Medical Careers Meets Online Education


Medical Careers Meets Online Education

As unemployment rates reach double digits, many disenfranchised workers have begun to look into employment fields that are “recession proof.”  Regardless of geography, career hopefuls are discovering that the medical and healthcare fields are the shining beacons of gainful and rewarding employment in the United States.  Studies show that great demands are being placed on the nation’s healthcare infrastructure due to the aging “baby boomer” population, making your local hospital and doctor’s office “the only place that is hiring.”

A study by Beacon Economics (an analytical firm), in conjunction with the California Wellness Foundation, finds that employment in the allied healthcare fields (i.e. physical therapists, lab technicians, dental hygienists…in other words, medical fields that are not traditional doctors or nurses) will grow by 22% over the next 7 years.  Their study goes on to say that just in California alone an additional 3.2 million healthcare workers will be required to meet the needs of an ever growing and aging population.

Most analytical studies focus on the “nurse shortage” across the nation.  According to an article by US News & World Report (“Is Healthcare Still a Promising Field” September 23, 2009), the number of registered nurses employed across the nation is about 2.5 million.  This almost belies the thought that nurses are still in sharp demand, but the article goes on to say that a large portion of those nurses are age 50 or older. But, by 2015 these older nurses will have left the workforce, thus creating a massive void that will need to be filled by recent nursing and medical school graduates.

With so many opportunities available in the medical field, colleges and universities are seeing registration for classes at record numbers.  Concurrent with this trend is the new popularity of “distance learning” or “online education.”  According to the Sloan Consortium’s findings in their report “Staying the Course: Online Education in the United States, 2008”, registration for online degree programs has increased 12% over the last year whereas traditional college enrollment has only grown by 1.2%.  With Congress allowing distance education to be funded with traditional financial aid in 2006 and the Department of Education stating this year that online teaching is just as effective as “face to face instruction,” it isn’t any wonder that the newest crop of healthcare graduates will enter the workforce with online degrees.

There are a plethora of universities that operate exclusively online and roughly 80% of the traditional “brick and mortar” colleges are now offering degree programs that can be obtained exclusively online.  Online degrees in Medical Assisting, Dental Assistance, Healthcare Management, and even Nursing and Physical Therapy can be earned without ever leaving your home.  Online courses utilize actual professors and these courses aren’t any easier than campus based programs.  Distance learning even includes assignments and activities that have strict deadlines.  The major difference with an online education is that the student has great flexibility in his/her schedule.

Most online degrees in Nursing are geared towards licensed nurses seeking to obtain their BSN (Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing) or their MSN (Master’s of Science in Nursing).  Some of these online nursing schools even offer Post Master’s Certificates for those who have their MSN but wish to specialize.  Other medical field programs that focus on the administrative (coding, management, finance, policy, etc.) are open to the general public.  Some online courses are geared exclusively towards graduate studies (Ohio State University School of Pharmacy has an online doctorate program that allows Pharmacists with their BS to obtain their doctorate in 5 years).

The benefits to earning your medical degree or certification online are endless.  Distance learners do not have to quit their jobs, move to another town/state/country, nor disrupt their lives or obligations in order to earn their degrees.  Online adult education is even less expensive for both the student and the university.  Universities do not have to provide classroom space, pay for additional tenured professors, nor provide for dorms or commute facilities.  This all drives down the cost of tuition.  Students further benefit by not having to make their education decisions based upon current gas prices. 

Study after study shows that there is a huge earnings increase for those who obtain higher education and employment is almost guaranteed in the medical field.  Online degrees have made these advantages affordable and available to people from all walks of life.

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