Careers without College: Opportunities in Healthcare

Lesson 4: Opportunities in Healthcare


Opportunities in healthcare

A famous doctor once said, “Take care of the patient and everything else will follow.” Indeed, many professionals enter healthcare in order to help others. While the field can be a demanding one—physically, emotionally, and mentally—you can make a real difference in people’s lives every day. 

The healthcare sector is always changing. Oftentimes new technology keeps the work interesting, as you need to continuously hone your skill set. There’s frequently room for promotions and advancement, too. You might start off working in one role, then become interested in another position that’s more specialized.   

The healthcare system is an imperfect one with its own unique set of challenges. But if you’re compassionate, you might find the work fulfilling on both a professional and personal level.

Five roles in high demand

#1. Medical receptionist - If you’re skilled at multitasking and enjoy working in an office, you might consider becoming a medical receptionist. These assistants play a key role in creating a warm, welcoming environment in a doctor’s office. Since you’re the first person a patient interacts with, you should have solid communication skills.

It’s also helpful if you can stay calm and collected; sometimes patients are stressed out when they talk to you, and you can’t take it personally. You’ll handle a lot of sensitive paperwork, so it’s helpful if you’re detail-oriented and discreet. While you can sometimes just do in-office training, it can be useful to earn an Associate’s degree or complete a certificate program. This will allow you to learn things like medical terminology and how to manage databases.

#2. Home health aide - Home health aides (or HHAs) are in high demand, especially as the aging population continues to grow. HHAs help with daily tasks like cleaning, cooking, bathing, and feeding. Typically they assist the elderly, but sometimes they work with children or adults who are disabled. It’s a wonderful job for individuals who are caring and don’t want vulnerable people to feel forgotten or left behind.

Becoming a certified HHA requires a background check and a certain number of training hours. You can complete your training at a community college, or on-the-job through an agency. Not all states require certification. Some people use this role as a stepping stone toward higher-paid positions, like becoming a physical therapy assistant (PTA) or registered nurse (RN). These other roles do require additional years of schooling, so becoming an HHA first might be a good way to see if you enjoy this kind of work. 

#3. Emergency medical technician (EMT) - EMTs help people get through some of the scariest moments of their lives. They assist paramedics with things like driving the ambulance, CPR, and other first aid procedures. One of the most crucial skills in this profession is the ability to work under pressure.

If you decide that you’re passionate about the field, you can go on to become a paramedic by completing additional schooling. Almost all firefighters must be EMT certified, too, so this is another route you can take. As many EMTs will tell you, the salary range varies widely; many of them feel that they’re underpaid, considering the tough nature of their work. Nevertheless, being an EMT can make you a hero in your community.

#4. Phlebotomist - A phlebotomist’s main responsibilities include drawing blood and analyzing samples. Since getting correct results depends on accuracy, they must have an eye for detail. Phlebotomists work in a variety of settings, such as clinics, hospitals, and labs. Benefits include solid job prospects and potentially getting to choose if you have night or day shifts.

Keep in mind that you’d not just be handling blood, but other bodily fluids, too. In addition, it can be hard to “stick” patients if they’re panicking or uncooperative! But if you’re good at offering reassurance and making people comfortable, this career path is worth exploring. While most states don’t require certification, you’ll at least need to complete a training program; this typically takes only one or two semesters. 

#5. Medical coder - Medical coding/billing is a field that’s definitely on the rise. It involves looking at charts from doctors, and then assigning codes so that insurance companies receive the correct billing information.

Memorization is a key part of this job. Usually medical coders are audited (or checked) for accuracy and have a number of charts they must submit each day. This job involves a lot of screen time, since you’re mostly sitting at a desk in front of a computer. You’re not working with patients face-to-face, and you might also have the opportunity to work from home, which some people prefer.

While you can choose to get an associate’s degree, you can complete a program at a community college or online in as little as six months. Here is a good article which outlines the differences between the two main certifications for coding, AHIMA and AAPC. 

If you're interested in the growing world of tech, then be sure to check out the next lesson.