Skip to main content

What are the Top Majors in the Medical Field?

A medical professional with a stethoscope having a discussion with others in the medical field

Have you ever thought about working in the medical field? There are lots of options out there for you to consider. Once you figure out which path is for you and the education you may need, you can begin working toward a rewarding career helping people.

A good starting place may be looking at majors in the medical field and the various types of healthcare degrees and concentrations available to you. Then, you can begin to look at what careers may be an option based on your desired education level and major. This may help you get a general idea of what to expect from your journey into healthcare.

For example, you may be wondering what degree you need to be a nurse. While the answer varies based on the type of nurse, the same holds for other healthcare career paths. While some degrees steer you toward a specific career, many career paths likely remain an option for you as you continue your healthcare education.

What Are Some Types of Healthcare Degrees?

If you're interested in working in the healthcare industry, there are a variety of educational paths for you to consider. Whether you're looking to get your bachelor's degree or you want to continue your education through a graduate program, there are tons of opportunities for you. And if you wish to add some extra credentials to your resume, there are also certificates available.

Types of Bachelor's Degrees

You have several bachelor's degree options available to you. Some degrees focus more exclusively on healthcare while others offer a blend of topics such as technology and healthcare, or business and healthcare, for example.

  • Healthcare Administration: A bachelor's in healthcare administration is like a concentration in business administration. The main difference between this degree and the concentration is this program focuses more on becoming a leader who can help make decisions to improve patient care. There may be concentrations in HIM available with this program for those interested in HIM. Yet another possible concentration is patient safety and quality if you are interested in quality improvement in healthcare.
  • Community Health Education: A bachelor's in community health education can allow you to gain the skills necessary to assist with your community wellness. This type of degree can help you make an impact in communities that need it most. A potential career for this would be health education specialist or community health worker. Health education specialists and community health workers earned $48,860 median pay in 2021, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), and BLS also expects this field to grow 17% between 2020 and 2030.*
  • Health Information Management (HIM): A bachelor's in health information management should teach you about the professional skills required for your HIM career, such as the technology and terminology that may be used. HIM specialists are responsible for organizing and managing health information data for patients, according to BLS. They earned $45,240 median pay in 2020, BLS data reports, and the field is expected to grow by 9% from 2020 to 2030.*
  • Nursing: A bachelor's in nursing is a degree program that can help you develop your nursing career by teaching you skills such as safe nursing practices and preparing you for lifelong learning in the field, among other things. You'll focus on essential skills and competencies that go into patient care. A BSN can be a great tool for enhancing your nursing career. Registered nurses made up about 3 million jobs in 2020, according to BLS, and the field to grow by 9% from 2020 to 2030.*
  • Public Health: A bachelor's in public health can teach you skills needed to identify public health challenges and then develop solutions for those challenges. There are many ways you can utilize a public health degree, such as pursuing a career as an epidemiologist or working in environmental health.
  • Business Administration: A bachelor's in business administration is a bachelor of science (BS) degree and may come with health-related concentrations such as healthcare administration. A program like this can provide you with a good mix of business and healthcare foundations.
  • Sociology: A bachelor's in sociology can help you solve real-world problems using history, experimentation and observation. If community health interests you, there may be a concentration in community health where you can learn skills to help improve the health of individuals and communities. Sociologists earned median pay of $92,910 in 2021, BLS reports, and the field is expected to grow by 5% from 2020 to 2030, according to BLS.*

There are other bachelor's degrees that you could consider, such as health sciences or biology.

If medical school interests you, another route you could consider is pre-med. If you want to be pre-med and get into a medical school, then there are a ton of ways to prepare. For example, you could research the courses you'll need to take, required exam scores, extracurriculars and letters of recommendation, according to the American Medical Association (AMA).

Types of Master's Degrees

If you are interested in how to get a master's degree, there is no shortage of healthcare graduate programs for you to consider.

