Online Bachelor's Degrees in the Medical Field: Program Overviews

Dec 04, 2019

Research online bachelor's degree level medical field courses and programs. Find out what you can learn in these courses and what you'll need in order to participate in online learning to determine if it's right for you.

Essential Information

A variety of bachelor's degree programs in the medical field can be found in an online format, including diagnostic medical sonography, nursing, and clinical laboratory science programs. However, many of these programs include both in-person and online learning components, and attendance at clinical practica or internships may be required. Online nursing and sonography programs are frequently offered in both 4-year and degree-completion formats; applicants to a degree-completion program often need either an associate's degree or roughly 30-60 college credits. Educational and licensing requirements vary by career and by state. Check for state-specific requirements when choosing an educational program.

For those who are seeking a fully online educational experience, the RN to BSN program may be an attractive option. This flexible program is designed for registered nurses who hold either a diploma or associate's degree in nursing.

Bachelor's Degree in Diagnostic Medical Sonography

Students interested in pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Diagnostic Medical Sonography (BSDMS) degree have several online options. Many online programs are set up as degree completion programs. These are intended for students who have already completed some postsecondary education and have been certified by the American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography (ARDMS). There are options available for students who have no prior college experience as well. These degree programs teach students the key sonographic principles, procedures, and instrumentation necessary to perform abdominal, gynecological and cardiovascular ultrasounds.

Program Information and Requirements

The bachelor's degree program in diagnostic medical sonography requires 120-147 credits for graduation including those earned and transferred from previous college experience. The degree completion programs can usually be completed entirely online without any campus visits, while the full degree programs require a short campus residency that is intended to prepare students for their clinical experiences. All degree programs require clinical experience hours, which can be conducted at a student's current sonographic job. Other students get placed in a clinical location by their instructor.

Course Topics

The curriculum of the BSDMS degree program consists of general education courses, core sonography courses and a small amount of electives. Common courses include:

Cardiac and Vascular Sonography

This course examines cardiac and vascular anatomy, terminology and physiology from a sonographic perspective. Diagnostic processes involving the use of echocardiovascular ultrasound are identified as well as the signs and symptoms of certain cardiac and vascular diseases. Students gain knowledge and skills involving basic scanning methods, imaging protocols and patient care during the ultrasound exam.

Ultrasound Physics and Instrumentation

The basic foundations of diagnostic ultrasound physics are reviewed in this course. Topics place an emphasis on ultrasound wave properties, Doppler physics, and the interaction of ultrasound waves with human tissues. The methods of operation and safety involving the main ultrasound equipment are illustrated through hands-on practice in a laboratory setting. Students learn how to observe, translate and analyze the results of ultrasound examinations.

Current Trends and Issues in Health Care

Students study the moral, ethical, economical, and legislative issues in current medical imaging and health care environments. Health care topics covered include shifting demographics, demands of the elderly and advances in medical technology. Special attention is given to the negative effects of exercise deficiency, smoking, excessive alcohol consumption and bad dietary tendencies on a person's health.

Bachelor's Degree in Nursing

Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree programs are available online; however, they are usually presented as degree completion programs intended for registered nurses (RNs). Candidates for this degree program must have first completed a diploma or associate's degree program. Students enrolled in this program learn how to provide the highest quality of care, improve patient outcomes, prevent diseases, and develop effective leadership skills in the field of nursing.

Program Information and Requirements

The BSN degree program is made up of 120-128 credit hours including transfer credits. A degree completion program can be completed in as little as 18 months. The program's coursework is offered entirely online with no campus visits, but clinical fieldwork at an approved local health care facility is required. The online format gives students the ability to set their own schedule as long as certain deadlines are met.

Course Topics

The coursework of a bachelor's degree in nursing is comprised of general education requirements, nursing courses and electives. Some clinical field experiences may also be required.

Health Assessment

Students sharpen their understanding and abilities involving health evaluation and physical examination for people of all ages. Critical thinking and logic are emphasized in the determination of a person's health. The different physical, psychosocial and spiritual aspects of health are also highlighted.


This course explores the fundamentals of normal and abnormal physiology, as well as functional changes in body systems that people experience as they age. Disease processes are examined from a cellular, organ, and system perspective through the use of biological, microbiological and physiological sciences. This scientific approach allows students to fully comprehend the mechanisms of disease.

