If you’re an aspiring college student with an interest in healthcare, you might be curious how long it takes to earn your bachelor’s degree in health sciences. When it comes to this particular undergraduate degree, how long it takes to earn your bachelor’s degree in health sciences often depends on your current level of education. Some bachelor’s degree programs in health sciences are intended for graduates of associate’s degree programs and take just two years of study, while others are four-year programs for new freshmen students.
Two-Year Health Sciences Programs
If you already have some amount of college education, then you’re in luck. The college credits you have completed can shorten how long it takes to earn your bachelor’s degree in health sciences. Many health sciences degree programs – and in particular, most online programs – are intended for students who already have an associate’s degree, according to U.S. News & World Report. These students typically have clinical or administrative health backgrounds. While earning their undergraduate degree, they most likely majored in a subject such as radiology, medical billing and coding or medical assisting, according to U.S. News & World Report.
In a health science program at the bachelor’s level, students take a variety of courses. Though the program itself is non-clinical in nature, students often have to take classes in subjects such as health care delivery, health care administration and laws and ethics in the health care professions. Courses such as anatomy and physiology, medical terminology, medical pharmacology, health information systems and health care leadership are common. Students in a health sciences program may also pursue an academic specialization or concentration such as public health, health care administration or aging studies.
Four-Year Health Sciences Programs
Though a lot of undergraduate health sciences degree programs cater to students with an associate’s degree, some programs are intended for new college students. One of the biggest differences between these two types of programs is how long it takes to earn your bachelor’s degree in health sciences. When you have no previous college education, a health sciences program generally takes four years, though students may take more time or less time to complete their studies if they choose a part-time or accelerated program. Generally, students in four-year health sciences programs take all of the same core courses as their counterparts in two-year programs. They must also fulfill general education course requirements, which typically include classes in math, science and the humanities, according to U.S. News & World Report.
Bachelor’s degrees are considered four-year programs because it typically takes eight full-time semesters of 15 credits to finish the minimum 120 credits. This timetable relies on a perfect world where nothing interrupts a bachelor’s study though. How long does it take to get a bachelor’s degree in real life? The National Center for Education Statistics says quite longer. On average, first-year students take 52 months to finish a bachelor’s. Only 44 percent of freshmen culminate their degree in four years or 48 months. Twelve percent of United States undergrads take 120 or more months to graduate. Completion times are usually shorter at private, nonprofit colleges. In contrast, for-profit universities have the longest mean study period of 104 months. Non-traditional adult students over age 29 graduate in 162 months on average. Bachelor’s majors under age 23 have the highest chance of finishing in four.
Accelerated Health Sciences Bachelor’s Degrees
Accelerated bachelor’s programs have unique, fast-paced curricula to shorten study time. Freshmen without transfer credits can achieve an accelerated bachelor’s in about three years or 36 months. Some competency-based programs could be finished in under 30 months. How do accelerated bachelor’s degrees work? The number of credits doesn’t shrink below 120. Instead, colleges accelerate the course lengths. Standard 16-week semester courses are condensed into about six or eight weeks. Accelerated bachelor’s courses could teach health sciences topics on-campus or fully online. These bachelor’s degrees aren’t designed for time-strapped working adults. They’re ideal for full-time, ambitious students who can concentrate on their learning and absorb intensive content fast.
Choosing accelerated health sciences bachelor’s degrees for a compressed semester calendar can pay off. The U.S. News & World Report recorded an average public, in-state tuition price of $10,116 for 2019-20. Mean tuition rates were $22,577 at public, out-of-state schools and $36,801 at private colleges. With room and board included, a bachelor’s sticker price can exceed $50,000 per year. Forking over $200,000 or more will likely leave you with monstrous debt at graduation. Financial aid usually doesn’t cover every higher education cost. Therefore, students benefit from shortening their study time. Less time in college courses equals less money spent and debt incurred. Accelerated bachelor’s degrees in the health sciences could shave off one year of tuition for financial relief.
