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Enjoying a rewarding career in the healthcare field doesn’t need to require spending four years of your life in a classroom. There are a large number of healthcare jobs that require on-the-job training, a post-secondary certificate, or an associate’s degree, so you can start work in less time.

Here’s a look at what you can do with a two-year degree career and some good-paying associate degree jobs in healthcare

1. Dental Assistant

A dental assistant performs tasks such as taking and developing X-rays, preparing and sterilizing instruments, and assisting the dentist during treatment procedures. Some also assist with lab duties, such as making casts of a patient’s teeth or helping to create temporary crowns.

A dental assistant needs post-secondary training in areas such as dental sciences, dental materials, dental radiography, and infection control, such as a Dental Assistant Diploma or Dental Assistant Associate of Applied Science degree. Some states require dental assistants to be certified, but others do not.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics, which uses national research to get its numbers, reports that the median wage of dental assistants is $34,500 per year.

2. Dental Hygienist

Dental hygienists work in dentists’ offices to clean teeth, examine patients for oral diseases, and provide preventative care. This position is ideal for people interested in 2-year degree careers with a positive work/life balance. More than half of all dental hygienists work part time, allowing them to attend to childcare duties and other personal responsibilities.

To work as a dental hygienist, you need an associate’s degree in dental hygiene and the appropriate state license. A dental hygienist’s education is a combination of classroom, laboratory, and clinical instruction that covers topics such as anatomy, physiology, radiography, periodontology, and nutrition.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual pay for a full time dental hygienist is $70,210.

3. Diagnostic Medical Sonographer

A diagnostic medical sonographer operates specialized imaging equipment to create images that help physicians diagnose various medical conditions. Specialties in this area include abdominal sonography, breast sonography, musculosketal sonography, obstetric sonography, and neuro sonography.

This career field requires a post-secondary certificate or associate’s degree. Professional certification is also required by some employers.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports the median annual pay for a diagnostic medical sonographer is $60,350 per year. This makes it among the best-paying jobs without a college degree from a 4-year university.

massage therapy - 2 year degree careers

4. Massage Therapist

Massage therapy is a rapidly growing career field with opportunities in hospitals, fitness centers, spas, and private offices. Massage therapists help patients by manipulating the soft tissue muscles of the body. They work to manage pain, rehabilitate injuries, promote relaxation, and enhance general wellness.

Aspiring massage therapists must complete a training program such as the Comprehensive Massage Diploma and Certificate that offers an education in anatomy, health, hygiene, kinesiotherapy, massage techniques, and hydrotherapy. They may also need to obtain a state license or registration, depending upon where they wish to work.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for massage therapists is $39,430.

5. Medical Assistant

Medical assistants perform a variety of administrative and clinical duties to support the work of physicians and other healthcare professionals, including scheduling appointments, measuring a patient’s vital signs, recording patient histories, and preparing blood for lab tests. They use electronic health records (EHR) software extensively and must be technologically savvy in addition to having strong interpersonal skills.

Medical assistants can learn their responsibilities through on-the-job training, but many employers prefer applicants with a post-secondary training such as the Medical Assisting Diploma or Medical Assisting Associate of Applied Science degree.

Post-secondary education for medical assistants generally involves studying medical office management, medical terminology, laboratory skills, clinical procedures, human anatomy, and medical billing and coding. Externships are generally offered to provide students with practical experience that prepares them to successfully enter the workforce.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports the median annual wage of medical assistants is $29,370 per year.

6. Medical Billing and Coding Specialist

Medical billing and coding specialists, also known as medical records and healthcare information technicians, work to ensure the accuracy of healthcare data for insurance reimbursement purposes and to maintain correct patient treatment records.

To enter this occupation, you must complete some sort of post-secondary education program covering topics such as medical terminology, medical office procedures, CPT/HCPCS coding, diagnostics coding, and health information management. MIBC Diploma program or Associates degree in MIBC are two examples of training that would prepare you to obtain a position as a medical billing and coding specialist.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports the median wage of medical billing and coding specialists is $34,160 per year.

