Top Health Care Degrees for a Quick Career Change


These health care degrees could help you prepare to pursue a medical career in as little as two years.

By Jennifer Berry    

Want to get into the growing health care field, but not sure you have the time?

Did you know - that in as little as two years - you could complete the education requirements needed to pursue a variety of careers in this in-demand industry?

Keep reading to learn about five degrees that could help you prepare to pursue a medical career path in as little as two years.*

Degree #1 - Associate's in Health Information Technology

If you would like to take part in the health care industry boom, but aren't much of a people person, consider earning your associate's degree in health information technology in as little as two years.* According to the U.S. Department of Labor, this is one of the few health-related occupations with no direct hands-on patient care.

In an associate's degree program, you could take courses such as health care law, medical coding, and medical quality management, according to the College Board, an organization that administers academic aptitude tests like the SAT. You could even learn how to maintain medical records.

Click to Find the Right Health Information Technology Program.

Career details: As a medical records and health information technician, you may assemble patients' medical histories, examination results, and treatment methods. And you might be responsible for the accuracy and security of health information, according to the Department of Labor.

More good news: The health care industry continually needs information technologists to help keep things running smoothly - and to make sure patients' information is accurate and secure.

Degree #2 - Associate's in Dental Assisting

Are you looking for something to smile about? How about helping people maintain healthy gums and teeth as a dental assistant? Earning a degree in dental assisting can help you prepare for a career as a dental assistant in as little as two years.*

So what might you learn in a dental assisting program? According to the College Board, your classes might cover topics like dental assisting techniques, office practices, and oral anatomy. You might even learn how to use and sterilize dental instruments, keep dental charts, and assist a dentist with procedures.

Click to Find the Right Dental Assisting Program.

Career details: As a dental assistant, your duties might include sterilizing and preparing dental instruments, updating patients' dental records, and processing dental X-rays. You might even remove sutures or make casts of teeth from impressions, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

And the future for dental assistants appears bright. The Department of Labor projects a 36 percent job growth from 2008 to 2018 - much faster than the average for all occupations.

Degree #3 - Associate's in Nursing

Want to get into a health care career that really lets you have a direct impact in patient care? Earning your associate's in nursing, which could take as little as two years to complete, could help you get started.*

Common courses include anatomy and physiology, childbearing-family nursing, and nutrition, according to the College Board.

Click to Find the Right Nursing Program.

Career details: As a registered nurse, you could treat patients, perform diagnostic tests, and administer medications. You'll likely educate patients about various medical conditions and provide emotional support, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

As for job growth, the Department of Labor projects 22 percent job growth for registered nurses between 2008 and 2018.

Degree #4 - Associate's in Physical Therapy Assistance

Jim Rohn, a famous business philosopher, said, "Take care of your body. It's the only place you have to live." Physical therapists and their assistants take this one step further - they help others heal and strengthen their bodies. If this sounds like a rewarding career to you, consider pursing an associate's degree in physical therapy assistance, which could be completed in as little as two years.*

Classes usually include topics like kinesiology, rehabilitation procedures, and therapeutic exercise, according to the College Board. And you could even get hands-on practice with the techniques used by physical therapists.

Click to Find the Right Physical Therapy Assistance Program.

Career details: As a physical therapist assistant, you may be responsible for gathering and preparing therapy equipment, filling out insurance forms, and assisting in patient transport. You may also work with patients to provide exercise instruction or perform ultrasounds, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

This career could be very rewarding if you're a natural nurturer. According to a 2011 article from U.S. News & World Report Money, "physical therapist assistants are an integral part of a healing team." Whether you're helping a stroke victim learn to walk again, working with a patient recovering from surgery, or helping ease pain, you'll most likely be making a difference in someone's life.

Degree #5 - Associate's in Medical Assisting

Are you eager to interact with patients, but don't want to spend the time and money on medical school? In as little as two years, you could earn your associate's degree in medical assisting to help you prepare to pursue a medical assisting career.*

Courses could potentially prepare you for both the administrative and clinical aspects of medical assisting like medical software applications, diagnostic procedures, and pharmacology, according to the College Board.

Click to Find the Right Medical Assisting Program.

Career details: As a medical assistant, your administrative duties could include updating patients' records, filling out insurance forms, and scheduling appointments. And clinical roles might consist of recording vital signs, assisting physicians during examinations, and drawing blood, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

And the Department of Labor says prospective medical assistants should have excellent job prospects from 2008 to 2018: "Medical assistants are projected to account for a very large number of new jobs."

*Time to completion will vary by factors such as school, program, student's level of commitment and course load, and more.

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