detailed discussions about disease genes.

Other Programs of Note:

Master of Science, Health Education

  • Affiliated careers: Health educator, community educator, community health worker, school nurse, public health educator
  • Average annual salary: $54,220 (health educators)
  • Projected growth: 11 percent

While nurses and doctors directly advise patients at medical centers, health educators inform the broader public about specific health concerns through other forums, such as classrooms and social and traditional media.

The position promotes wellness initiatives, educates different populations about potential health concerns, and collects and analyzes data about local health trends. The outreach position could be part of a public health department, a medical center community team, an educational institution, or even private practice. Along with being familiar with medical and scientific processes and terminology, the career requires strong communication skills.

Walden University

The online master’s degree in health education and promotion encourages students to become familiar with healthcare trends, practices, and theories. The program also goes beyond physical health issues, covering mental and emotional concerns, and informs students with the skills to encourage the public to take action to boost their health. The online program is designed to prepare students to take the Certified Health Education Specialist exam.

  • Location: Columbia, Maryland
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission
  • Format: Online or on campus
  • Tuition: $23,000 for the general specialization or $27,600 for other specializations
  • Program length: 20 months for the general specialization, 24 months for other specializations
Dr. Richard Jimenez

Featured Professor: Richard Jimenez, PhD

Dr. Richard Jimenez is considered an expert in public health policies, including creating and initiating community programs in HIV/AIDS prevention, border health issues between the U.S. and Mexico, and cancer prevention. He joined Walden University in 2008 after previously teaching at a variety of U.S. and international schools and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, where he focused on national AIDS education efforts. He also worked with the Texas Department of Health and was a producer of the documentary films “Hope in a Time of AIDS” and “Living With AIDS: An Occasion of Grace.”

Other Programs of Note:

Master of Science, Orthotics and Prosthetics

  • Affiliated career: Orthotic or prosthetic specialist
  • Average annual salary: $69,120
  • Projected growth: 20 percent

People who suffer from severely damaged or severed limbs lose a lot of functionality and mobility when they begin to use prosthetic devices. Prosthetic devices can range from artificial limbs (hands, feet, arms, and legs) to braces and other medical or surgical devices. Limbs can be lost due to trauma, congenital disabilities, or health conditions like diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

Prosthetic specialists work with clients and medical appliance technicians to find a device that fits a person’s lifestyle to ensure that the device fits comfortably and functions properly. In some cases, the specialist may create the equipment themselves.

Students interested in this profession can begin with a master’s degree in orthotics and prosthetics. They must then complete a one-year residency in either field or an 18-month program in both fields, accredited by the National Commission on Orthotic and Prosthetic Education. And finally, they must receive a license in their respective state through the American Board for Certification in Orthotics, Prosthetics, and Pedorthics.

Northwestern University, Prosthetics-Orthotics Center

The Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University provides opportunities for students to learn the foundations and clinical skills in areas such as anatomy, kinesiology, material science, behavioral science, biomechanics, technology and gait. Students also learn research and analysis methods, plus hands-on skills like fabrication and impressions.

  • Location: Chicago, Illinois
  • Accreditation: Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Programs; the program also follows standards from the American Academy of Orthotics & Prosthetics and the American Board for Certification in Orthotics, Prosthetics and Pedorthics
  • Format: Two quarters online, four quarters on campus, one quarter via distance learning, and an internship
  • Tuition: $35,087 per year
  • Program length: 21 months to two years

Other Programs of Note:

Master of Science, Occupational Therapy

Therapeutic positions are intended to help someone move from an unhappy place to a better place. For instance, physical therapists work with clients to rebuild muscles, improve coordination, endurance, flexibility, and overall range of motion. An occupational therapist has a similar but much broader role. Their task is to help patients regain skills that they lost due to an injury or a new health condition, such as a stroke or disability. Occupational therapists also help patients, such as seniors who receive home care or live in an assisted living community, relearn daily living skills.

Occupational therapists can work at home healthcare agencies, medical centers, or specialty care clinics, but they can also have their own private practice. Required skills include knowledge of the body’s processes, different types of injuries, and health conditions that can be addressed, as well as general communication skills.

University of Southern California, Chan Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy

The University of Southern California provides a great deal of flexibility and options for occupational therapy graduate students. One course of study is a post-professional graduate degree for students who already have experience as certified or board-eligible occupational therapists and want to get a master’s degree in their field.

