The health care industry is the fastest-growing industry in the United States. In fact, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) expects health care job opportunities to increase by 19 percent over just a decade, adding more than two million jobs. Given the positive job outlook, it’s no wonder so many students want to break into the health care field. Fortunately, you don’t have to go to medical school to prepare for a job in health care. Many associate’s degrees can prepare you for an in-demand new career – often, online and in as little as two years.
Associate’s Degrees in Health Science
Some health care degree programs require students to complete a great deal of studies in laboratory science and mathematics. Health science, on the other hand, is widely considered one of the easiest online associate’s degrees you can earn. These programs often educate students in aspects of the health care industry not directly related to patient care, such as medical billing and coding, medical law and ethics, maintaining patient records and medical document production, according to U.S. News & World Report. With an associate’s degree in health science, you can become a medical secretary or medical records and health information technician.
Associate’s Degrees in Dental Hygiene
An associate’s degree in dental hygiene is an applied science degree that prepares students for professional practice. In dentistry, a dental hygienist is someone who interacts directly with patients and does tasks such as cleaning teeth and taking x-ray images of the mouth.
Dental hygiene is a fairly lucrative career, with the BLS reporting a median salary of $72,910. It’s actually better to earn an associate’s degree in dental hygiene than a bachelor’s degree, according to U.S. News & World Report, because bachelor’s degree holders see few advantages in earning potential or job prospects. However, students should be aware that an associate’s degree in dental hygiene typically requires three years of specialized studies.
Associate’s Degree in Radiation Therapy
Radiologic technology or radiation therapy degrees are applied science programs that prepare students to work as radiation therapists or diagnostic medical sonographers. Completing an associate’s degree program in this field of study prepares you to run the medical equipment used to capture x-ray, CT, MRI and ultrasound or sonogram images. Radiation therapy is another career-focused degree that requires a great deal of specialized study. Though it typically takes just two years to earn this degree, it, like a dental hygienist degree, is better to earn at a community college.
Associate’s Degree in Medical Assisting
Studying medical assisting at the associate’s degree level equips students with the skills to handle both the administrative and clinical tasks of a medical assistant. While the demand for medical assistants is high, with the BLS expecting a 23 percent increase in job opportunities over a decade, the earning potential is low. Medical assistants earn a median wage of $31,540, several thousand dollars less than the $37,040 median salary for all occupations.
Physical and Occupational Therapy Assistant Associate’s Degrees
Physical and occupational therapists need an advanced degree, but physical and occupational therapy assistants can get started in this field with just an associate’s degree. Of course, the job isn’t the same as being a full-fledged physical or occupational therapist. Instead, you will work under the supervision of theses therapists and assist with tasks that involve direct patient care.
An associate’s degree isn’t the right choice for every student who wants to work in health care, but for many students, it can provide a quick and affordable path into a career in this growing industry.