Admission for bachelor’s degree programs in healthcare and nursing require admission to the university. While school admission criteria vary by institution, most accredited colleges and universities have similar requirements.
For general admission to the school, applicants must have graduated high school or have a GED equivalent and minimum GPA of 2.0 or better. Most schools ask for higher GPAs like a 2.5. For competitive healthcare majors, the program may require a minimum 3.0 GPA. Other admission factors include standardized test scores, such as the ACT or SAT, admission essays, and letters of recommendation. If you are worried about your GPA or test scores, consider taking your general education courses at a community college, either locally or out of state to improve your chances.
Similar to bachelor’s degrees in healthcare, master’s degree admissions vary by program and school. Since most healthcare and nursing programs are highly competitive, stringent admission requirements exist. Most graduate nursing programs require minimum undergraduate GPAs of 3.0 or 3.5. Top-ranked institutions and top-tier programs may require GPAs on the higher end of that range. Also, more competitive institutions and programs will require the GRE for admission. High GRE test scores and higher GPA thresholds are critical to setting yourself apart from competition.
Admission for PhD or doctoral programs in nursing and healthcare vary by institution. Doctoral degrees in healthcare administration, health policy, or closely related disciplines often ask for an earned master’s degree, work experience, and competitive GRE scores. However, doctoral or PhD programs in nursing may ask for competitive undergraduate and graduate GPAs, high scores on graduate exams, and three to five years of nursing experience. Since most healthcare and nursing programs are competitive, GRE scores and grade point averages should be high. Also, PhD program candidates should provide ample research experience at the college level.
Clinical lab technician:
Clinical lab technicians and technologists collect samples of blood, fluids, tissue, and other substances and perform tests and analyzation. To become a lab tech, an earned bachelor’s degree is necessary. However, some jobs call only for two-year degrees.
Dental hygienists assist dentists in examining patients for signs of gingivitis and other oral diseases. They perform routine preventive care, such as teeth cleaning. Typically, a hygienist must hold an associate’s degree and have completed a dental hygiene program. These programs are highly competitive and accept only top academic students. High GPAs are a must for dental hygiene programs.
The non-clinical role of a healthcare administrator exists in hospitals, outpatient and medical facilities, and other healthcare operations. Healthcare administrators have typically received a master’s in healthcare administration or management. While enrolled in the advanced program, students take classes like health economics, health policy and management, health politics, and health services administration.
At the basic level, a nurse educator’s job description emphasizes teaching and instruction for aspiring nurses. Nurse educators may focus entirely on teaching, do a combination of teaching and research, or work as a patient provider. Nurse educators hold a master’s degree in nursing (MSN) with a specialization in nurse education. Nurse educators may work in colleges and universities, junior colleges (such as community colleges), general medical facilities and hospitals, or technical and trade schools.
Nurse anesthetist, nurse midwife, and nurse practitioner:
This highly specialized group of nurses hold graduate degrees in nurses and have received advanced training. They are responsible for coordinating patient care, which also includes primary and specialty healthcare. A nurse midwife oversees the delivery of newborns, while a nurse practitioner performs many of the same duties a doctor does in general practice. All nurse specialties require advanced training and degrees.
An occupational therapist treats patients with illnesses, injuries, or disabilities through therapy intended to improve daily life. These specialized therapists have earned master’s degrees in occupational therapy and received advanced training. As well as providing treatment, occupational therapists also educate patients.
To work as a pharmacist, a doctoral or professional degree is required. This highly technical career is ideal for detail-oriented individuals. The role of the pharmacist is to dispense medications to patients. They offer expertise and educate patients about drug interactions and safety while taking prescription medication. Pharmacists work in hospitals, retail businesses, and other medical facilities.
Pharmacy technicians work alongside pharmacists in hospitals, medical facilities, and retail businesses. While a pharmacist holds an advanced degree, a pharmacy tech usually holds a high school diploma or two-year degree. Pharmacy technicians assist pharmacists in dispensing medication to customers. They provide customer service and take orders from healthcare professionals. Pharmacy tech programs are available at community and junior colleges.
Radiologic and MRI technologists:
Radiologic and MRI technologists work directly with patients to perform diagnostic imagining exams. The career is highly technical and requires specialized training to operate magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanners. Diagnostic imaging careers require an earned associate’s degree.
Registered nursing is among the most common nursing career. The RN provides and coordinates patient care, addresses the public about health conditions, and educates patients. They work in hospitals, medical centers, doctor’s offices, and other healthcare facilities. To work as a registered nurse, a two or four-year degree is required. There are many accredited online RN to BSN programs available from top-ranked institutions.
Undergraduate degree programs in healthcare and nursing cost anywhere between $10,000 and $30,000. State institutions often provide affordable tuition for in-state students. Also, special tuition rates for first-generation college students can cut the cost of earning an undergraduate degree by at least fifty-percent.
Costs for graduate nursing programs, such as an MSN, vary by school and program. However, the average cost of attendance is $12,000-$40,000 per year. Many affordable online master’s degree in healthcare programs exist, which cost between $10,000 and $20,000 per year.
Medical school is one of the most, if not the most, costly schooling. Over four years of medical schooling, a student can expect to pay between $150,000 (for in-state, public education) to $250,000 (out-of-state, public education or private school).