  • Health Information Management: A master's in health information management is the ideal next step from the bachelor's in HIM. Although, if you are looking to change careers or come from a different educational background, developing your skills in data systems and analysis with a master's in HIM can open up new career paths for you. This program can also prepare you for various leadership and management roles in the HIM industry.
  • Master of Public Health (MPH): An MPH program can expand your knowledge of the healthcare industry through learning about complex public health issues and how to transform people's lives. One concentration you may have available to you is global health. With a focus on global health, you can set your sights beyond helping your local communities and look to make an impact on a worldwide scale.
  • Information Technology (IT): A master's in information technology can combine your interest in technology and helping people to assist the healthcare system. With a concentration in healthcare informatics, you can transform your IT master's degree into a tool that can help you pursue a broader range of positions in healthcare organizations, including management. Computer and information system managers are expected to grow by 11% from 2020 to 2030, and they earned a median pay of $159,010 in 2021, according to BLS.*
  • Management: A master's in management can develop the skills needed to become a manager and to effectively manage both people and projects. A concentration in healthcare can help add that particular focus to implementing healthcare quality improvement within the industry. Medical health and service managers earned $101,340 median pay in 2021, and the field is expected to grow by 32% from 2020 to 2030, according to BLS.*
  • Master of Business Administration (MBA): An MBA program can teach you practical decision-making skills and help you develop strategies for business. With a concentration on healthcare management, you can use your business knowledge to learn how you can impact patient care and current healthcare trends with your MBA. All management occupations are projected to grow 9% from 2020 to 2030, with over 900,000 new jobs to be expected, according to BLS.*

These nursing programs can lead to some of the best jobs in healthcare. For example, nurse practitioners are one of the top growing healthcare jobs, with a 52% growth expected between 2020 and 2030, according to BLS.* Another nursing career on the rise is nursing instructors and teachers, which is expected to grow 22% from 2020 to 2030, according to BLS.* These outlooks could be a result of a nationwide nursing shortage.

A yellow and blue infographic piece with the text 4 Types of Degrees: 1. Associate; 2. Bachelor's; 3. Master's; 4. DoctoralYou may also be interested in getting a certificate to help boost your resume or develop your skill set further. Certificates are different than degrees. Certificates can be earned before your bachelor's or after your master's – or in-between; it all depends on the certificate's requirements and your own goals. One example would be a certificate in healthcare quality & safety, a post-master's program. This certificate is one that you could take following your master's degree and can help you further refine your skills in enhancing patient care.

If you desire to earn the highest credential for your healthcare education, you could consider pursuing a terminal degree. A terminal degree is the highest level of education that you can achieve for a specific field. Sometimes it can be a master's, and sometimes a doctoral or professional degree; it depends on your desired area of study.

Which Medical Fields are Most in Demand?

Infographic with the text BLS reports healthcare jobs are projected to grow 16% from 2020 to 2030The healthcare field, in general, is on the rise. According to BLS, from 2020 to 2030, jobs in healthcare are expected to grow by 16%, much higher than the national average for all jobs.* It is expected that nearly 2.6 million new jobs will be created in this time, BLS projects.*

Here are the top 10 growing jobs in the healthcare field, according to BLS:

1. Nurse Anesthetists, Nurse Midwives and Nurse Practitioners

  • 45% growth from 2020 to 2030, BLS reports*
  • Coordinate patient care and may provide primary and specialty care
  • Typically requires a master's degree

2. Occupational Therapy Assistants and Aides

  • 34% growth from 2020 to 2030, BLS reports*
  • Help patients develop, recover and improve the skills needed for daily living
  • Typically requires an associate degree

3. Home Health and Personal Care Aides

  • 33% growth from 2020 to 2030, BLS reports*
  • Monitor the condition of patients with disabilities or illnesses
  • Requires a high school diploma or equivalent

4. Massage Therapists

  • 32% growth from 2020 to 2030, BLS reports*
  • Treat clients by using touch to manipulate muscles and tissue
  • Requires a postsecondary nondegree award (usually a certification)

5. Physical Therapist Assistants and Aides

  • 32% growth from 2020 to 2030, BLS reports*
  • Help patients regain movement and manage pain under the supervision of physical therapists
  • Typically requires an associate degree

6. Physician Assistants

  • 31% growth from 2020 to 2030, BLS reports*
  • Practice medicine with teams of physicians and surgeons
  • Typically requires a master's degree

7. Speech-Language Pathologists

  • 29% growth from 2020 to 2030, BLS reports*
  • Assess, diagnose and treat to help to prevent communication and swallowing disorders
  • Typically requires a master's degree

8. Genetic Counselors

  • 26% growth from 2020 to 2030, BLS reports*
  • Assess individual or family risk for inherited conditions
  • Typically requires a master's degree

9. Athletic Trainers

  • 23% growth from 2020 to 2030, BLS reports*
  • Specialize in preventing, diagnosing and treating muscle and bone injuries
  • Typically requires a bachelor's degree

10. Respiratory Therapists

  • 23% growth from 2020 to 2030, BLS reports*
  • Care for patients who have trouble breathing
  • Typically requires an associate degree

What are the Highest Paying Medical Jobs?

