16 Healthcare Careers You Can Start in No Time

Want to break into the healthcare field fast? Discover which entry-level healthcare careers can position you to earn a solid paycheck from the jump and find out what it takes to get started.

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Written By
Edumed Staff

last updated

Last Updated: 02/03/2021
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You know you want a career in healthcare, but medical school isn’t for you. Whether it’s the time, the cost, or both, you want to find a quicker way to get your foot in the door. You also want to start earning fast. Deciding to pursue an entry-level healthcare career not only means getting into the field quickly, but it can also provide a springboard to future opportunities and lots of room to grow.

With so many career options in healthcare, knowing which entry-level position is right for you can be tricky. Whether your priority is the potential paycheck, the future job growth, or the time it takes to get started, keep reading to see which careers top our list and learn what it takes to start working in no time.

1.Respiratory Therapist

This role tops our list because it has both a high median salary and a high job growth rate. Most respiratory therapists work full-time in medical facilities or hospitals. They are typically on their feet for extended periods and may work irregular hours from time to time. Most respiratory therapists work closely with medical assistants, physicians, and nurses.

Typical job responsibilities include providing quality care for patients experiencing respiratory issues. Respiratory therapists’ interview and examine patients and often consult with presiding doctors to develop treatment plans. They conduct diagnostic tests, show patients how to take medication or assistive equipment, and monitor progress throughout.

Median salary

$61,330

Projected growth

19%

Required education

Associate degree

Available online?

Aspiring professionals can earn their credentials quickly through in-person or online respiratory therapy programs. A typical course of study develops core skills in air transport, pulmonary rehab, home care, and case management. The online programs supplement virtual instruction with hands-on practicum components and additional clinical hours.

2.Home Health Aide

Home health aides provide personal care to people suffering from cognitive impairment, disabilities, or other long-term conditions. They work primarily with elderly adults and help them achieve greater facility with daily living activities like bathing, dressing, housekeeping, and meal preparation.

This role has a lower median salary than other occupations but is expected to see high job growth rates in the future due to localized demand and aging populations. It doesn’t require as much education as other roles, which means you can begin work relatively quickly. Home health aides typically work from their clients’ homes or in small group settings in long-term care facilities.

Median salary

$25,280

Projected growth

34%

Required education

Postsecondary certificate

Available online?

Qualified candidates can easily obtain a home health aide certification online thanks to affordable and convenient programming. Most programs require an in-person component, but many administer core coursework entirely online. Specifics vary, but if you already work in the industry, you may be able to use your current job to satisfy some requirements.

3.Massage Therapist

These bodywork specialists treat their clients using touch techniques that manipulate soft tissue, reduce stress, and promote relaxation; these techniques help heal injuries by relieving pain and improving circulation. Most massage therapists spend their time implementing these techniques, but they also develop treatment plans and discuss symptoms or medical history with their clients.

Massage therapists rank high on our list because of comparatively high median earnings and positive growth rates in the future. Also, the role requires minimal education and training. Massage therapists usually work in private practice or within a larger healthcare organization.

Median salary

$42,820

Projected growth

21%

Required education

Postsecondary certificate

Available online?

In-person and online massage therapy schools and classes are out there for interested students. This is an inherently hands-on profession, so if you’re interested in getting certified, you should be prepared to complete some training in person regardless of learning modality.

4.Registered Nurse (RN)

Registered nurses receive the highest median salaries of all the roles listed in this ranking. They work with physicians and other healthcare professionals to coordinate care and educate patients. They often assess patients’ conditions, generate records, make observations, and administer treatment. They also perform diagnostic tests and operate medical equipment.

Depending on the employer, some RNs may manage a larger team of nurses and healthcare specialists. Others may work on their own alongside a doctor who works within their area of specialization. RNs work in high demand environments that often require around-the-clock coverage or on-call hours during nights and weekends.

Median salary

$73,300

Projected growth

7%

Required education

Postsecondary diploma

Available online?

Many online RN programs administer core classes online, so working professionals can earn their credentials while performing their duties. Like other roles in this ranking, online education for RNs does involve some in-person training.

5.Medical Lab Technician

Sometimes called clinical laboratory technologists, medical lab technicians gather blood, tissue, and fluid samples. They analyze those samples using state-of-the-art instruments and medical equipment that detect abnormalities. They also log test results and add vital information to patient records.

Most medical lab technicians work in hospitals, research centers, and diagnostic laboratories. They often need to wear protective equipment since they handle infectious specimens and other hazardous materials. They typically work full-time and are often employed within facilitates that operate around the clock. This role requires little education and has a high median salary.

Median salary

$53,120

Projected growth

7%

Required education

Postsecondary certificate

Available online?

There are quite a few online medical lab technician programs out there to help you earn the credentials you need for this role. They provide core instruction in chemistry, phlebotomy, and clinical immunology. Some programs may extend online lab simulations, but most require some hands-on components or clinical experiences.

