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Best Online Degrees in: Health Care Studies

Editor’s Picks: Online Schools for Health Care Studies

The University of South Dakota, a brick-and-mortar institution with an online division, receives this award because of its value – both educationally and financially. It is ranked among the best national universities by U.S. News & Report for the 19th year in a row, evaluated based on its educational quality, including academic excellence, peer assessment, faculty resources, graduation and retention rates, and student selectivity. Financially, the school is noted by for its high return on investment. According to the site’s 2012 ROI Rankings, USD’s annual return on investment is 4.2%.

Ashford University receives this distinction for flexible schedules, course options, and class availability. The school has a self-paced, asynchronous learning module, so students can log in anytime and anywhere they want. If students want to graduate faster, they also may be able to take two classes at a time. Students themselves have also highlighted Ashford’s flexibility when it comes to course options. According to College Prowler’s online rankings, which are based on student input, Ashford is ranked No. 4 in terms of best class availability and No. 5 in best online course options.

Career Support
Walden University earns this award for its extensive online career support. Its Career Services Center provides one-on-one counseling, online job listings, and resume building tools. Students can also take advantage of a team of advisors to make sure they’re on track until graduation.

Financial Support
Ashford University earns points for its level of financial aid offerings compared to other schools that award bachelor’s degrees in health care studies online. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 93% of full-time beginning undergraduate students received financial aid during the 2010-11 school year, with 83% receiving grant or scholarship aid.

Technology Support
Ashford University wins this award for an online learning environment that is technologically advanced – with readily accessible support. Through the school’s mobile application, students can access their course materials, read discussion board threads, view grades, and look up school contacts on their smartphone, iPad, or tablet. If they’re having any issues with the app or the online platform, they can seek assistance by calling, submitting a form online, or via live chat. Students seem to like these features, too; in a survey of online programs by College Prowler based on student reviews, Ashford is ranked No. 9 for Best Tech Support.

Student Engagement
Walden University may exclusively offer courses online, but the school earns this award for the variety of opportunities and means students have to connect with each other. Its online environment encourages discussion and frequent conversations between students, faculty are accessible via phone and email, and many degree programs are affiliated with honor societies and student organizations.

Disability Support
Ashford University earns this award for the work of its Office of Student Access and Wellness. There, online students can receive help in finding resources like course textbooks in electronic format, tutoring, requesting additional time to complete exams, projects, and papers, and course audio content in an accessible format, such as captioned videos, transcripts, and live remote captioning.

Library and Research Support
Walden University wins this honor based on sheer numbers. Through the school’s online library, students have access to more than 50,000 full-text journals, 90 databases, 100,000 electronic books, and 1.5 million dissertations – anytime, anywhere. And if they have trouble finding what they’re looking for, students can seek help from trained research staff.

Learning Support
Walden University wins this award for its range of advisors and support services. At Walden, students can discuss their educational goals with an enrollment advisor, seek advice from a financial advisor, and ask questions about academic policies and programs to an academic advisor. If they need help with their course work, students can find help writing papers at the Writing Center, free tutoring, and build up skills through student success courses.

Faculty Credentials
Walden University receives this award for its commitment to student success and improving teaching outcomes, as evidenced by its inclusion in the Academy for Assessment of Student Learning, sponsored by its regional accreditor, The Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools. Walden has been a member since the first year and through its involvement, has established university standards for creating assessment plans and broadened its staff involvement in student learning assessment. Additionally, faculty in the School of Health Sciences in particular are leaders in their field, with faculty accomplishments including contributions to professional journals, research presentations at scientific conferences, and elections onto health councils.

Faculty Accessibility
Ashford University receives this award for its student-approved online professor communication and professor accessibility. In College Prowler’s rankings of online schools, wherein students provided the ratings, Ashford ranked in the top five for Best Online Professor Communication, which considered how frequently teachers were in contact with students, and in the top 100 for Most Accessible Professors – meaning professors held regular office hours and were available for questions.

