How to Land a $60K Health Care Job with a Two-Year Degree


School not your thing? Check out these high-paying health care careers - no bachelor's degree required.

By Sarah Tann    

Making money is important. Being able to make money with only a two-year degree or less...well, that's just icing on the cake.

Want a piece of this action? There's one prime industry you should be taking a closer look at: health care.

Not only is the health care field comprised of that bring home the bacon, but the U.S. Department of Labor's website also notes that "most workers have jobs that require less than four years of college education."

Are you ready to land a job that satisfies your wallet? We looked at average salary data - plus averages for the top 10 percent of workers - from the Department of Labor to find these lucrative you could train for in two years or less.

Keep reading to learn more.

Career #1 - Registered Nurse (RN)

Average Salary: $67,720
Average Salary for Top 10 Percent of Workers: $95,130

Some people can't stand the sight of blood or simply being within hospital doors. Those people should not consider a career as a . But if you can handle being around blood and needles, consider making bank as an RN.

RNs play a vital role in the health care field as they are responsible for not only treating patients, but also educating them about various medical conditions and providing advice and emotional support.

Want to break into this profitable career field? Look into earning a two-year associate's degree from an approved nursing program. It's one of the most common routes to this career, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. From there, nursing hopefuls must also pass the national licensing examination.

Top moneymaking states for RNs include California ($87,480), Massachusetts ($84,990), and Hawaii ($82,130).

Career #2 - Physical Therapist Assistant

Average Annual Salary: $49,810
Average Salary for Top 10 Percent of Workers: $68,820

Helping people is a good thing. Helping people improve or regain their mobility - now that's a great thing. And it's something physical therapist assistants get paid well to do.

Physical therapist assistants help physical therapists provide treatments to patients suffering from a range of afflictions. For example, an assistant might help car accident victims, or people with lower-back pain or arthritis. Some day-to-day responsibilities might include helping patients exercise or learn to use crutches, filling out insurance forms, and answering the phone, notes the U.S. Department of Labor.

If you want in on this great-feeling and great-paying career, you'll generally need to have an associate's degree from an accredited physical therapist assistant program, and a license, says the Department of Labor. And if you're not fan of school, you'll be happy to know that this degree normally takes just two years to complete.

Looking to make the most of out of this career? Physical therapist assistants in Texas ($62,440), California ($57,760), and Connecticut ($56,180) have the highest average salaries.

Career #3 - Massage Therapist

Average Annual Salary: $39,770
Average Salary for Top 10 Percent of Workers: $69,000

Getting a massage could arguably be one of the best ways to de-stress. And if you're more of a giver than a receiver, giving massages as a massage therapist could be an ideal option or you. Even better, you'll be paid a very giving amount to do so.

Not only do massage therapists use their hands to help de-stress people, they also might help treat painful ailments, rehabilitate sports injuries, and promote general health.

If you're surprised they can do all that with just their hands, consider this: Massage therapists can specialize in more than 80 types of massage, including Swedish, deep-tissue, reflexology, acupressure, sports massage, and neuromuscular massage, says the U.S. Department of Labor.

Education requirements for massage therapists vary by state, but most require completion of a formal education program, which typically can be completed in as little as 500 hours, notes the Department of Labor. In states with massage therapy regulations, having a license is usually required before you can begin using your healing hands on patients.

Massage therapists in Alaska ($86,250), Delaware ($57,830), and Washington ($54,770) - on average - are seeing their wallets fill up more than massage therapists from other states.

Career #4 - Fitness Trainer

Average Annual Salary: $35,920
Average Salary for Top 10 Percent of Workers: $63,400

Looking good and staying fit isn't easy. Luckily, there are people out there who help keep us in tip-top shape, and they go by the name of fitness trainer. And while fitness trainers may be fit due to their profession, their paycheck and wallet are a bit on the heavy side, if you know what we mean.

Fitness trainers can be tough, but in a loving and supportive way. You'll often see them in the gym leading, instructing, and motivating people or groups in exercise activities, including cardiovascular exercise and strength training, notes the U.S. Department of Labor. A fitness trainer might also help clients set and reach their fitness goals by improving exercise techniques.

Before diving into this figure-friendly career, you'll need at a least an associate's degree, notes the College Board, an educational organization that administers tests like the SAT. Luckily, an associate's degree can generally be completed in just a quick two years.

Working up a sweat in this career could be worth it for the stellar pay, especially if you're working in the top-paying states like New York ($52,000), District of Columbia ($48,810), and Massachusetts ($46,420).

Career #5 - Diagnostic Medical Sonographers

Average Annual Salary: $64,900
Average Salary for Top 10 Percent of Workers: $88,490

This career might be a bit tough to pronounce, but the daily responsibilities - and hefty paychecks - of a diagnostic medical sonographer are just too good to pass up.

For example, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, diagnostic medical sonographers get to use special equipment to direct high frequency sound waves into a patient's body to assess and diagnose medical conditions. Sounds cool, right?

To land a gig in this career, the Department of Labor recommends formal training. The good news is that there are one-year certificate and two-year associate's degree programs to help you pursue this career sooner, rather than later.

Diagnostic medical sonographers in Massachusetts ($80,000), Oregon ($79,740), and Colorado ($77,880) are singing to the tune of "Money, Money, Money..." as they round out the top paying states for this career.

*All salary and education information comes from the U.S. Department of Labor, May 2010 statistics.

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