You don't necessarily need to go through med school to get into an in-demand medical career.
Looking to enter the medical field, but daunted by the prospect of going to medical school?
If the whole doctor thing isn't part of your career plan but you still want to work in health care, we've got good news.
"If you're looking for jobs in the medical field and think that you need to go to med school, that's really not the case," says Matt Casey, a Cambridge, Mass.-based career coach who specializes in health care.
Thanks, in part, to an aging-but-active baby-boom generation, many of the fastest-growing health care careers are actually assistant positions, which you generally can prep to pursue with an associate's degree or by completing a certification program. But those aren't the only opportunities available...
Intrigued? Check out these six booming medical careers, no medical school required.
Career #1: Medical Assistant
Want to put your organizational skills to good use in the health care field sooner rather than later? Good news: According to the U.S. Department of Labor, you can prepare for a career as a medical assistant on the job or by earning a certificate or associate's degree in medical assisting. Those generally take anywhere from one to two years to finish, depending on the student.*
Growth outlook: With the Department of Labor projecting a growth of 31 percent from 2010 to 2020, the employment future appears bright for medical assistants. Fueling this growth is the fact that the aging population needs more preventive medical services. In turn, physicians will hire more assistants to carry out administrative and clinical duties, according to the Department.
Career details: "A good medical assistant is what keeps a physician's office running smoothly," says Susan Odegaard Turner, a career counselor and founder of the consulting firm, Turner Healthcare Associates, Inc. How? By performing a combination of administrative and clinical duties, including scheduling patient appointments, recording medical information, providing injections as directed by a physician, and preparing blood for lab tests, says the Department.
Career #2: Medical and Health Services Manager
Have your sights set on working your way to a leadership position in this in-demand field? You don't need medical school to make that happen. In fact, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, you could be prepped to pursue medical and health services manager opportunities with a bachelor's in health administration.
Growth outlook: From more facilities to a greater use of technology, "components of care that didn't exist before" are driving the need for qualified health services managers, according to Turner.
The Department of Labor's numbers show that employment of these managers is projected to grow by 22 percent from 2010 to 2020.
Career details: According to the Department, medical and health services managers could be in charge of a whole facility or specialize in overseeing a specific clinical department. For example, a clinical manager generally implements policies and procedures for a specific department, while a nursing home administrator could be in charge of managing the nursing home staff, admissions, finances as well as the residents.
If you're interested in a health career with less education requirements, and you have a strong eye for data, consider medical records and health information technology.
Per the U.S. Department of Labor, you can prepare to pursue a career as a medical records and health information technician with just a postsecondary certificate or associate's degree in health information technology. They also note that "Most employers prefer to hire medical records and health information technicians who have professional certification."
Growth outlook: The widespread use of electronic health records by health providers is one reason for high growth in this profession, according to the Department of Labor. In fact, they project a 21 percent growth from 2010 to 2020.
In fact, "Anybody with an RHIT (registered health information technician) certificate is already in huge demand," says Turner.
Career details: Medical records and health information technicians generally deal with patient records to ensure they are secure and accessible, says the Department. They also could specialize in an area of health information. For example, cancer registrars might analyze and collect patient information for use in cancer research.
Career #4: Dental Assistant
Interested in a dental career that you can prep for without spending years in school? Look into dental assisting. While some states require dental assistants to graduate from an accredited program and possibly pass a state exam, other states have no formal educational requirements, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.
Growth outlook: The Department of Labor projects employment of dental assistants to grow by a whopping 31 percent from 2010 to 2020. Why? As research continues to reveal the connection between oral health and general health, demand for preventive dental services is expected to increase, says the Department. Ultimately, this will result in dentists hiring more assistants to handle routine tasks.
Career details: Dental assistants might handle everything from scheduling appointments to sterilizing dental instruments to preparing patients for procedures to processing X-rays, according to the Department.
Career #5: Physical Therapist Assistant
You don't have to go to medical school to help patients recover from injuries. In fact, "most states require physical therapist assistants to have an associate's degree from an accredited physical therapist program," according to the U.S. Department of Labor.
Growth outlook: Looking for even better news? The Department of Labor projects employment of physical therapist assistants to increase by 46 percent from 2010 to 2020. One reason for this strong growth is the aging population needing more therapeutic services as they remain active later in life, adds the Department.
Career details: Working under physical therapists, physical therapist assistants generally "help patients who are recovering from injuries, illnesses, and surgery regain movement and manage pain," according to the Department. Daily duties could include assisting patients with exercises, stretching, and other rehabilitative treatments.
Career #6: Dental Hygienist
You don't have to go through the time-intensive education requirements of a dentist to help people improve their oral health. In fact, you could pursue opportunities in dental hygiene with just an associate's degree in dental hygiene plus licensure, says the U.S. Department of Labor.
Growth outlook: The Department of Labor projects employment of dental hygienists to increase by 38 percent from 2010 to 2020. Why? "Ongoing research linking oral health and general health will continue to spur the demand for preventative dental services," says the Department.
Career details: As a dental hygienist, you might clean teeth, check for signs of oral diseases, and educate patients on proper oral care, according to the Department. During a patient visit, you might remove any tartar or plaque from teeth, clean and polish teeth with dental instruments, and use sealants to help protect teeth.
*Time to program completion is per the U.S. Department of Labor. Note: time to completion may vary by student, school, program, and a variety of other factors.
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