The booming health-care industry is expected to continue growing at a rate far exceeding that of most other fields in the coming decade. A growing population, especially the rising number of seniors, is creating additional demand for the services of many kinds of medical providers.
Students interested in a career in health care may find the educational requirements daunting. Surgeons and other doctors, as well as some other medical professionals, must complete four years of undergraduate studies, resulting in a bachelor’s degree in a life science; four years of medical school; and several more years of internships and residencies. The academic challenges posed by this lengthy process, not to mention the high cost of graduate study, are prohibitive for many students.
Fortunately, there are health-care occupations that do not entail such an intense commitment. To get some of these jobs, all that is needed is a certificate. For others, a two-year associate’s degree or four-year bachelor’s degree is sufficient. High school students planning to enter medical careers are advised to take science and math classes like biology, chemistry, physics, and algebra.
Here is a look at just 10 of the numerous health careers that do not require medical degrees.
These professionals perform diagnostic tests to detect illnesses, diseases, and disorders of the heart, blood vesssels, and lungs. Procedures in which they are trained include ultrasound, pulmonary-function and lung-capacity tests, electrocardiograms, cardiac catheterizations, and balloon angioplasties. Cardiovascular technologists help doctors analyze test results and determine the necessary treatments.
To get this job, an associate’s degree is a typical requirement. Many students obtain bachelor’s degrees to enhance their employment opportunities.
Clinical Laboratory Technologists
This type of technologist is a scientist who conducts and analyzes diagnostic tests of bodily fluids and tissues. The tests reveal the cause of patients’ diseases and disorders, and aid doctors in making diagnoses. Clinical laboratory technologists work exclusively in labs, without contact with patients.
A bachelor’s degree in clinical laboratory science, allied health technologies, or a related field is generally needed. Master’s degree programs are necessary only for those seeking lab-management positions.
Medical Laboratory Technicians
These professionals rank just below clinical laboratory technologists. They assist in conducting diagnostic tests of patients’ samples. This involves the use of computers, microscopes, and other sophisticated medical equipment.
Most employers require technicians to have associate’s degrees in clinical laboratory science. Those with degrees in related fields, such as nursing, may become lab technicians by completing one-year programs in general laboratory knowledge. Some employers hire technicians who have earned certificates, rather than degrees, from hospitals or vocational schools.
Diagnostic Medical Sonographers
This technologist uses ultrasound equipment to create images of patients’ organs and other internal parts to detect diseases, illnesses, infections, and disorders. Sonography is a particulary fast-growing field, as the procedure is less intrusive than x-rays and increasingly preferred by patients.
To work in this occupation, a two-year allied-health degree and completion of a one-year ultrasound-technology program are required. Two-year associate’s degree programs in sonography also are available. Professionals with other medical degrees may qualify as ultrasound specialists by completing one-year certificate programs.
Health Care Social Workers
This position involves assisting people in dealing with diseases, illnesses, and disabilities. Health-care social workers educate patients about their conditions, teach coping methods, provide mental-health counseling, and refer patients to medical specialists. The families also receive counseling, while the patient is hospitalized and after returning home.
To get an entry-level job, a two-year bachelor’s degree in social work, psychology, or sociology is often required. Some employers call for master’s degrees in social work, which takes an additional two to four years, followed by residency training. Some universities offer doctorate degrees. These social workers must complete a training program featuring hundreds of hours of field work.
Health Information Technicians
Managing patients’ records and other data in a medical facility is the main responsibility of this professional. Paper and computer files pertaining to financial information, treatments, diagnoses, medications, and exam results must be accurate and up-to-date. Technicians work with insurance companies and other third-party payers, and code medical information for security and billing purposes.
There are several ways to become a registered health information technician (RHIT). Students may take a six-month certificate program in medical technology, or a two-year associate’s degree program in health information management. Four-year bachelor’s degrees in health information technology also are offered by accredited colleges and universities.
Licensed Vocational Nurses
Supervised by registered nurses and doctors, LVNs provide direct health-care services to patients. They monitor vital signs like pulse, blood pressure, respiration rate, and body temperature; collect blood and tissue samples for diagnostic testing; dress wounds and replace bandages; treat bedsores and administer enemas; and help patients stand, walk, eat, bathe, and change clothes.
One-year certificate programs, at community colleges and technical schools (and some hospitals), provide the necessary education to get this job. The programs provide on-the-job training, as well as classwork. Many LVNs obtain two-year associate’s degrees.
Physical Therapy Aides
This job is an entry-level health-care position. PTAs support, move, and lift patients. They educate and train people in rehabilitation methods, help them use orthopedic devices, and provide therapeutic treatments. Aides also have clerical and janitorial responsibilities in the rehab clinics, therapists’ offices, and nursing homes where most of them they are employed.
In many cases, the only educational requirement is a high school diploma or general-equivalency degree. The chances of getting a good job may be improved by taking classes in physical therapy and fitness. Community colleges and technical schools offer certificate programs for aides. Online certificate courses also are available.
Also called x-ray techs, these people obtain x-ray images of patients’ organs and other body parts. Doctors interpret the images to determine the cause and extent of illnesses, diseases, disorders, and injuries. Technicians explain diagnostic procedures and position patients on examining tables.
Successful completion of a certificate program in radiology technology qualifies a student for this position. Such programs are offered by colleges, universities, community colleges, technical schools, and hospitals. Online study is another option. Associate’s degrees at community colleges give students additional credentials, as do bachelor’s degree programs in radiologic technology at larger institutions.
These professionals work under the supervision of doctors to treat patients who have breathing problems and cardiopulmonary ailments. They order diagnostic tests, then provide therapy to relieve patients’ symptoms and restore their functions.
To practice respiratory therapy, the minimum education requirement is an associate’s degree. To work at a hospital or in emergency medical services, a bachelor’s degree may be necessary.