Alumni Engagement
Walden boasts receives this award for its efforts to connect its more than 55,000 alumni from across the country and more than 95 countries. Once students complete their studies, they are still able to stay connected through myWaldenAlumni, the school’s online portal, where graduates can connect with fellow alumni through a directory, access library resources, and search for jobs.

Prior Learning Options
Walden University receives this honor for its extensive prior learning assessment for undergraduate students. Students may be able to receive academic credit through transferring college credits, as well as through learning experiences such as courses recognized by the American Council on Education’s Center for Lifelong Learning, professional certifications and training, and examination, including DANTES, CLEP, AP, and Excelsior.

New Online Student Orientation
Attending school online is more than just logging in at an appropriate time – new students must understand how to navigate the portal, access resources, and participate in class. Walden University wins this award for delivering on all those fronts. Before students start, they participate in a Student Readiness Orientation, where they’ll receive a comprehensive introduction to the school’s online learning tools, participate in classroom discussions via online chat, and learn how to submit assignments.

Explore a Bachelor’s Degree in Health Care Studies

Those interested in pursuing a career in the medical in a non-patient care role can pursue an online bachelor’s degree in health care studies. The degree is designed to familiarize with the modern U.S. health care system. Students will participate in a variety of courses that cover a wide variety of areas, including community health, special populations, and medical ethics and law. In most cases, an online bachelor’s degree program in healthcare studies can be completed in three to five years depending on the school and program.

Class Curriculum

Programs in health care studies help provide students with a knowledge and understanding of modern health care systems. To do so, students in healthcare studies programs typically spend a significant amount of time studying medical law and ethics, as well as the billing and coding processes in place. Students will typically participate in basic-level courses in English, composition, communications, mathematics, and various life and social science courses. Students then move on to courses specific to the major, like, community and public health, health care ethics, medical law, human resource management, and health care informatics. Some common courses that are typically offered are:

  • The U.S. Health Care System. In this course, students receive an introductory knowledge of the historical origins, foundations, values and resources of the U.S. health care systems. The course also demonstrates how healthcare systems integrate with legal, ethical, regulatory, and financial systems, and how they impact the systems throughout the U.S.
  • Social Implications of Medical Issues. This course provides students with a basic understanding of biology and how it applies to health care. Students also explore basic human biology and its relationship to socio-cultural domains based on Bronfenbrenner’s Ecological Model of Human Development.
  • Patient Records Practice and Policy. This course examines trends in the development and standardization of patient records in various health care settings. Students also study issues involving security and privacy, and how breaches can affect health care from a human and economic standpoint.

Most bachelor’s degree programs in health care studies allow students to complete coursework at their own pace within an allotted time for a specific class or assignment. However, most programs usually require students to work towards the completion of a capstone project based on the study of a particular function within the modern U.S. health care system. Some programs may also require complete an internship before graduation as well.

Building a Career

Graduates of a bachelor’s degree program in health studies should be able to find entry-level positions in medical and as a medical records and health information technician, or as a medical transcriptionist. Medical records and health information technicians typically work in hospitals or or a physician’s office, and organize and managing health information data by ensuring the quality, accuracy, accessibility, and security of both paper and electronic systems. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, individuals working as medical records and health information technicians earned a median annual wage of $32,350 in May 2010. The BLS also reported that employment for medical records and health information technicians is projected to grow by 21% through the year 2020.

Individuals working in medical transcription typically listen to voice recordings from physicians and convert them into written reports for medical files, regarding a specific patient’s treatment or care. They typically work in hospitals or physician’s offices, but may also find employment through third-party transcription service companies. According the Bureau, medical transcriptionists earned a median annual income of $35,690 in 2010. The Bureau also reported that employment in the field is expected to grow slower than average with a 6% increase in jobs through the year 2020.

It is important to note that salaries within the field can vary greatly based on the location of the job, the current economy, and amount of experience of a particular candidate.

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