Earnings & Pay
Earnings and pay for healthcare jobs vary by occupation and geographic location. Taking a look at the national average listed by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), we find that the median annual pay for registered nurses is $73,300. The lowest ten percent earned less than $52,000 per year, while the highest ten percent of earners made over $111,000.
Other healthcare occupations were also listed by BLS and reported earnings as follows:
Dental hygienists: $76,220
Licensed practical nurses: $47,480
Nurse anesthetists, midwives, and nurse practitioners: $115,800
Physician assistants: $112,260
Physicians and surgeons: $208,000
Respiratory therapists: $61,330
Graduate school for the healthcare industry includes coursework towards a master’s degree or a Ph.D. Coursework in advanced programs is far narrower in scope, preparing students for careers in specific subfields. For example, a registered nurse may earn an MSN – Nurse Practitioner degree, which establishes the nurse as a highly educated specialist in the field of nursing.
Doctorates in healthcare, such as the DNP or PhD in nursing, also prepare students to become experts in the field. There are, however, several doctoral degrees in healthcare administration and healthcare policy that are career-focused. Common graduate programs in healthcare include healthcare administration, healthcare management, and health sciences. Nursing and medicine are among the most competitive programs.
A good bedside manner is often associated with a “good” doctor or healthcare professional. But beyond a good bedside manner, there are important qualities healthcare workers should have. These characteristics are as follows:
Compassion: Nurses and healthcare workers should be empathetic when working with patients. A caring bedside demeanor helps patients feel cared for.
Detail-oriented: Ensuring patients receive the care they need means paying attention to details, administering treatments, and keeping track of medicines. This is one of the most important qualities for nursing professionals.
Emotional stability: Emotional resilience is important for mental health, especially for healthcare workers in emergency and critical care facilities.
Physical stamina: Nursing and healthcare professionals, such as physical therapists and occupational therapists, must perform demanding physical tasks. Lifting patients and being on your feet all day requires physical stamina.
Strong communication skills: An effective communicator makes a good healthcare professional. Healthcare workers should be able to clearly explain instructions to patients, provide advocacy when necessary, and give updates to doctors.
Strong critical thinking skills: Healthcare professionals must examine and assess changes in patient status. They must also determine when corrective action is necessary. In order to carry out these important tasks, strong critical thinking skills are needed.
The job outlook for nursing and healthcare professionals varies by occupation. This is also true of pay. For example, the median annual wage, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), for registered nurses was $73,300. However, the median annual wage for EMTs and paramedics is around $35,400.
While the pay varies widely, the job outlook is favorable for all healthcare careers. EMTs and paramedics can expect a seven percent projected job growth over the next eight years, while nurses can anticipate a 12 percent growth. One of the most favorable job outlooks among healthcare professions is occupational therapy. Employment for occupational therapists is expected to grow 18 percent through 2020, which is much faster than all other occupations.
Science-heavy majors are common among students seeking healthcare degrees. While most nursing students major in nursing, pre-med students may choose to major in biology, chemistry, or zoology. Below are several types of majors that prepare students for healthcare and nursing careers.
Healthcare Administration: While mostly seen as a graduate program major, healthcare administration is ideal for individuals seeking leadership roles in healthcare. Students often take classes in business, leadership, and policy.
Occupational Health and Safety: Sometimes referred to as occupational therapy, this field of study focuses on physiology and kinesiology. Classes include psychology, physiology, and statistics.
Psychology: Undergraduate psychology majors take classes in behavioral and integrative neuroscience, clinical psych, and developmental psychology to name few. Psych majors may enter the workforce or pursue graduate programs.
Public Health: From the study of infectious disease to the management of health organizations, a degree in public health prepares students for careers in health policy and public health.
Common nursing degrees
RN: An RN (registered nurse) is a nurse who has completed an associate’s in nursing degree or a bachelor’s in nursing degree and has passed the credentialing test to become an RN.
BSN: A BSN or bachelor’s in nursing degree is a four-year bachelor’s degree that emphasizes all aspects of the nursing profession. Accelerated and online BSN programs take less time than traditional nursing programs and can be completed in 2-3 years.
MSN: The MSN is a master’s in nursing degree that prepares registered nurses for advanced leadership roles in nursing. Graduate MSN programs are available online or on-campus.
NP: Most NP (nurse practitioner) programs are included as a subspecialty of an MSN program. However, some programs allow RNs to become nurse practitioners. Transitioning from an RN to an NP takes about six years.
DNP: The Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) is the equivalent of a doctorate in nursing. Not all DNP programs are equal. When pursuing a DNP program, make sure it meets the educational requirements of the APRN Consensus Model and is fully accredited.
Most common pre-med majors
Biochemistry: Biochemistry majors study the intersection of biology and chemistry, often exploring life at the molecular level.
Biology: A major in biology focuses on living organisms, their functions and characteristics.
Chemistry: A major in chemistry focuses on the scientific study of composition and behavior of matter. Micro- and macro-structure and processes are explored.
Humanities: Humanities covers a broad spectrum of majors, including English and social sciences. Today, medical schools look for widely educated applicants and do not accept only science majors.
Math and Statistics: Math and statistics majors study the relationship between numbers, data, patterns, and structures. From algebra to statistical math, the major covers a large number of topics.
Physics: Physics is the study of matter and energy. This highly scientific major focuses on interactions, fundamental ideas and theories, and the basis of all other sciences.
Zoology: Zoology majors study animals and their internal workings, from activities to behavior.
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