Health Science Degrees in Public Health

When looking for a career that may offer stability or opportunities to advance, many people consider the medical field. There are a variety of roles available, some with above-average salaries. However, choosing one role or a specific specialty can be overwhelming without the right guidance and information.

Health science may be a good fit for individuals who are interested in healthcare and advancing into specialties at higher degree levels. The definition of health science is the application of science to the field of health—and it’s a field that focuses on the development of technology and knowledge for improving healthcare.

What is Health Science? 

Health science is a field that encompasses the research and application of scientific principles to improve human health, both at the individual and large-scale levels. It includes topics like health informatics, biotechnology research, and therapeutic services.

So, what is a health science degree? A health science degree provides undergraduate, graduate, or doctoral students with healthcare-specific knowledge and general professional skills, through its interdisciplinary curriculum. Ultimately, students graduate with the technical foundation needed to work in both clinical and non-clinical settings, including medical laboratories, pharmacies, and doctors’ offices. These degrees may be useful should you decide to further your professional education and pursue a graduate program focused on chiropractic care, physical or occupational therapy, healthcare informatics, and athletic training among others. 

Focus Areas Of Health Science

Health science students and graduates have a wide range of focus areas available to them. They include:

  • Health Promotion and Lifestyle Management
  • Lifespan Development and Health
  • Medical and Scientific Terminology
  • Women’s Health 
  • Nutrition  
  • Pre-dental
  • Pre-medicine
  • Pre-physical therapy 
  • Pre-occupational therapy 
  • Pre-pharmacy

Health Science vs Public Health

While public health is a broad field that encompasses a variety of health topics, health science is more focused on patients and healthcare management. Health science degree programs prepare students to enter a career in routine clinical settings, while public health is rooted in the study of public policy and the health of large populations. There is considerable overlap between the two fields, however, and both can be launching pads for students to specialize in an area of their choosing.  

Bachelor’s in Health Science Programs

Earning a Bachelor of Science in Health Science, or what many often refer to as a BHS, is a common first step for those who wish to enter the field. The BHS degree allows students to explore a number of areas in the field of health while still providing an opportunity to dive into a specialized pathway, like dentistry or physical therapy. Overall, BHS programs offer students a comprehensive introduction to health concepts and terminology and equip them with administrative, ethical, and professional skills. 

Most bachelor’s programs last four years, but some students may be able to graduate earlier if they take extra courses or accumulate credits in high school. Tuition varies widely by school and geographic location, so it’s best to confirm prices with the university or college of your choice. Financial aid and scholarships are often available to students who meet qualifications. 

Curriculum for a Bachelor’s Degree in Health Science 

Typically, the BHS curriculum emphasizes research methods, concepts, and applications necessary to pursue a career in healthcare or health science. Most BHS programs require students to take a few core courses, like statistics, anatomy, and molecular biology. Once these are completed, students have more freedom to pursue electives and nonrequired areas of specialty. 

Examples of undergraduate health science courses include: 

Healthcare Ethics

This philosophy course looks at the ethical issues concerning healthcare delivery, practice, and management in the U.S. It takes into consideration the family and patient perspective in addition to that of the healthcare provider.  

Lifespan Development and Health

In this course, students learn about factors that influence each stage of life, from conception to old age. Some of the topics covered include political and economic policies, epidemiology, the environment, and genetics—all in relation to the human lifespan. 

Contemporary Issues in Nutrition

This course introduces students to nutrition, a cornerstone of health, covering topics like nutrient functions, composition, digestion, and absorption. Students may also delve into their own dietary behaviors and study the Dietary Guidelines for Americans

Master’s in Health Science Programs 

Open to those with an undergraduate degree in health science or a related healthcare bachelor’s degree, a master’s program in health science teaches students to manage and lead healthcare teams, providing them with the skills applicable to workforce safety, health regulations, and health prevention and treatment, among others. A health science graduate degree can open doors to leadership and managerial positions in healthcare settings. Note that a Master of Science in Health Science (MSHS) is usually a bit different from a Master of Health Science (MHS), depending on the university. MHS degrees may be broader, and many schools offer them within specialized departments. So, an MHS degree with an environmental health focus might be offered by a university’s Department of Environmental Health and Engineering. 

MSHS programs vary in length, but they typically last between 12 and 24 months, depending on whether students are part-time or full-time. Some universities offer accelerated paths for students, allowing them to complete their degrees in less time. Tuition varies by university, so students are encouraged to review the costs of the program at their desired universities before enrolling.

Curriculum for a Master’s Degree in Health Science

Master of Science in Health Science curricula are centered on the ethics, policies, and standards of health science as a whole. Through this program, graduates gain the skills to be reliable health professionals. 

Examples of some master’s in health science courses include: 

Healthcare Delivery Systems

Healthcare professionals face a number of challenges in the field, and this course prepares them to rise to the occasion. Students learn about the shortage of primary care workers, expanding scope of practice for physicians and nurses, electronic health records, and healthcare costs and financing. 