Leadership and Management in Nursing

Administrative concepts, skills, and standards in the field of nursing and patient care are examined. The different roles of the nurse are illustrated through clinical and mentoring experiences as well as appropriate and effective leadership behaviors.

Bachelor's Degree in Clinical Laboratory Sciences (CLS)

Online programs are available for students seeking a Bachelor of Science in Clinical Laboratory Sciences (BSCLS) degree. The program usually takes the form of a degree completion program intended for certificate or associate's degree holding clinical laboratory technicians looking to advance into technologist positions. Students learn about new equipment selection and laboratory administration for the purpose of disease diagnosis, treatment and prevention.

Program Information and Requirements

The degree program requires no campus visits, though there are laboratory requirements that need to be completed at the student's current place of employment or at an approved nearby facility. Courses are presented asynchronously, and students have the flexibility to work at their own convenience, as long as certain instructor deadlines are upheld. Students interact with their instructors and peers through online message boards, chat rooms and e-mails.

Course Topics

The curriculum of a bachelor's degree in clinical laboratory sciences contains didactic CLS courses, as well as some general education and support course requirements. Some clinical and capstone credits round out the total coursework.

Clinical Immunohematology

This course considers the basic concepts and procedures involving blood transfusions, blood banking and transfusion medicine. Emphasis is placed on regulatory issues, blood components, immunological considerations and quality assurance. Students develop clinical laboratory operations through field experience at a blood bank or hospital laboratory.

Clinical Chemistry

Students examine bodily fluids and serums in regular and pathologically irregular conditions. Organ-related diseases are studied through their influence on clinical chemistry test results. Topics in therapeutic drug monitoring and toxicology are also studied.

Clinical Microbiology and Molecular Diagnostics

The microorganisms that cause human infectious diseases are the focus of this class. Students learn to identify, distinguish and isolate pathogenic bacteria for diagnostic purposes. Subjects such as nucleic acid extraction, gene expression analysis, mutation detection and paternity testing are discussed.

Career Information

Although most employers do not require a bachelor's degree in diagnostic medical sonography, having the degree helps graduates achieve career advancement. Although state licensure is not required, employers prefer to hire ARDMS certified sonographers, which is a prerequisite for entry into the bachelor's degree completion programs. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that as of May 2018, diagnostic medical sonographers earned a median yearly salary of $72,510. The BLS also predicted an occupational growth of 14%, much faster than the average for all occupations, between the years 2018-2028.

Although diploma and associate's degree programs are considered sufficient education for registered nurses, they provide less advancement possibilities than a bachelor's degree program. Every state requires nurses to become registered by passing the National Council Licensure Examination, which is a prerequisite for entry into the bachelor's degree program. As of May 2018, registered nurses earned a median yearly salary of $71,730, as reported by the BLS. The BLS predicts faster-than-average occupational growth of 12% between the years 2018-2028.

A bachelor's degree is required for most entry-level positions as a clinical laboratory technologists and technicians, also known as a clinical laboratory technologist. Some states have licensure requirements for clinical laboratory scientists that involve completion of a bachelor's degree and passing of an examination. According to the BLS, clinical laboratory technologists and technicians earned a median salary of $52,330 as of 2018.

Continuing Education Information

Professional sonographers must earn a certain number of continuing education hours in order to maintain their licensure. Online credits are available in areas such as vascular technology and echocardiography mobility.

Registered nurses are required by certain states and employers to participate in continuing education courses. Such continuing education credits can be earned through entirely online formats. Areas such as pharmacology, stroke pathogenesis, and the urinary system can be studied through online continuing education credits.

A master's degree program in clinical laboratory sciences is available entirely online. This option is for clinical laboratory scientists seeking further career advancement or aspiring for doctoral education, which is necessary to become a laboratory director. Several concentrations within the master's degree are available in clinical research, health informatics and public health laboratory sciences.

There are many medically related bachelor's degree programs available in a hybrid format, including nursing, diagnostic medical sonography, and clinical laboratory sciences. These programs may require an associate's degree to enter, and normally require an internship, residency, or practicum to complete the degree work.

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