Five Health Care Careers That Don’t Require a College Degree

The health care and social service industry will produce 28 percent of the new jobs created through 2020, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. The growth in healthcare is fueled by several factors, several factors, including the increase in the number of aging patients.

The large baby-boomer population is expected to live longer than previous generations, and their extended life spans will necessitate medical care for a longer duration. What’s more, the senior population is more susceptible to injuries related to poor balance, such as falls and broken hips. Vision and hearing problems are also increased among this age group. And, topping it all off, health conditions like Alzheimer’s disease, forgetfulness, or other medical problems requiring part- or full-time companionship contribute to the demand for health care careers.

But a burgeoning senior population is just one factor in the explosion of health care jobs. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), over 33 percent of American adults -- and 17 percent of children and adolescents -- are obese. Obesity increases the risk of developing health problems like Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and certain cancers. As a result of increasing obesity rates, the CDC estimates the annual medical costs of the disease in America to be $147 billion, with medical costs for obese individuals about $1,429 more per year than the costs for people of a healthy weight.

The implementation of the Affordable Care Act is also projected to increase the number of health care jobs in the country. Millions of previously uninsured Americans now have the ability to obtain medical care, and many young adults can continue to be included on their parents’ insurance plans. Combined with the fact that the act is also expected to increase preventive health services, there will be a great many jobs created in the near future.

The rapidly-expanding health care industry requires a variety of workers, ranging from doctors and nurses to technicians and aides. Somewhat surprisingly, the educational requirements for these occupations are just as diverse. Some positions require a medical degree, in addition to years of residencies and internships. However, for those who want to forego such stringent educational prerequisites, there are ways to enter the health care industry without spending four to eight years at college. Here are a few health care jobs that do not require college degrees.

5 Home Health and Personal Care Aides – Mean Annual Salary:  Home Health Aides $21,830; Personal Care Aides $20,830

Home health and personal care aides assist patients who are elderly, disabled, or ill. They perform such tasks as coordinating the patient’s schedule, planning appointments, and arranging transportation to doctors’ offices. Home health aides may also check the patient’s pulse and temperature, or change dressings. Personal care aides, otherwise known as companions, caregivers, or personal attendants, do not perform medical services. However, they assist patients with bathing or getting dressing, and perform light housekeeping chores.

While there are no formal requirements to become a home health or personal care aide, the DOL reports that most aides have a high school diploma, and those employed by hospice or certified home health agencies must get formal training through elder care programs, vocational schools, or community colleges.

4 Pharmacy Technicians – Mean Annual Salary: $30,430

Pharmacy technicians are employed in hospitals and in pharmacies in grocery and drug stores. Under the supervision of a pharmacist, they obtain the information needed to fill prescriptions, count tablets, measure the appropriate quantities of other prescription medications, and prepare ointments and other compounds and mixtures.

In addition, they label and package prescriptions, handle payments, and process insurance claims. Pharmacy technicians who work in hospitals may also deliver medication to inpatients. Most pharmacy technicians receive on-the-job training, but some earn a 1-year certificate from a vocational school or community college.

3 Dispensing Opticians – Mean Annual Salary:  $35,010

Dispensing opticians fill optical prescriptions and help customers choose eyeglass frames or contacts. They may work in optometrists’ or physicians’ offices, health and personal care stores, or department and other types of general merchandise stores. They process prescriptions written by ophthalmologists and optometrists and take such measurements as the thickness or width of a customer’s cornea.

They also adjust, repair, or refit eyeglass frames and show customers how to care for their products, in addition to maintaining records of sales, prescriptions and inventory. In small shops, they may also grind lenses and insert them into frames. Most opticians go through formal on-the-job training programs; however, some opt for a one-year certificate or a two-year associate degree.

2 Dental Assistants – Mean Annual Salary: $35,080

Dental assistants work with dentists to care for patients. They perform a variety of duties, including sterilizing dental instruments, and preparing both the patients and the work area for dental procedures. During the treatment process, they hand instruments to the dentist and suction the patient’s mouth. Dental assistants also process x-rays, schedule appointments, handle billing and payments, and maintain records of dental treatments.

According to the DOL, in some states there are no formal educational requirements. However, in other states, dental assistants must take a 1-year program leading to a certificate or diploma. In addition, some dental assistants pursue an associate degree.

1 Medical Records and Health Information Technicians – Mean Annual Salary: $36,770

Medical records and health information technicians review, classify, and maintain patient information. They examine patient records to ensure that the information is complete, up-to-date, and accurate. This information includes the patients’ medical history, examinations, test results, and treatments. Medical records and health information technicians also categorize and code the information for the purposes of insurance reimbursements, and to track medical treatment histories.

They are also responsible for storing and retrieving patient data, and maintaining the confidentially of the information. Medical records and health information technicians may work in hospitals, physicians’ offices, and nursing care facilities. The educational requirement for this position is a post-secondary certificate, although some technicians obtain an associate degree.

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