13 Medical Field Jobs That Don’t Need A 4-Year Degree

October 2, 2017

13 Medical Field Jobs That Don’t Need A 4-Year Degree

Medical careers are attracting interest among job seekers and career changers as the healthcare industry continues to grow. While U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projections indicated healthcare and social assistance would become the nation’s largest employment sector by 2026, The Atlantic reports that healthcare jobs surpassed retail at the end of 2017 and now employ more Americans than any other industry.

Some people think of medical field jobs in terms of doctors, surgeons, and nurses, and may assume that careers in healthcare require years of education and an advanced degree. But the truth is that you can train for some of today’s fastest-growing healthcare jobs in under a year, or earn a relevant associate degree in less than two years depending on the individual student.

In fact, while the BLS forecasts that employment of healthcare practitioners will increase 15.3% between 2016 and 2026, healthcare support jobs are projected to climb 23.6% over the same period.

Read on to discover some of the medical careers you can prepare for in two years or less (actual completion times vary depending on the individual student). We cover what these medical field jobs entail in terms of work responsibilities and education, and highlight the projected job growth and median salaries.

1. Dental Assistant

As the job title implies, dental assistants help dentists and their staff with a wide range of tasks. They may prepare patients for treatment, take dental x-rays, aid the dentist during procedures, and educate patients on preventative tooth and gum care. Some dental assistants serve in more of an administrative role; their responsibilities might include assisting in office management, scheduling appointments, recordkeeping, billing, and insurance processing. Your specific tasks will depend on your workplace.

Dental assistant training programs typically prepare students to provide support in both chair-side and administrative capacities. Some programs include education in expanded functions, such as coronal polishing, sealant placement, and making and removing temporary crowns.

According to the BLS, most states do not require licensing for entry-level dental assistant jobs; however, registration or certification—such as the Registered Dental Assistant (RDA) credential—may be required for to perform expanded functions.

Education, Career Outlook, and Earning Potential for Dental Assistants per the BLS:

  • Typical Training: diploma (less than 1 year*) or associate degree (less than 2 years*)
  • Learning Format: campus-based with hands-on lab/clinical instruction
  • Projected Job Growth through 2026: 19% (much faster than average)
  • Median Salary as of May 2017: $37,630 per year, or $18.09 per hour

*Completion times vary according to the individual student.

 

2. Health and Human Services Assistants

Workers in the health and human services field provide support and advocacy for clients and patients, such as advising them on policies and processes, helping them to secure community resources, and providing referrals to relevant healthcare or social service programs. Health and human services assistants often work for social service agencies, nonprofit organizations, or local or state governments.

Some workers may get their start in these types of medical field jobs with a high school diploma and on-the-job training; however, the BLS notes that a diploma or degree is becoming more common. An associate’s degree can help demonstrate a graduate’s qualifications for careers in healthcare and human services.

Education, Career Outlook, and Earning Potential for Health and Human Services Assistants per the BLS:

  • Typical Training: diploma (less than 1 year*) or associate degree (less than 2 years*) in human services, gerontology, or social or behavioral science
  • Learning Format: available online or via campus-based programs
  • Projected Job Growth through 2026: 16% (much faster than average)
  • Median Salary as of May 2017: $33,120 per year, or $15.92 per hour

*Completion times vary according to the individual student.

 

3. Health Information Technician

Health information technicians play a key role in helping to ensure patient data is complete, accurate, and secure. These workers require both technical and information management skills, since their duties typically involve entering, retrieving, and analyzing data in electronic healthcare records (EHRs). They need to know how to correctly code diagnoses, treatments, and procedures in EHRs for billing and insurance reimbursement.

Postsecondary education is typically required for health information technician jobs, since these technicians are expected to know relevant medical terminology and codes. The BLS notes that most employers prefer to hire candidates who hold relevant industry certification, such as the Registered Health Information Technician (RHIT) credential.

Education, Career Outlook, and Earning Potential for Health Information Technicians per the BLS:

  • Typical Training: varies by role; an associate degree (less than 2 years*) can prepare graduates for entry-level jobs in health information technology. Employers may also require certification exams such as Registered Health Information Technician (RHIT).
  • Learning Format: available online or via campus-based programs
  • Projected Job Growth through 2026: 13% (faster than average)
  • Median Salary as of May 2017: $39,180 per year, or $18.83 per hour

*Completion times vary according to the individual student.

 

4. Healthcare Management: Administrative Roles

While management careers in healthcare often require a bachelor’s degree, an associate degree in healthcare management can prepare students for entry-level administrative positions such as health information technician, medical billing specialist, or healthcare records clerk.

Workers who are hired for these types of roles and acquire relevant work experience and further education may be eligible for promotion to medical billing supervisor, medical office supervisor, front desk supervisor, or similar medical field jobs.

