Five degrees for people who don't like school

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Check out these hot degree programs that were built for the school-averse.

By Danielle Blundell

Are you eager to further your education but dread that thought of spending several years in school reading textbooks or solving equations? Maybe you're looking to switch jobs but worry about the time commitment involved in starting something new.

Either way, you know you need to go to school - no matter how sleep-inducing sitting in a classroom might be. The good news? Some associate's degree programs could offer a more dynamic, hands-on experience and could be completed in as little as two years.

Sound interesting? Keep reading to learn about five degree programs that are short on years, big on interaction, and smart for careers.

Degree #1: Associate's in Medical Assisting

Are you interested in health care but don't want to spend the better part of a decade with your eyes glazed over in med school? Consider earning an associate's in medical assisting, which could prep you to work alongside doctors and might be earned in as little as two years.

The best part? You'll be active. "Medical assisting programs tend to be hands-on," says Paula Kosin, career consultant at Career Vision, an Illinois-based career counseling service for students and adults. "They keep students for whom school is a challenge engaged with laboratory work as opposed to just reading books."

What You Might Study: A medical assisting program might teach you how to perform procedures - like administering shots - while you get a handle on doctor speak, says the College Board. You might also take classes like clinical procedures for medical assisting, medical terminology, medical software applications, and medical office administration and insurance.

Click to Find the Right Medical Assisting Program.

Possible Career: An associate's in medical assisting is one way to pursue a career as medical assistant, although in most states there are no formal educational requirements, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. Your duties might include recording patient's information, scheduling appointments, preparing blood for lab tests, and helping the doctor with patient examinations, says the Department of Labor.


Degree #2: Associate's in Accounting

If you're good with numbers, but can't bear the thought of spending four years pursuing a bachelor's degree, an associate's degree in accounting might be a shorter option that you can wrap your head around.

"We all know of accountants and CPAs," says Kosin. "But there are other practical applications of math that majoring in accounting can lead to - like bookkeeping." Unlike the multiple years it could take to pursue a CPA, an associate's in accounting might take as little as two years of full-time study.

What You Might Study: According to the College Board, students working toward a degree in accounting could learn how to analyze balance sheets and prepare tax filings while taking classes like cost accounting, auditing, and business law.

Click to Find the Right Accounting Program.

Possible Career: If you're interested in pursuing a career in bookkeeping, you should know that some employers might prefer those with postsecondary education, says the U.S. Department of Labor. In fact, in 2009, 25 percent of bookkeeping, accounting and auditing clerks had an associate's or higher degree level.

As a bookkeeper, you could produce financial records for organizations, or receive and record cash, checks, and vouchers coming to a company, according to the Department of Labor. You might also use accounting software, notes the Department, to post financial transactions.


Degree #3: Associate's in Paralegal Studies

Are you interested in law, but daunted by the thought of burning the midnight oil studying every night in law school? Think about enrolling in an associate's paralegal studies program.

Such a program might give the educationally phobic the best of both worlds. "Paralegal studies provides organized people who like to read and are interested in law with an opportunity to get into the legal arena faster than law school," says Kosin.

What You Might Study: In a paralegal studies program, you might take courses like civil procedure, criminal law and procedure, ethics, and litigation, according to the College Board. Legal research and writing could be another common course, too, so you'll learn your way around a law library and learn to use government documents.

Click to Find the Right Paralegal Studies Program.

Possible Career: Earning an associate's degree in paralegal studies is one of several paths available to you for pursuing a career as a paralegal or legal assistant, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. As a paralegal, you might help lawyers prepare for trials, research laws, draft documents, and investigate the facts of a case.


Degree #4: Associate's in Dental Assisting

Want to help people maintain their healthy smiles but not sure you want to follow the long educational path toward dentistry? Earning a degree in dental assisting might be a good alternative.

"Dental assisting is typically a one-year certificate or two-year associate's program that you can build on," says Kosin. While completion times will vary from student to student, this program is also ideal for people who loathe the lecture hall because it can often be hands-on. Kosin says that internships offered by some programs can give students a rich experience of working in a dental office before graduating.

What You Might Study: As a dental assisting student, the College Board notes that you could learn how to sterilize equipment and take x-rays and impressions in a dental assisting techniques class. You might also take an oral anatomy course and supplement your clinical coursework with classes like dental office management.

Click to Find the Right Dental Assisting Program.

Possible Career: If you're interested in pursuing a career as a dental assistant, some states might require you to pass a state exam and graduate from an accredited program, which could lead to an associate's degree, notes the U.S. Department of Labor. If you land a job in the field, you could be tackling a variety of tasks - from recording dental treatments and taking payments to processing x-rays and handing dentists tools during procedures.


Degree #5: Associate's in Physical Therapy Assistance

If you're an active individual who likes to always be on the go, chances are, pursuing an associate's degree in physical therapy assistance will be right up your alley. Why? Dashing from class to clinic might make your time spent in school feel like it's flying by.

"A PT assistant program is literally hands-on, where you're learning the exercises that help rehabilitate injured patients," says Kosin. She notes that this curriculum keeps students who don't like school engaged with a physical component.

What You Might Study: You will likely learn how to assist physical therapists as they help people recover from injuries, notes the College Board. You could study courses like motor development, rehabilitation procedures, kinesiology, and therapeutic exercise.

Click to Find the Right Physical Therapy Assistance Program.

Possible Career: With an associate's in physical therapy assistance, you might be prepared to pursue a career as a physical therapist's assistant. Who would have thought?

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, most states require these workers to have an associate's degree from one of many accredited physical therapist programs and to be licensed. As a physical therapy assistant, you might work with a physical therapist to help people cope with pain after injuries or surgery. Your daily grind, notes the Department of Labor, could involve observing patients during therapy and helping them do specific exercises using a variety of techniques and equipment.

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