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Which Degrees Can Prepare You for a Career in Telehealth or Telemedicine?

A recent report indicates that the field of online medical services is poised for explosive growth over the coming decades. Jobs in the field include physician, nurse, mental health professional, computer and technical roles and business and communications roles. Healthcare providers are, naturally, the heart of the telehealth industry. Behind the scenes, professionals with backgrounds in computers and information technology develop the platforms and technical capabilities of individual telemedicine services, and workers with a business or communications background market and build up the public image of these services.

Telehealth Degrees

Medical Degrees

The career most crucial to the growth of telemedicine is doctor. A medical school education culminating in a Doctor of Medicine (MD) or Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (DO) degree, along with passing scores on board exams and completion of residency requirements, can prepare you for a career as a physician. The doctors employed by telehealth companies must meet the same state requirements as any other physician. In fact, some telemedicine companies are so selective when it comes to hiring doctors that they only consider applicants who graduated from top medical schools, have a minimum amount of experience practicing medicine and have passed a background check.

Physicians in many different clinical specialties are in demand among telehealth services. Many online medical services focus on providing primary care or urgent care, so general practitioners, family physicians and other PCPs can often find opportunities in telemedicine. However, a growing number of telehealth services are adding specialists to their roster of care providers. Pediatricians, obstetricians/gynecologists, dermatologists, psychologists and even cardiologists now provide online care in some capacity. Even radiologists can often work in telemedicine, interpreting the images generated through in-person diagnostic tests such as X-rays. Online medicine is the answer to an ever growing number of medical concerns, and patients often choose telehealth services for conditions such as colds and flu, rashes, pinkeye and infections.

Some telemedicine services have full-time doctors on staff, while others allow physicians and other providers to work part-time. Depending on the service, you may have a flexible schedule of your choice or be assigned to a specific – and possibly overnight – shift.

Which Degrees Can Prepare You for a Career in Telehealth or Telemedicine

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Nursing Degrees

It is hard to imagine visiting a doctor’s office or a hospital and not finding a nurse present. Although many telemedicine services connect patients directly to doctors, skilled and knowledgeable nurses remain just as crucial in online medicine as they are in traditional medicine.

If you want to work as a telehealth nurse, you will typically need to become a registered nurse (RN) in the state in which you plan to practice. This means you will need a college degree, preferably a bachelor’s degree, in nursing. Opportunities may be especially plentiful, and profitable, for nurse practitioners. These advanced practice nurses have a master’s degree or higher level of education, and in many states, they are authorized to perform tasks such as diagnose and treat patients and write prescriptions. Nurses in a variety of specialties, including primary care, neurology, oncology and critical care, find opportunities in only healthcare services.

Physician assistants (PAs) also have a place in the telehealth industry, as do healthcare specialists such as physical therapists, lactation consultants and nutritionists.

Degrees in Counseling or Psychology

Online help for mental and behavioral health issues has already become a popular option for patients. Some telehealth services offer mental health services alongside general medical services, while others cater to mental health exclusively. In addition to psychiatrists, who are specialized medical doctors, many other mental health professionals work with telehealth services. Mental health professionals with the credentials required to call themselves psychologists, licensed professional counselors, licensed clinical social workers and similar job titles are in demand to meet the need for online counseling services.

Unlike urgent care services, the mental healthcare services offered by many telehealth companies are not available on demand or 24 hours a day, so mental health professionals who provide electronic counseling services may have a more traditional work schedule.

Information Technology Degrees

The ever-evolving technological capabilities that first made telemedicine possible would stagnate if it wasn’t for the computer and information technology professionals working behind the scenes. Even if you don’t have a healthcare background, you could get involved in the rapidly growing telehealth industry using your background in computer technology. Telehealth services require software engineers to develop online platforms and software applications for devices like smartphones and tablets. They hire network security engineers to protect patients’ sensitive medical, personal and billing data. Whether you’re interested in providing the ultimate user experience for telehealth patients or managing and analyzing data sets, there are a variety of opportunities in telehealth for tech-savvy candidates eager to get a foot in the door in this emerging industry.

Job titles for technology-related roles in telemedicine services range from software developer to engineer and data scientist to project manager.

Business Degrees

Like every business, a successful telehealth service requires the proper management, marketing and administration. Candidates with business and communications degrees can often find a place working in the telemedicine industry, just as they might in the administration, management or public relations and marketing division of a traditional hospital or medical practice. Coming from a business or communications background, you might work in business development, digital marketing or a similar function.

Experience in medical marketing or management can be an advantage for business and communications professionals looking to transition into the telehealth industry.

Additional Resources

Top 20 In-Demand Healthcare Careers

Top 50 Online Medical Degrees

Top 10 Paying Healthcare Jobs without an M.D.

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