5 Healthcare Jobs That Don't Require a Four-Year Degree

Slaving over college textbooks for years isn't for everyone, but that doesn't mean you need to abandon your dreams of working in healthcare. This booming sector has many positions that don't require a four-year degree. If family, finances, or a lack of motivation are keeping you from college, one of these great healthcare professions may be for you.

1. Registered Nurse: Provide Physical and Emotional Care

While many registered nurses complete a four-year bachelor's degree, this is just one of three ways to get your foot in the door. Some hospitals offer three-year nursing programs to high school graduates. Alternatively, you could complete an associate's degree in nursing in just two years at a community college. Once you've got your piece of paper, you'll need to pass the National Council Licensure Examination before you can start working the wards.

Nurses are so revered by the community that they've topped the Gallup poll of the most respected American professionals every year since 2002. They provide patients and their families with healthcare, advice on medical matters, and emotional support during hard times. They also play a vital role in educating members of the public about healthcare issues.

For their efforts, registered nurses earn an average of $65,470 a year. They're predicted to enjoy faster than average job growth of 19 percent between 2012 and 2022 as the United States deals with an aging population with more chronic conditions.

2. Phlebotomist: Draw Patient's Blood

Man sitting in chair donating blood

Image via Flickr by Fort Meade

Phlebotomists have one of the creepiest jobs in the healthcare field, but if you're not squeamish around blood, you'll find this profession very rewarding. Phlebotomists are responsible for drawing blood specimens from patients for tests, transfusions, donations, or research. As one in five people suffer from trypanophobia, or a fear of injections, phlebotomists must have great people skills and a calming demeanor.

Phlebotomists must attend a college or technical school to complete a phlebotomy certification course, but these qualifications typically take less than a year to obtain. Some facilities may provide this training on the job as well. During training, aspiring phlebotomists learn correct blood drawing techniques, how to interact with patients, how to dispose of equipment, and more. Classroom lessons are balanced with hands-on training at a hospital or another medical facility. 

After gaining certification, phlebotomists earn an average of $29,730 a year. The future looks bright, with a much faster-than-average job growth of 27 percent forecast between 2012 and 2022.

3. Medical Secretary: Healthcare Administrators on the Rise

Forget what you think you know about secretaries. Those who work in the medical field are responsible for much more than typing documents and making coffee. These administrative professionals keep hospitals, doctor's surgeries, and other healthcare facilities ticking. They're often the first point of contact for patients, so they need to be personable, and as they manage medical records and appointments, their organizational skills have to be first class.

Medical secretaries typically come to the position with a diploma, certificate, or associate's degree obtained on a college campus or online. Diploma and certificate programs last two or three semesters while a medical secretary associate's program usually takes two years to complete. All courses teach students essential skills like medical terminology, transcription skills, billing and coding, and computer literacy. 

The median salary of medical secretaries is comparable to other secretaries at $31,350. However, these professionals are much more in demand. A massive 36 percent job growth is expected between 2012 and 2022, compared to just 12 percent for most secretaries.

4. Surgical Technologist: Lucrative Career Assisting in Surgeries

Surgeons in operating room

Image via Flickr by Zdenko Zivkovic

If you want to earn a decent amount of money without spending a lot of time in a classroom, a career as a surgical technologist may be for you. These healthcare professionals earn a median annual wage of $41,790, significantly more than most professions that don't require an associate's or bachelor's degree.

Surgical technologists work in the operating rooms of public and private hospitals. They spend their days preparing these rooms for surgery, arranging surgical equipment, and assisting doctors during these exciting operations. Given the nature of the work, it's not for the faint of heart, but it can be a rewarding profession for anyone with a cast-iron stomach.

Studying for a diploma or certificate is the quickest way to become a surgical technologist, as these courses can be completed in less than a year. While it's not required, you may find it easier to land a job if you take the extra time to complete a two-year associate's degree program. 

With advances in medical technology, surgery has become the preferred choice for treating a variety of injuries and illnesses. Because of this, job growth for surgical technologists is expected to sit at 30 percent between 2012 and 2022.

5. Ultrasound Technician: Show New Moms Their Bubs and More

You won't be able to become an obstetrician or midwife without at least a four-year degree, but that doesn't mean you can't work closely with expectant moms. Ultrasound technicians operate the sonography machine that allows parents-to-be to get their first glimpse of Junior. While ultrasounds are most commonly used during pregnancy, ultrasound technicians also use the technology to help doctors diagnose a range of other health complaints.

Ultrasound technicians most commonly hold a two-year associate's degree, but if you don't want to wait that long, you might enroll in a one-year certificate program through a community college, technical school, or university. In addition, technicians must complete clinical education at a designated hospital to gain American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography certification. While ultrasound technicians can work without this certification, it may be required or preferred by some employers in the healthcare sector.

Ultrasound technicians are handsomely compensated for their work, with median salaries sitting at $66,410. These professionals are also in demand, with job growth of 46 percent expected between 2012 and 2022.

Working in healthcare doesn't have to come after years in a classroom. Pursuing one of these great professions will allow you to work in this exciting industry without a four-year degree.

Contributed to jobs.net by Kim Hale

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