The health care industry can be both lucrative in terms of salary potential as well as rewarding from an emotional standpoint.
Many people shy away from a career in the medical field, however, because they believe it’s not possible to be successful without a college degree.
There are many valid reasons for not pursuing higher education, whether it’s a lack of available funds, limited time and availability or simply not knowing yet what type of degree you are truly interested.
Whatever the reason, the good news is, the health care industry happens to have plenty of opportunities for ambitious professionals who do not have a college degree.
In fact, it’s entirely possible to get your foot in the door and even get started on a long-term career path that has the potential for growth and advancement.
If this is something you’re interested in, we’ve identified five specific career paths in health care that are there for the taking, regardless of degree status.
Below is a rundown on each of these in-demand opportunities to help you determine which may be the best direction for you to take.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the number of positions in the field of medical records and health information will increase by upwards of 13 percent between the years 2016 and 2026.
This field includes medical coders. With more than 27,000 new positions expected to be added during this time frame, that’s a growth rate that is well above the national average for other occupations.
Here’s a little more info on what this role typically entails.
Median Annual Salary: $39,180
Medical coders are responsible for reviewing the information that is recorded by physicians as they assist patients.
From this data, medical coders assign appropriate codes that correlate to the types of services, procedures and/or supplies that were provided to the patient.
These codes are then used to determine the amount of reimbursement that the physicians receive.
As such, accuracy is paramount.
Additionally, medical coders play a pivotal role in safeguarding the medical records of patients.
As with anyone else in the health care field, coders must strictly adhere to the compliance regulations that protect confidential information.
Coding is a job that requires a strong attention to detail, particularly since codes are always changing.
If you enjoy this type of detail-oriented work and don’t mind operating behind the scenes, a career in medical coding may be a great fit for you.
While becoming a medical coder does not require a college degree, many employers do require coders to become certified in their craft.
Keep in mind that medical coders that are certified make a decent amount more than those without certification, so even if it’s not required by your employer, it may still be worth pursuing.
If you’re looking for more of a hands-on type of role, or prefer working with people, a job as a medical assistant might be a good fit.
Not only is this job very fulfilling, but it also boasts an impressive growth rate.
The BLS projects an outlook of 29 percent growth – a rate that’s substantially higher than other occupations.
Median Annual Salary: $32,480
Medical assistants work in a health care setting, performing a variety of different administrative and basic clinical tasks.
Their day to day duties may include everything from answering incoming calls and updating medical records to measuring vital signs and assisting physicians with patients.
Similar to medical coding, the role of a medical assistant requires a high degree of accuracy as well as meticulous confidentiality.
This position is ideally suited for individuals who are highly organized, well-versed in customer service and capable of handling a wide variety of tasks on any given day.
Most medical assistants learn through on-the-job training, though some employers require that they obtain specific certifications.
If you are interested in a job in this niche, proactively seeking certification may help improve your chances of being hired.
Pharmacy technicians are employed at various pharmacies, including those located in drug stores as well as physicians’ offices, urgent care facilities and hospitals.
Most work full time, but some part-time positions may also be available.
According to the BLS, the pharmacy technician role has a projected growth rate of 12 percent between now and 2026.
This is due in large part to an increased demand in prescription drugs.
Median Annual Salary: $31,750
Pharmacy technicians assist pharmacists in a number of ways, including help filling prescriptions, recording patient information, organizing pharmacy inventory, processing insurance, accepting payment and more.
Becoming a pharmacy technician can be a great way to get valuable on-the-job experience for those who are interested in potentially pursuing a career as a pharmacist in the future.
Many others are perfectly content remaining at the level of technician throughout their entire career.
Some pharmacy technician jobs require only a high school diploma or equivalent, though most employers prefer that their technicians complete a certification program.
Nursing assistants, also sometimes called nursing aides, assist practitioners by providing basic patient care.
They are typically found in hospitals or working with residents of long-term care facilities, such as nursing homes.
This particular role is projected to achieve a growth rate of 11 percent by the year 2026.
Again, this is above average, which means job security and plenty of employment opportunities.
Median Annual Salary: $27,510
Nursing assistants deliver basic care and help patients with their day-to-day activities.
This may include anything from bathing patients and helping them dress to measuring patient vital signs to recording health concerns and communicating those concerns to the nurses.
In some cases, a nursing assistant may also be tasked with dispensing medication.
It all depends on their geographical location and level of training.
Nursing aides who are employed in long-term care facilities are typically the primary caregivers to residents.
For those with a strong desire to develop relationships with their patients, working in a nursing home may be the perfect fit.
While a nursing assistant job doesn’t typically require a formal college degree, it does require the completion of a state-approved program through which students learn the basics of nursing and participate in supervised clinical work.
They must then pass a state competency exam.
Nursing assistant programs are available a variety of places, including high schools, vocational and technical schools, community colleges and more.
Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN)
Working under the supervision of registered nurses and doctors, licensed practical nurses – or LPNs for short – deliver basic nursing care to patients.
In some states, experienced licensed practical nurses may also supervise and direct other LPNs as well as unlicensed medical staff.
With a growth rate of 12 percent, the role of LPN is another promising career path.
Median Annual Salary: $45,030
The duties of a licensed practical nurse vary based on the state in which they work.
Most LPNs are expected to perform basic nursing care for patients, including checking vital signs, changing bandages, inserting catheters, assisting patients to bathe or dress, maintaining patient records and reporting any health concerns to the doctors or nurses.
If you are interested in a career in nursing but aren’t ready or able to commit to obtaining a higher degree, becoming an LPN is a great alternative.
To become an LPN, you must earn a practical nursing diploma from an accredited program.
These programs are commonly found in community colleges and technical schools, though some high schools and even some hospitals also offer them.
Additionally, as the title indicates, LPNs must obtain their license in order to practice.
As you can see, there are plenty of options available to those who are interested in a career in the health care field but cannot (or prefer not to) pursue a degree.
Do your homework and see which option would be the best fit for you.
And remember – if the job you choose requires that you obtain an ACLS, BLS, PALS or CPR certification, ProMed has you covered.
Check out our full list of courses here.