Health Science Major: Courses, Jobs, Salaries

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If you major in health science, you are likely to have broad, multi-disciplinary training that prepares you for a wide range of careers in the massive health care industry. Health science majors go on to work in laboratories as technicians, assist therapists and doctors, manage health care services, and help diagnose health problems.

Key Takeaways: Health Science Major

  • The health science major is interdisciplinary and often covers a broad range of sciences and social sciences.
  • Most health-related fields are expecting higher than average job growth over the next decade.
  • The major can lead to a many jobs, including medical technician, health policy administrator, or environmental safety officer.

Careers in Health Science

Because the health sciences are so broad, the career opportunities span a wide range of possibilities. Many jobs work directly with patients, while others provide support to doctors. Health science majors find careers in hospitals, government agencies, and community non-profit organizations.

The careers listed here are all attainable with a bachelor's degree, but keep in mind that a health science major is also an excellent stepping stone to medical school, veterinary school, or a graduate program in nursing. If you're interested in the policy side of the health industry, the major can also be a good choice for law school.

  • Medical Technician: Becoming a doctor, therapist, or dentist requires an advanced degree, but a bachelor's degree prepares you for a support position in these areas. Health science majors go on to become technicians in specialties such as cardiology, anesthesia, audiology, general surgery, and veterinary medicine.
  • Health Policy and Administration: Some health science majors focus on the business side of health and work for non-profits or government agencies to shape policy and oversee health services.
  • Dietitian and Nutritionist: While dietitians and nutritionists often need to be licensed, a bachelor's degree in the health sciences is excellent preparation for a career helping people eat well to improve their health.
  • Therapist: Health science majors can work as radiation therapists as part of a hospital's oncology team, or as respiratory therapists helping patients who suffer from pulmonary disease. A bachelor's degree is sufficient for many jobs that help patients recover from injury or disease.
  • Paramedic and EMT: The broad health-focused education provided by a health science major provides an excellent foundation for a career as a first responder. A career as a paramedic requires some specialized training, but a health science major provides a natural pathway to this career.
  • Environmental Health Safety Officer: Environmental health science is a popular subfield of the major, and careers tend to focus on protecting public health through health inspections and policy enforcement. Environmental health safety officers help organizations minimize the risk of injury and disease.

College Coursework in Health Science

Different colleges and universities have different areas of focus within the health sciences, so the undergraduate curriculum is likely to vary from school to school. You are also likely to have many options for elective courses so that you can focus on your particular area of interest.

Most health science programs have several core courses in biology and chemistry:

  • General Biology I and II
  • General Chemistry
  • Organic Chemistry
  • Introduction to Health Sciences

The field focuses on much more than the sciences though, and other common courses help health science majors become strong, ethical professionals with excellent technical and communication skills. The curriculum is likely to include course such as:

  • First-year Composition
  • Introduction to Psychology
  • Medical Ethics
  • Computer Applications

Advanced courses vary based on your area of specialization, and some options are more science-focused, while others focus more on management and policy.

  • Epidemiology
  • Biostatistics
  • Global Public Health
  • Exercise Physiology
  • Research Methods
  • Environmental Law
  • Pharmacology
  • Forensic Chemistry
  • Medical Anthropology

Most health science programs get upper-level students involved with hands-on research through an internship, senior thesis, or independent research project.

Best Schools for Health Science

The strongest schools for the health sciences will often overlap with the top schools for pre-med students and top schools for nursing. These tend to be universities with robust biology, chemistry, and medical departments. Universities that have affiliations with hospitals and clinics are well situated to provide undergraduates with practical, real-world experiences.

  • Boston University: BU's highly regarded College of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences graduates nearly 200 health science majors each year, and the university also has complementary programs in dietetics, nutrition, human physiology, and speech, language and hearing sciences. BU's strong practicum program connects students with hands-on opportunities in Boston, New England, and around the world.
  • California State University-Long Beach: CSULB graduates over 250 health science majors annually, and the university also has a strong program in health care management. The university is home to the Center for Health Equity Research and the Center for Latino Community Health.
  • Northeastern University: Northeastern's Bouvé College of Health Sciences has broad strengths across the health spectrum: biological, social, behavioral, environmental, and organizational. The university is a leader when it comes to experiential learning, and students in the health sciences will discover a well established and robust system for gaining hands-on experience. Students can gain training in medicine, dentistry, veterinary medicine, physical therapy, public health, social work, and physician assistant studies.
  • University of Central Florida: UCF College of Health Professions and Sciences is home to a massive program in the health sciences that graduates nearly 900 students annually. The program's size allows for impressive curricular breadth, so students can choose from dozens of elective courses to shape their educations to match their career or graduate school aspirations.
  • University of Florida: UF's College of Public Health and Health Professions graduates roughly 200 health science majors each year. The program is highly selective, and students must apply in their sophomore year. Students can choose from three specialty tracks: Pre-Occupational Therapy, Pre-Physical Therapy, and General Health Science. The college also offers a major in Communication Sciences and Disorders, in which students can study audiology and speech-language pathology.
  • University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign: UIUC's interdisciplinary health sciences major allows students to choose from three areas of concentration: Health and Aging, Health Behavior Change, and Health Diversity. The university's College of Applied Health Sciences offers related majors in speech and hearing science and community health.

Average Salaries for Health Science Majors

Because health science is such a broad field that can lead to a wide range of careers, salaries vary significantly based on one's specific job and area of specialization. In general, career outlooks are excellent, and according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, job opportunities in health fields are expected to grow faster than the general job market over the next decade. PayScale.com states that the average salary for someone with a BS or BSc in Health Sciences is $63,207 a year. Employees at non-profit organizations often make less than that average, while a physician assistant is likely to make more.