Medical Degrees and Schools

January 6, 2022 • 5 Min Read

edited by Lequita Westbrooks

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Medical degrees prepare the next generation of medical professionals. Graduates may pursue medical careers as paramedics, certified nursing assistants (CNAs), or medical assistants. Many top colleges and universities offer online medical degrees. Learners complete most courses online. They complete clinical requirements in local healthcare settings.

This page answers frequently asked questions about medical degrees. Read on to explore degree options and career specializations. Students can learn more by contacting their prospective schools or researching careers on the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) website.

Frequently Asked Questions About Medical Degrees

true Q. Can You Get a Medical Degree Online?

Yes. Many schools offer online medical degrees. Prospective enrollees should ensure their schools hold regional accreditation. Accreditation is a voluntary process that ensures a school meets a universal standard of quality. Learners can use the U.S. Department of Education's searchable database to browse schools' accreditation status.

Colleges with online or hybrid programs need national accreditation. The Distance Education Accrediting Commission evaluates whether on-campus and online students receive the same academic experience. They also consider the two groups' graduate outcomes.

true Q. What Are the Fastest Online Medical Degrees?

Learners can graduate from surgical technologist, CNA, and community health worker programs in two years. These careers require associate degrees. Graduates can enter the workforce or transfer to bachelor's-completion programs.

Students not interested in medical degrees may consider certificate programs. These programs do not confer degrees. Instead, they emphasize the skills medical professionals need in the workplace. Learners can transfer certificates from accredited schools to associate programs.

true Q. What Are the Highest-Paying Medical Degrees?

Healthcare professionals earn a median annual salary of $69,870, according to the BLS. Registered nurses (RNs) earn $75,330. Dieticians and nutritionists earn $63,090. Professionals with medical degrees often earn more than workers in other fields. The median annual salary for all occupations is $41,950.

Professionals can increase their salaries by earning certifications or moving to a metropolitan area. However, workers in big cities may face higher living costs than professionals in the suburbs and rural areas.

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What Kind of Medical Degrees Are Available?

Schools offer many online medical degrees and hybrid programs. Learners can find the right one by researching schools' websites and speaking with admissions advisors. Students interested in a career requiring a license should research in-state programs.

See below for a sampling of medical degrees. Please note that the examples below present a general overview. Program offerings and academic requirements vary by school.

  • Associate in Medical Coding and Billing

    This 60-credit program prepares students to pass the Certified Billing and Coding Specialist (CBCS) Exam. Coursework covers medical terminology and coding systems. Learners also study healthcare regulations. Enrollees complete general education courses in communication and social sciences.

    Graduates who pass the CBCS exam can work as entry-level medical billers and coders. These professionals earn a median annual salary of $45,240.

  • Associate in Healthcare Management

    Healthcare managers direct their organization's healthcare operations. They create work schedules, monitor budgets, and supervise staff. Associate programs include courses in anatomy and physiology. Learners also study accounting and business. Students master healthcare statistics and department management fundamentals.

    Top programs include healthcare management practicums. Students work in healthcare settings under experienced healthcare managers. Graduates may need more education. Many positions require a bachelor's degree.

  • RN-to-BSN

    Licensed RNs can enroll in a two-year RN-to-BSN program to boost their salary. Coursework covers professional nursing theory and innovation in nursing. Enrollees also study health promotion across the lifespan. Some programs feature one or more specializations. Options include cardiac nurse and clinical nurse specialist.

    Students can continue working while earning a degree. Graduates may work as intensive care nurses or clinical nurse specialists.

Medical Specializations

Medical schools offer many specializations, which are sometimes called concentrations or tracks. Some options include paramedic/EMT, surgical technologist, and MRI technician. These specializations prepare students for specific careers.

See below for specialization options for students seeking medical degrees. Learners can research college websites for detailed information.