Education, Career Outlook, and Earning Potential for Healthcare Managers (per BLS):

  • Typical Training: varies by role; an associate degree (less than 2 years*) can prepare graduates for entry-level administrative careers in healthcare, though upper-level management roles typically require a bachelor’s or graduate degree
  • Learning Format: available online or via campus-based programs
  • Projected Job Growth through 2026: 20% (much faster than average)
  • Median Salary (as of May 2017): varies by job function; administrative roles such as medical secretaries earn a median wage of $34,610 per year, while healthcare managers with experience and higher levels of education earn a median income of $98,350 per year

*Completion times vary according to the individual student.

 

5. Healthcare Technology and Systems Support Specialist

Individuals who are intrigued by both computers and healthcare can combine those interests by pursuing a career in healthcare technology and systems. Professionals in these types of medical field jobs may be responsible for managing healthcare records, troubleshooting healthcare software, and/or providing help desk support.

According to the BLS, many employers accept computer support applicants with an associate degree, while others may require a bachelor’s degree. In the case of healthcare technology jobs, employers generally expect candidates to have knowledge of medical records management and related software and applications.

Education, Career Outlook, and Earning Potential for Computer Support Specialists per the BLS:

  • Typical Training: varies by role; an associate degree (less than 2 years*) can prepare graduates for entry-level computer support specialist jobs, while some employers may require a bachelor’s degree (4 years*).
  • Learning Format: available online or via campus-based programs
  • Projected Job Growth (2016–2026): 11% (faster than average)
  • Median Salary (as of May 2017): $52,810 per year, or $25.39 per hour

*Completion times vary according to the individual student.

 

6. Medical Administrative Assistant

Administrative assistants work in many different industries. While the BLS reports an overall decline in these types of positions, healthcare administrative jobs are the one area growing faster than average.

Most administrative assistants are expected to have computer skills and knowledge of office systems and equipment. Medical administrative assistants can go a step further and be familiar with medical diagnosis and procedure codes, electronic health records management, and medical transcription.

The BLS notes that medical administrative assistants generally require training in medical terminology and industry-specific practices. A diploma or associate degree can provide the necessary academic background. Students may also wish to pursue the Certified Medical Administrative Assistant (CMAA) designation to enhance their qualifications, though it’s not typically required.

Education, Career Outlook, and Earning Potential for Medical Secretaries and Administrative Assistants per the BLS:

  • Typical Training: diploma (less than 1 year*) or associate degree (less than 2 years*)
  • Learning Format: available online or via campus-based programs
  • Projected Job Growth through 2026: 22% (much faster than average)
  • Median Salary (as of May 2017): $34,610 per year, or $16.64 per hour

*Completion times vary according to the individual student.

 

7. Medical Assistant

Though many medical careers focus on either administrative or clinical tasks, medical assistants often have training and responsibilities in both areas. Their duties might include collecting patient medical histories, creating and updating electronic health records, and scheduling appointments as well as measuring vital signs, drawing blood, running lab tests, and administering medication.

Postsecondary education is typically required for this role. The BLS indicates that diploma programs are common, with some schools offering an associate’s degree. While most states do not require certification, the BLS reports that employers may prefer to hire candidates who hold relevant certification such as the Registered Medical Assistant (RMA) credential.

Education, Career Outlook, and Earning Potential for Medical Assistants per the BLS:

  • Typical Training: diploma (about 1 year*) or associate degree (less than 2 years*)
  • Learning Format: campus-based with hands-on lab/clinical instruction
  • Projected Job Growth through 2026: 29% (much faster than average)
  • Median Salary as of May 2017: $32,480 per year, or $15.61 per hour

* Completion times vary according to the individual student.

 

8. Medical Billers and Coders

Administrative healthcare jobs include the specialized role performed by medical billers and coders. These professionals are responsible for translating medical terminology into standard industry codes for each diagnosis, treatment, and procedure. The codes are used when submitting healthcare claims to insurers and other payers, so coders should also understand the billing process and insurance requirements.

Medical billers and coders can be classified under the BLS category of medical secretaries. Employers generally expect them to have formal training in common industry coding systems, as well as familiarity with claims processing and billing applications. Some employers may prefer to hire candidates who have earned the Certified Professional Coder (CPC) credential.

Education, Career Outlook, and Earning Potential for Medical Secretaries per the BLS:

  • Typical Training: diploma (less than 1 year*) or associate’s degree (less than 2 years*)
  • Learning Format: available online or via campus-based programs
  • Projected Job Growth through 2026: 22% (much faster than average)
  • Median Salary as of May 2017: $34,610 per year, or $16.64 per hour

*Completion times vary according to the individual student.

 

9. Medical Office and Billing Specialist

These specialists generally perform administrative work and/or serve in an accounts receivable role in a healthcare setting. Their tasks might range from scheduling appointments and organizing filing systems to processing healthcare claims and preparing financial reports.

Workers in this field typically need knowledge of billing regulations as well as the standard industry codes required for claims processing and reimbursement.

Similar to medical billers and coders, medical office and billing specialists can be considered medical secretaries. These types of medical field jobs usually require relevant training, such as a one-year vocational school program or an associate degree. Graduates may wish to purse the Certified Billing and Coding Specialist (CBCS) designation to help them stand out from other applicants with similar education.

