Exploring Types of Medical Degrees

Many different degree programs are available in the field of medicine and they range from associate’s to doctoral levels. Earning one of these degrees can result in careers such as entry-level medical assistant, professional nurse, physician, health information management specialist and more. Read on to find out about different degrees as well as the breadth and scope of medical-based education.

Overview of Medical Degrees

The health care field is one of the fastest growing fields of occupation, offering diverse employment options in technical, professional and administrative disciplines. College degrees related to medical fields are available at the associate’s, bachelor’s and doctoral degree levels.

Important Facts About Medical Degrees

Programs Technician and technologist programs are offered in all medical specialties; medical and dental assisting programs; physical, occupational, speech and other specialized therapy programs; practitioner programs such as physician, pharmacist, optometrist, nurse and advanced practice nurse; health information management; laboratory and research-oriented technician and scientist programs; many dual-degree programs
Degree Fields Therapy and pathology; nursing; medicine; office administration; allied health care; specialty medicine; health informatics; diagnostic imaging; emergency medical services; laboratory science; medical technology; radiology; pharmaceutical science
Online Availability Many programs may offer fully or partially online curricula, but clinical experience requirements generally require on-site attendance
Continuing Education Many schools offer continuing education programs in medical fields that mandate continuing education to maintain professional certification
Degrees Postsecondary certificate; associate’s, bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees; post-baccalaureate, post-master’s, and post-graduate certificates

Medical Associate’s Degrees

At the associate’s level, medical-related degrees often revolve around medical office practices, administrative duties and record-keeping skills. Some basic technical knowledge may also be covered so that you can perform routine clinical laboratory procedures. Degrees in the following three areas of medical study are commonly offered at the associate’s level.

Medical Assisting

Earning an associate’s degree in medical assisting allows you to become a medical assistant, medical receptionist or pursue a related entry-level medical occupation. Degree programs may teach you how to perform medical office duties such as billing, coding and scheduling appointments. You may also learn how to carry out basic medical procedures such as capillary puncture, electrocardiography and phlebotomy.

Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) rules and regulations governing the medical field could be covered. You might also become qualified to sit for the Certified Medical Assistant test which is administered by the American Association of Medical Assistants.

Medical Office Administration

An associate’s degree program in medical office administration emphasizes the clerical and related workings of a hospital, clinic or other medical facility. Generally, there is very little patient interaction required, and clinical procedures are not often performed. Special attention is given to various computer hardware and software applications and their integration into the medical office. You will learn how to work with word processing, data entry and spreadsheets programs. You will also learn about medical terminology, medical transcription and legal principles related to health care.

Health Information Management

You can become a health information technician after receiving an associate’s degree in health information management. Health information management mainly involves the collection, storage and retrieval of patients’ medical records and pertinent medical data. The essential coding systems used in medical facilities are highlighted as is the importance of patient confidentiality. The recent shift from paper-based health records to electronic records is addressed, and you could learn how to utilize relevant information management technology.

Medical Bachelor’s Degrees

At the bachelor’s level, medical degree programs begin focusing more on teaching students to operate laboratory equipment in hospitals and clinics. Such programs frequently provide ample clinical experience and can be used as stepping stones to graduate or professional programs in the medical field. Below are three popular bachelor’s degree programs in the medical field.

Medical Technology

A bachelor’s degree program in medical technology could provide you with in-depth knowledge of a variety of complex laboratory instruments used to find, identify and treat diseases. You will study many different subjects related to medicine, including microbiology, hematology, immunology and serology. Procedures involving microscopic examinations, blood banking, urinalysis and body fluid analysis might also be discussed. Earning a bachelor’s degree in medical technology is usually sufficient education to pursue entry-level employment as a medical technologist or medical laboratory scientist.

Diagnostic Medical Sonography

Diagnostic medical sonography (DMS) involves the non-invasive imaging of internal organs or structures using high frequency sound waves. Physicians use the information gathered from these images to diagnose diseases and other medical ailments. The curriculum of a bachelor’s degree program in DMS teaches you how to produce accurate sonographic images of the abdominal, gynecologic and cardiovascular systems. Your program may require completion of an internship or cooperative work experience.


Although associate’s degree programs in nursing may also qualify you to become a registered nurse, earning a bachelor’s degree will provide you with additional critical thinking, communication and management skills. This might make you much more attractive to employers and could also help advance your career to an administrative level. You might learn how to effectively provide quality nursing care to patients through extensive hands-on learning and clinical experiences. If you are already a registered nurse, a bachelor’s degree completion program might be an option.

Graduate Medical Degrees

Graduate degree programs in medical disciplines are designed to provide specialized training and prepare you for employment in some of the most advanced careers in the field. After graduation, you might seek a career in education, research or clinical care as a doctor or physician. Included below are some common examples of medical degrees at the master’s and doctoral levels.

Master’s Degree in Medical Sciences

A master’s degree program in medical sciences is a fairly broad field of study that could provide you with advanced interdisciplinary training. It allows for the intensive study of subjects such as anatomy and physiology, genetics, cell biology and neuroscience. Some schools have concentration options in areas such as mental health counseling, pharmacology or clinical investigation. This degree program is commonly used as preparation for doctoral degree programs. It could also serve to prepare you for a research-oriented career.

Master’s Degree in Medical Informatics

Medical informatics applies instruction in information technology and business to the health care field. You will gain computing skills and examine their theoretical and practical applications to health care settings. Concentrations are available in areas such as database systems, web applications for medicine and electronic health records development. Certain schools also offer separate tracks for applicants who have clinical or technical backgrounds with the goal of bringing them up to speed on the other aspects of the discipline.

Doctor of Medicine (M.D.)

Earning your M.D. is the most traditional educational path towards becoming a medical doctor or physician. Typically lasting four years, an M.D. degree program is considered to be among the highest level of medical degrees. The first two years tend to focus on the in-depth study of microbiology, gross anatomy, pharmacology, pathophysiology, organ systems and other advanced medical areas. The last two years are about applying this knowledge through extensive clinical experiences and clerkships before taking the medical licensing examination.

Many schools offer the option of combining an M.D. degree program with another graduate program such as a Master of Public Health or Doctor of Philosophy in Biomedical Sciences. This allows you to fine-tune your education and tailor it to your specific occupational goals. To become a professional physician, another 3-8 years of hands-on work in clinical settings through internships and residencies is usually required after earning your M.D.

Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (D.O.)

D.O. programs generally emphasize treating the whole person and providing patients with preventive care, and most graduates become pediatricians, family practitioners or general internal medicine practitioners. The curriculum generally focuses on the study of the cardiopulmonary, gastrointestinal, renal, endocrine and reproductive systems. You’ll also take classes in neuroscience and receive additional instruction on the musculoskeletal system, which also prepares you to earn a medical license. You’ll need to complete 2-6 years of residency work in addition to the four years of study and clinical experiences you’ll complete in a D.O. Program.

Comments are closed.

Show Buttons
Hide Buttons