Top 5 In-Demand Allied Health Jobs That Don't Require a College Degree
Are you contemplating a career in the medical field but don't have the time or money to invest in a 2 or 4-year college degree? If so, you have come to the right place.
We've put together a list of the top allied health careers that are both in-demand and that don't require a college degree. Not to mention, many of them have programs that can be completed online!
What is Allied Health?
An allied health professional is a broad term for medical professionals outside of the commonly known direct patient care professionals such as nurses, physician assistants, medical doctors, pharmacists, and pharmacy technicians.
Working in an allied healthcare career gives you the opportunity to work peripherally alongside many other healthcare professionals to provide science-based care to patients in many different specialties.
Most allied healthcare careers do not require a college degree. However, there is a certain amount of education and training required. States have their own educational and certification requirements that vary.
5 In-Demand Allied Health Careers That Don't Require a College Degree
#1. Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) -- $30k per year, 4-12 week programs
A CNA is a healthcare professional who works alongside registered nurses and other healthcare professionals to provide quality of life care to patients. You will find CNA's working in hospitals, assisted living facilities and residential settings.
What Does a CNA Do?
- Checking and recording a patient's vital signs
- Assisting patients with activities of daily living such as toileting, bathing, dressing and eating
- Helping patients ambulate
- Turning or repositioning patients in bed
- Documenting patient activities
- Cleaning rooms and changing linens
Certification requirements vary by state; however, CNAs must attend an accredited CNA program to be eligible for certification. Upon completion of the CNA program, students must sit for their state's CNA certification exam. Tests usually include a written portion as well as a skills portion.
Most CNA programs can be completed in 4 to 12 weeks. But, during the COVID-19 pandemic there are temporary nurse aide training programs that can be completed in as little as 8 hours to work in long-term care facilities.
CNA Program Cost
CNA programs usually cost anywhere between $1,300 and $2,000, including books and other school supplies.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the 2020 median pay for CNAs was $30,830 per year $14.82 per hour.
Are CNAs In-Demand? Yes! The CNA profession is expected to grow by 8% between 2019 and 2029.
For more information, see our career guide on becoming a certified nursing assistant.
#2. Medical Billing and Coding Specialist -- $44k per year, 4-15 month programs
A medical billing and coding specialist is a non-clinical office or remote work-from-home position that works as a liaison between healthcare providers and insurance companies. This job involves a lot of behind-the-scenes work with many hours working at a computer.
What Does a Medical Biller and Coder Do?
- Creating and submitting invoices and claims for payment
- Coding patient services, procedures, treatments and diagnosis for insurance purposes
- Tracking and following up with payments from insurance companies and patients
Where Do Medical Billers and Coders Work?
You can find medical billers and coders working in nearly every type of healthcare facility, including physician offices, hospitals, outpatient clinics, surgery centers, and other healthcare systems. Many medical billers and coders can also work remotely from home.
Medical Biller and Coder Requirements and Certification
Certification is not required at the state or national level to work in this position. However, many employers may prefer a certified candidate over one who is not certified. Therefore, it may be worthwhile to become certified by passing one of the medical billing and coding certification exams from the American Academy of Professional Coders (AAPC):
- Certified Professional Coder (CPC)
- Certified Professional Coder-Hospital (CPC-H)
- Certified Professional Coder-Payer (CPC-P)
Medical Billing and Coding Programs
Medical billing and coding programs vary in length from 4 to 15 months, depending on what field specialties you wish to work in as well as how fast you can complete your coursework.
Medical Billing and Coding Program Cost
Most local trade school programs generally range in price from $1,000-$2,500. You can also consider attending an associate's degree program from a junior college for around $2,000 to $6,000 a year.
Medical Billing and Coding Salary
According to the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics,the average median salary in 2020 for medical records and health information specialists was $44,090 per year, or $21.20 per hour.
The profession is expected to grow by 8% between 2019 and 2029.
For more information, see our career guide on medical billing and coding.
#3. Medical Assistant (MA) -- $36k per year, 3-12 month programs
A medical assistant is a healthcare assistant that provides support to physicians and other healthcare professionals in a clinical setting. You can find medical assistants working in doctors' offices, hospitals, outpatient care centers, clinics, assisted living facilities and diagnostic laboratories.
What Does a Medical Assistant Do?
Medical assistants perform a wide range of clerical jobs such as scheduling appointments, maintaining patient records, answering phones, and performing other administrative tasks. They also perform many clinical duties as well, including obtaining vital signs, documenting medical histories, assisting physicians during patient visits and other clinical tasks.
Medical Assistant Programs
MA programs can be completed in as little as 6 weeks for an accelerated program; however, most MA programs are at least 3 months to 1 year.
Additionally, some MA programs can be completed at a junior college where you can also earn an associate’s degree. To become a medical assistant you must, at a minimum, have your high school diploma or GED before applying to a program.
Medical Assistant Program Cost
The cost of MA school ranges from $1,200- $4,000 from a training school, to $2,500- $9,500 from a community college.
Medical Assistant Salary
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Medical assistants make a median average of $35,850 per year or $17.23 per hour as of 2020.
Medical Assistant Career Outlook
The job outlook from 2019-2029 is very promising, with a projected growth of 19%.
Medical Assistant Certification
Unlike many other healthcare professions, national certification is not necessarily required in many states to become an MA. However, you must research your state's requirements to be able to practice as an MA legally.
It is also important to remember that many employers may prefer candidates who have an MA certification, even if the state does not require it. In that case, it may be in your best interest to take the Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) exam. To be eligible to the CMA exam, you must have graduated from an MA program that is accredited by either the:
For more information, see our career guide series on becoming a medical assistant.