Cultural and Cross-Cultural Perspectives in Health

Patient care, health education, and health systems are impacted by culture in many ways. This course helps students develop cultural awareness for understanding these dynamics and being an effective health educator.  

Research in Health Sciences

In this course, students learn how to evaluate health science and health education research. It also introduces them to quantitative reasoning and statistical analysis.  

Doctorate in Health Science Programs

Doctorate in health science programs are designed for healthcare professionals interested in teaching, researching and leadership roles in the field. Like master’s and bachelor’s programs, Doctor of Health Science programs allow students to specialize in more focused health areas, like health professions leadership, movement science, or speech-language pathology. 

There are two doctorate level degrees for health science professions: Doctor of Health Science (DHSc) and Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Health Science. Although similar, the DHSc degree caters more toward working professionals interested in furthering their practice, while the Ph.D. track is geared toward those looking to expand research within a narrow discipline. 

Both DHSc and Ph.D. programs attract students from diverse backgrounds—like nurses, nutritionists, therapists and health administrators. Students can enroll in full-time or part-time programs.

Curriculum for a Doctorate Degree in Health Science

Doctorate in health science curricula varies by specialty. But across the board, these programs tend to emphasize leadership skills, research methods, and clinical best practices. 

Here are a few examples of courses offered by health science doctorate programs: 

Informatics in the Health Professions

In this course, students learn about the roles that data and technology play within healthcare administration, practice, and research. 

Community, Environmental and Occupational Health

This course investigates ways that environmental forces—like air, water, and waste—impact health. It also introduces students to environmental and occupational health legislation.  

Professionalism and Healthcare Ethics

Healthcare practitioners encounter a number of ethical dilemmas in the field. This course introduces them to the philosophies surrounding controversial topics like cloning, organ transplants, and the Human Genome project

Online Health Science Degrees

Online health science degrees let students pursue higher education while juggling busy work schedules or family obligations. These remote programs can also save students money on room and board while still providing them with an immersive experience through live, online classes. An online Bachelor of Science in Health Science program provides this flexibility at the undergraduate level, but there are also online Master of Science in Health Science degrees and online Doctor of Health Science programs. Students that are confident they would like to attain a graduate degree can enroll in an accelerated bachelor’s to master’s program, which condenses the time needed to complete two degrees. 

Health Science Careers and Industries

One perk of a career in health science is its versatility. Because health science undergraduate students learn general best practices in healthcare, they can pursue a wide variety of specializations later on. Graduates can seek employment in a range of areas like health education, counseling, community wellness, public health, and medical practice. As our population ages, the need for capable professionals in the healthcare industry will continue to grow. The healthcare industry is expected to add about 1.9 million new healthcare-related jobs between 2018 and 2028, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

What Can You Do With a Health Science Degree?

Similar to public health degrees, health science degrees can be a gateway to many paths in clinical care and community health. There are many careers you can pursue with a public health degree. We have compiled a list of potential careers for those interested in this field.

Community Health Workers

Community health workers educate the public on healthcare services, provide informal counseling, collect data, and advocate for community needs. The median salary for community health workers in 2019 was $40,360, according to the BLS. 

Health Educator

Health educators work individually with members of a community or age group to identify and promote behaviors that increase health and wellness. In 2019, the median annual salary for health educators was $55,220, according to the BLS. 

Laboratory Manager

Lab managers oversee a team of lab technicians and assistants, and also stock the lab with supplies and equipment for conducting experiments. According to the BLS, they make an average salary of $129,100 each year. 

Health Services Manager

Health services managers, also known as healthcare administrators, are responsible for overseeing staff, finances, and daily functions of a hospital or healthcare facility. On average, they make $100,980 each year, according to 2019 BLS data. Read on to know how to become a healthcare administrator.

Occupational Health and Safety Specialists

These professionals evaluate equipment and practices in high-risk workplace environments to protect the health and safety of employees. Occupational health and safety specialists make a median annual salary of $74,100, according to 2019 BLS data. 

Health Information Technicians 

Medical facilities rely on health information technicians to manage medical record systems and input patient data. According to 2019 BLS data, the median annual salary for health information technicians is $40,350

Other Specialized Areas of Focus in Health Science

For students interested in pursuing additional education, health science degrees can make that possible. Health science degrees serve as a gateway into a more specialized healthcare career. Here are some examples of specialties you can explore:

  • Physical Therapist
  • Medical Assistant
  • Occupational Therapist
  • Pharmacy Technician
Is public health a health science?

Public health and health science are distinct education paths, but both are concerned with issues surrounding health and well-being. Health science tends to focus on individual patient health and clinical care, while public health is concerned with the health of entire populations or communities.

Is health science a good major?

A health science major provides students with a foundation in healthcare terminology and concepts. It may be a good fit for those who are interested in the field of health but aren’t yet sure which area they would like to specialize in. The major allows them to explore potential paths while still acquiring knowledge that will come in handy regardless of their future profession. When deciding on what major to select, factor in your career goals.

Information last updated August 2020