Degrees of Tomorrow: Online Programs in Biotechnology & Healthcare
Paying for a college education is a significant investment, and choosing the right career can feel daunting. While pursuing passions and interests is commendable, it can also be essential to evaluate majors and careers critically in order to find one that is future-proof.
As technology advances, some jobs have been phased out while others have grown or emerged. For example, the first genetic counseling degree was started in the US in only 1969. With the increase in research into genetics, there are now more than 75,000 genetic tests for diseases and disorders. As such, the demand for genetic counselors has increased, and the number of programs has grown by 50 percent since 2019. Now, there are over 50 programs across the country for this career.
Two broad fields that are growing rapidly in this country are biotechnology and healthcare. A study completed by Grand View Research estimates that the field of biotechnology will have an annual compound growth rate of over 15 percent from 2021 to 2028, while the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS 2021) estimates that jobs in healthcare will increase 16 percent nationwide between 2020 and 2030.
Many jobs in either of these fields not only have strong growth potential but can also be quite lucrative. The jobs profiled below—all of which meet or exceed the BLS’s national job growth rate—earn significantly more than the national average for all jobs.
In addition to pursuing a career in a growing field such as biotechnology or healthcare, professionals can ensure they are ready for the jobs of tomorrow by taking a few simple steps.
- First, it is essential to stay abreast of emerging technology. The more a professional can embrace and learn new technology, the more valuable they can be to an employer.
- Second, being a creative thinker is paramount. Employees who are able to solve problems, come up with solutions, and work independently are highly valued.
- Lastly, working with a mentor is critical. Professionals who frequently consult with a trusted, more senior mentor have the benefit of a different perspective on issues, which can make them more valuable.
Continue reading to learn more about the degrees of tomorrow and the jobs that go along with them.
Methodology: Top Biotechnology and Healthcare Degrees
The most recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (as of February 2022) was used to determine which jobs have the best potential. While jobs with high growth potential were given priority, jobs in industries with current high growth were also included.
That said, all jobs in the list below are at or above the BLS (2021) national projected growth for all occupations between 2020 and 2030 (8 percent). Lastly, only jobs that earn higher than the national average for all jobs ($56,310 per year) are included.
Biotechnology Careers & Degrees
Biotechnology is a vast field that refers to technology that is based on biology. There are four primary disciplines in biotechnology: medical, industrial, environmental, and marine.
This is a growing field that is estimated to reach a market size of $2.44 trillion by 2028. Strong government support, venture capital, new discoveries, and increased market demand are all factors that are driving this industry forward.
While education in biotechnology is essential to enter this field, there are many online degree programs that can help launch a career. Here are some job titles and the relevant online degrees in this sector that have high growth potential and earnings.
Become a Biomedical Engineer
The combination of biological sciences and engineering is where biomedical engineers can produce advances in medicine, devices, and equipment for healthcare purposes. Biomedical engineers have to have strong problem-solving skills as well as technical education. This field is growing at the same pace as the rest of the jobs in the US, but what makes it lucrative are the high salaries and varied job possibilities.
According to the BLS (May 2020), biomedical engineers earn $98,340 per year—more than $40,000 more than the national average.
The 30-credit online master’s of science in biomedical engineering at Colorado State University School of Biomedical Engineering is a coursework-only program. There are no lab or in-person requirements.
Students who complete this degree are well suited for work with biomaterials, pharmaceuticals, biosensor, nanotechnology, and even prosthetics. This is a comprehensive program that collaborates across four colleges and 13 departments, allowing students to pursue their own areas of interest.
- Location: Fort Collins, CO
- Duration: Two years
- Accreditation: Higher Learning Commision
- Tuition: $964 per credit
Become a Quality Assurance Manager
Quality assurance is a systematic process to ensure products meet a minimum standard. Biotechnology is a highly regulated field where it is essential to guarantee that products are not only accurate but also adhere to rigorous federal, state, and local laws.
In order to accurately guarantee that a product falls within the required parameters, it is essential for biotechnology companies to have quality assurance managers that have a background in this field. This is also a field that matches national job growth averages but pays nearly twice the national average for wages. Quality assurance analysts (in software) earn an average annual salary of $114,270.
The online master’s of applied science in biotechnology at the University of Wisconsin, Madison has a quality assurance and compliance specialization. In addition to core coursework, students must take the following three courses to complete this track: quality control and validation, regulatory compliance and regulation, and industrial applications in regulatory affairs.
The faculty who teach in the online program are the same ones who teach the in-person courses, so students are receiving the same high-quality education but with the flexibility to complete classes on their own time.
- Location: Madison, WI
- Duration: Two years
- Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission
- Tuition: $850 per credit
Become a Crime Lab Technician
Evidence from crimes is processed by trained crime lab technicians. They use scientific equipment, testing methods, and laboratory findings to make determinations that can help law enforcement prosecute criminal cases. They are responsible for maintaining a chain of custody and careful documentation.
Biotechnology education can be helpful in this role as many of the experiments performed require scientific knowledge. The BLS (2021) estimates that jobs for crime lab technicians are growing at nearly twice the pace as the national average, with an anticipated 16 percent increase in forensic technician positions in this field in the next decade. Wages are also above average, with an estimated annual average salary of $64,890.
Stevenson University offers an online masters of forensic science with a concentration in biology. This distance learning program can be completed at a student’s own pace without having to relocate.
