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. 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 $38,660 per year, $18.59 per hour. The industry is expected to have 64,600 new positions by 2026, up 19% from the 2016 figure of approximately 332,000 active positions.
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 $74,820 per year, $35.97 per hour. This makes it among the best-paying jobs without a college degree from a 4-year university. The industry is expected to have 40,900 new positions by 2026, up 20% from the 2016 figure of approximately 207,900 active positions.
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 $67,080 per year, $32.25 per hour. The industry is expected to have 21,100 new positions by 2026, up 17% from the 2016 figure of approximately 122,300 active positions.
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 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 44,420 per year, $19.92 per hour. The industry is expected to have 42,100 new positions by 2026, up 26% from the 2016 figure of approximately 160,300 active positions.
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 $33,610 per year, $16.16 per hour. The industry is expected to have 183,900 new positions by 2026, up 29% from the 2016 figure of approximately 634,400 active positions.
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 $40,350 per year, $19.40 per hour. The industry is expected to have 27,800 new positions by 2026, up 13% from the 2016 figure of approximately 206,300 active positions.
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 $49,210 per year, $23.66 per hour. The industry is expected to have 2,000 new positions by 2026, up 4% from the 2016 figure of approximately 47,100 active positions.
8. Medical Lab Technician
The primary responsibility 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 $52,330 per year, $25.16 per hour. The industry is expected to have 42,700 new positions by 2026, up 13% from the 2016 figure of approximately 335,700 active positions.
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 $76,820 per year, $36.93 per hour. The industry is expected to have 2,000 new positions by 2026, up 10% from the 2016 figure of approximately 20,100 active positions.
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 57,620 per year, $27.70 per hour. The industry is expected to have 13,200 new positions by 2026, up 28% from the 2016 figure of approximately 46,800 active positions.
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 $60,220 per year. Some of the highest-paid positions are offered at nursing care facilities, where occupational therapy assistants make as much as $65,930 annually.
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 applicants an edge when seeking a position.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports the median annual wage for patient care technicians is $28,530 per year, $13.72 per hour. The industry is expected to have 177,700 new positions by 2026, up 11% from the 2016 figure of approximately 1,564,300 active positions. This career field provides opportunities for employees to advance into higher paying positions with more responsibility.
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 $48,090 per year, $23.12 per hour. The industry is expected to have 42,700 new positions by 2026, up 30% from the 2016 figure of approximately 140,300 active positions.
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 $58,040 per year. Some of the highest-paid positions are offered at nursing care facilities, where physical therapist assistants make as much as $66,440 on an annual basis.
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 $82,330 per year, $39.58 per hour. This makes an associate’s degree in radiation therapy one of the highest-paying associate degrees around. The industry is expected to have 2,400 new positions by 2026, up 13% from the 2016 figure of approximately 19,100 active positions.
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 $61,240 per year, $29.44 per hour. The industry is expected to have 30,300 new positions by 2026, up 13% from the 2016 figure of approximately 241,700 active positions.
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 $71,730 per year, $34.48 per hour. The industry is expected to have 438,100 new positions by 2026, up 15% from the 2016 figure of approximately 2,955,200 active positions.
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 $60,280 per year, $28.98 per hour. The industry is expected to have 30,500 new positions by 2026, up 23% from the 2016 figure of approximately 130,200 active positions.
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 $47,300 per year, $22.74 per hour. The industry is expected to have 12,600 new positions by 2026, up 12% from the 2016 figure of approximately 107,700 active positions.
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 $46,240 per year, $22.23 per hour. The industry is expected to have 88,900 new positions by 2026, up 12% from the 2016 figure of approximately 724,500 active positions.
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.