Rankings: 2021’s Best Online Programs for Healthcare Education
What does it mean to be a top online school in healthcare? Hundreds of colleges, universities, and vocational schools in the U.S. offer online programs in a variety of healthcare fields, including nursing, medical assisting, healthcare administration, and dozens of other disciplines. And while many of these institutions provide high quality education, some may be out of your price range. Or, some may be more than affordable, but they lack the accreditation or the online learning options you need to move your career forward. To help you find the right online program in your chosen healthcare field, we’ve researched and analyzed more than 7,700 schools across the country to see which ones stand out. Which have the best combinations of quality, affordability, and services for their students. Select a ranking below to review that subject’s top online schools for 2021.
How It All Works: Online Education in Healthcare
In the world of healthcare, some professions are more hands-on than others. The amount of online learning in a program usually depends on the amount of academic, clerical, and clinical knowledge needed to succeed in a particular career. For example, medical biller and coder responsibilities lie almost exclusively with academic and clerical work, which is why these programs can be entirely online. On the other hand, nurses work with patients in a clinical setting every day, meaning that most nursing programs have a heavy face-to-face component.
Here’s a quick look at example courses within each category, and whether or not they can be taken online:
Academic Courses Online: Yes
These courses set the foundation of knowledge for any health-oriented education program. In fact, many programs – from nursing to medical assisting to radiology tech and more – will include courses similar to these. Since there is no hands-on work involved, they can be taken mostly or fully online.
Clerical Courses Online: Yes
These courses focus on the paperwork that drives so much of the healthcare system today. Like the academic courses, these can be taught and taken via the web.
Clinical Courses Online: No
These are courses that must be completed in person, as they have a hands-on elements that simply cannot be taught through online means. Some courses might be a hybrid, in which some of the assignments can be completed online while other assignments must be completed in a classroom or clinical setting.
If you’re part of an online program in healthcare that uses occasional in-person elements, learn how to make the most of your experience with our guide on How Residencies & Meetups Work.
Online Learning Platforms & Tech
For most schools, online learning is handled by a learning management system. Through these platforms, colleges can tailor their programs through the use of video chat, discussion boards, virtual scheduling calendars, integrated video streaming, and more. These platforms also allow for a variety of online resources to be integrated with the student’s program, such as tutoring options and library services. Here are some of the more common platforms and tech an online student might encounter:
Online courses can be delivered either synchronously (which means a student must be in front of the computer at a designated time), or asynchronously (the student still has regular deadlines, but doesn’t have “class” on any set schedule).
The 3 Types of Online Programs
Now that you know how these online programs work, what are your options for taking courses online? For some programs, you can look forward to an entirely online experience and never set foot in a classroom. But for others, you might have to attend some in-person sessions. Here are the basics of what you need to know, but if you want to learn more, check out our guide on online vs. hybrid vs. campus learning in healthcare.
- Fully online
In this type of program, students will complete every bit of their coursework online. This includes everything that is required for graduation, such as all general education, academic or clerical classes, as well as any examinations, group projects or collaborations. These programs employ distance learning to the fullest, which allows students from across the country to participate in the program. Examples of programs that use fully online formats to full advantage include:
- Medical billing and coding online courses
- Health information technology
- Medical transcription
- Some nursing bridge/completion programs
- Hybrid or blended
Hybrid (also called blended) courses are exactly what they sound like: they include both online courses and a hands-on element. But not all hybrid programs require the same amount of face-to-face learning. Mostly online programs are heavy on distance courses and light on hands-on training, while partially online programs simply allow students to supplement their in-person college experience with some online courses. Here’s a deeper dive into the two.
Mostly online: In these programs, a vast majority of courses can be taken online. Students can also complete exams through online proctoring, and can even work with other students for in-depth collaboration on assignments, reports and projects. In this situation, the only face-to-face work a student must complete will be in courses that require laboratory work, clinicals, or an internship. A few examples of programs that can take the mostly online approach include:
Partially online: In this type of hybrid program, students spend most of their time on campus. They take many courses in a traditional classroom on a regular semester schedule. However, some of their courses – especially prerequisites, general education courses and basic fundamentals of healthcare courses – can be taken online. Exams tend to be completed in person, and, of course, the hands-on work happens on campus or at an approved facility nearby. In a program like this, the use of online courses is a convenience for the student who wants a little more flexibility. Programs that often use this approach include:
Remember that online schools and programs in medical and health can vary widely. Even programs that culminate in the same certificate can have different requirements. For instance, one medical assisting certificate program may be partially online, while another will be mostly online; the former will have many more hands-on requirements than the latter. This is one of the reasons why it’s so important to research potential programs thoroughly to determine which ones meet your personal needs.