6.X-Ray Technician

These radiology professionals use magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) equipment to generate diagnostic images of patients based on physician recommendations. They maintain the equipment and work with other professionals to evaluate the images and determine their significance. They also help prepare patients for the process, update their records, and protect them while x-rays are being taken.

Like other positions in this ranking, x-ray technicians see high median salaries due to the technical nature of their role. They typically work full-time in hospitals and other medical facilities. They may be asked to keep irregular hours at times in order to keep up with the rigors of the jobs (nights, weekends, etc.).

Median salary

$62,280

Projected growth

7%

Required education

Associate degree

Available online?

Yes, radiology tech programs online do exist. Most programs use hybrid formats, combining virtual instruction for core coursework with externships and clinicals performed in face-to-face settings. They develop skills in radiobiology, digital imaging, and the principles of exposure.

7.Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN)

Licensed practical nurses and licensed vocational nurses typically work under the direction of presiding physicians or RNs. They provide and administer basic medical care, monitor patient health, and discuss potential treatment plans with groups and individuals. Primary tasks may include checking blood pressure, dressing wounds, collecting data samples, and conducting routine laboratory tests.

This role requires little education and is a great way of being your nursing career. LPNs normally work within hospitals, outpatient care centers, and other healthcare facilities. Their duties can be stressful at times, and they are often required to work long shifts (8 hours or more) that may include irregular hours and on-call availability.

Median salary

$47,480

Projected growth

9%

Required education

Postsecondary certificate

Available online?

Yes. Looking inside online LPN and LVN programs reveal that students can complete the majority of their studies using virtual tools. Most programs use a combination of synchronous and asynchronous tools to deliver course material. Like other nursing professions, LPN training involves a hands-on practice that reflects real-world work conditions.

8.Personal Trainer

Personal trainers and fitness instructors facilitate exercise activities for groups and individuals. They act often act as wellness coaches by offering motivation and other strategies designed to improve performance. They may prescribe regular fitness regimens for their clients and monitor their progress over time. Examples include cardiovascular exercise, strength conditioning, and agility procedures.

Aspiring professionals in this area need less education than other areas and will enjoy high job growth rates, according to BLS projections. Some trainers may specialize in individual areas of practice depending on their skills and interest. Others may work within fitness centers, gyms, and nonprofits, or sports organizations.

Median salary

$40,390

Projected growth

15%

Required education

Postsecondary certificate

Available online?

Yes. Enrolling in an online exercise science degree program is one way to obtain the credentials you need to become a personal trainer. These programs build a foundational knowledge base in kinesiology and human anatomy. Students receive core coursework in topics like nutrition and wellness, performance coaching, and resistance training.

9.Medical Assistant

Medical assistants provide administrative support within clinics, hospitals, physician’s offices, and other healthcare facilities. Their responsibilities vary depending on the scope of their employer. Common tasks include maintaining patient records, measuring vital signs, scheduling appointments, and ensuring information security. Professionals working in a larger practice may specialize in clinical, ophthalmic, or podiatric medical assisting.

Benefits associated with this profession include positive job growth rates nationwide and few education requirements. This means you can begin your career relatively quickly with a bright outlook. Medical assistants work full-time during normal business hours but may be required to provide additional coverage during nights, weekends, and holidays.

Median salary

$34,800

Projected growth

19%

Required education

Postsecondary certificate

Available online?

Yes. Online certification of medical assistants involves successful completion of an approved program, followed by a national certification exam. The exam covers core competencies in medical ethics and regulations, patient support, medical business procedures, and clinical practice. Students can select additional courses that cultivate key skills and support their long-term needs.

10.Phlebotomist

Professionals working in this area draw patients’ blood for tests, donations, transfusion, and further research. They discuss results with patients and work to make them feel comfortable throughout the process. Once the process is complete, they label samples and enter identifying information in a medical database. They also maintain instruments like needles and blood vials.

Phlebotomy requires little education. This means you can become one quickly, but one of the drawbacks is a lower median salary compared to other roles in this ranking list. Most phlebotomists work in labs, hospitals, or mobile blood donation centers. They usually work full-time, and those employed in a larger facility may log irregular hours.

Median salary

$35,510

Projected growth

17%

Required education

Postsecondary certificate

Available online?

Yes. Online phlebotomy classes and certification programs provide a clear pathway to training and employment. They offer preparation for certification within one of the many professional organizations that credential phlebotomists throughout the country. They instill knowledge in clinical practice, venipunctures, and the human circulatory system.

11.Medical Biller & Coder

Medical billers and coders fulfill roles similar to medical assistants but focus their efforts on health information data. They maintain clinical databases and review patient records to ensure accuracy. They also use classification rubrics to categorize records, track patient outcomes, and assign insurance reimbursements.

