10 Top Health Fields You Can Enter with an Associate Degree

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10 Top Health Fields You Can Enter with an Associate Degree
Learn about 10 of the best jobs in health care that you can land with just a two-year degree from your local community college.
For students looking to enter the workforce with a two-year degree under their belts, the medical field is an excellent one to consider. Many positions within this industry can be started with an associate degree, and the number of job openings and growth potential give these hot healthcare jobs some of the best value for your higher education dollar. Check out these top 10 health fields you can enter after spending just two years earning your degree.

Dental Hygienist

Most people have a closer relationship with the dental hygienist than the dentist, since this is the professional who spends the most time with patients. Hygienists go far beyond simple teeth cleaning, including assisting dentists with some surgical procedures, taking x-rays and educating patients on proper dental care. According to U.S. News and World Report, dental hygienists can expect to make an annual average salary of $68,200 and enjoy a projected job growth in their industry of around 38 percent.

Medical Sonographer
Medical sonographers use ultrasound technology to help physicians diagnose a wide range of disorders and illnesses. Sonographers are responsible for taking the ultrasound pictures and determining which photos will be most helpful to the physician making the final diagnosis. This position is heavily patient-oriented, so it is well suited to those who enjoy working with others. Allhealthcare.com predicts that the job growth for medical sonographers should remain around 16 percent through 2016. Professionals in this field enjoy an average wage of $27 per hour.
ECG or EKG Technician
Medical professionals in this area spend their days monitoring how well a patient’s heart is working. Technicians operate a wide variety of equipment to look at patient heart rate, collecting data that physicians can use to make a diagnosis and prescribe a treatment plan. These professionals may also perform ultrasounds of the heart, which show a picture of how the heart is functioning and blood flow to the organ. ECG and EKG technicians make an average annual salary of $38,000, according to CourseAdvisor.com.
Respiratory Therapist
The respiratory therapist is responsible for testing and treating patients with breathing issues, through devices like mechanical respirators. These professionals often work in hospital settings, providing both emergency and ongoing care to patients. They often work with patients who have been diagnosed with conditions like emphysema or asthma to help them manage their condition and enjoy a higher quality of life. The average annual salary for a respiratory therapist was $54,210 in 2010, with an expected job growth of 18-26 percent through 2016. 
Professionals in this line of work are often the first responders in emergency situations. Paramedics and EMTs provide the first line of treatment at the scene, before transporting a patient to a hospital. This is a highly-charged job perfect for adrenaline junkies and those who can think fast on their feet and handle high stress levels regularly. Paramedics earn an average annual salary of $30,300, with a projected growth of 33 percent, according to U.S. News and World Report.
Medical Assistant
According to Campus Explorer, the job of a medical assistant can run the gamut, from seeing patients to performing clerical duties. In smaller physician offices, the medical assistant may become a “Girl Friday” of sorts, while larger offices may have assistants specialize in one area. These professionals are often the first to see patients, collecting vital information like temperature and blood pressure before the doctor comes in. An average annual salary for medical assistants is around $28,800, with a projected job growth of 31 percent.
Radiation Therapist
These professionals are responsible for providing radiation therapy to cancer patients, as prescribed by the physician. There are a wide range of machines and devices that can be used for this purpose, so the work is relatively diverse and interesting from day to day. Since radiation therapists typically deal with people who are sick – some of whom are terminally ill – compassion is an important character trait for these medical professionals to possess. According to Schools.com, the annual average salary for a radiation therapist in 2010 was $78,020, with a projected growth of 27 percent.
Registered Nurse
Many nurses today began their career with an associate degree, allowing them to begin gaining practical experience quicker. This job typically works directly with patients, in a hospital or clinic setting. Registered nurses may handle a wide range of jobs, from administering medication to educating patients and their families. The annual average salary for a registered nurse is $67,720 with projected job growth of 22 percent.
Physical Therapist Assistant
Patients who have been injured or had surgery often require physical therapy to regain their strength and range of motion. The physical therapist assistant works directly with the therapist and the patient, aiding in routine exercises and documenting patient progress. The average pay scale for a physical therapist assistant is $20 per hour.
Radiology Technician
These medical professionals work with a wide range of radiology equipment, include CAT scans and MRIs. The radiology technician is responsible for taking the x-rays requested by the physician, developing the films, and getting them to a radiologist for diagnosis. They work directly with patients, positioning them for x-rays and explaining procedures to them. The average annual salary for the radiology technician can be as high as $60,000, with an average projected growth of nine to 17 percent through 2016.
Health care is a booming industry today, and many of the positions available can be entered with an associate degree. If this field sounds like the right one for you, contact your local community college to find out what specific degree programs are available.

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