Doctors and pharmacists aren't the only health care professionals in short supply. Nearly all health care careers are expected to rise by over 30 percent through the year 2020, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Demand for some careers, such as home health care aides, are expected to rise by 70 percent. Students can train for many of the careers that are in demand at vocational and technical schools rather than four-year colleges at a fraction of the price.
Vocational and Technical Schools for Medical Training
Vocational and technical schools, found throughout the United States in urban, suburban and rural areas, offer a wide variety of educational courses that can generally be completed in less than 18 months. Examples of medical courses of study that can be completed in a few months include certified nursing assistant, emergency medical technicians and paramedics, and medical assistants. Some vocational/technical schools offer licensed practical nurses training and health information technology training, which may take up to 18 months. Training within the vocational/technical institutes may include practical experience in a clinical setting. The Lone Star College System in Texas, and Ivy Tech Community College in Indiana are examples of vocational/technical schools that offer medical training. Both are ranked by "Community College Week" as top degree or certificate granting schools in the health occupations for 2013. North Florida Community College and Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College are ranked in the top 10 vocational/technical schools by "Washington Monthly Magazine."
Like vocational and technical schools, community colleges train students for careers in the health care industry. However, many students who attend community colleges graduate with an associate degree, and in some cases, can bridge to a bachelor's degree with additional course work at the community college or a nearby four-year college. Examples of health occupations course work that can be studied for at community colleges are health information technologist, respiratory therapist, registered nurse, physical therapist assistant, radiologist and occupational therapy assistant. "Washington Monthly Magazine" ranked both Western Wyoming Community College and North Central Missouri College in the top 10 community colleges in the nation. Western Wyoming Community College offers transitional course work in the medical professions that allows students to transfer to a university, or graduate with an associate degree. North Central Missouri College offers multiple levels of nursing programs, pharmacy programs and physical therapy programs.
While most vocational and technical schools and community colleges operate as state institutions, for-profit institutions also offer vocational medical careers. Some for-profit schools have certificate courses, which allow students to attend classes for a few weeks or months, and then go to work. Other for-profit schools have associate-level courses, undergraduate-level courses or even graduate-level courses in the medical field, which may include dental hygiene, histotechnology, public health services, medical laboratory technology and diagnostic medical sonography. While a for-profit institution can be a good option for some, students should check to make sure that their institution is accredited before enrolling. Both the University of Phoenix and Walden University are ranked in the top 100 online colleges and universities, according to "U.S. News & World Report." While the University of Phoenix offers bachelor's and master's degrees, Walden University offers only graduate degrees.
Distance or Online Education
Some students have difficulty attending classes at a traditional vocational or technical school because of distance or time constraints. Those students may find distance education, also called online education, fits their needs. In the health occupations, most course work can be completed online, although some clinical training may need to take place at a brick-and-mortar location. Many vocational/technical colleges, community colleges and four-year colleges have distance learning branches. "U.S. News & World Report" stated that the top online schools were Pace University, Daytona State College and St. John's University. Top schools for medical education according to the publication included Ferris State University, Lamar University and the University of Michigan-Flint.
- United States Department of Labor: Bureau of Labor Statistics: Healthcare Occupations
- Department of Education: Student Aid: Prepare for College: Choosing Schools
- Argosy University: College of Health Sciences
- Boston Globe: A costly lesson at for-profit training schools
- U.S. Department of Education: The Database of Accredited Postsecondary Institutions and Programs
- Council for Higher Education Accreditation: Directory of Regional Accreditation Institutions
- Community College Week: Top 50 Associate Degrees: Health Professions and Related Programs
- Washington Monthly: Community College Rankings 2013
- Western Wyoming Community College: Heath Sciences
- North Central Missouri College: Associate in Applied Science and Certificate of Achievement
- U.S. News & World Report: University of Phoenix
- U.S. News & World Report: Online Graduate Nursing Degrees
- U.S. News & World Report: Online Bachelor's Degrees
Lori Garrett-Hatfield has a B.J. in Journalism from the University of Missouri. She has a Ph.D. in Adult Education from the University of Georgia. She has been working in the Education field since 1994, and has taught every grade level in the K-12 system, specializing in English education, and English as a Second Language education.