Are you wanting to get into healthcare, but do not want to spend a lot of time and money before starting? You might be pleasantly surprised to find out that you do not necessarily need a four-year degree (or higher) to kick start a healthcare career. Whether you are finishing up high school, or wanting to change careers, numerous allied health professions only require an associate’s degree or even less than a year of post secondary education. Some positions you can even start without anything more than your high school diploma or GED!
Is this a good time to get into the healthcare industry?
The News Release also stated that between 2012 and 2022, four major occupational groups were forecasted to experience more than 20% employment growth (the average for all occupations is 10.8%). Among these groups were health-care support occupations (with a projected growth of 28.1%) and healthcare practitioners and technical occupations (21.5% growth).
What courses should I take in high school?
If you are interested in a healthcare career, it is a good idea to take high school classes in biology, chemistry, mathematics and computer skills. If you are no longer in high school, not having these courses (i.e. specific science courses) does not disqualify you from getting your foot in the ‘healthcare career door.’ Depending on which position/post secondary program you first apply for, you could complete them as a distance learner or you may not need them at all.
Also look into specific courses and electives that your high school might offer that are linked to your career aspirations. For example, anatomy & physiology and physics are great educational assets if you are thinking of becoming an ultrasound tech or another medical imaging professional.
What else can I do to prepare?
Whether you are still in high school, just graduated or are changing careers, volunteering for a relevant program or place (like a hospital, clinic, doctor’s office or community service agency) can be extremely helpful in building your resume and impressing employers.
What healthcare careers are open to me without a four-year degree?
Numerous healthcare careers do not require a Bachelor’s degree. Of course requirements vary by jurisdiction and employer. But generally speaking, the following positions are examples of healthcare professions that only require an Associate’s degree, a certificate or less education (i.e. 2 years, 1 year or less of postsecondary training):
- Ultrasound Technician & Diagnostic Medical Sonographer
- Cardiovascular Technician/Technologist
- Radiologic Technologist
- Pharmacy Technician
- Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN)
- Medical Biller and Coder
- Physical Therapist Assistant
- Medical Assistant
- Surgical Technologist
- Emergency Medical Technician
- Massage Therapist
- Dental Assistant
- Dental Hygienist
- Medical Transcriptionist
Note: Some of these positions require licensure.
Can I start an entry-level healthcare career with just a high school/GED diploma?
Again it depends on jurisdiction and employer, but generally speaking, examples of careers you can start with just high school or your GED include:
- Personal Care Aide
- Home Health Aide
- Physical Therapist Aide
- Medical Secretary
- Pharmacy Aide
- Some entry-level medical assistant positions are open to high school grads.
Is there room to advance?
Yes! That is the exciting aspect about healthcare. There are numerous career paths allowing you to advance with further education and/or experience. For example, if you enjoy working as a home health aide, you may wish to pursue studies to become an LPN. On that note, numerous schools offer the opportunities for LPNs to upgrade their education in order to become RNs (Registered Nurses). Or if you enjoy your experiences as a pharmacy technician it may plant the seed to work towards earning your Doctor of Pharmacy degree to become a pharmacist. These are just some of many examples.
There are many natural transitions; but working in an entry-level healthcare position can also help you learn about other types of careers, which will help you make decisions about future employment and educational degree plans.
Can I keep working while upgrading my skills and expertise?
Often times you can further your education while maintaining your “day job”. More and more colleges and universities are catering to part time and distant learners to accommodate busy lifestyles. Some online programs do exist (i.e. for medical transcription, medical billing and coding, and more specialties). For healthcare programs that involve some form of patient care, technical expertise and/or clinical duties, they may not offer an online option as they prefer you to gain hands-on-experience in the class and lab. But there are often opportunities to enroll in part time programs (i.e. evening and weekend tracks).