Careers that require a two-year degree?
October 27, 2010 8:49 AM   Subscribe

Mid-career job switcher. Unhappy with my current job and looking to make a switch into something more stable - probably in the medical field. Ideally, I'd like a job that requires an Associates Degree (two year program) rather than a Bachelor's Degree (four year program). A one-year certificate program is even better. What are my options?

I'm willing to give up two years of wages to go to school full time in order to transition into a more stable career, but not four years. I do not have a college degree.

Sonography sounds attractive- stable, in demand, but it's a four year degree. Radiology seems good, though I'm not keen on being around all that radiation, perhaps I can specialize in MRI.

What similar jobs are out there, in the medical profession or not? What are the pros & cons of these options? If there's anyone out there who's done this- I'd love to hear from you.

Related questions: What career path should I choose?
posted by Muffy to Work & Money (12 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
I once had a coworker who was very, very excited about going into phlebotomy. If you're not good with needles or blood, this isn't your field, however.

Also, I can't find it, but there's an article out there called something like "ick factor" or "yuck factor" (but not either of those) which details what medical careers are open to you, depending on how much physical grossness you can take. Perhaps someone else can point it out.
posted by griphus at 8:57 AM on October 27, 2010

Some community colleges in the US offer a two year RN program. Jobs are plentiful.
posted by mareli at 8:59 AM on October 27, 2010

RN programs in most of the US are very hard to get into right now, just as a caution--which is so weird, because there's such a nurse shortage, but there it is.

I know someone who has made a wonderful career as a cardiology technician. She operates and maintains some very specialized machines, gets good pay and benefits, is helping people, and I think it took 9 months for her to be certified as a tech on that particular machine.
posted by Sidhedevil at 9:17 AM on October 27, 2010

If you're a night owl, you might want to consider getting a 2-year degree in electroneurodiagnostic technology, with which you can work in sleep centers doing sleep studies on people. You can do other things, like perform EEG tests in a hospital or clinical setting, as well.
posted by scarykarrey at 9:36 AM on October 27, 2010

My aunt is an X-ray tech--she only has an Associate's and she makes pretty good money. There is some yuckiness and heavy lifting but she says it's easy work for the most part.
posted by cottonswab at 9:37 AM on October 27, 2010

Best answer: The search term you are looking for is "allied health." Keep in mind that many allied health careers are making transitions from 2-year degrees and certificates to 4-year degrees, but there are still lots of good opportunities out there. If you live near a large hospital system, they likely have certificate training programs in a limited number of fields (dietician tech, patient care associate, lab tech, etc.)

2-year AA RN programs will still have at least an additional year of prerequisite requirements, but you might look into LPN. There are hospital systems with programs to support techs and PCAs in part-time schooling to complete BSNs while you work.

Because of the advancements in medical technology and the complexity of the acute care system, there are lots of opportunities at the tech level with various levels of required education. You might start by making an appointment with the advisor of your largest university system near you with an allied health program--not necessarily to enroll, but to get some one on one time exploring options.

I am completing hospital rotations for my nurse practitioner (graduate degree) at a large university hospital system and I am routinely amazing at the variety in the allied health field, and many have a lot of job satisfaction and benefits. Most don't realize how many roles are required in acute care. (also let me put a plug in for Lactation Consultant--where I started. There is a large clinical hour requirement, but babies!)
posted by rumposinc at 9:43 AM on October 27, 2010 [2 favorites]

What about being a PCA (Personal Care Aide) or a CNA (Certified Nursing Assistant)? A friend of mine is a nurse and she says there is always need for PCAs. I wish I had more info but I don't. Any PCAs or CNAs out there who could give Muffy the inside scoop?
posted by Ventre Mou at 11:21 AM on October 27, 2010

PCAs and CNAs are woefully underpaid.

There are Associates Degree RNs and PAs, but both these fields require another couple years of pre-recs, effectively making them four year degrees. Respiratory therapy or surgical tech are probably worth looking into.
posted by serazin at 12:12 PM on October 27, 2010

Health information management is hot right now. It's really more of a computer field though. No patient contact.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 12:15 PM on October 27, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks everyone for the responses.

I posted this on behalf of someone else & we've done some additional research.

It looks like different schools have different programs (some accredited, some not). It also looks like Sonography can be done as a two year degree (though not locally), and one thing she read said that Sonography is competitive and many schools require Radiology as a background before considering you for a Sonography program.

Health Information Management doesn't seem to pay very well compared to some of the other options.

Surgical tech is probably too "icky" & high pressure. Respiratory Therapy sounds like it could be difficult emotionally... therapy on kids & the elderly seems more difficult than diagnostics- sonography, etc. where you don't spend as much time getting to know a patient. It also doesn't seem to be represented in the Occupational Outlook Handbook (as a somewhat more niche area) so information about it is a bit more difficult to find.

We're looking into some programs in the area & seeing what's affordable (state schools vs. private schools etc.) and what sort of outlook there is for each career path & what the job/study actually entails.
posted by Muffy at 11:52 PM on October 27, 2010

Response by poster: This may be relevant to your interests - why it's important to go to an accredited school and do your research before signing up for a program. Lots of similar threads on
posted by Muffy at 11:57 PM on November 11, 2010

Response by poster: More relevant information. In Hard Times, Lured Into Trade School and Debt
Critics say many schools exaggerate the value of their degree programs, selling young people on dreams of middle-class wages while setting them up for default on untenable debts, low-wage work and a struggle to avoid poverty. And the schools are harvesting growing federal student aid dollars, including Pell grants awarded to low-income students.
posted by Muffy at 2:06 PM on November 14, 2010

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