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Some of the most exciting and lucrative health care careers out there require less than two years of training. If you desire quick entry into the workforce, learn more about the top ten attainable careers in health care.

10 Health Care Careers You Can Start in Two Years or Less

Have you ever wondered how you could make a difference in the world? Have you ever wished you could be the one to help people in times of need? Health care professionals do this every day of their career, and some continue to help others even when they're off-duty. If you answered "yes" to any of the above questions, you may consider starting down the path toward a career in health and medicine. And the good news? It's a more accessible path than you may think.

Health care is one of the oldest industries in the world, but it's changed so much due to advancing technology and new equipment. There are many new types of health care jobs that didn't exist a century ago, and with an aging population and new health care insurance mandates, it is one of the top growing industries in the U.S. right now.

Caring for others is a huge responsibility, and requires some higher education and training. But though the first steps might seem daunting, don't despair. The truth is there are a number of attainable health careers that don't require a four-year degree or a lifetime of debt to pay off. Here are our picks for ten attainable health careers, all of which require less than a four-year degree for entry into the field.

Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs) and Paramedics

When disaster strikes, EMTs and paramedics are often the first professionals on the scene. Drawing from their skills and experience, these workers act quickly to provide lifesaving health care in an emergency setting. When you're an EMT or paramedic, work schedules vary and something new and interesting is happening every day.

  • Education: Postsecondary certificate or an associate degree
  • Requirements: Certification in CPR, and a state license
  • Extras: Certification from the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians (NREMT)
  • Average Salary in 2014: $35,110
  • Projected Growth from 2012-2022: 23%

Diagnostic Medical Sonographer

Diagnostic medical sonographers are the trusted professionals who operate the imaging equipment that helps doctors and other medical professionals diagnose illnesses and injuries. Since sonography is expected to replace a number of more costly and invasive procedures over the years, the outlook for these workers is excellent.

  • Education: Postsecondary certificate or associate degree
  • Requirements: Several states require diagnostic medical sonographers to become licensed, but not all.
  • Average Salary in 2014: $68,390
  • Projected Growth from 2012-2022: 46%

Nursing

We all know what nurses do: They provide the bulk of hands-on care to patients in hospitals, clinics, and long-term care facilities. They ease patient's fears, help keep them comfortable, and perform a wide range of procedures that can help their conditions improve over time. There are many different types of nurses, but many nurses begin their career as registered nurses (RN) or licensed practical or licensed vocational nurses (LPN/LVN).

  • Education: Associate degree in nursing or diploma from an accredited nursing program
  • Requirements: Pass either the NCLEX-RN (for registered nurses) or NCLEX-PN (for LPN/LVN), and attain a state license.
  • Average Salary in 2014: $43,420 (LPN/LVN) / $69,790 (RN)
  • Projected Growth from 2012-2022: 25% (LPN/LVN) / 19% (RN)

Nursing Assistant

Another rewarding career in nursing is that of the nursing assistant. These workers do much of the same work that LPNs and RNs do, although they mostly focus on providing direct patient care and assistance with daily activities.

  • Education: State-approved postsecondary education program
  • Requirements: Pass your state's competency exam
  • Average Salary in 2014: $26,250
  • Projected Growth from 2012-2022: 21%

Dental Hygienist

Your dental hygienist is likely your main contact when you head to the dentist. These workers get you seated in your chair, make sure you're comfortable, and perform basic cleaning and inspection of your teeth and gums. Also trained in taking X-rays and assisting during procedures, dental hygienists typically wear a lot of hats in their respective professions.

  • Education: Associate degree
  • Requirements: Become licensed in your state
  • Average Salary in 2014: $71,970
  • Projected Growth from 2012-2022: 33%

Surgical Technologists

Despite what you may envision, surgeons aren't always the only ones who get to work in the operating room. In addition to the doctors who perform lifesaving procedures, there is often an army of surgical technologists whose sole mission is preparing the operating room, arranging equipment, and passing appropriate equipment to the physician or surgeon in charge.

  • Education: Postsecondary certificate or associate degree
  • Requirements: On-the-job training
  • Extras: Certification through the National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting, or the National Center for Competency Testing
  • Average Salary in 2014: $45,010
  • Projected Growth from 2012-2022: 30%

Radiation Therapist

Radiation therapists use their knowledge and expertise in radiation therapy to administer treatments aimed at reducing the number or size of cancerous cells in the body. Although they typically work as part of an oncology team, they often work alone in their own lab or section of a hospital or outpatient center.

  • Education: Postsecondary certificate or associate degree
  • Requirements: Become licensed in your state
  • Average Salary in 2014: $83,710
  • Projected Growth from 2012-2022: 24%

Phlebotomist

Even if you dread having your own blood drawn, you might find this career interesting. These workers draw blood for various health-related activities including diagnostic procedures, testing and research. The work they do is important, not only because accuracy can put patients at ease, but also because drawing blood can lead to a number of crucial discoveries.

  • Education: 12-month training program at a community college, vocational school, or trade school
  • Requirements: Certification is required in California, Louisiana and Nevada
  • Average Salary in 2014: $31,890
  • Projected Growth from 2012-2022: 27%

Medical Equipment Repairer

As the health care industry continues to evolve and technology improves, there will be many new machines, equipment and procedures aimed at diagnosing or healing injuries or illnesses. This means that more professionals will be needed to operate and repair the various types of equipment that make these new procedures possible. Medical equipment repairers do just that. Not only do they perform preventative maintenance on certain types of medical equipment, but they also replace parts and perform essential repairs.

  • Education: Associate degree in biomedical technology or engineering
  • Requirements: On-the-job training
  • Extras: Certification from an accredited body, like the Association for the Advancement of Medical Instrumentation
  • Average Salary in 2014: $48,540
  • Projected Growth from 2012-2022: 30%

Massage Therapist

While most people dread seeing the doctor, almost everyone loves seeing their massage therapist. Many people use massage therapists to ease stress-related symptoms, but they are also available to those who suffer from injury or long-term medical issues like arthritis.

  • Education: Completion of a massage therapy program at a trade school or community college
  • Requirements: 500 to 1,000 hours of training, usually less than two years
  • Average Salary in 2014: $41,790
  • Projected Growth from 2012-2022: 23%

Health care career outlook

These easy-entry health care careers are not only rewarding, but can lead to a lifetime of high earnings too. Even better, U.S. Department of Labor data continues to show that health care, as an industry, is expected to see the biggest surge in employment over the next decade. Study the chart below to see what we mean. With huge potential for growth, healthy wages, and minimal time investment, any of these attainable health care careers could easily provide for you and your family for life.

Career

Total Employment in 2014 (Nationwide)

Annual Mean Wage in 2014 (Nationwide)

Anticipated Growth 2012 to 2022

EMTs and Paramedics

235,760

$35,110

23%

Diagnostic Medical Sonography

59,760

$68,390

46%

Registered Nurses

2,687,310

$69,790

19%

Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurses

695,610

$43,420

25%

Nursing Assistants

1,427,740

$26,250

21%

Dental Hygienists

196,520

$71,970

33%

Surgical Technologists

98,450

$45,010

30%

Radiation Therapists

16,380

$83,710

24%

Phlebotomists

111,950

$31,890

27%

Medical Equipment Repairer

41,430

$48,540

30%

Massage Therapists

87,670

$41,790

23%

Sources:

  • Occupational Employment Statistics, Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2014, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_nat.htm
  • Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, Bureau of Labor Statistics, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/
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