This occupation requires knowledge of medical terminology as well as proficiency in healthcare administration and computer systems. A major benefit is that it requires less education than more care-based roles, so aspiring professionals can begin work in no time at all. Medical coders are needed wherever billable healthcare services are provided. Some may work from home, but most work full-time in office settings.

Median salary

$42,630

Projected growth

8%

Required education

Postsecondary certificate

Available online?

Yes. Like other occupations listed, online medical billing and coding certification opportunities are available. These programs require fewer in-person components than others due to the nature of the role and its demands. The timeframe for completion is also shorter. Most students can complete their studies in a year or less.

12.Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA)

Nursing assistants help nurses in more advanced roles. They provide basic care and assist patients, particularly the elderly, with daily living activities. At times, they may help transport patients and prepare treatment plans under the direction of a supervising nurse. They also measure vital signs and dispense medication.

If you’re interested in becoming an RN or LPN in the future, beginning as a CNA is a great way to get started. It does not require much education, but because CNAs have less responsibility than more experienced nurses, they receive lower median salaries overall. Most CNAs work in larger facilities that provide nursing care.

Median salary

$29,640

Projected growth

8%

Required education

Postsecondary certificate

Available online?

Yes. Taking online CNA classes is a great way to begin your education. Many of these programs extend online opportunities augmented with in-person clinical experiences. Once you have completed all the required credits, you can sit for the certification exam required by your state.

13.Dental Assistant

Dental assistants offer support within dentists’ offices. Their role involves a broad range of tasks that may include preparing patients for care and assisting dentists in providing care. They sterilize instruments, process x-rays, maintain records, and offer oral hygiene advice to patients. They may also assist with billing and payment at times.

One benefit of this occupation is that it requires little education in comparison to more advanced dentistry roles. Dental assistants work full-time, often including evenings and weekends. They work under the supervision of a dentist who mentors them and must wear protective clothing and equipment at all times.

Median salary

$40,080

Projected growth

7%

Required education

Postsecondary certificate

Available online?

Yes. A look inside top online dental assistant programs shows that you can earn your credentials using hybrid tools that combine virtual learning with hands-on practice. Credentialing requirements vary by state and usually require graduation from an approved program and completion of a certification exam.

14.Paramedic/EMT

These professionals work on the front lines as first responders. They coordinate with other medical and safety personnel to respond to emergency calls and perform medical services in the field. They often need to react quickly and assess emergencies to prioritize care. They also transport patients to proper medical facilities.

Like many other entry-level careers, EMTs and paramedics don’t need to complete many education requirements. They need working knowledge of medical procedures like CPR and first-aid treatment. Most learn how to implement those practices on the job. EMTs and paramedics work full-time in high-stress environments that often involve life-or-death situations.

Median salary

$35,400

Projected growth

6%

Required education

Postsecondary certificate

Available online?

Yes. The best online programs for paramedic training include virtual coursework offerings and hybrid experiences that reflect real-world work conditions. Curriculum delivery fluctuates depending on the program, but in most cases, you should be able to finish in about a year. Once complete, you can begin the certification process specific to your state.

15.Pharmacy Technician

A pharmacy technician’s responsibilities include collecting information necessary for prescriptions, filling prescriptions by measuring out medications, and organizing inventory. They also package and label prescriptions with clear instructions for patients. Depending on their employers, they may also fulfill administrative duties like answering the phone, processing payments and entering new customer information.

One drawback of this career is that it currently sees relatively low job growth rates. But, on the plus side, the path to employment involves a few education requirements. Pharmacy technicians usually work full-time, and because most pharmacies are open at all hours, they may be required to work nights and weekends.

Median salary

$33,950

Projected growth

4%

Required education

Postsecondary certificate

Available online?

Yes. Online pharmacy tech schools and programs offer a flexible and accommodating way of meeting all the requirements. Some may require face-to-face learning, but many extend classes entirely online. Once you complete an accredited program, you can begin the national certification process. Depending on where you live, you may need to secure additional licensure.

16.Medical Transcriptionist

Medical transcriptionists listen to recordings made by doctors and other healthcare professionals in order to generate written reports. Sometimes they review and edit documents created using speech recognition tools. These include patient histories, exam and operation reports, discharge notes, and referral letters.

This role isn’t growing as fast as other healthcare occupations, but it has a quicker path to employment given the education requirements. Transcriptionists need to know basic medical terminology as well as the common abbreviations and other technical language used by physicians. They can work from home and set their own schedules, but also find employment in hospitals and doctor’s offices.

Median salary

$33,380

Projected growth

-2%

Required education

Postsecondary certificate

Available online?

Yes. Medical transcriptionist training and certification online generally include courses in human anatomy, medical ethics and regulation, and pharmacology. Due to the nature of the job, most programs do not use hybrid tools or in-person components. This means you can complete your training and certification entirely online using innovative and convenient learning tools.