11 health care jobs that don’t require a 4-year degree

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Healthcare professionals helping senior man (60s) stand up from wheelchair to use walker.By Jason Lovelace, president of CareerBuilder Healthcare

Many industries were hit hard by the recession and are still struggling to rebound. Yet the health care sector not only made it through the economic downturn relatively unscathed, it experienced growth. This growth has no sign of slowing down — the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that the U.S. will add 5.6 million health care jobs from 2010 to 2020, the largest projected increase of any industry.

There are several reasons why the industry is seeing healthy job gains. Americans are living longer than ever before, and as the population ages, the demand for medical care will only continue to increase. Also, since at its core health care is about patient care, most jobs need to be performed in person and can’t be automated or replaced by technology.

Yet even though health care workers are in demand, employers often struggle to find the right people to fill open positions. This may be in part due to a misconception that all health care jobs require decades of education and training, potentially discouraging job seekers from entering the field. The fact is that employers are in need of workers across all levels and functions.

The following 11 health care jobs don’t require a four-year college degree to enter the profession and have experienced the most growth in the field since 2010*. For some of the jobs listed, two-year degrees or other certifications may be necessary, while others call for various levels of on-the-job training (such as short term or moderate term).

1. Home health aide: Home health and personal care aides help people who are disabled, chronically ill or cognitively impaired, and they also assist older adults. Aides help with activities such as bathing and dressing and can provide services such as light housekeeping**.
Percent growth since 2010: 16
Education level: Short-term on-the-job training
Median hourly pay: $9.96

2. Veterinary technologist and technician: Veterinary technologists and technicians perform medical tests under the supervision of a licensed veterinarian to treat or help veterinarians diagnose the illnesses and injuries of animals.
Percent growth since 2010: 12
Education level: Associate degree
Median hourly pay: $14.67

3. Diagnostic medical sonographer: Diagnostic medical sonographers use special imaging equipment that directs sound waves into a patient’s body — in a procedure commonly known as an ultrasound, sonogram or echocardiogram — to assess and diagnose various medical conditions.
Percent growth since 2010: 12
Education level: Associate degree
Median hourly pay: $31.83

4. Physical therapist assistant: These assistants help physical therapists provide care to patients. They give therapy through exercise, massage, gait and balance training and other therapeutic methods.
Percent growth since 2010: 11
Education level: Associate degree
Median hourly pay: $24.53

5. Occupational therapy assistant: Occupational therapy assistants treat patients with injuries, illnesses or disabilities through the therapeutic use of everyday activities. Collaborating with occupational therapists, they develop and carry out treatment plans, ranging from teaching the proper way to move from a bed into a wheelchair to the best way to stretch one’s muscles.
Percent growth since 2010: 10
Education level: Associate degree
Median hourly pay: $25.13

6. Massage therapist: Massage therapists treat clients by using touch to manipulate the soft-tissue muscles of the body. With their hands-on treatment, therapists relieve pain, rehabilitate injuries, reduce stress, increase relaxation and aid in the general wellness of clients.
Percent growth since 2010: 10
Education level: Postsecondary non-degree award
Median hourly pay: $15.21

7. Physical therapist aide: These aides help make therapy sessions productive, under the direct supervision of a physical therapist or physical therapist assistant. They often are responsible for keeping the treatment area clean and organized and making preparations for patient therapy sessions.
Percent growth since 2010: 10
Education level: Moderate-term on-the-job training
Median hourly pay: $11.48

8. Cardiovascular technologist and technician: Cardiovascular technologists and technicians use imaging technology to help physicians diagnose cardiac (heart) and peripheral vascular (blood vessel) ailments in patients.
Percent growth since 2010: 8
Education level: Associate degree
Median hourly pay: $24.51

9. Occupational therapy aide: Occupational therapy aides, supervised by occupational therapists, treat patients with injuries, illnesses or disabilities through the therapeutic use of everyday activities. Aides typically prepare materials and assemble equipment used during treatment and are also responsible for various clerical tasks.
Percent growth since 2010: 7
Education level: Short-term on-the-job training
Median hourly pay: $13.70

10. Medical assistant: Medical assistants complete administrative and clinical tasks in the offices of physicians, podiatrists, chiropractors and other health practitioners. Their duties vary with the location, specialty and size of the practice.
Percent growth since 2010: 7
Education level: Moderate-term on-the-job training
Median hourly pay: $14.17

11. Radiologic technologist and technician: Radiologic technologists perform diagnostic imaging examinations, such as X-rays, on patients.
Percent growth since 2010: 7
Education level: Associate degree
Median hourly pay: $27.11

*Percent growth, education level and median hourly pay from Economic Modeling Specialists Intl.

**Job descriptions from the Bureau of Labor Statistics

Jason Lovelace is the president of CareerBuilder Healthcare.

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