Health Care Careers With an Associate’s Degree

Do you have an associate’s degree or are you considering pursuing one? Discover your options for a career in health care…

Some of the fastest growing careers in health care are ones that an associate’s degree will prepare students for. The benefit of an associate’s degree is that it offers students a quick route to a professional position. More often than not, an associate’s degree program graduate is prepared for a position in their field of study immediately upon graduation, however, by no means will earning an associate’s degree guarantee you a job. Depending on the associate’s degree program, credits can later transfer towards a bachelor’s degree if and when the individual decides to return to school.

Finding a job with a high school diploma vs. a two year degree

If you are at all on the fence between earning an associate’s degree or finding a job with your high school diploma or GED, review the annual and lifetime earnings for each and then you’ll be able to make a much more informed decision. The U.S. Department of Education Institute of Education Science released data showing that those with a high school diploma earn around $27,960 a year compared to those with an associate’s degree who earn about $36,400 a year. Over a lifetime, someone who does not pursue higher education beyond a GED or high school diploma is projected to earn 1.2 million dollars, whereas someone who has earned an associate’s degree and is projected to earn 1.6 million dollars. That is a significant difference.

Students can complete an associate’s degree in just about two years. The associate’s degree can be found offered at community colleges, vocational schools and technical schools. As of 2011, earning an associate’s degree online has become the most popular option for students according to search and program application data.

What to consider when choosing an educational program

Frequently, those who have earned their associate’s degree will return to school to pursue a bachelor’s degree in a related subject or in a field that they know will help them pursue their career goals. What this means for someone researching associate degree careers and programs is that they will need to make very sure that the credits earned will apply toward a bachelor’s degree program if and when they decide to return to school. This becomes an even more critical consideration for those pursuing an LPN/LVN degree or an associate’s degree in nursing, where each state has registered and practical/vocational nursing licensing and education requirements.

Professional certification eligibility is also an important consideration. Some certification bodies, such as the American Association of Medical Assistants, requires the completion of an ABHES or CAAHEP accredited program for eligibility to sit for their Certified Medical Assistant exam. Make sure to thoroughly research the career you are interested in including all professional certifications and credentials required to reach the pinnacle of the career. This way you will know exactly what program and education you should be looking for. This site will assist you in doing so, however, you will ultimately need to make your own decisions based on the data available.

Health Care Careers for those with an Associate’s Degree

Careers Health Care Pathway Certification / Licensure Requirements
Anesthesia Technician / Technologist Direct Patient Care Certification is offered through the ASATT. Not required, but recommended by many employers.
Biomedical Equipment Tech Health Care Facility Support AAMI offers certification as a CBET, CRES or CLEB for those with an associate’s degree and two years work experience.
Cancer Registrar Health Informatics Certification voluntary through their National Cancer Registrars Association (NCRA).
Cardiovascular Technologist Imaging and Diagnostics Certification exams given by CCI and ARDMS (required by most employers).
Clinical Laboratory Technologist Imaging and Diagnostics Voluntary certification given by the American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP)
Dental Hygienist Direct Patient Care Licensure is required. Exam is given by the American Dental Association (ADA).
Dental Laboratory Technician Imaging and Diagnostics First step is recognized graduate status (RG). Certification is voluntary, but required by some employers.
Diagnostic Medical Sonographer Imaging and Diagnostics American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography (ARDMS) offers certification (RDMS) to those eligible by passing an exam.
EKG Technician Imaging & Diagnostics Certification not required. Cert Exam is often given upon completion of program. (voluntary certification)
EMT / Paramedic Direct Patient Care Certification offered by NREMT (5 different levels). Licensure is required (varies by state).
Forensic Nursing Direct Patient Care RN license required. Different types of certification available (SANE-A, SANE-P, etc)
Health Information Specialist Health Informatics (Business) Voluntary CCA certification from AHIM or, Registered Health Information Technician (RHIT) certification through CAHIIM.
Health Info Tech Health Informatics (Business) Voluntary CCA certification from AHIMA or RHIT certification offered by CAHIIM.
Histotechnologist Imaging & Diagnostics Voluntary CCA certification from AHIMA or RHIT certification offered by CAHIIM.
Hospital Maintenance Engineer Health Care Facility Support Various levels of licensure available dependant upon responsibilities.
Licensed Practical Nurse Direct Patient Care Licensure is required
Medical Administrative Asst Health Informatics (Business) NHA offers certification as a CMAA, CEHRS, or a CBCS. All are voluntary.
Medical Assistant Direct Patient Care Certified Medial Assistant and Registered Medical Assistant exams are given by the AAMA. (not required)
Medical Biller and Coder Health Informatics (Business) Three levels of certification offered by the AAPC and the AHIMA. The AMBA also offers certification.
Medical Lab Technician Imaging & Diagnostics Voluntary certification is possible through the ASCP. Licensure requirements vary by state.
Medical Office Manager Health Informatics (Business) Several certifications are available
Medical Secretary Health Informatics (Business) Certification is available though not required.
Medical Transcriptionist Health Informatics (Business) Two levels of certification are offered by the AHDI: RMT or CMT. Not required.
MRI Technologist Imaging & Diagnostics Voluntary certification is possible through the ASCP. Licensure requirements vary by state.
Nuclear Medicine Technologist Imaging & Diagnostics Certification through the Nuclear Medicine Technology Certification Board (NMTCB) as well as the (ARRT). Not required.
Occupational Therapy Assistant Direct Patient Care COTA certification is not required, but may be beneficial. Associate degree from an accredited program is needed for certification.
Ophthalmic Medical Assistant Direct Patient Care Voluntary certification is possible through the JJCAHPO. Licensure is not required.
Pharmacy Technician Direct Patient Care Certification available but not required.
Phlebotomist Imaging & Diagnostics Certification available and often required by employers.
Physical Therapy Assistant Direct Patient Care Most states require licensure by passing the National Physical Therapy Exam (NPTE).
Psychiatric Technician Direct Patient Care Psychiatric technicians in most states can be certified through the American Association of Psychiatric Technicians. There are 4 levels of certification
Radiation Therapist Direct Patient Care Certification by the AART is voluntary, but often required by employers. Licensure may be required for technologists.
Radiology Technician Imaging & Diagnostics Certification by the AART is voluntary, but often required by employers. Licensure may be required depending on the state you are in.
Registered Nurse Direct Patient Care Must take and pass the NCLEX-RN certification exam.
Respiratory Therapist Direct Patient Care Two types of certification: Certified Respiratory Therapist (CRT) and the Registered Respiratory Therapist (RRT)
Surgical Technologist Direct Patient Care Certification by the AART is voluntary, but recommended. Licensure is required in most states as well.
Veterinary Technician Direct Patient Care Licensure or registration is required in most states. Most take the National Veterinary Technician exam.

If you haven’t come across a career that you are looking for, you may be interested in researching additional health care careers that fall under the five health care pathways, many of which require varying levels of education.

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