While money may not be the reason you choose to pursue a career in healthcare, understanding the compensation for the top-paying jobs, broken out by required degree level, could be valuable.

Here are the top five paying jobs that typically require you to have a bachelor's degree, according to BLS:

1. Registered Nurse

  • $77,600 median pay in 2021*
  • Provide and coordinate patient care and educate patients

2. Dietitians and Nutritionists

  • $61,650 median pay in 2021*
  • Plan and conduct food service or nutritional programs

3. Clinical Laboratory Technologists and Technicians

  • $57,800 median pay in 2021*
  • Collect samples and perform tests to analyze bodies

4. Athletic Trainers

  • $48,420 median pay in 2021*
  • Specialize in preventing, diagnosing and treating muscle and bone injuries

5. Exercise Physiologists

  • $47,940 median pay in 2021*
  • Develop fitness and exercise programs that help patients recover

Here are the top five paying jobs that typically require you to have a master's degree, according to BLS:

1. Nurse Anesthetists, Nurse Midwives and Nurse Practitioners

  • $123,780 median pay in 2021*
  • Coordinate patient care and may provide primary and specialty care

2. Physician Assistant

  • $121,530 median pay in 2021*
  • Practice medicine on teams with physicians and surgeons

3. Occupational Therapist

  • $85,570 median pay in 2021*
  • Treat patients who have injuries, illnesses, or disabilities through therapy

4. Genetic Counselors

  • $80,150 median pay in 2021*
  • Assess individual or family risk for inherited conditions

5. Speech-Language Pathologists

  • $79,060 median pay in 2021*
  • Assess, diagnose and treat to help to prevent communication and swallowing disorders

Here are the top five paying jobs that typically require you to have a doctoral or professional degree, according to BLS:

1. Physicians and Surgeons

  • Upwards of $208,000 median pay in 2021*
  • Diagnose and treat injuries or illnesses and focuses on patient wellness

2. Dentists

  • $163,220 median pay in 2021*
  • Diagnose and treat problems with the teeth, gums and mouth, provide wellness care and more

3. Podiatrists

  • $145,840 median pay in 2021*
  • Provides medical and surgical care for the lower leg, including ankle and foot

4. Pharmacists

  • $128,570 median pay in 2021*
  • Dispense prescription medications and advise customers

5. Optometrists

  • $124,300 median pay in 2021*
  • Diagnose and treat visual problems, manage issues with the eyes and provide wellness care

These are just some of the countless jobs available within the healthcare industry. There are tons of paths that branch off these, such as the various types of nursing jobs available.

A yellow infographic piece with the text AACN reports that 80,407 qualified applicants were turned away by nursing schools in 2019 due in part to a faculty shortageIt may also help to stay on top of current trends within the industry, such as the nursing shortage. The nursing shortage is caused by several factors, including nurses retiring or leaving the profession and the aging population requiring a higher level of care. Another reason is the shortage of nurse educators, as more than 80,000 qualified nursing applicants were turned away in 2019 due to the lack of educators available to teach them, according to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) (AACN PDF Source).

Health education is important whether you are pursuing a bachelor's or master's degree, or even a certificate, and there are countless careers that you can consider pursuing within the healthcare industry.

A degree can change your life. Find the SNHU health program that can best help you meet your goals.

*Cited job growth projections may not reflect local and/or short-term economic or job conditions and do not guarantee actual job growth. Actual salaries and/or earning potential may be the result of a combination of factors including, but not limited to: years of experience, industry of employment, geographic location, and worker skill.

Nicholas Patterson is a writer at Southern New Hampshire University. Connect with him on LinkedIn.

About Southern New Hampshire University

Two students walking in front of Monadnock Hall

SNHU is a nonprofit, accredited university with a mission to make high-quality education more accessible and affordable for everyone.

Founded in 1932, and online since 1995, we’ve helped countless students reach their goals with flexible, career-focused programs. Our 300-acre campus in Manchester, NH is home to over 3,000 students, and we serve over 135,000 students online. Visit our about SNHU page to learn more about our mission, accreditations, leadership team, national recognitions and awards.