An associate degree in health science equips students with basic scientific knowledge in areas such as anatomy, physiology, health informatics, and society and human behavior. Graduates have the opportunity to secure entry-level or health support jobs in a variety of healthcare fields, including health information management, health technology, patient care and health communication. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates the employment of healthcare support professionals will grow by 23 percent between 2012 and 2022, much faster than the 11 percent average for all jobs.
Health Information Management
Health information technicians manage patients’ information in hospitals, nursing homes and other healthcare facilities. They record, often in a computer database, patients’ medical histories, personal information, examination results and treatment plans. It is also their job to keep the information confidential, in accordance with the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPAA, Privacy Rule. Although aspiring health information technicians don’t need a license to get hired, employers may prefer individuals with the Registered Health Information Technician certification. The BLS says medical records and health information technicians earned an average annual salary of $37,710 in 2013.
Medical assistants find employment in offices of dentists, audiologists and other medical practitioners, where they help to perform basic clinical procedures. These assistants can measure and record patients’ temperature, respiration and pulse rate, give injections under the supervision of physicians and ready blood samples for laboratory testing. Beyond an associate degree in health science, medical assistants can obtain the Certified Medical Assistant designation from the American Association of Medical Assistants to heighten their job prospects. In 2013, medical assistants earned an average annual salary of $30,780, the BLS reports.
Pharmaceutical technicians dispense medicines to clients as prescribed by licensed pharmacists. This includes measuring or counting drugs for various prescriptions, advising clients on the side effects of prescribed drugs and scheduling meetings for clients who need to speak to pharmacists. Although many states don’t regulate pharmacy technicians, others -- such as California -- issue licenses. The BLS notes that pharmacy technicians -- who can find jobs in stand-alone pharmacies and drug stores, as well as those in healthcare facilities -- received an average annual pay of $30,840 in 2013.
Community health workers with an associate degree in health science share their knowledge of health issues such as disease control and prevention with individuals, families and communities. They typically engage in outreach activities, holding presentations, answering participants' questions and encouraging at-risk individuals to seek healthcare services. The employers of community health workers include health facilities, health advocacy organizations and public health agencies. The annual average wage for community health workers was $37,640 in 2013, according to the BLS.