7. Medical Equipment Repairer

Today’s healthcare professionals rely heavily on sophisticated medical equipment such as CAT scanners and X-rays to diagnose and treat patients. Medical equipment repairers install, maintain, and repair these devices.

To become a medical equipment repairer, you need strong mechanical skills as well as an associate’s degree in biomedical technology or engineering. Specialty certifications are also commonly used as a way to evaluate a candidate’s skills for a particular position.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual pay for medical equipment repairers is $44,570.

Highest paying associate degrees

8. Medical Lab Technician

The primary responsible of a medical lab technician is to analyze bodily fluids or tissues to look for signs of illness. Most work in hospitals, but some are employed in doctor’s offices or diagnostic laboratories.

A medical lab technician needs an associate’s degree from a program that studies areas such microbiology, anatomy, physiology, serology, and medical terminology. Our degree program will prepare you to enter this exciting career field by combining classroom study with opportunities for hands-on experience.

Compared to other jobs that require an associate’s degree, medical lab technicians benefit from relatively high pay and a faster-than-average rate of job growth of 22 percent. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports the median annual salary for medical lab technicians is $47,820 per year.

9. Nuclear Medicine Technologist

Nuclear medicine technologists are healthcare professionals who work in hospitals, physician’s offices, or imaging clinics to create images of various parts of a patient’s body using a scanner and radioactive drugs.

An Associate’s Degree in Nuclear Medicine Technology is required to obtain a position. Coursework focuses on human anatomy, chemistry, physics, radioactive drugs, and computer science in addition to practical hands-on experience under the supervision of a certified medical nuclear technologist. An experienced nuclear medicine technologist may want to obtain a bachelor’s degree to add opportunities for career advancement.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual pay for a nuclear medicine technologist is $70,180.

10. Occupational Therapy Aide

Working under the supervision of an occupational therapist, occupational therapy aides prepare treatment areas by setting up equipment, transporting patients, assisting with billing and insurance forms, and performing other clerical duties as required.

Occupational therapy aides are only required to have a high school Diploma. They primarily receive their training on the job, but many go on to take post-secondary classes to prepare to advance into an assistant position.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports the median annual wage for occupational therapy aides is $48,940.

11. Occupational Therapy Assistant

Occupational therapy assistants work with patients to perform therapeutic activities, record patient progress, and assist the occupational therapist in helping to develop a therapy plan for the patient.

Occupational therapy assistants must have an associate’s degree with the correct state licensure. They must be compassionate, detail oriented, and have excellent interpersonal skills, in addition to having a strong knowledge of subjects such as biology and psychology.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for occupational therapy assistants is $48,940.

12. Patient Care Technician

Patient care technicians, sometimes called orderlies or nursing assistants, work in hospitals, nursing homes, residential care facilities, and home health care settings to provide essential basic care to ill or injured persons.

A post-secondary degree is not mandatory for this occupation, but training in subjects such as medical terminology, anatomy, physiology, phlebotomy, and EKG technology can give an applicants an edge when seeking a position. Our Patient Care Technician Program combines classroom study with an externship to provide practical experience in caring for patients in a hospital or other medical setting.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports the median annual wage for patient care technicians is $24,400 per year. This healthcare career field is expected to grow at an above-average rate of 21 percent and also provides opportunities for employees to advance into higher paying positions with more responsibility.

what can you do with an associate's degree in healthcare

13. Physical Therapy Aide

Working under the supervision of a physical therapist, physical therapy aides set up equipment, help transport patients, and perform clerical tasks as needed. Their work requires a strong attention to detail as well as good interpersonal skills.

Physical therapy aides must have a high school Diploma. They receive their training on the job, but may take post-secondary classes if they plan to advance to an assistant position.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for physical therapy aides is $23,880.