How Online Schools Tackle Hands-on Requirements
Each online school has its own way of tackling the hands-on requirements for students in programs with moderate to heavy patient work. In some cases, the work can be completed at the college or university, or at a healthcare facility nearby. But what about those who live across the country from their online school? There are options for them as well. Here are a few of the most common questions asked by potential students:
If you’re moving into a profession that requires plenty of hands-on work with patients – such as nursing or occupational therapy – any reputable program is going to require extensive hours of clinicals or an internship. Completing these hands-on sections are needed for graduation; beyond that, they are critical to getting hired. Employers want to know their new hires can hit the ground running, with excellent skills already learned through their educational program. If you’re headed for a patient-centric career, be very wary of any program that says “no hands-on work needed!”
Key Online School Resources
Enrolling in online school can be a tough decision, even if only part of your program is delivered virtually. You might have doubt when it comes to the type of program you need, the impact it could have on your finances, and what it takes to succeed. If this sounds like you, check out some of the key online school and program resources available on EduMed.
- Certificate vs. Diploma vs. Degree: Read the difference between these three credentials and the pros and cons of each online.
- Cost of an Online Degree: Learn the real cost of that online credential you’ve been thinking about.
- Highest Paying Healthcare Degrees Online: Which healthcare degrees available online lead to the highest salaries?
- Online Degree Completion: Want to go back to school online to finish what you started? See if an online degree completion program might work for you.
- Online Learning Test Drive: Not sure if you can learn effectively online? Read how you can try out an online course or program before you apply and enroll.
- Online School for Working Adults: Working full-time but still want that degree? See how online school could be the best way for you to earn your degree while balancing work and life responsibilities.
- Pre-Health Education Tracks: For students thinking about a career in healthcare, a number of “educational tracks” exist to help them reach their goal. Learn how a pre-health track in college can help prepare you for entry into physical therapy, occupational therapy, and other professional healthcare careers.
- Top Associate Degrees in Healthcare Available Online: Discover which associate degrees can prepare you for some of the top-earning careers in healthcare and find out why you should consider earning your healthcare degree online.
- Top Bachelor’s Degrees in Healthcare Available Online: Find which online bachelor’s degrees lead to the highest paying careers in healthcare and learn about the benefits of earning your degree digitally.
- Top Master’s Degrees in Healthcare Available Online: Want to earn an online master’s degree that prepares you for a high-paying job in healthcare? Find the top degrees at this level and learn how much you can make.
- Top Doctorate Degrees in Healthcare Available Online: Ready to align your career aspirations with an online healthcare degree that can increase your paycheck? Discover which doctorate degrees in healthcare can help you earn the most and find out why learning online can be a smart choice.
- Fastest Healthcare Certifications: Want to break into the healthcare field fast? Discover which healthcare certifications you can get quickly so you can start your dream career as soon as possible.
Read Up Roundup
Choosing the best medical and health program is not an easy task. When you throw the various online options into the mix, the venture gets even more difficult. Even though we’ve given you a great start in understanding the options, there’s so much more to learn about online programs, and so many decisions to make on the path to determining which one is right for you. If you’re looking for more, check out these helpful resources.
Association of Schools of Allied Health Professions. From radiologist to medical assistant to nurse and more, aspiring healthcare professionals can turn to this site for information on allied health degrees, schools and careers.
Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook. This valuable resource has a wealth of information on almost any career imaginable, including those in allied health, nursing, medicine and the like.
Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs. This important organization looks at the quality of various programs for allied health professionals.
U.S. Department of Education: Accreditation. Finding an accredited school is vitally important for all students seeking a certificate, diploma or degree. This page explains everything about it.
What is eLearning? Known as online learning, distance education and even the virtual classroom, taking courses online can be tough to understand at first. Here’s a primer courtesy of the state of North Carolina.