5 Hands-on Healthcare Jobs You Can Land Without a 4-Year Degree
Think of those TV shows with gurneys flying through the hallway while medical personnel fling stethoscopes over their shoulders or calmly maneuver equipment amidst the chaos. There’s something about the medical world that gets your heart racing.
Wouldn’t it be wild to have a career like that where, every day, your decisions and your work matter? Despite what many people think, exciting healthcare jobs aren’t just for doctors, surgeons and registered nurses. You can be part of this high-stakes industry without even needing a four-year degree.
In fact, there are quite a few healthcare jobs that can put you right in the thick of the important business of saving and supporting people’s lives and well-being. Are you curious what that might look like? Read on and picture yourself stepping into these important healthcare careers.
5 Exciting healthcare jobs that don’t require a Bachelor’s degree
1. Surgical technologist
These professionals can be found in the heart of the operating room. Surgical technologists prepare operating rooms, organize equipment and assist doctors during surgeries, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
Surgical technologists (sometimes called surg techs) also help to prepare patients for surgery by washing them and disinfecting incision sites. They hand surgical supplies to the physician during the operation, and they may also even hold internal organs in place during the procedure. Needless to say, this job is not for those who get squeamish at the sight of blood.
It is also not a job for the inaccurate. Surgical techs prepare some of the medications and solutions used in surgery and apply bandages or dressings to the patient’s incision site. The health of your patients depends on careful and precise work.
Some surgical assistants (called surgical first assistants) might take an increased role during an operation, by suturing wounds or helping to suction a cut. If that sounds pretty awesome to you, check out our article, “6 Reasons Becoming a Surgical Tech Is Worth It,” for more details.
2. Physical therapist assistant
Physical therapist assistants (PTAs) work with patients who need help regaining movement and managing pain, according to the BLS. This job is almost entirely patient-facing, meaning that most of what you do is face-to-face with patients. They lean on you (sometimes quite literally) to learn exercises and build up their mobility after an illness or injury.
PTAs need to be physically strong and able to support the weight of their patients. During patient visits, PTAs guide them through their plan of care, help to treat them with massage or stretching techniques and are ready at all times to assist them and prevent falls.
The job also involves educating the patient and their family members about the treatment plan, as well as reporting to the physical therapist. If you’re more of an extrovert, this job is one of the most people-oriented roles in healthcare. PTAs need to be a motivational support for their patients as well as a physical one.
The road to recovery can be very rough, and PTAs have the opportunity to inspire patients to fight through it and gain as much freedom of movement as possible. Do you think you’re cut out for that kind of thing? See our article, “7 Signs You Should Consider Becoming a Physical Therapist Assistant,” to find out if the signs are in your favor.
3. Medical lab technician
If talking to people all day isn’t your thing, a career as a medical lab technician might be more appealing. Medical lab technicians collect samples and perform tests to analyze body fluids and tissue, according to the BLS. They bring blood, urine and other samples to the lab, where they operate medical equipment or run computerized instruments and assist in testing the samples.
This job is crucial in the healthcare system since the test results can indicate the presence or absence of everything from diseases to pregnancies. As you can imagine, no one wants to make a mistake with one of these important tests.
Medical labs techs can also specialize in a certain area, depending on where they work. “For example, histotechnicians are a type of medical laboratory technician who cut and stain tissue specimens for pathologists,” the BLS writes. If that piques your curiosity, get more on-the-job detail in our article, “What Does a Medical Lab Tech Do?”
4. Radiologic technologist
Radiologic technologists perform diagnostic imaging examinations on patients, according to the BLS.* They prepare patients for procedures, protect the patient with X-ray shielding and position patients, so the machines can image whatever is needed. Rad techs operate the machines and need to be precise to get the specific images physicians need.
Radiologic technologists spend lots of time around expensive and potentially hazardous equipment. In this career, maintaining radiation safety both for you and your patients is paramount. You don’t want to mess around with ionizing radiation.
There are also options for specialization in X-ray or computed tomography (CT) imaging. For a closer look at what rad techs do, check out our article, “What They Don't Tell You in the Radiologic Technologist Job Description.”
5. Medical assistant
Medical assistants (MAs) cover a lot of different bases in the healthcare system. These professionals are often the first face a patient sees after coming into the clinic or hospital. They handle administrative duties like recording patient history and scheduling appointments, and they also handle medical tasks like measuring vital signs and administering injections, according to the BLS.*
You could say that MAs are the glue that holds a healthcare facility together. They work with physicians, nurses, lab personnel, patients and patient family members. They also are increasingly involved in learning, teaching and using electronic health records (EHRs), according to the BLS.
Want a closer look? See our article, “What Is the Average Medical Assistant Salary? & 7 Other FAQs About This Booming Healthcare Career,” for more details.
When these healthcare jobs all come together in a clinic or hospital, it starts to look more like that well-oiled medical machine you see on TV shows. Each role works toward the goal of saving and improving lives. In the end, what could be more important than that?
If you cut away a wall of a hospital to look at everything going on, you’d see more variation in healthcare careers than most people picture. But actually, you don’t have to imagine it. We can show you just what it looks like. Check out our infographic, “Who's Who in a Hospital: Your Visual Guide to Medical Jobs,” and see for yourself!
*Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, [career information accessed March 15, 2017] www.bls.gov/ooh/.