Do I Need a College Degree to Work in the Medical Industry?

From Administrative and Support Roles to Allied Health Jobs

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Do I need a college degree to work in the medical industry? If not, what types of jobs are available for someone who does not have a bachelor's degree?

There are many different types of careers in the medical industry which do not require a college degree. However, if you want to continue to advance your career, or to be promoted into a leadership or management role, you may want to start working toward your college degree, to increase your career options and opportunities.

If you're not sure how to afford the tuition for college, there are many ways to minimize tuition costs or to obtain financial assistance. Some employers may even provide tuition assistance, so you might want to investigate that when choosing an employer.

Administrative and Support Roles

Administrative personnel assist the clinicians with documentation, billing, and organization of the medical practice. Administrative or support professionals do not provide any type of patient care – in other words, their role is non-clinical. Many support roles are desk jobs. Most administrative and support positions are available to high school graduates with little or no college coursework, and some require a certificate in a specialized course that can be taken online or at a local vocational school and completed in a matter of weeks. Some examples of administrative and support roles are:

  • Medical receptionist
  • Medical secretary
  • Medical transcriptionist
  • Medical biller or coder
  • Medical interpreter

Allied Health Careers

Allied health care jobs are clinical roles that are not physicians or nurses but support doctors and nurses by providing diagnostic testing, or therapeutic care. While many allied roles require some college coursework, most allied roles do not require a four-year undergraduate degree.

Instead, most jobs in allied health care require only an associate’s degree (two years of college) from a vocational or community college. A variety of medical assistants, medical technicians and technologists fall under the umbrella of allied health care. Allied professionals have direct interaction with patients for diagnostic (testing) or therapeutic (treatment) purposes, so they are considered to be clinical roles. 

Nursing

Some nursing roles are available without a college degree, such as Licensed Vocational Nurses, or LVN (also known as Licensed Practical Nurses, or LPNs). However, the higher paying nursing roles such as most Registered Nursing (RN) positions and any advanced practice nurses now require a bachelor’s degree.

A certified nursing assistant, or CNA, helps patients or clients with healthcare needs under the supervision of an RN or LPN. A CNA is also known as a Nursing Assistant (NA) a Patient Care Assistant (PCA) or a State Tested Nurse Aid (STNA). Issues of liability and legality prevent CNAs from performing certain procedures. To obtain a nursing assistant job, a CNA most often needs to have at least a high school diploma or GED. Students usually take a course and are required to pass an examination for their certification.

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