Check out these hot health care careers that are just a bachelor's or associate's degree away.
Forget medical school and the time it takes to finish it. If you want to make a career switch to the health care industry, there are other ways to prepare that will save you time and money.
Health care needs entire fleets of support staff to keep medical facilities running smoothly, and many of these fields are only expected to grow over the years. In December 2012 alone, the health care industry added 45,000 jobs, reports the U.S. Department of Labor.
Where is all of this growth coming from? "People are living longer, which means the elderly need more caregivers," says Lynn Berger, a New York-based career counselor and coach. "Career changers should think broadly - an increase in doctors and residents means the administrative and support roles are growing, too."
If you're looking for a promising new career path, without the burden of medical school, consider one of these growing health care careers.
Career #1: Medical and Health Services Managers
If you want to work in the medical industry, but are a little queasy about the idea of getting involved in actual patient treatment, a career as a medical and health services manager might be right for you.
Medical and health services managers are the ones in charge of coordinating treatment at health care facilities, says the U.S. Department of Labor. The job could involve everything from overseeing patient records and creating budgets to representing the facility at investor meetings, according to the Department of Labor.
Career Outlook: As baby boomers age, there will be an increased demand for health care and personnel to coordinate growing staffs and more facilities, notes the Department of Labor. Because of this, the Department projects that medical and health services management jobs will grow by 22 percent between 2010 and 2020.
How to Make the Switch: If you're interested in pursuing a career as a medical and health services manager, keep in mind that a bachelor's degree is typically needed. According to the Department, "Prospective medical and health services managers have a bachelor's degree in health administration." Master's degrees are also common for entering the field. Of course, requirements will vary by facility. If you're working as a nursing care facility administrator, you will need to be licensed.
Career #2: Dental Assistant
Looking for a dynamic career where you could put your attention to detail and organizational skills to work? Perhaps you should consider working as a dental assistant.
To put it simply, dental assistants provide dentists with an extra pair of eyes and hands during procedures, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. In this type of role, you might find yourself helping out by maintaining patients' files and taking on other administrative duties as they arise, such as scheduling appointments and working with patients on billing. It's no wonder that the Department of Labor reports that detail-oriented, methodical individuals typically excel in this field.
Career Outlook: And there will be plenty of room to excel, too. According to the Department, from 2010 to 2020, jobs in dental assisting will grow by a projected 31 percent.
How to Make the Switch: There are many roads for pursuing a career in dental assisting, but the one you take will likely depend on the state in which you live. According to the Department, some states require education in the form of a certificate/diploma or associate's degree, while others might allow you to acquire your education on the job. Some states might even require you to be certified by passing an exam from the Dental Assisting National Board.
Career #3: Registered Nurse
If you're more interested in working with doctors on the front lines of health care, you might consider pursuing a career as a registered nurse.
Nurses carry out demanding work, including tending to ailing patients, recording symptoms, and administering medications and treatments, says the U.S. Department of Labor. They also could help with tests and analyses, and then provide emotional support to people with health conditions and their families and friends.
Career Outlook: The Department says that nursing should see a 26 percent growth in jobs between 2010 and 2020. There are a variety of factors contributing to the growth, including the aging population, more emphasis on preventative care, and longer than average life spans.
How to Make the Switch: Like dental assisting, there are a few academic options for aspiring nurses. According to the Department, you will probably need to follow one of three paths: an associate's in nursing, bachelor's in nursing, or a diploma from an accredited program. You will also need to be licensed.
Career #4: Medical Assistant
Like the idea of helping people but not sold on the idea of committing years and years to medical school? Medical assisting may be a perfect compromise for your career.
Medical assistants ensure patients' visits go smoothly from start to finish, first taking medical histories down and then completing insurance forms at the end of treatment, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. These clerical tasks are offset with clinical ones, as many medical assistants also shadow doctors, help with exams, and keep tabs on medical equipment.
Career Outlook: According to the Department of Labor, as the number of practices increases, the need for assistants will also increase, ultimately resulting in a projected 31 percent job growth from 2010 to 2020.
How to Make the Switch: An associate's degree in medical assisting could start you on the path toward pursuing a career in the field, notes the Department. However, the Department also reports that formal education is not always required, as many assistants are trained on the job. Although you are not required to hold a certification, employers prefer to hire certified assistants.
Career #5: Pharmacy Technician
Are you a strong multi-tasker with a sharp, detail-oriented mind? A career as a pharmacy technician might be one way to tap all of your talents.
Some pharmacy technicians work in hospitals and drug stores, mixing medications, counting tablets, and answering phones, notes the U.S. Department of Labor. Others find employment in retail pharmacies, transcribing information for medications, packaging and labeling them, and performing payment transactions.
Career Outlook: Things are looking up for jobs in this field, thanks in part to the growing number of elderly people. According to the Department of Labor, jobs will grow by 32 percent from 2010 to 2020.
How to Make the Switch: If you're interested in preparing for a career as a pharmacy technician, you'll want to check your state's requirements. According to the Department, while in some states, technicians are simply trained on the job, other states might require a certificate from a postsecondary institution. Other states and employers might want you to gain certification by passing an exam, so it's vital that you check on requirements for your area.
Career #6: Physical Therapist Assistant
Active individuals looking for a job with an on-the-go, physical component could be well-suited for a career assisting a physical therapist.
Physical therapy assistants help patients cope with pain and limited motion following injuries, accidents, or surgery, says the U.S. Department of Labor. They often set up machinery and walk patients through exercises to regain motion.
Career Outlook: From 2010 to 2020, the Department estimates that employment of physical therapist assistants and aides will grow by a whopping 46 percent. One factor at play in the growth projected here: the baby boomers. According to the Department of Labor, as baby boomers continue to stay active throughout later stages of life, they will need therapy treatments in increasing numbers
How to Make the Switch: If you'd like to pursue this career, keep in mind that the Department says that most states require physical therapy assistants to hold an associate's degree from an accredited physical therapy program. Additionally, most states will require you to be licensed, which typically entails passing the National Physical Therapy Exam after graduating from an accredited program.
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