  • Paramedic/EMT

    Paramedics and EMTs help people after serious accidents or other life-threatening medical events. These first responders stabilize patients and perform life-saving measures. They also make reports for other healthcare providers. Professionals start work as EMTs and gain more education to become paramedics. These professionals often work for fire departments or ambulance companies.
  • Surgical Technologist

    Aspiring surgical technologists may earn certificates or medical degrees. Programs cover surgical theory and surgical procedures. Enrollees complete a surgical technology practicum. A degree prepares learners for certification and entry-level careers. Surgical technologists create sterile environments and help surgeons with operating tools.
  • MRI Technician

    These technicians operate MRI machines, which produce detailed images doctors use to diagnose patients. Associate degree coursework covers pathology and medical ethics. Graduates may work in hospitals, laboratories, or outpatient care centers. Professionals can make more by earning a certification in sonography or nuclear medicine.
  • CRNA

    Certified registered nurse anesthetists (CRNAs) help anesthesiologists in the operating room. Coursework covers information systems and data management. Learners also study pain management and anesthesia in clinical practice. The curriculum requires in-person clinical rotations. Graduates make significantly more than entry-level RNs. Many CRNAs work in doctors' offices or hospitals.
  • CNA

    CNAs assist RNs and other healthcare professionals. They often feed and clean patients. CNA programs last 1-3 months and include a clinical rotation. Enrollees gain hands-on experience that prepares them for the CNA exam. Graduates must pass a background check.
  • Medical Assistant

    Medical assistants perform many roles, including helping patients with basic tasks and maintaining records. Learners complete courses in medical terminology and anatomy and physiology. Some medical schools offer this program entirely online. Graduates can earn a professional certification to advance their career.
  • Dentist

    Dental schools train students with courses in physiology, oral pathology, and periodontics. Students learn how to fill cavities, diagnose oral diseases, and perform root canals. Many dentists open private practices and earn much more than the typical U.S. worker. Aspiring dentists must attend in-person programs. However, there are online options for practicing dentists wanting to learn new skills.

Medical Support Roles

Some medical professionals do not work with patients. Instead, they support healthcare professionals' missions. They help healthcare centers run efficiently and improve patient outcomes.

The careers below may require a medical background and an advanced degree, depending on the role and employer.

  • Health Administration

    Healthcare administrators manage single departments within larger healthcare organizations. They oversee their department's staffing needs and employees' development. Job titles for these professionals include clinic director, health services manager, and medical records manager. Many healthcare administrators report directly to healthcare managers.
  • Healthcare Management

    Healthcare managers oversee entire healthcare facilities. They direct healthcare administrators' activities and budgets. Potential job titles include hospital administrator, executive director, and social welfare administrator. Like administrators, many managers hold a nursing or medical degree and many years of experience. Healthcare managers need analytical, problem-solving, and communication skills.
  • Medical Transcription

    Medical transcription workers maintain accurate medical records. They record doctors' notes and patient conversations. They also edit reports. Fully online programs confer associate degrees or undergraduate certificates. Many of these professionals work from home.

Expert Advice From a Healthcare Administrator

Students considering medical careers should strive to get the most from their education. It can help to learn from someone with experience. See below for some perspective and tips from Dr. Ellen Averett.

Q. What Should Students Consider When Choosing a Program? How Can They Evaluate Programs Effectively?

Accreditation is the main way students can assess a program's quality. They can also visit schools and talk to faculty and students. Talk to recent graduates. Ask what they liked about the program and what they thought could have been better. Ask how the program helped them prepare for their current jobs.

Q. What Are Some Tips for Succeeding in a Program and Getting the Most From It?

Take advantage of all that you can. Get involved in any extra experiences or opportunities your program offers. The time and effort you invest in a program is an investment in yourself and your future.

Q. What's the Best Way For Graduates to Search For and Get a Job?

Networking. Start developing relationships when you start a program. Your professors and student peers will be a large part of your professional network. Cultivate and maintain good relationships with them.

Q. What Were the Most Helpful Aspects of Your Education? What Do You Wish You Would Have Done Differently?

The most helpful part of my education was being exposed to new knowledge and experiences. It was also helpful to develop relationships with faculty. I wish I had given more attention to getting more real-life professional experiences like internships.

Q. What Should Students Consider About the Healthcare Industry and Changes It May Face?

The industry is dynamic and constantly changing. One must feel comfortable with change and embrace it. One must embrace lifelong learning to keep up with the changes. This is true for clinical care as well as health administration.

Popular Resources

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