Education, Career Outlook, and Earning Potential for Medical Secretaries (per BLS):

  • Typical Training: diploma (less than 1 year*) or associate degree (less than 2 years*)
  • Learning Format: available online or via campus-based programs
  • Projected Job Growth through 2026): 22% (much faster than average)
  • Median Salary as of May 2017: $34,610 per year, or $16.64 per hour

*Completion times vary according to the individual student.

 

10. Nursing Assistant

Nursing assistants support physicians and nurses in providing patient care in a variety of settings, including hospitals, nursing homes, and home healthcare agencies. Their tasks generally include measuring vital signs such as temperature and blood pressure, recording patients’ health concerns, and assisting patients in day-to-day activities such as eating, bathing, and dressing. They are often the primary caregiver for patients, providing comfort and compassionate care.

This role may appeal to those looking for medical jobs that don’t require years of training, since students can earn their nursing assistant diploma in as few as eight weeks*. According to the BLS, nursing assistants must complete a state-approved education program and competency exam. In some states, this role is referred to as a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA), though the title can vary by state.

Education, Career Outlook, and Earning Potential for Nursing Assistants (per BLS):

  • Typical Training: diploma (as little as 2 months*) and applicable certification exam
  • Learning Format: campus-based with hands-on lab/clinical instruction
  • Projected Job Growth through 2026: 11% (faster than average)
  • Median Salary as of May 2017: $27,510 per year, or $13.23 per hour

*Completion times vary according to the individual student.

 

11. Patient Care Technician

Patient care technicians perform a similar role to nursing assistants, and fall under the nursing assistant BLS classification.

Like nursing assistant positions, these medical jobs often require state licensure or certification, such as the CNA designation. However, patient care technicians may pursue further education and industry credentials to help position themselves as a highly qualified candidate and potentially increase their salary.

For example, some patient care technician programs train students to perform EKGs and phlebotomy (blood draws), and may prepare them for the Certified Patient Care Technician/Assistant (CPCT/A) exam and/or the Certified Phlebotomy Technician (CPT) exam.

Education, Career Outlook, and Earning Potential for Patient Care Technicians according to the BLS:

  • Typical Training: diploma (less than 1 year*) or associate’s degree (less than 2 years*)
  • Learning Format: campus-based with hands-on lab/clinical instruction
  • Projected Job Growth through 2026: 11% (faster than average) for nursing assistants
  • Median Salary (as of May 2017): $27,520 per year for nursing assistants

*Completion times vary according to the individual student.

 

12. Pharmacy Technician

Pharmacy technicians work under the supervision of licensed pharmacists. Their duties typically include calculating dosages and measuring out medications, filling and labeling prescriptions, entering patient and prescription information into databases, processing insurance claims, and monitoring inventory.

According to the BLS, some pharmacy technician programs award a diploma while others last a bit longer and lead to an associate degree. Many states and employers require candidates to be certified. Those who pursue these types of healthcare jobs may be expected to hold the Certified Pharmacy Technician (CPhT) designation or similar credential.

Education, Career Outlook, and Earning Potential for Pharmacy Technicians (per BLS):

  • Typical Training: Diploma (about 1 year*) or associate degree (about 5 years*)
  • Learning Format: available online or via campus-based programs
  • Projected Job Growth through 2026: 12% (faster than average)
  • Median Salary as of May 2017: $31,750 per year, or $15.26 per hour

*Completion times vary according to the individual student.

 

13. Phlebotomy Technician

Phlebotomy technicians, also known as phlebotomists, are responsible for drawing blood for medical tests and transfusions or for blood donations.

People in these types of medical field jobs typically work in doctor’s offices, hospitals, and medical laboratories. Some may work in blood donor centers and bloodmobiles. In addition to drawing blood, they will typically prepare and label the sample for testing or processing and may enter information into patient or donor databases.

Due to the nature of their work with patients, phlebotomists are typically expected to have formal training. Phlebotomy technician programs may be completed in as little as 12 weeks depending on the individual student. The BLS notes that nearly all employers prefer to hire phlebotomists with professional certification, such as a Certified Phlebotomy Technician (CPT) credential.

Education, Career Outlook, and Earning Potential for Phlebotomists (per BLS):

  • Typical Training: diploma (as little as 3 months*)
  • Learning Format: campus-based with hands-on lab/clinical instruction
  • Projected Job Growth through: 25% (much faster than average)
  • Median Salary as of May 2017: $33,670 per year, or $16.19 per hour

*Completion times vary according to the individual student.

 

As these medical careers demonstrate, you can train for a variety of healthcare jobs within one to two years, depending on your pace as a learner. In some cases, you can even complete classroom instruction and a clinical externship in just two or three months!

If you’re considering one of these careers in healthcare, you can find more information on the Ultimate Medical Academy website and the UMA blog.

 

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The views expressed herein are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Ultimate Medical Academy.

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