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Want to Work in Healthcare Without Medical School Debt? Check Out These Options

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Healthcare workers are on the front lines of saving lives, keeping us healthy, and researching the latest in medicine and technology. But not all of them are doctors. 

Non-physician healthcare professionals are among the fastest-growing career paths in the US. The number of bachelor’s degrees earned in the healthcare field increased by 213% from 2001 to 2017, according to the most recent statistics by the National Center of Education Statistics.

And those nurses, occupational therapists, physician assistants and dozens of other medical professionals are sorely needed due to a shortage of medical caregivers.

The Association of American Medical College predicts a physician shortfall of between 7,300 and 43,100 doctors by 2030. While a growing, aging population of Americans is considered one of the main reasons for the predicted shortfall in the healthcare industry, crushing, six-figure medical school debt is also a factor

The average medical school debt is about $197,000, but many physicians, especially specialists, have much higher outstanding loans. 

Other non-physician medical professions, though, can be very lucrative in the medical field without taking on that type of student debt. While some of these professions, such as nurse practitioners or physician assistants, require a master’s degree, others require a bachelor’s degree or even a two-year associate’s degree.

And these well-paid, non-physician professions are also in very high demand. The number of registered nurses needed is expected to jump by 28.4% by 2030, according to RegisteredNursing.org. Overall, health care professions were projected to be the fastest growing category tracked by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which is projecting a 14% increase in the United States from 2018 to 2018, or an additional 1.9 million jobs

We broke down some of the in-demand healthcare careers that don’t require a medical degree and also lead to high-paying jobs.

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Registered Nurse

Registered nurses can work in a number of settings from hospitals to private clinics to nursing facilities to schools. They are on the front line of medical care and there is an ever-growing demand for skilled nurses. Nursing is also consistently ranked as one of the most trusted professions by Americans.

Education required: Bachelor’s degree with the option for Master’s degree programs

Median salary: $71,730

Job growth: 12%, or much faster than average, according to the BLS

Nurse Midwife

Midwives, once the norm for childbirth caregiving in the early 20th century, are on the rise in popularity, both by expectant parents and as a career choice. A shortage of maternity care physicians, especially in rural areas, and a desire for a more personalized experience has led to an increased demand for midwives. 

Education required: Master’s degree plus certification

Median salary: $103,770 per year

Job growth: 26%

Physician Assistant

Physician assistants, or PAs, work alongside physicians in hospitals, doctor’s offices, and other medical settings. They can treat and examine patients and even prescribe medicine, though they do not perform surgery. They can also conduct clinical research.

Education required: Master’s degree

Median salary: $108,610 per year

Job growth: 31%

Healthcare Administrator

Also known as health services managers or healthcare executives, these administrators largely work on the business side of healthcare. They are responsible for directing and overseeing medical services, which may include a physician group and support staff, patient care, or business interests. They are expected to be on top of changing policies, insurance information, health care laws, and new technology. 

Education required: Bachelor’s degree

Median salary: $99,730 per year

Job growth: 18%

Radiation Therapist

Radiation therapists are part of an oncology team that treats cancer patients. They are responsible for patient care, including administering radiation treatments, and helping patients understand their treatment plan. 

Education required: Associate’s degree

Median salary: $82,330 per year

Job growth: 9%

Occupational Therapist

Occupational and physical therapists work with patients who are injured, disabled, or ill to help them with life skills they need to live or work successfully. They work with patients of all ages, from infants to the elderly. Examples of occupational therapy work include helping a child learn to walk with the aid of braces or other equipment, or assisting a stroke patient who needs to re-learn how to get dressed.

Education required: Master’s degree

Median salary: $84,270 per year

Job growth: 18%

Dental Hygienist

With oral health directly linked to overall health, dental hygienists are in demand all over the country. Hygienists work directly with dentists to examine patients for oral diseases and conditions and also to provide preventative care, such as routine cleanings and promoting good dental hygiene.

Education required: Associate’s degree

Median salary: $74,820 per year

Job growth: 11%

Diagnostic Imaging Technicians

These technicians are responsible for conducting and analyzing tests of the patient’s organs or other parts of the body. While many people think of pregnancy-related ultrasounds, technicians may use this imaging to look at everything from the heart, to the intestinal system, to the muscles and tendons. They work in doctors’ offices, hospitals, and other medical clinics.

Education required: Associate’s degree

Median salary: $67,080 per year

Job growth: 14%

Conquer your student debt. Refinance now.

Get My Rate

Conquer your student debt. Refinance now.

Get My Rate
Disclaimer: This blog post provides personal finance educational information, and it is not intended to provide legal, financial, or tax advice.