The entry-level master’s program could be especially useful for those who have a bachelor’s degree in another subject but are interested in occupational therapy. This 72- to 76-credit program focuses on adult physical rehabilitation, mental health, pediatrics and children with disabilities, and preventative care for different populations. The program requires students to write a thesis or take a comprehensive exam and prepares students for the National Board of Certification in Occupational Therapy examination.

  • Location: Los Angeles, Calif.
  • Accreditation: Western Association of Schools and Colleges
  • Format: On campus
  • Tuition: $28,628 per semester for 15 to 18 graduate units in the fall or spring, $3,856 for two graduate units in the summer
  • Program length: Two years for the entry-level master’s degree, one year for the post-professional degree
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Featured Professor: Yasi Amanat, ODT

Dr. Yasi Amanat is an assistant professor of clinical occupational therapy and a clinical faculty member at the Keck Hospital of USC, where she works in outpatient rehabilitation and acute care. One of her areas of interest is the head and neck, especially with respect to cancer treatment. She earned her master’s and doctoral degrees from USC and her bachelor’s degree at UC Irvine.

Other Programs of Note:

Master of Science, Health Administration

  • Affiliated careers: Healthcare medical administrator, manager, director, or executive
  • Average annual salary: $99,730
  • Projected growth: 18 percent

The healthcare system functions in large part thanks to successful offices and medical centers that require employees with strong business skills as well as traditional medical training. Healthcare administrators and managers ensure that patients receive quality care, that facilities have the proper personnel, supplies and technology, and that all billing and insurance matters are properly addressed.

Academic programs can teach leadership skills along with an overview of the current health system. Depending on interests and experiences, healthcare administrators can work wherever leadership is needed, such as small community clinics, large campus medical centers, assisted living centers, healthcare associations, and even insurance companies. Some programs also offer a glimpse into the financial management side of healthcare equations.

Southern New Hampshire University

SNHU’s 36-credit online master’s program in healthcare management offers a comprehensive overview of healthcare concepts, terminology and best practices as well as other useful details like project management, organizational culture, team building, and branding. It also stresses research, ethics, communication, and decision-making. The online format could be especially useful for professionals already working in the industry who want to improve skills or seek higher-level pay without relocating to attend school full-time.

  • Location: Manchester, New Hampshire
  • Accreditation: New England Association of Schools and Colleges and Accreditation Commission for Programs in Hospitality
  • Format: Online
  • Tuition: $627 per credit or $1,881 per course
  • Program length: As few as 15 months
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Featured Professor: Darla Branda

Darla Branda is the faculty lead for SNHU’s online health information management program. She also has a background in healthcare administration, including a bachelor’s degree in that subject from Park College and certification as a registered healthcare administrator. She has a second bachelor’s degree in medical record administration and a master’s degree in higher education from St. Louis University. At SNHU and St. Louis University, Branda focuses on curriculum development and design. On the clinical side, she also has experience in ER-level burn and trauma coding and surgical and trauma coding. On the administrative side, she has performed data abstraction and statistical reporting.

Other Programs of Note:

Master of Science, Public Health and Nutrition

  • Affiliated careers: Dietitian, nutritionist, public health officer
  • Average annual salary: $60,370
  • Projected growth: 11 percent

Dietitians help patients find sustainable ways to achieve their personal health goals through a variety of customizable methods like controlling portion sizes, incorporating new flavors, and eliminating certain foods or food groups. Dietitians and nutritionists focus on specific age groups or health needs, such as cancer patients, seniors, or patients who are morbidly obese or have diabetes. They run private practices, work with specialty medical programs, or even work on-site at centers like assisted living communities. The skills required for this profession include knowledge of nutrition, food sciences, chemistry, and communication.

George Washington University, Milken Institute School of Public Health

This program, which is part of the school’s Milken Institute for Public Health, focuses on the connections between nutrition and overall wellness, and possible conditions that can result from poor nutrition, including acute and chronic health challenges.

Students learn about treatment methods and preventative strategies for diseases and how to create and implement public programs to share this information at a local or state level. The program emphasizes the role of individual and societal nutrition as a gateway to overall wellness efforts and identifies factors that can influence a community’s nutrition, such as the quality and sanitation of water and food systems. The 45-credit program concludes with a practicum in a public health field.