Courses for this degree are a balance between science and law, providing students with a solid foundation for work as a crime lab technician. The biology concentration puts a strong emphasis on DNA analysis and serological and immunological evidence.
- Location: Owings Mills, MD
- Duration: Two years
- Accreditation: Middle States Association of Colleges and Universities
- Tuition: $695 per credit
Become a Regenerative Stem Cell Technician
Stem cell technology is being used to create treatments for various diseases and health conditions. These treatments are developed by regenerative stem cell technicians performing complicated research tasks in biotechnology labs. The treatments developed will promote damaged, injured, or diseased cells to heal.
The BLS classifies regenerative stem cell technicians as medical scientists and estimates that there will be a 17 percent increase in jobs in this field between 2020 and 2030. Medical scientists earn $100,780 per year on average.
Students in the online master’s of science in regenerative stem cell technologies at Johns Hopkins University Krieger School of Arts and Science will learn from faculty who are at the forefront of this biotechnology.
Ninety-five percent of the coursework for this program can be completed online. Students must travel to campus for a brief hands-on lab residency in order to gain the skill necessary to secure jobs in this field.
- Location: Washington, DC
- Duration: 24 to 36 months
- Accreditation: Middle States Commission on Higher Education
- Tuition: $4,815 per course
Healthcare Careers & Degrees
Healthcare careers range from direct patient care jobs such as nursing to administrative roles such as clinic management.
Employment in healthcare is estimated to grow 16 percent between 2020 and 2030, according to the BLS, so securing a job in this expanding field can be an excellent career choice. Here are some healthcare jobs with strong job prospects and high potential earnings
Become a Genetic Counselor
Genetic testing has exploded over the past decade. Over 26 million people have taken an at-home genetic genealogy test, and on the medical side, there are now more than 75,000 genetic tests for more than 2,000 conditions. Receiving genetic test results can have a profound effect on a person, which is why results are most often delivered by genetic counselors.
Genetic counselors have training in both science and psychology in order to be able to help their clients process their results and make a plan for their next steps. Jobs for genetic counselors are expected to increase an impressive 26 percent between 2020 and 2030, according to the BLS. Average pay for genetic counselors is $89,710 per year.
Aspiring genetic counselors can complete an online 21-month master’s of science in genetic counseling at Boise State University. In total, students must complete 56 credits of coursework, of which 14 are in field work and four comprise a scholarly project.
Students are able to complete all of their classes online with both synchronous and asynchronous classes. Fieldwork is completed at an approved location near the student’s home.
- Location: Boise, ID
- Duration: 21 months
- Accreditation: Accreditation Council for Genetic Counseling (ACGC)
- Tuition: $54,992 for tuition
Become a Nurse Practitioner
Nurse practitioners provide high-quality medical care to a variety of patients. They can provide primary care services or specialize in a field such as anesthesiology, midwifery, pediatrics, neonatal, gerontology, or psychiatry. There is an impending physician shortage in the US, and physician extenders like nurse practitioners are critical to ensuring there is adequate care for everyone who needs it.
In fact, this career is in such high demand the BLS estimates that by 2030 there will be a staggering 52 percent increase in nurse practitioner jobs. On average, nurse practitioners make $114,510 per year.
In just two years, registered nurses can earn their master’s of science in nursing online through Chamberlain University College of Nursing. Nurses can complete the majority of their coursework through distance learning but are required to visit campus for two immersion events.
Upon completion of this program, graduates are eligible to sit for national board certification as a family nurse practitioner. This program boasts a 91.5 percent pass rate on the board exam for the past three years.
- Location: Addison, IL
- Duration: Two years
- Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission
- Tuition: $665 per credit
Become a Director of Telehealth
Covid-19 accelerated the transition to telehealth services in a way experts could have never predicted. In-person medical visits dropped drastically in March and April of 2020, while telehealth visits grew by a whopping 4,000 percent. Telehealth services appear to be staying as practitioners and patients alike have adjusted to this method of care delivery.
To ensure patients are receiving quality care and physicians are supported and trained to use the software, many healthcare facilities are now hiring and relying on directors of telehealth. The BLS classified directors of telehealth as “medical and health services managers.” This field is anticipated to grow 32 percent between 2020 and 2030. On average, medical and health services managers earn $118,800 per year.
Become a Speech-Language Pathologist
Speech is one of the primary ways people communicate. Unfortunately, some people struggle with speech because of developmental delays, stroke, traumatic brain injury, or hearing loss.
Speech-language pathologists, often called speech therapists, work with children, teens, adults, and the elderly to help correct speech problems. They also work with clients to address and solve swallowing issues. This field is growing rapidly and is expected to grow 29 percent between 2020 and 2030. This increase is primarily due to the aging Baby Boomer population retiring. On average, speech-language pathologists earn $83,240 per year.
The speech-language pathology master’s of science at California State University, Northridge is an online program that prepares graduates for licensure. This is a full-time program and very rigorous, so students should not expect to be able to maintain full-time employment while earning this degree.
Students are expected to complete 13 credits of practicum experience where they gain skills in treating actual patients. At the end of the program, students must pass a comprehensive exam that evaluates them on the competencies taught.
- Location: Northridge, CA
- Duration: Five semesters
- Accreditation: Council on Academic Accreditation in Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology
- Tuition: $17,955 per year for tuition