Making good money can be painfully difficult without an education beyond high school. Still, the cost of higher education can make some feel like it’s impossible to get the education needed to move forward. The good news is that you don’t need to spend four years sitting in a classroom to start a great career. Accelerated education in the growing healthcare field is a great path to a stable career.
Why is the healthcare field growing so quickly?
The current medical workforce is rapidly approaching retirement age, meaning jobs in the field are opening every day. What’s more, as the baby boomer generation ages and the elderly population grows, we’ll need more healthcare professionals to care for them. Healthcare occupations are expected to grow 19 percent from 2014 to 2024, and many only require on-the-job training, a post-secondary certificate or an associate’s degree.
1. Dental Assistant
Dental assistants instruct patients in proper oral hygiene, processing x-rays and help dentists during procedures. Not only do they work in a clinical capacity, but dental assistants are often tasked with keeping records of dental treatments, scheduling patient appointments and working with them on billing and payment.
The Bureau of labor statistics reports an annual wage of $36,940 for dental assistants.
Becoming a Dental Assistant
Education required: certificate or diploma through a community college, vocational school, technical institute or dental school. Part-time and accelerated programs are available at many schools.
Time commitment: Less than 15 months
2. Dental Hygienist
A dental hygienist is responsible for cleaning and examining patients’ teeth using a variety of tools, including x-rays, ultrasonic tools and even lasers. They are also responsible for inspecting patients for signs of oral diseases like gingivitis, and instructing them in oral health practices.
Dental hygienists earn an average of $72,910 per year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Becoming a Dental Hygienist
Education required: Associate’s degree in dental hygiene from a community college, vocational school or university. Bachelor’s degrees are sometimes available but are uncommon.
Time commitment: Typically about 3 years
3. Medical assistant
Medical assistants are tasked with duties like recording patient vital signs, preparing blood samples for laboratory tests and helping the physician with patient examinations. They are also responsible for recording patient history and personal information, so it is crucial that they maintain patient confidentiality.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, medical assistants earn an average of $31,540 per year, with the highest 10 percent earning more than $45,310.
Becoming a Medical Assistant
Education required: Most medical assistants graduate from post-secondary education programs at community colleges, career training schools and technical schools. There are no formal requirements for medical assisting education in most states, but employers are more likely to hire those who have completed one of these programs.
Time commitment: Less than 15 months
4. Medical Billing and Coding Specialist
Medical billing and coding specialists work to organize and manage health information and ensure the accuracy of the medical data. Using codes to bill insurance providers is only one of many responsibilities in this fast-growing career. Daily tasks include reading and analyzing patient records and managing patient confidentiality and information security.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics states that medical billing and coding specialists earn an average of $42,750 per year, with the highest 10 percent earning more than $62,840.
Becoming a Medical Billing and Coding Specialist
Education required: An associate’s degree or certificate in health information technology is required for most careers in medical billing and coding.
Time commitment: 2 years
5. Home Health Aide
Home health aides care for people who are physically, mentally or emotionally ill, or injured people who want medical care in their own home. They often help people who need assistance with daily tasks like bathing and dressing, administering medication and checking vital signs.
The average home health aide makes $22,600 per year, according to the Bureau of Labor statistics.
Becoming a Home Health Aide
Education required: There are no formal educational requirements to become a home health aide, however, most have a high school diploma. Some education programs may be available at community colleges or vocational schools.
Time commitment: 0-1 year
6. Massage Therapist
Massage therapists work to reduce pain, relieve stress and heal injuries by manipulating muscles and other soft tissues of the body. They consult with their clients about medical histories, symptoms and desired results before deciding the best method of achieving their clients’ wellness goals. They also educate clients about stretching, strengthening and overall relaxation.
The average salary for a massage therapist in the US is $39,860, with the top ten percent earning over $74,870 per year. Often, massage therapists receive tips for their services.
Becoming a Massage Therapist
Education required: Though education needs vary greatly by state, most require a license or certification from an accredited community college, career training school or massage school.
Time commitment: Most programs require at least 500 hours of study, while others require 1000 or more hours.
7. Nursing Assistant
As a nursing assistant, you would be responsible for helping patients, often in nursing homes or hospitals, in changing bandages, collecting bodily fluids for testing and helping them during meal times. Nursing assistants are also charged with documenting patient behaviors, and ensuring a sanitary environment for patients.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports the median salary for a nursing assistant is $25,100.
Becoming a Nursing Assistant
Education required: Nursing assistants complete educational programs that vary by state, and usually receive a certificate from a high school, community college, vocational school, hospital or nursing home.
Time commitment: Less than 6 months