  • Location: Washington, D.C.
  • Accreditation: Council on Education for Public Health
  • Format: Hybrid with up to 15 credits online
  • Tuition: $1,750 per credit
  • Program length: 18 to 24 months
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Featured Professor: Kim Robien, PhD

As chair of the school’s exercise and nutrition sciences program, Dr. Kim Robien can provide significant academic and professional experience. Her research focuses on nutrition in chronic disease prevention, food access in underserved communities, sustainable food systems, and general environmental nutrition. She also has researched the role of food-borne chemicals in possibly contributing to obesity or other chronic diseases, and is an investigator for a study of Iowa women looking for possible connections between diet and risk for cancer and other diseases. She is part of the Montgomery County Food Council.

Other Programs of Note:

Master of Science, Athletic Training

  • Affiliated careers: Athletic trainer, kinesiologist
  • Average annual salary: $47,510
  • Projected growth: 19 percent

Athletic trainers are crucial to the performance of a sports team or an athlete. They assist in diagnosing and treating injuries and advise preventative care. Trainers play an important role at any level of athleticism, from secondary school teams to college and professional leagues.

Trainers can be employed by schools or teams, by private fitness centers or medical offices, or by municipalities such as community recreation departments. Areas of knowledge include anatomy, physiology, kinesiology, communication, and general medical care and first aid. Because of growing interest in sports and sports safety, there are a variety of training programs for trainers.

Texas A&M University, College of Education & Human Development

This 60-credit program provides an overview of modern athletic training and gives students the opportunity to work with elite student-athletes at the school’s clinic. The curriculum is designed to prepare students for the Board of Certification exam to receive certified athletic training credentials.

  • Location: Corpus Christi, Texas
  • Accreditation: Commission on Accreditation of Athletic Training Education
  • Format: On campus
  • Tuition: $1,112 per credit
  • Program length: Two years
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Featured Professor: Steve Riechman, Ph.D.

Dr. Steve Riechman is chair of the kinesiology program and an associate professor of health and kinesiology. His areas of focus include resistance training, muscle endocrine, and nutritional and exercise interaction on skeletal muscle. He is also an editorial board member of the European Journal of Applied Physiology and a fellow with the American College of Sports Medicine. His studies include a blend of health and science courses, including a master’s degree in public health and epidemiology, a doctorate in exercise physiology and a post-doctoral fellowship exploring molecular genetics.

Other Programs of Note:

Master of Health Information Management

  • Affiliated careers: Health information manager, systems manager, IT director, health CTO, database manager
  • Average annual salary: $40,350
  • Projected growth: 11 percent

The complexity of the healthcare system has created the need for professionals who aggregate, track, and analyze data. Health information managers gather and secure all of the information that comes in from various sources, such as providers and insurance companies, and make it easily accessible and digestible. At the same time, they also need to make sure that all sensitive and personal data under confidentiality and privacy laws.

The job requires IT knowledge and familiarity with medical terminology and various billing and coding definitions. Information technicians maintain existing systems and make recommendations for increased storage and security as technology changes and the amount of available data grows. These positions are found at providers’ offices, medical centers, private data storage centers but can also be performed remotely.

Dakota State University

This master’s degree in health informatics and information management provides an overview of modern health informatics, including data analytics, statistics, and information systems. Students also learn about the legal and ethical aspects of the profession, including why certain data needs to be protected, along with penalties for failing to do so. System workflow and research and design are also emphasized in the 33-credit course, as is communication since many parties are sending and requesting data.

  • Location: Madison, South Dakota
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission, Commission on Accreditation for Health Informatics and Information Management Education
  • Format: On campus or online
  • Tuition: $370 per credit for in-state students, $656 per credit for out-of-state students
  • Program length: Two to five years
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Featured Professor: Renae Spohn, MBA

As director of DSU’s health information management program, Renae Spohn has earned a variety of academic credentials, including certifications as a registered health information administrator and a professional in healthcare quality. She is a fellow at the National Association for Health Care Quality and the American Health Information Management Association. She has earned associate degrees from DSU and Colorado Technical University, and earned an MBA in healthcare administration.

