Health science is focused on the application of the natural science and modern technology in health care delivery systems. Students enrolled in an online associate degree in health science program will learn about patient relations, medical terminology, human anatomy and physiology, computer technology, clinical operations, medical records management, and health care reimbursement, among other topics. Some programs may also offer students the option to specialize in areas like medical assisting or medical billing and coding. Graduates are then prepared with the technical skills and industry knowledge they need to fill entry-level administrative positions with doctors’ offices, hospitals, clinics, nursing homes, and other health care facilities.
Why an Associate Degree?
Most entry-level positions, such as those in medical billing and coding, medical records management, and medical assisting, only require applicants to have a certificate or associate degree. Some employers may prefer to hire workers who are certified in their area of specialization. This can include certification through the American Association of Medical Assistants, American Health Information Management Association, or American Academy of Professional Coders. Most accredited programs will prepare you to sit for these exams based on your area of focus. If you are interested in eventually pursuing a bachelor’s degree in a heath care related field, this type of program can serve as a great stepping stone.
Getting Into an Associate Degree Program
It’s important to understand the admissions process, whether you are attending college for the first time or headed back after a few years. Here are some common requirements for students:
- A high school diploma or GED
- Any transcripts from other college course work
- Application form and fee
- Application essay (if required)
Inside a Health Science Associate Degree Program
In most cases, you can expect an online associate degree in allied health science to take two years to complete, if enrolled full time. Other factors such as transfer credits and any breaks taken from the program can influence time to completion. In addition to major courses, students will be required to take a range of general education classes. These will typically cover composition, mathematics, social science, natural science, and humanities. Core health sciences courses usually cover medical terminology, human anatomy and physiology, health care delivery systems, medical billing and coding, and patient relations, to name a few subjects.
Students will have access to the virtual classroom 24/7. Most programs do not require students to log in at specific times. Rather, they are free to complete assignments, review course materials, participate in discussion boards, and review instructor comments around their work and personal schedules.
What’s Next for Health Science Associate Degree Holders?
Graduates of this type of program can go on to fill entry-level administrative positions at hospitals, clinics, doctors’ offices, nursing homes, and other allied health care facilities. Depending on the employer and the specific type of position, applicants with professional certification may be preferred. Some possible occupations, depending on your area of specialization, include medical assistant, medical records or health information technician, or medical billing and coding specialist. In addition to knowledge of the allied health care industry, graduates will also have the technical skills and patient relations training to fill these positions.
The job outlook for these occupations is strong. In fact, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported than the demand for medical assistants is expected to increase by 31% from 2010 to 2020. Predicted growth was 26% for medical records and health information technicians. The mean annual salary reported for medical assistants in 2011 was $30,170. This was $35, 920 for those working as medical records and health information technicians.