Pursue a Healthcare Career with a 4-Year Degree
Peter Vogt MC Career Coach
August 10, 2009
You’d like to work in healthcare, but you don’t want to spend years in school becoming a physician or dentist? Well, how about exploring your career options if you “only” have a bachelor’s degree?
There are plenty of opportunities available. Here are just four of the many healthcare careers that require a bachelor’s degree, but not necessarily more.
Dietitians, sometimes called nutritionists, oversee food and nutrition programs for individuals and groups. You can pursue a career as a clinical dietitian if you’re interested in offering nutritional guidance to patients in hospitals, nursing homes and physicians’ clinics. Or become a community dietitian who works in a public health clinic, home health agency or health maintenance organization teaching people good nutritional practices to prevent disease and promote good health.
The median annual salary for dietitians was just more than $38,000 in 2000, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), and employment of dietitians is expected to grow about as fast as average for all occupations between now and 2010.
Look for degree programs in dietetics, foods and nutrition, food-service systems management or a related area.
Physician assistants (PA) work under the close supervision of full-fledged physicians to provide a variety of diagnostic, therapeutic and preventive healthcare services. Typically, they’ll take medical histories, examine patients, order and interpret diagnostic tests, and prescribe medications. They can also treat minor injuries.
The median annual salary for PAs was almost $62,000 in 2000, according to the BLS. Perhaps even more appealing, the employment of PAs is expected to grow “much faster than the average for all occupations” through 2010. Why? The health services industry as a whole is expanding, health providers continue to emphasize cost control, and PAs are needed in both rural and inner-city clinics where it’s hard to attract and retain MDs.
To become a PA, you’ll need a bachelor’s degree from one of more than 130 accredited programs across the US. All offer supervised clinical training.
Medical technologists, sometimes called clinical laboratory scientists, perform an assortment of tests that help physicians diagnose, treat and prevent disease. They might examine body fluids, tissues and cells to look for bacteria or parasites or to check for abnormalities that might signal a serious medical concern.
The median salary for medical technologists and clinical laboratory scientists was about $40,500 in 2000, according to the BLS. Employment of medical technologists is expected to rise about as fast as the average for all occupations through 2010. Population growth, aging Baby Boomers and new kinds of tests all will contribute to an increase in the volume of laboratory testing.
A career as a medical technologist requires a bachelor’s degree in medical technology, clinical technology or one of the life sciences (e.g., biology, chemistry). Some states require licensing or certification.
Pharmaceutical Sales Representative
Pharmaceutical sales representatives work for drug manufacturers and present their companies’ products to physicians, pharmacists, dentists and health services administrators. They provide a key communication link between pharmaceutical companies and the professionals who use pharmaceuticals in various healthcare settings.
A new pharmaceutical sales representative earns an annual salary in the mid to high $30,000s, estimates Corey Nahman, CEO of Internet Drug News. Experienced pharmaceutical sales reps can earn in the high $90,000s a year, which does not include bonuses, he adds.
You’ll need some kind of bachelor’s degree to break into this field, but your best bet is a degree in the sciences (e.g., chemistry, biology, etc.) or a business-oriented degree such as marketing or communications. You can expect an extensive company-run training program that will give you in-depth knowledge of the organization’s products and key clients.
To learn more about these bachelor’s-level careers in healthcare, check out these Web sites:
- American Dietetic Association
- American Academy of Physician Assistants
- American Society for Clinical Laboratory Science