14. Physical Therapy Assistant

Physical therapy assistants help patients who are recovering from illnesses or injuries manage their pain and regain a broader range of motion by administering treatments determined by a licensed physical therapist. They observe patients, help them perform specific exercises, and provide education on how to implement a treatment program at home.

Physical therapy assistants must have an associate’s degree from a physical therapy assistant program as well as the correct state licensure. Their coursework includes a combination of both classroom study and clinical experience covering topics such as anatomy, physiology, first aid, and CPR.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for physical therapy assistants is $52,160.

Radiation Therapist is a job that only requires an associate's degree

15. Radiation Therapist

Radiation therapists work in hospitals, physician’s offices, and outpatient centers to treat cancer by administering radiation treatments using linear accelerators that direct high-energy X-rays at specific cancer cells. As part of a patient’s cancer treatment team, they work closely with radiation oncologists, oncology nurses, and radiation physicists.

Radiation therapists need an associate’s degree in radiation therapy to seek employment. They must also be licensed in the state in which they wish to work. Requirements for licensure vary by state.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual pay for a radiation therapist is $77,560. This makes an associate’s degree in radiation therapy one of the highest-paying associate degrees around.

16. Radiologic and MRI Technologist

Radiologic technologists perform X-rays and other diagnostic imaging examinations. MRI technologists operate MRI scanners.

More than half of all radiologic and MRI technologists work in hospitals and are often required to work evenings, weekends, and holidays to accommodate emergency patient treatment. They are required to take extensive safety precautions to minimize their radiation exposure, including wearing protective lead aprons and other shielding devices.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual pay for radiologic and MRI technologists is $55,910.

17. Registered Nurse

In addition to working in physician’s offices, registered nurses work in nursing homes, hospitals, home healthcare services, correctional facilities, and schools. Some even serve in the military to treat ill or injured soldiers.

Entry-level registered nurse (RN) positions require an associate’s degree or a Diploma from an approved nursing program, as well as the necessary state licensure. A nurse’s education includes training in anatomy, physiology, nutrition, psychology, microbiology, and chemistry in addition to supervised clinical experience.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual pay for a RN is $65,470.

18. Respiratory Therapist

Specializing in helping patients suffering from breathing difficulties, respiratory therapists are skilled in treating people with asthma, emphysema, chronic bronchitis, cystic fibrosis, and pneumonia. They use chest physiotherapy, aerosol medications, and other methods to help patients breathe easier while keeping detailed treatment records.

An associate’s degree is required to become a respiratory therapist, with programs combining classroom lessons and hands-on practical experience in patient care. All states except Alaska also require a state licensure. Certification by the National Board for Respiratory Care (NBRC) is not required but is widely respected throughout the industry.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual pay for a respiratory therapist is $55,870.

19. Surgical Technologist

Also known as operating room technicians, surgical technologists help doctors during surgical procedures by preparing operating rooms, getting patients ready for surgery by disinfecting incision sites, arranging and sterilizing the necessary equipment, and handing instruments or supplies to the surgeon.

Surgical technologists generally have a post-secondary certificate or an associate’s degree, with coursework in areas such as anatomy, biology, medical terminology, and pharmacology. Their training also includes supervised clinical experience.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for surgical technologists is $41,790.

20. Vocational/Practical Nurse

While a registered nurse (RN) administers medication and provides advice to patients and their families regarding medical care, a licensed vocational nurse (LVN) or licensed practical nurse (LPN) provides basic nursing care such as checking blood pressure, assessing wounds, and ensuring patient comfort.

To enter this nursing specialty, degree program such as the Vocational/Practical Nurse Diploma will help you train on the study of health science, pharmacology, and nursing skills while providing opportunities for clinical experience treating a wide range of patients.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the median annual salary for an LVN or LPN is $41,540.

What Can You Do With an Associate’s Degree? Get the Job That’s Right for You

There are many careers in the healthcare field you can get without a bachelor’s degree. If you find the right fit for your skills and interests, you can enjoy a rewarding career helping others.

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