While training to become a physician requires hands-on experience with patients that cannot be replaced by a computer simulation, there are alternative health care professions that are better suited for online learning.

An online degree program is a practical option for students who need a school schedule that can accommodate their work and/or family lives. While there are still concerns about the quality and reputability of online programs, employers’ perceptions of these programs are slowly changing.

In a 2010 study conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management, 34 percent of organizations stated that job candidates who obtained online degrees were viewed as favorably as job applicants with traditional degrees. Furthermore, 79 percent reported that they hired a job applicant with an online degree in the past year.

Students can prepare for non-clinical careers in health care with master’s degrees in areas such as public health and health administration. Public health professionals work to improve the health of communities, ranging from small neighborhoods to an entire nation, through the prevention and treatment of disease. Day to day work may involve projects such as conducting population research, developing health policy, and running educational programs. Several universities offer online master’s degrees in public health.

Health administrators are responsible for managing hospitals, long-term care facilities, physician group practices, and more. Their jobs can range from overseeing individual hospital departments, implementing new technology, managing finances, and directing policy. Careers in this field typically require at least a master’s degree, some of which can be earned online.

Higher degrees in non-clinical fields may also be helpful for aspiring doctors who want to gain a larger perspective of medicine and the health care industry prior to entering medical school. While courses in these areas are no replacement for the core science prerequisites needed for medical school, they do indicate a student’s interest in and commitment to the field of medicine.

More about online medical schools

Is it acceptable to take premedical course requirements online?

Mini medical school programs are offered around the world and online.

Some medical schools are embracing online learning to complement in-class sessions.

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