Post-Licensure Bachelor’s Degree Tracks
Health sciences schools are increasingly offering bachelor’s tracks for students who are already licensed. How long does it take to get a bachelor’s degree after licensure? It varies greatly based on a licensed practitioner’s previous training credits. Typically, post-licensure bachelor’s degrees take two years or less. Some require as little as nine to 15 months. Study times are longer for licensed health care workers with a certificate or diploma rather than an associate degree. For example, LPN-BSN degrees for a Bachelor of Science in Nursing take licensed practical nurses about 24 months. RN-BSN degrees take registered nurses 18 months on average. Admission to post-licensure bachelor’s majors will require verifying valid, unencumbered state credentials and passing NCLEX exam scores.
Nursing isn’t the only health sciences specialty offering post-licensure bachelor’s options. For instance, RDH-BSDH programs lead registered dental hygienists to a Bachelor of Science degree in 15 to 24 months. OTA-BSOT degrees let certified occupational therapy assistants transition to the bachelor’s level in about two years. ARRT-BSRS tracks deliver a B.S. in Radiologic Sciences to certified radiology technicians over a two-year course. CRT-BSRT paths reward advanced standing to certified respiratory therapists for completion in 18 to 24 months. Even when already licensed, earning a bachelor’s degree opens promotions in the medical field. The Institute of Medicine has called for 80 percent of nurses to hold bachelor’s credentials by 2020. Bachelor’s degrees are the minimum for many nursing and allied health leadership jobs. Baccalaureates prepare grads for administrative and supervisory roles.
Second Bachelor’s Degrees in Health Sciences
Career changers who’ve finished their first baccalaureate can pursue another in health sciences. Second degree students have a unique post-baccalaureate pathway. How long does it take to get a bachelor’s degree again? It’ll be much faster than the first time around. Second degree majors already have the 60 general education credits to transfer. Previous major credits can file into the elective course slots. Please note that only credits from regionally accredited institutions are counted. Normally, a second bachelor’s degree would entail about 30 to 45 more credits. Full-time students could knock off a second bachelor in one or 1.5 years. Second degree BSN tracks might take longer with practicum to fulfill NCLEX-RN licensing. The total second degree completion time is roughly five to six years instead of eight. Second bachelor’s degrees are suggested for those seeking initial licensure or grad school.
Dual Health Sciences Bachelor’s Programs
What are the longest bachelor’s degrees in health sciences? Dual programs are the most intensive. Dual degrees combine the bachelor’s and master’s curricula into one. Dedicated dual degree majors tackle two programs concurrently by starting graduate courses in the senior year. Similar courses required for both degrees are eliminated to prevent overlap. Most dual degrees waive at least 18 credits to finish both programs in shorter times than separately. Double degrees are sometimes delivered by two different colleges through a campus partnership. Like accelerated bachelor’s, dual degrees can save undergrads one year’s tuition. Combined BS/MS options switch the standard 4+2 format for a 4+1 pathway. Some degrees, such as the RN-MSN, are shorter than five years.
Combined bachelor’s programs come in many shapes and sizes. One popular example is the Bachelor of Science/Master of Public Health for 4+1 students to pursue careers in improving community wellness. Dual Bachelor of Science/Master of Health Administration tracks take about 60 months to specialize in leadership skills for medical facilities. Joint Bachelor of Science/Master of Science in Exercise Physiology degrees spans five years for students interested in sports and fitness management. Combined Bachelor of Science/Master of Science in Health Informatics curricula speeds through computer-based courses in five years to train records administrators. Further, dual bachelor’s and doctoral degrees are even better timesavers. High-achieving freshmen could finish a doctorate in six to seven years this way. Accelerated Bachelor of Science/Medical Doctor programs follows a 3+4 schedule to produce licensed physicians and surgeons. Dual Bachelor of Science/Juris Doctor degrees leads to a Juris Doctor in six years instead of seven for future health care lawyers.
Different Types of Bachelor’s Degrees in Health Sciences
The answer to “how long does it take to get a bachelor’s degree?” often varies by major. Health sciences is a gigantic umbrella term that covers a wide range of bachelor’s disciplines. The Association of Schools of Advancing Health Professions (ASAHP) defines “health sciences” as a generalized group of careers involved in the delivery of clinical patient services. Hence, Bachelor of Health Science and Bachelor of Science in Health Science degrees are the broadest. Universities offer BHS/BSHS programs to give undergrads a well-rounded overview of the medical field. These broad-based bachelor’s don’t lead to licensure in any one field. That fact makes general BHS and BSHS degrees the easiest to accelerate. It’s feasible for full-time BHS/BSHS majors to graduate in three years or less with previous credits. Let’s look closer at the requirements for specialized health sciences bachelor’s.
