As the need for healthcare rises, there will be a rise in job openings for pharmacy technicians, medical secretaries, dental assistants, lab technicians, and imaging technicians. One example is that by 2020, the U.S. government predicts a shortage of between 800,000 and one million nurses. It stands to reason that all of the support and ancillary healthcare jobs will also increase.
In addition, you will avoid the high cost of a college education. There are more than 4500 colleges within the United States with varying college degree costs. Because of this, the average cost of getting a college degree is highly dependent on the individual college, choice of major, and whether tuition is in-state or out-of-state. This creates a total expenditure from $0 (free tuition schools/scholarships) to upwards of $65,000 per year. To compound the matter, students must take loans to finance their education. As a result the debt mounts. Consequently, Americans are more burdened by student loan debt than ever.
The average student loan debt for Class of 2017 graduates was $39,400, up six percent from the previous year.
These exorbitant costs are avoidable. You can skip the degree and work instead. We have assembled ten professions, in alphabetical order, in the medical field that do not require a college degree. This route also provides the opportunity to pursue a degree of any level while employed. If you so desire. Therefore, you can always choose to advance your education with an Associate’s degree in any one of these or related field to boost your medical career. Earning a degree may ensure a higher salary and more job opportunities.
(Note: some of these jobs do require a diploma, certificate or relevant training)
1. Cardiac Monitor Technician
Also known as an electrocardiogram monitor technician whose job is to read heart rhythm patterns to detect abnormal heart rhythm variations. Technicians also observe heart rhythms on a cardiac monitor screens and listen for alarms in the notification of abnormal heart rhythms. Other responsibilities include reviewing patient records for normal heart rhythms and using instruments to measure length and height of heart patterns.
A career as a cardiac monitor technician is a viable option for people who would like to work in healthcare but have limited time and money to spend on continued education. A cardiac monitor technician needs a high school diploma, plus a post-secondary certificate or on-the-job training. There are a variety of program lengths offered through vocational schools, junior colleges, and hospitals across the country. Upon completion of your training or one year of experience, you should consider certification. You can become a Certified Cardiac Monitor Telemetry Technician (CCMTT) after passing the online examination provided by the American Education Certification Association.
2. Cardiac Sonography
The exact type of training is going to vary depending on which cardiac sonography program you choose, but the general length of training is around 18 to 24 months. Most programs cover a number of different subject areas including foundational courses like medical terminology and anatomy & physiology. Cardiac sonography programs train students in the Adult Echocardiography specialty. This involves learning both the technical specifications of the ultrasound machines used by cardiac sonographers as well as details of human anatomy with a focus on the heart.
There are degree programs from Associate to Master’s in this field. Certificate programs are available. These shorter programs allow you to start working far more quickly than if you studied for a sonography degree. Vocational and technical schools generally offer day and evening programs, which are designed especially for working individuals and parents.
Certification is extremely important in the field of sonography. Your employment opportunities will be limited if you apply for jobs prior to becoming a Registered Diagnostic Cardiac Sonographer (RDCS) or a Registered Cardiac Sonographer (RCS).
3. Dental Assistant
Dental assistants work in dentists’ offices and greet patients, gather patient information, answer general questions, make appointments, organize the scheduling of the office, handle administrative tasks, manage office files, communicate with labs and vendors, and more.
Certificate and diploma programs generally prepare you to start your dental assistant career after about nine to 11 months of study. You’ll find these programs at career colleges and community colleges. This is not an Associate’s degree that typically takes two years to complete.
In a diploma or dental assisting certificate, students learn about preventative dentistry, pharmacology, radiology, oral health, anatomy, dental hygiene techniques, dental materials, and other subjects. Students take classes which are theoretical in nature, where they learn the basics, but they also dig into more advanced concepts of dental hygiene.
4. Medical Assistant
Medical Assistants are important members of today’s healthcare system who works closely with physicians to ensure patients receive excellent medical attention. Professionals in this field perform both administrative and clinical tasks to keep a medical office running smoothly. Your employment in this profession can begin by completing a Medical Assisting program. Community colleges and training facilities offer the training that you can complete in eight months or less. Training includes medical terminology, coding and billing, and examination techniques.
Medical assistants focus primarily on patient assessment, evaluation, and assisting doctors with patient care and treatment, whereas nursing assistants are generally more involved in direct patient care. Nursing assistants have specific job-related duties they are able to perform that are dictated by the state of employment.
There are many colleges, universities, and technical schools that offer medical assistant training programs. Depending upon your preferences, you may choose to earn a certificate or diploma in as little as 9-12 months, or an associate’s degree in 18-24 months.
5. MRI Technician
There are two main educational paths: a certificate, which takes about one year, or an Associate’s degree, which takes two years. Before you get to work with real MRI equipment, your school will require you to take a variety of courses in human anatomy, imaging techniques, and radiography safety. Some of the classes you may be required to take include Radiographic Equipment, Radiobiology, Introduction to Diagnostic Imaging, and Anatomy & Physiology.