#4. MRI Technologist -- $64k per year, 6 month to 2 year programs
An MRI technologist is a type of radiology career where the person works with a diagnostic device called a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanner in various healthcare facilities such as hospitals and outpatient diagnostic clinics.
What Does an MRI Tech Do?
Duties of MRI technologists include injecting patients with contrast dyes to visualize organs and other body parts on a scanner. The purpose of these procedures is to produce an image that medical doctors can use to diagnose diseases and other medical conditions.
MRI Tech Requirements and Certifications
The minimum education to apply for an MRI technologist program is a high school diploma or GED. As with other allied healthcare professionals, educational requirements vary from state to state. However, most MRI technologists enter the profession after earning an associate's degree in MRI technology. Some states also allow students to complete their requirements through an accredited certificate program.
It is important to note that to be eligible to sit for certification by the American Registry of Radiology Technologists (ARRT), MRI students must complete an accredited MRI certificate program from a community college. Certification requirements vary by state, so it is essential to research your state's requirements.
MRI Tech Programs
Students should expect their MRI program to take 6 months to 2 years to complete.
MRI Tech Program cost
A 6 to 12 month MRI certificate program usually costs between $2,500 and $9,000, and a two-year associate's degree usually costs anywhere between $4,000 and $10,000 per year depending on the program.
MRI Tech Salary
According to the US Bureau Of Labor Statistics, in 2020, MRI technologists earned a median income of $63,710 per year or $30.63 per hour.
MRI Tech Career outlook
According to the the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the overall employment of MRI technologists is projected to grow by 7% from 2019-2029, this is faster than the average for all other occupations.
#5. Surgical Technologist -- $50k per year, 1-2 year programs
A surgical technologist, also known as an operating room technician or scrub tech, works as a vital part of a surgical team in the operating room.
What Does a Surgical Technologist Do?
- Preparing patients for surgery
- Preparing and maintaining a sterile surgical field to prevent infections
- Having in-depth knowledge of the sutures, tools and other instruments needed to perform surgery
- Providing sterile instruments to a surgeon during a procedure
- Helping the rest of the surgical team with various tasks during surgery
- Counting instruments and surgical supplies at the end of procedures (to make sure they were not accidentally left in a patient)
Surgical Technologist Requirements and Certifications
Some states require additional certification to practice as a surgical tech. But as with most allied healthcare careers, even if your state doesn't specifically require certification, many employers will prefer certified candidates. Your surgical technology program must be accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) or the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES) to be eligible to take the Certified Surgical Technologist (CST) exam after graduation.
Where Do Surgical Technologists Work?
Surgical technologists work anywhere there is an operating room including hospitals and outpatient surgery centers.
Surgical Technologist Program length
Depending on what type of surgical tech school you wish to attend (certificate, diploma, or associate’s degree), programs generally take between 1 to 2 years to complete.
Surgical Technologist Program Cost
Costs range anywhere from $5,000 for a certificate program to $15,000 or more for a public college program. For acceptance into a surgical tech program, candidates must have a minimum of a high school degree or GED.
Surgical Technologist Salary
According to the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median pay for a surgical technologist in 2020 is $49,710 per year or $23.90. Interesting fact, surgical technologists can get paid to travel to work and earn much higher income as a traveling surgical technologist.
Surgical Technologist Career outlook
The need for surgical technologists is projected to grow by 7% between 2019 and 2029.
Pros of Starting an Entry-level Allied Healthcare Career
#1. Decide if a career in healthcare is right for you
Before spending tens of thousands of dollars and several years in nursing school, it may make sense to test the waters in another healthcare field first. Every year there are thousands of nursing students who end up dropping out because they realized too late that they didn't want to become a nurse after all. Becoming a nurse isn't right for everybody, and starting in a field that requires less of your time and money might make a lot of sense.
#2. Network with other medical professionals
Many allied healthcare professionals have an opportunity to make helpful contacts that can later help them further their careers.
For example, certified nursing assistants (CNA's) work alongside nurses in many different settings: the emergency department, med-surg floors, the ICU, outpatient surgery, in-patient surgery, and labor and delivery. After gaining a year or two of experience, many CNAs go back to nursing school while still working and achieve an ADN or BSN. When they graduate and pass the NCLEX, they already have references for employment and can even go back to the same workplace as an RN.
#3. Gain exposure to other healthcare occupations
Starting out as an allied healthcare professional gives you a bird’s eye view into other medical careers. For example, if you work in a hospital, you will gain exposure to nurses, doctors, pharmacists, physical therapists, social workers, medical billers, and nutritionists, to name a few.
#4. Start earning a good income quickly
Most allied healthcare positions offer quicker training programs so you can get to work and start earning money faster.
#5. Better work/life balance while attending school or caring for a family
Having an income while working in a stable healthcare environment may provide a better work/life balance than other careers outside of the healthcare industry, especially if you have a family or are attending a university in your off-hours.
#6. Tuition assistance from a healthcare employer
Many allied healthcare employers offer benefits, which might include tuition assistance or reimbursement. You may be able to save money on education while working in the healthcare field.
Resources To Help Pay For Allied Health Programs
- Consumer Finance Protection Bureau
- This site has resources to help students who are preparing for college, attending school, or paying off student loan debt. They have a great section dedicated to everything you need to know about repaying student loans.
- Rural Health Information Hub
- The Rural Health Information Hub has valuable information regarding scholarships, loans and loan repayment information for health professionals living in rural areas.
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