- Bachelor of Science in Emergency Medical Services – Bachelor of Science in Emergency Medical Services degrees focus on first aid delivery in the field and in ambulances. Emergency medical technicians are trained to treat and stabilize critical patients during transport. This Bachelor of Science is typically reserved for currently certified EMS workers. Emergency medical services majors build on 1,000+ hours of paramedic training for 24 to 36 months.
- Bachelor of Science in Clinical Laboratory Science – Bachelor of Science in Clinical Laboratory Science degrees focus on medical research to analyze patient blood, fluid, and tissue samples. Medical laboratory scientists are trained for the ASCP exam to perform tests independently. This Bachelor of Science includes at least 12 months of co-operative lab education at hospitals. Clinical laboratory science majors can take five years to get board certified.
- Bachelor of Science in Nutrition – Bachelor of Science in Nutrition degrees focus on food chemistry to create healthy dietary plans that improve people’s medical and mental condition. Nutritionists are trained to prevent disease progression through wholesome food choices. This Bachelor of Science usually requires 120 credits for four years of full-time study. Nutrition majors then spend another year doing a 1,200-hour dietetic internship to earn RDN licensure.
- Bachelor of Science in Radiologic Science – Bachelor of Science in Radiologic Science degrees focus on medical imaging technology used to diagnose injuries and diseases. Radiologic technologists are trained to run ultrasound, MRI, CAT scan, x-ray, and mammogram tests. This Bachelor of Science integrates courses and fieldwork into a 48-month timeline. Radiologic science majors who’ve passed the ARRT exam could accelerate the degree though.
- Bachelor of Science in Dental Hygiene – Bachelor of Science in Dental Hygiene degrees focus on oral health treatment to clean teeth and prevent mouth disorders like gingivitis. Dental hygienists are trained to use power and ultrasonic tools to polish patients’ pearly whites. This Bachelor of Science traditionally takes four years to culminate general and dental education courses. Associate-level grads can find 60-credit Accelerated BSDH tracks though.
- Bachelor of Science in Veterinary Science – Bachelor of Science in Veterinary Science degrees focus on animal health to protect the well-being of creatures both big and small. Technologists are trained to assist veterinarians in routine and surgical procedures for non-human patients. This Bachelor of Science takes most undergrads 48 to 60 months full-time. Veterinary science majors blend courses with clinical practica to prepare for the AVMA exam.
“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”– Nelson Mandela
This isn’t an exhaustive list of bachelor’s degrees available in the health sciences sphere. Other popular degree types include the Bachelor of Science in Nursing, Bachelor of Science in Public Health, Bachelor of Science in Occupational Health, Bachelor of Science in Environmental Health, Bachelor of Science in Respiratory Therapy, and Bachelor of Science in Speech and Hearing Science. Four-year BS in Pharmaceutical Sciences are popping up to train future pharmacists for doctoral training. Some universities even offer a 120-credit BA in Bioethics programs to discuss the philosophy of medicine. Which health sciences bachelor’s degrees are best? That depends on an individual’s unique goals and interests. Whatever the major, accredited colleges offer the best, most transferrable education. Every health sciences program must be at least regionally accredited. The Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs also runs a database of 2,236 quality, approved major-specific degrees.
Ways to Make Bachelor’s Degrees in Health Sciences Faster
Accelerated health sciences bachelor’s programs aren’t the only route to a quicker diploma. Undergrads can abbreviate their BHS/BS curricula by getting credits elsewhere. Freshmen who take Advanced Placement courses during high school can get three credits per passed AP exam. Students with full International Baccalaureate (IB) diplomas can receive a maximum of 30 university credits. High-achieving high school juniors and seniors with GPAs above 3.0 can enter dual enrollment programs. Concurrent enrollment options offer up to 18 college credits before one’s first year. Look for freshman bridge programs to complete the summer after high school graduation. If it’s been a while since high school, ask about credits for work or military service. Many colleges allow students to waive about 30 introductory credits by completing a Prior Learning Assessment (PLA) portfolio of their experiences.