Each MRI tech training program will have its own minimum enrollment requirements. Some may only need a high school diploma or GED for you to apply, while other programs may demand a more thorough background, like an associate degree, or partial college attendance. Hospital networks offer online MRI training that can be completed within one year. This type of program qualifies graduates to take the Advanced Certification Registry examination of the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists.
Many states require MRI technicians to be licensed or certified before officially working in the medical imaging field. To be licensed, you must first pass the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists licensure exam. Once you pass the ARRT exam, you can apply for your license.
6. Nurse Assistant
The American Red Cross Nurse Assistant Training Program offers students a chance to learn in a hands-on environment under the eyes of experienced licensed nurses. It is bolstered by a curriculum that meets or exceeds federal and state standards. Most program sites offer day, evening and weekend classes in a convenient location to meet student scheduling and transportation needs.
The first part of our nurse assistant training takes place in the classroom and lab settings. Students will learn all aspects of patient care, through lectures as well as demonstrations and hands-on practice. Upon successful completion of the theory and lab portion of the course, students will begin the clinical training part of the program.
Graduates of a Nurse Assistant or Nurse Aide program may find entry-level employment as a nurse aide with hospitals, long term care facilities, home health, assisted living, doctor’s or medical office, care for mentally challenged, rehabilitation facilities, adult day care and more. At the end of the courses each passing student will be given a certificate of completion and scheduled for the state test to be Certified Nurses Assistants.
7. Patient Care Technician
These technicians assist doctors, nurses, and other healthcare professionals in a variety of inpatient and outpatient settings. PCTs perform Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) duties but also perform some basic medical responsibilities such as blood draws and EKG readings. Through clinical assignments and an externship, you practice assisted living skills, rehabilitative/restorative care, and other patient care duties.
To become a nurse assistant in many states, students must successfully complete state-approved nurse aide training and competency evaluation. Check with your program to see if you will be eligible to take the Certified Nurse Aide (CNA) exam. Some programs provide the training to apply for entry-level jobs as a phlebotomy technician, EKG technician, nurse assistant, and cardiac monitor technician.
For convenience, there are online training programs that you can complete in as little as four months. By taking an online patient care technician certificate course, there are no in-person patient care classes to attend and no schedules to keep. These programs teach you everything you need to know to start working as a Patient Care Technician with no previous medical experience.
8. Phlebotomy Technician
Phlebotomy is the practice of drawing blood from patients and taking the blood specimens to the laboratory to prepare for testing. In just three months, you can earn your Phlebotomy Technician certificate and be working in the medical field as a phlebotomist.
A typical program consists of courses in CPR, First Aid, Anatomy, Physiology/Medical Terminology, Introduction to Laboratory, and Phlebotomy. A certificate program provides training in obtaining blood specimens by venipuncture and micro-collection techniques. Phlebotomy technician classes also teach you to collect and process other clinical specimens. As a graduate, you can work in hospitals, physician offices or in independent labs.
In the United States, a range of organizations offer certifications in phlebotomy. The main ones are:
- American Medical Technologists (AMT)
- American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP)
- National Healthcareer Association (NHA)
9. Sterile Processing Technician
The sterile processing technician plays a vital role in maintaining the cleanliness, functionality, and inventory of healthcare instrumentation and equipment. Their work ensures that patients avoid infections. They ensure that doctors, nurses and allied health professionals are able to access the instrumentation and equipment they need immediately.
There are online training programs that cover information regarding standards and regulations, sterilization and endoscopes, monitoring and record keeping, and personal and professional development. While the actual curricula may be different from school to school, you will cover a number of topics found in most healthcare programs such as medical terminology and ethics. Some of the more specific sterile processing technician subjects such as decontamination tools and sterilization processes will be emphasized. Within four months, you could be ready to take the Certified Registered Central Service Technician (CRCST) exam. In terms of government regulations, certification is currently required in only one state: New Jersey. However, legislation that would require sterile processing technicians to be certified is pending in other states.
10. Surgical Technician/Technologist
Surgical technology is a growing field of health care, perfect for individuals who are seeking a career that values a fast-paced work environment on the front lines of health care. You can complete surgical tech school in as little as a year. The minimum you will need a high school diploma (or the equivalent) to get started, and it is a good idea to have taken (and done well in) classes such as biology, health, chemistry, and math.
Prospective surgical technicians need to complete a diploma, certificate or associate’s degree program to work in the field. Diploma and certificate programs may be completed in under a year and an associate’s degree program in two years. Coursework includes surgical procedures, pharmacology, medical terminology, anatomy, and physiology. Students in associate’s degree programs must also complete general education and science requirements. Regardless of your educational path, students may want to consider programs that have earned accreditation from the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP).
Professionals in this field do everything from transporting patients to surgery to assisting the surgeon in an operation. They manage much of the preparation – arranging equipment and handing the surgeon necessary tools. This profession is not for someone who is squeamish about blood or bodily fluids.