Five up-and-coming healthcare jobs you can get with an online degree
February 9, 2021
Learning and working from home in the healthcare industry
It’s no secret that the healthcare job market is growing. Healthcare continues to be a thriving and lucrative field for people seeking to make a difference while remaining relevant in a changing economy. In fact, the job outlook for healthcare is brighter than any other occupational group, with the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projecting that employment will grow 15% from 2019 to 2029, adding about 2.4 million new jobs. That’s significantly higher than the 3.7% average job growth the BLS projects across all occupations. This boom is driven by a number of factors, including an aging population in need of care, longer life expectancies and an increase in patients – as many as 60% of Americans – who are living with a chronic disease.
The economy is not the only change we face in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. In our new, increasingly virtual world, more companies are offering their employees the opportunity to work from home. Students are increasingly seeking online degrees to help them manage the many facets of their lives. For so many people across the world, the flexibility to interact virtually has become the key to finding balance in their busy, often stressful lives.
While traditional healthcare jobs often require onsite education, healthcare is evolving. This means you may be able to get your degree or certification online for some of the fastest-growing careers in the field. What’s more, some of these jobs may be available virtually, allowing you to work from your home once you’ve completed your additional education or training.
1. Medical records and health information technicians
If you’re an analytical problem-solver who loves details and embraces technology, a career as a medical records or health information technician may be a good fit for you. Medical records and health information technicians are responsible for coordinating and managing health information data. This includes making sure health data is accurate, secure and meets all quality standards. Additionally, these professionals code and record data for collection, storage, analysis, retrieval and reporting. Health information technicians may also specialize in medical coding or work as cancer registrars (data information professionals who help capture a complete history, diagnosis, treatment and health status for cancer patients).
When it comes to occupational outlook, the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics projects an 8% growth in jobs for medical records and health information technicians by 2029. In 2019, medical records and health information technicians earned a median salary of $42,630 per year or $20.50 per hour. These professionals do not have direct interaction with patients, which may lead to an increase in employer flexibility for work-from-home arrangements for people who prefer to work virtually.
Medical records and health information technicians, administrative assistants or financial clerks looking to advance in their careers often find that a degree in medical and health services management is an ideal path.
While a high school diploma or equivalent and healthcare experience may be enough to qualify for some jobs, most employers require postsecondary education. Many employers also require that health information technicians be certified or that they become certified shortly after being hired. Getting an online associate’s degree in health information technology is a great start, and some degree programs also include essential certifications. Alternatively, you can earn any required certifications following graduation. These certifications include the Registered Health Information Technician (RHIT) and the Certified Tumor Registrar (CTR) for cancer registrars. Additionally, as their careers progress, some successful health information technicians choose to pursue additional education in medical and health service management, which I’ll delve into below.
Professional organizations like the American Medical Informatics Association® (AMIA), American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) and Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society, Inc. (HIMSS) provide valuable resources and information to help those interested in a career in medical records and health information.
2. Medical and health service managers
Medical and health services managers (sometimes called healthcare executives or healthcare administrators) plan and oversee medical and health services, relying on strong analytical capabilities combined with communication skills and business acumen. They may work as nursing home administrators, clinical managers or health information managers. Medical and health services managers may run an entire facility or a specific area or department, or they may oversee a medical practice for a physician group. They’re responsible for ensuring efficiency and quality, and they collaborate directly with healthcare workers, patients or insurance agents, depending on their specific role.
Per the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics, medical and health service managers have a particularly positive job outlook, with an amazing projected job growth of 32% by 2029. In 2019, the median salary for medical and health services managers was $100,980 per year or $48.55 per hour. Many medical and health services managers began their careers in healthcare support roles. Medical records and health information technicians, administrative assistants or financial clerks looking to advance in their careers often find that a degree in medical and health services management is an ideal path. Most medical and health services managers work in offices due to the highly collaborative nature of the job and the direct oversight required.
While requirements vary, medical and health services managers usually need a bachelor’s degree, and many choose to earn a master’s degree to realize their full earning and career potential. Students pursuing a degree in medical and health services management benefit from a program that teaches them about business while offering classes on healthcare topics like medical terminology, hospital organization and health information systems.
Due to the broad nature of the category and various career paths available, there are several higher education options available for people looking for a job in medical and health service management. These include degrees in health administration, health management, nursing, public health administration and business administration. Many colleges and universities allow students to pursue these degrees online, but some programs will require in-person experience working in a healthcare facility. It’s also important to note that securing a job as a medical and health services manager typically requires some working experience in healthcare, whether in administration or a clinical position.
There are a number of organizations to help healthcare management students and professionals stay connected with others in their field, access career information and remain current on developments in the industry, including The American Association of Healthcare Administrative Management (AAHAM), American College of Healthcare Executives (ACHE), The Healthcare Financial Management Association (HFMA) and The National Association of Healthcare Access Management (NAHAM).
3. Substance abuse, behavioral disorder and mental health counselors
A job as a substance abuse, behavioral disorder and mental health counselor may be an ideal career for you if you’re a caring listener who likes the idea of direct patient interaction and you want to help people overcome addictions or other challenges. People with experience overcoming their own obstacles with alcohol or drugs may make for especially successful counselors, as they are able to relate to their patients who are seeking treatment. Counselors advise patients who suffer from various mental health or behavioral problems, recommend treatment paths and support them in their recovery from addiction or as they change problematic behaviors.