Other Programs of Note:

MBA in Healthcare Management

  • Affiliated positions: Management analyst, industry consultant, specialist
  • Average annual salary: $83,610
  • Outlook: 14 percent

Though some people prefer to work for one employer, others like the flexibility of working with multiple employers. Consultant work involves visiting different workplaces, learning different ways to improve organizations and ensuring that companies remain compliant with changing rules. Because of the constant updates in equipment, protocol and laws and regulations, consultants are critical to the healthcare industry.

As administrators and employees focus on delivering day-to-day services, it is challenging to stay up-to-date about new procedures and regulations and be able to disseminate them to their staff. It is smarter and more cost-effective bring in consultants who are more familiar with these areas and who can provide answers and recommend necessary changes.

Consultants can represent a variety of different fields and should be familiar with certain areas of healthcare law and culture. It is also essential that they have strong written and oral communication skills. The position requires some degree of travel to different types of offices. Various combinations of skills and knowledge can be useful to consultants, but people considering this career might want to consider either a dual MD/MBA program or an MBA with a healthcare focus.

The George Washington University, School of Business

This online MBA program focuses on healthcare and healthcare management. The healthcare portion of the curriculum includes clinical research, health sciences, regulatory affairs, while the business side includes ethics, finance, organization, and project management. Students in the 55.5-credit program also learn about general business management topics and current medical issues, which can help in smart decision-making and benefit organizations that want to look toward the future. Students can continue their education by taking additional healthcare classes to satisfy the requirements of a graduate certificate through the university’s School of Medicine.

  • Location: Washington, D.C.
  • Accreditation: Middle States Commission on Higher Education, Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business
  • Format: Online
  • Tuition: $1,890 per credit
  • Program length: Two to three years
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Featured Professor: John M. Young, PhD

Dr. John Young has extensive experience in healthcare and business industries. He is an assistant professor of clinical research and leadership and healthcare quality, where he focuses on value-add performance and health innovation. He has worked on many government consulting projects, including with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services where he focused on patient quality improvements, physician standards, and value-based purchasing programs. He is the former Chief Operating Officer of Southern Maryland Hospital.

Other Programs of Note:

Master of Science, Clinical Laboratory Science

  • Affiliated careers: Medical and clinical lab technician, lab technologist, lab assistant, lab manager
  • Average annual salary: $52,330
  • Outlook: 11 percent

Another important role in medicine involves working in the field or behind-the-scenes in a public or private laboratory. These roles are typically found in medical or crime labs, physician offices, or medical centers and require extensive knowledge of biology, chemistry, and modern methods of measuring and testing.

Many online and on-campus programs provide training in equipment, procedures and quality control. Advanced training can also prepare professionals who are already working in this area for leadership positions and educate them about more current or advanced testing methods.

Rutgers University, School of Health Professions

The 33-credit online program in clinical laboratory science gives an overview of lab science, including accurate diagnoses and testing methods, as well as advanced skills in administration, consultation, and general research methods. Courses cover advanced scientific and medical topics like chemistry, immunology, transfusion and transplantation, as well as business-related subjects like decision-making, problem-solving, and ethics. The program concludes with a three-credit graduate project that blends research methods, community service, and education.

  • Location: Newark, New Brunswick, and Camden, New Jersey
  • Accreditation: Middle States Commission on Higher Education, National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences, Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs
  • Format: Online
  • Tuition: $736 per credit
  • Program length: One to three years with a six-year limit
Dr. Nadine Fyryrszewski

Featured Professor: Nadine A. Fydryszewski, PhD

Dr. Nadine Fydryszewski is the program director, vice chair and a professor for the school’s medical laboratory science program. She teaches both on campus and online courses, is a certified clinical laboratory scientist and a medical technologist, and specializes in microbiology, blood bank and hematology. She previously supervised the microbiology department at Monmouth Medical Center, where she also taught medical technology.

Other Programs of Note:

Kimmy Gustafson
Kimmy Gustafson
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Kimmy Gustafson is a freelance writer with a passion for sharing stories of bravery. Her love for world-traveling began when her family moved to Spain when she was six and since then, she has lived overseas extensively, visited six continents, and traveled to over 25 countries. She is fluent in Spanish and conversational in French. When not writing or parenting she can be found kiteboarding, hiking, or cooking.