In recent years, the need for healthcare workers has skyrocketed. Out of the 20 fastest-growing occupations in America today, more than half of them are in the healthcare industry, so it’s no surprise that many colleges are now offering a wider selection of health science degree programs than ever.
What Medical Careers Are in Demand in 2020?
You may think that you need a bachelor’s degree or higher to launch a health science career, but that’s actually not the case. There are a surprising number of high-paying medical jobs that only require two years of training. Here are a few of the most popular healthcare positions that you can attain with an associate degree.
Health Information Technician
From large public hospitals to small private clinics, health information technicians play a crucial role in the day-to-day operations of any healthcare facility. These indispensable administrative professionals specialize in the secure management of patient health information. They are responsible for making sure that patients’ medical records are kept organized, up to date and private.
Typical duties for a health information technologist include:
- Reviewing medical records for accuracy and completeness
- Organizing patient files in databases and registries
- Using computer software to assign clinical codes for insurance purposes
- Electronically recording patient information, such as medical histories and test results
- Maintaining the confidentiality of patient information at all times
Health information technology is a fulfilling career field that can help you secure a decent salary too. As of 2019, the median annual wage for medical records and health information technicians was $42,630. That’s not a bad trade-off for only two years of training! And with an estimated ten-year job growth rate of 8 percent, you can be sure that a career in health information technology will remain relevant well into the future.
Radiologic technologists, also known as radiographers or simply rad techs, are certified medical professionals who use X-ray machines and other types of high-tech equipment, like computed tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanners, to capture internal images of the human body.
Typical duties for a radiologic technologist include:
- Calibrating and maintaining imaging equipment
- Taking patients’ medical history and answering any questions they may have before a procedure begins
- Protecting patient safety by making sure that they are properly positioned, and that any body parts that do not need to be imaged are adequately shielded
- Using computerized equipment to capture clear diagnostic images
- Evaluating images and reporting findings to the attending physician
- Keeping detailed patient records
Rad techs in the United States currently bring home an average annual salary of $60,510, with technologists in certain specialties earning as much as $89,760. In addition to excellent financial compensation, the field of radiologic technology also boasts an attractive job outlook. Careers in radiologic technology are projected to grow at a faster-than-average rate of 9 percent between 2018 and 2028, yielding approximately 19,000 new positions over a ten-year period.
Physical Therapy Assistant
Physical therapy assistants, sometimes called PTAs, work under the direct supervision of licensed physical therapists. These skilled professionals work one-on-one with patients to help them regain mobility after an injury or illness. Because physical therapy assisting is one of the most in-demand medical careers around, PTAs can find employment in many different healthcare settings, including hospitals, rehab centers and assisted living facilities.
Typical duties for a physical therapy assistant include:
- Observing patients before, during and after therapy, and reporting the results of each treatment to the attending physical therapist
- Helping patients complete the different exercises included in their plan of care
- Treating patients using a variety of techniques, including massage and stretching
- Assisting patients with the use of mobility devices, such as wheelchairs and walkers
- Educating patients and their family members about at-home care
Physical therapy assistants earn a very respectable wage for the work they do. The national average salary for a physical therapy assistant is $58,790. That’s pretty impressive for a job that only requires a two-year degree! Not only are PTAs well paid, they’re also highly sought after by employers. Demand for PTAs is so strong that the job outlook in this field is projected to increase at a much-faster-than-average rate of 27 percent between 2018 and 2028.
Medical assistants serve in both an administrative and clinical capacity at hospitals, doctor’s offices and other healthcare facilities. They work alongside physicians and medical staff, and are often a patient’s first point of contact during their visit.
Typical duties for a medical assistant include:
- Recording patients’ history and personal information
- Measuring vital signs, like heart rate and blood pressure
- Assisting physicians with patient examinations
- Administering injections or medications to patients, as directed by a supervising physician
- Entering patient information into medical records
- Preparing blood samples to be sent for lab analysis
As of May 2019, the average annual wage for medical assistants is $34,800. Job outlook for this career is also favorable, with a projected increase of 19 percent between 2019 and 2029—that’s considered a much-faster-than-average growth rate for any occupation!
Sonographers use high-tech ultrasound equipment to take pictures of a patient’s internal anatomy. Images captured by a sonographer give doctors a clear view of a patient’s internal organs and soft tissues so that a quick and accurate medical diagnosis can be made. There are many subspecialties to choose from within this fascinating field, including abdominal/OB-GYN sonography, cardiac sonography and more.
Typical duties for a diagnostic medical sonographer include:
- Taking patients’ medical history and answering any questions they may have about imaging procedures
- Preparing and maintaining different types of ultrasound equipment
- Operating diagnostic imaging equipment safely and appropriately
- Analyzing sonograms and reporting findings to the attending physician
- Maintaining patients’ medical records
Sonography is one of the highest-paying occupations that only require an associate degree. As of 2018, diagnostic medical sonographers in the U.S. made an average median salary of $72,510. Affordable and minimally invasive, sonograms are one of today’s most frequently performed medical procedures. No wonder employment opportunities for registered sonographers are expected to increase steadily for years to come.
Occupational Therapy Assistant
Occupational therapy assistants, also known as OTAs, work under the direction of a licensed occupational therapist to help patients gain, or regain, the ability to do everyday activities like eating, bathing and getting around. They may also provide therapy to help injured workers overcome injuries sustained on the job.
Typical duties for an occupational therapy assistant include:
- Helping patients perform therapeutic exercises, like muscle stretches
- Working with individuals who have learning disabilities and helping them develop skills that will allow them to live more independently
- Encouraging patients to complete activities and tasks
- Teaching patients how to use assistive equipment
- Recording patients’ progress and reporting it to the attending occupational therapist
Occupational therapy assistants command a high salary relative to their level of education—more than $60,000 per year, on average. Aspiring OTAs can also look forward to a high level of job security. Demand for these in-demand professionals is anticipated to grow at a much-faster-than-average rate of 31 percent between 2018 and 2028.
Veterinary technicians, or vet techs, are credentialed professionals who provide nursing care to animals under the supervision of a licensed veterinarian. Vet techs are trained to work with many different animal species and can basically do all the same things a veterinarian can, except for diagnosing illness or injury, writing prescriptions and performing surgery.
Typical duties for a veterinary technician include:
- Observing the behavior and condition of animals
- Providing nursing care and emergency first aid to injured or recovering animals
- Bathing and grooming animals, and trimming their nails or claws
- Restraining animals during exams and procedures
- Administering anesthesia to animals and monitoring their responses
- Taking animal X-rays
- Performing laboratory tests
- Preparing animals and instruments for surgery
- Administering medications and vaccines, as prescribed by the attending veterinarian
- Collecting and recording animals’ medical histories
On average, vet techs in the U.S. bring home an annual salary of $35,320. Factor in a healthy ten-year job outlook, and you can see why becoming a veterinary technician is a great choice for animal lovers who want to have a rewarding career without having to spend too much time in school.
Admin (2020, September 1). Occupational Outlook Handbook. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/home.htm