You don’t have to spend years in medical school to launch a lucrative career in healthcare. The industry is shorthanded in a number of essential fields that you can qualify for with as little as one month of training. Here are some of the more in-demand and rewarding options:
This is one of the hottest medical careers today. “There are two levels in the field of X-ray technicians,’ explains Richard Drexelius, MD, a board-certified radiologist who heads the A-1 Technical Career Institute in San Jose. “There is the unrestricted technician status that requires four years of schooling, and the restricted certification that we teach here.”
The big difference is that those with more schooling can do full X-rays and mammograms while the restricted technician is limited to performing chest, arm, leg and spine imaging. Students must complete medical assistant training before enrolling in the 26-week X-ray tech program.
“Students must have experience working in a doctor’s office assisting the physician by drawing blood and other tasks,” Drexelius continues. “Physicians often do their own X-rays, so having an assistant with those skills is invaluable.”
The academic part of the course is 13 weeks of classroom work learning the science of radiation and protection from exposure. The second part is clinical training: working in an office under the supervision of a doctor. Externs do at least 100 chest X-rays and 200 skeletal X-rays during this time. State licensing follows completion of the program. The average pay for a restricted X-ray technician is $25 an hour.
The cost for the program is $12,000, of which up to $3,000 can be recouped in a tax refund. In many cases, the supervising physician pays for the course – another indicator of the demand for these specialists.
“The aging of our population has definitely created more jobs in the X-ray technician field,” Dr. Drexelius points out. “In fact, there is such a shortage that prospective employers can’t find any technicians who are not working.”
Medical Billing & Clerical
Any physician will tell you their biggest headache and an area that consumes most of their office staff’s time is dealing with complicated insurance forms. It’s no wonder that students who complete a course in medical billing often have their choice of multiple job offers. Several vocational schools teach students to prepare health claim forms using state-of-the-art medical billing software.
Healthcare administration in another career direction that can put you on the fast track to a job in a medical or dental front office or a hospital setting.
Western Career College – with locations in Antioch, Emeryville, Citrus Heights, Pleasant Hill, Sacramento, San Jose, San Leandro, Stockton – offers specialty career training in medical secretarial, surgical technology, ultrasound technology and medical assisting.
“Medical assisting is one of the most popular medical fields around today,” according to Cisi McCray, admissions director with Western Career College in Sacramento. “They do all the things in a doctor’s office that nurses used to do. Most physicians rely on medical assistants because nurses are too expensive.
A medical assistant shows the patient into the examining room, takes vital signs, notes the reason for the visit and records on the patient’s chart.
Western’s comprehensive course takes about nine or ten months to complete if students attend classes three hours per day, five days a week. Many go on to earn an RN or LVN certification.
“We have a graduation rate of 86 percent,” claims McCray. “Medical assistants are in high demand and there is no age barrier. The more mature you are the better you will be working with patients.”
Another hands-on medical area that has gained acceptance from both the medical community and the general population is massage therapy.
“Over the past ten years the field has expanded in job opportunities and value,” observes Rocky Hall, administrator and enrollment counselor at the San Francisco School of Massage. “ Over the past ten years the industry has grown 20 percent and that’s huge. While research progresses, so the does the acceptance.”
More and more hospitals have massage therapists on staff to treat both patients and staff members. A relatively new application is in dentistry, where massage is used to relax the facial muscles before a surgical procedure.
“There are so many sub-specialties and applications,” Hall notes. “For example lymphatic massage is helpful for post-operative cancer patients. Many times when people have lymphatic cancer there is built up edema, and massage reduces the swelling.”
One of the factors behind expanded use of massage is recognition of the fact that 90 percent of pain is related to the soft tissue, muscles and connective tissues, which massage can directly address.
“There is also a growing awareness in the medical community of how stress is related to disease and illness,” Hall adds. “Massage is preventative because it relaxes people and reduces the [physical symptoms] that contribute to stress.”
The school believes in allowing a student’s interest to guide their course load. The basic, short course – 100 hours – can be completed in two weeks. Upon completion a certificate is awarded and the graduate can apply to their local health department for a legal permit to work. The basic course is $1200 and the cost of licensing runs around $250.
“Often massage is a gateway to other things in the health field,” according to Hall. “We have an instructor who starting doing massage after completing the course, spent years working in a hands-on hospital setting and then became a chiropractor. Others go into full-time massage.”
He remembers another student who went on to become a nutritional health counselor. Others branch out into sports medicine, physical therapy or stress reduction. “We have a saying in the industry that form follows function. That means your body reflects whatever you do.”