Certain bachelor’s courses in health sciences can be tested out. In other words, the credits are earned through challenge exams instead of semester-long classes. Equivalency tests are a great way to skip foundational content that students might already know. The College-Level Examination Program is the most popular test group recognized by nearly 3,000 schools. As of May 2020, the College Board is granting 34 different CLEP exams for $89 apiece. Health sciences majors could be interested in the CLEP exams titled Human Growth & Development, Biology, Chemistry, and Introductory Psychology. Earning scores above the 45-55 range will deliver three credits immediately. Bachelor’s programs generally allow up to 30 credits by exam. This also includes any credits from the Dantes Subject Standardized Tests. Nearly 1,265 proctoring centers provide 30+ DSST exams from Anthropology to Substance Abuse for $85. Veterans with Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits take DSST tests for free.
Hitting the 48-time bachelor’s graduation goal requires maintaining a full workload. Take five three-credit courses concurrently each semester. If it’s a quarter system, take three four-credit courses for 12 credits. Attend back-to-back semesters with some added summer or J-Term courses. Declare health sciences major in the freshman year to avoid wasting time, tuition, and credits. Meet one-on-one with a faculty advisor regularly to track degree progress. Register for health sciences courses early before they’re full and closed. Study hard, do every assignment, and don’t skip class to keep a cumulative GPA above 2.50. Getting at least “C-” grades prevents needing costly retakes. Opt for short-term study abroad trips rather than semester- or year-long programs that can cause credit troubles. Also, shop for health sciences bachelor’s programs with a “four-year guarantee” that will waive extra months of tuition.
Whether Health Sciences Bachelor’s Degrees are Worth the Time
This article has covered “how long does it take to get a bachelor’s degree?” Frequently, students ask “Is getting a bachelor’s degree worth it?” as the next question. Prospective health sciences majors can rest assured that their education will be valuable. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts much faster-than-average job growth of 14 percent in health care. By 2028, the number of health care practitioners will surpass 1.9 million in America’s $3.65 trillion medical market. Health sciences degrees prepare for several of the most in-demand professions. For example, the demand for phlebotomists to draw blood will skyrocket by 23 percent. The employment of medical assistants will jump by 23 percent for 154,900 new jobs. The 10-year outlook for occupational therapy assistants shows a 33 percent hiring uptick. BSN graduates can pursue a master’s degree and enter nurse practitioner positions expanding by 28 percent. Athletic trainers can expect above-average growth of 19 percent for 5,900 openings.
Finishing a bachelor’s degree in anywhere from two to six years increases students’ pay potential. On average, bachelor’s grads make $2.8 million during their lifetime. That’s about 31 percent higher than associate grads. In May 2018, the U.S. Department of Labor calculated a median annual wage of $68,190 for health care practitioners. Registered nurses receive a mean yearly salary of $77,460. Respiratory therapists bring home a $63,950 average income. Nutritionists earn median compensation of $62,330. Radiation therapists enjoy mean earnings of $91,620. Exercise physiologists reap average profits of $54,750. Dental hygienists have a $77,230 mean yearly paycheck. Clinical laboratory technologists are given $54,780 on average. Nuclear medicine technologists benefit from an $80,240 median salary. Hearing aid specialists make a mean wage of $55,360. Medical dosimetrists can expect a $46,590 annual salary. Health administrators have perhaps the highest average bachelor’s income of $115,160.
Which jobs can Bachelor of Health Science graduates qualify for? All of the above and then some. For instance, occupational health specialists are bachelor’s grads who inspect work environments to identify potential hazards. Gerontologists use their bachelor’s training to address aging-related issues that affect senior citizens age 65 or older. Cytotechnologists have bachelor’s degrees and lab practice to accurately analyze cell samples under microscopes. Health educators often have BSPH or related bachelor’s to plan community-wide wellness initiatives that teach healthy habits. Perfusionists need a health science bachelor’s degree to operate cardiovascular machines during invasive surgeries. Other careers to consider include clinical trials manager, forensic nurse, genetic counselor, biomedical engineer, sonographer, health information administrator, food safety specialist, and pharmaceutical rep.
While it’s natural to want to graduate sooner and get your new career started earlier, a college education isn’t a race. Students, and especially working students, need to learn at the pace that is right for them and for their unique situation. How long it takes to earn your bachelor’s degree in health sciences matters less than what you learn in your studies and how you ultimately put your degree to use.