In its recent National Health Interview Survey, the National Center for Health Statistics reported that 9.5% of adults and 10% of children in the U.S. received support from a mental health professional in 2019. What’s more, the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics projects an incredibly rapid 25% growth in substance abuse, behavioral disorder and mental health jobs by 2029. The median salary for substance abuse, behavioral disorder and mental health counselors in 2019 was $46,240 per year or $22.23 per hour. While these compassionate professionals have traditionally served patients in person, it’s becoming more common for counselors to work virtually. That could mean supporting their patients over the phone, online or as part of a company’s employee assistance program (EAP).
It’s common for substance abuse, behavioral disorder and mental health counselor positions to require a bachelor’s degree in psychology or counseling, although requirements may vary from a high school diploma and certification to a master’s degree. Mental health counselors must be licensed in order to practice, although licensure requirements vary by state.
The American Counseling Association, American Mental Health Counselors Association, Association for Addiction Professionals (NAADAC) and American Academy of Addiction Psychiatry (AAAP) offer current and future behavioral disorder and mental health counselors a way to remain connected within their field and provide access to training as well as career tips and support.
While working as a health educator might be hard to do from your home, many institutions offer online degrees for future health educators. However, most programs will include an in-person internship component, so you may not be able to complete your degree completely virtually.
4. Health educators and community health workers
If you’re passionate about people and can back this up with strong communication and problem-solving skills, a career as a health educator or community health worker might be the right healthcare job for you. Health educators, also known as health education specialists, teach people about healthy behaviors that promote wellness. These educators are not the same as traditional health teachers who work in a primary or secondary school setting; instead, they may work in a healthcare facility, college, public health department, nonprofit or for a private business. Community health workers gather data and talk about health concerns with members of their target community, sharing information they collect with health educators and healthcare providers to help meet the community’s needs or improve the community’s health. They may work for the government, a healthcare facility or a community organization.
The job outlook for health educators and community health workers is projected to grow by a healthy 13% by 2029 according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. In 2019, these professionals received a median pay rate of $46,910 a year or $22.55 an hour. Due to the nature of the work, health educators and community health workers typically work in an office setting but may spend much of their time in the field interacting with people or attending events. Traditionally, these healthcare professionals have not worked from home. However, COVID-19 has forced health educators and community health workers to get comfortable interacting virtually with the people they support, which may change the support model in the future.
To be a community health worker, you’ll need a high school diploma along with on-the-job training. Additionally, some states require further certification. While working as a health educator might be hard to do from your home, many institutions offer online degrees for future health educators. However, most programs will include an in-person internship component, so you may not be able to complete your degree completely virtually. If you’re interested in a career as a health educator, you’ll need at least a bachelor’s degree in health education or health promotion, although some jobs may require a master’s or doctoral degree—or that you earn your Certified Health Education Specialist (CHES) credential.
Organizations like the National Association of Community Health Workers (NACHW) and Society for Public Health Education (SOPHE) may be valuable resources for health educators and community health workers, providing opportunities to network, learn and access career resources.
5. Dietitians and nutritionists
Dietitians and nutritionists are analytical listeners who are passionate about food and its effect on health, helping people understand how food contributes to better outcomes. The field offers several areas of focus, including clinical dietitians and nutritionists who provide nutrition therapy in a medical setting, community dietitians and nutritionists who create programs and counsel the public on nutrition, and management dietitians who work in food services to plan food programs at facilities like schools, cafeterias and hospitals.
By helping people address nutritional concerns and adopt healthier eating habits, dietitians and nutritionists can make a significant impact on the health of the country. In fact, people adopting a healthy diet may live longer and can reduce the risk of developing serious health problems like heart disease, type 2 diabetes and obesity. What’re more, proper nutrition can help people living with chronic diseases manage these conditions and prevent further complications.
The job outlook for dietitians and nutritionists is projected to grow by 8% by 2029, per the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. In 2019, the median pay for dietitians and nutritionists was $61,270 per year or $29.46 per hour. While these wellness professionals often work with their patients in person, not all dietitians and nutritionists work in a clinic or office building. Depending on the chosen area of specialization, options for remote work have increased in line with the growing availability of telepresence options and patients’ desire for virtual support solutions.
Dietitians and nutritionists typically require a bachelor’s degree in dietetics, foods and nutrition, clinical nutrition, public health nutrition, food service systems management or a related area, although many pursue advanced degrees. While online degree programs present an ideal option for those seeking a career as a dietitian or nutritionist, students in this field must typically complete supervised, hands-on training. This training usually includes an internship, either during their studies or shortly after graduating. Some dietitians also pursue a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) credential, and nutritionists with a master’s or doctoral degree can earn a Certified Nutrition Specialist (CNS) credential. Dietitians and nutritionists may also choose additional certifications in areas like oncology, pediatric and renal nutrition or sports dietetics. Additionally, some states require licensure, registration or certification in order to practice or use certain titles.
The National Association of Nutrition Professionals (NANP), American Society for Nutrition and Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics are professional organizations that offer information and career guidance for nutritionists and dieticians.