If the thought of helping people in the medical field appeals to you, but the difficulty and expense of going to medical school discourages you, consider getting an associate degree instead. A number of medical fields only require a two-year degree to enter, and many of them pay well and are in high demand. According to a CNN report, four of the ten highest paying jobs that require only an associate degree are in the medical field.
Radiation therapists typically work on an oncology team helping patients who are being treated for cancer. They learn to work with the machines that direct high-energy x-rays at cancer cells, checking the machines for safety and functionality. They also administer radiation to the patient and help the patient understand the treatment procedures. In most states, you will have to pass an exam administered by the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists, in addition to completing an associate degree, to obtain a licence. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, median pay for radiation therapists was $74,980 in May 2010, and job growth is expected to be 20 percent between 2010 and 2020.
Nuclear Medicine Technologist
Nuclear medicine technologists operate scanners that create images of patients' bodies, which are used by physicians to diagnose and monitor disease. They also administer radioactive drugs to patients undergoing the scans and help monitor the safety of the procedures, guarding against excessive exposure and reaction to the drugs. Certification requirements vary by state, and you can also earn specialty certification in areas such as magnetic resonance imaging and emission tomography. According to the BLS, median pay for nuclear medicine technologists was $68,560 in May 2010, and job growth is expected to be 19 percent between 2010 and 2020.
Diagnostic Medical Sonographer
Diagnostic medical sonographers operate equipment that directs sound waves into the body to create images to assess and diagnose certain medical conditions. Perhaps the most familiar use of sonography, also called ultrasound, is to monitor the progression of a pregnancy. Although not every state requires sonographers to be licensed, most employers require it, which usually involves completing an accredited program and passing an exam. Median pay for diagnostic medical sonographers was $64,380 in May 2010, according to the BLS, and expected job growth in the field impressive -- 44 percent between 2010 and 2020.
Registered nurses work directly with patients in a variety of ways -- administering medication, recording symptoms, providing advice and emotional support and performing diagnostic tests. They work in a variety of environments, including hospitals, schools, prisons and medical offices. All states require nurses to be licensed, which means completing an accredited program and passing the National Council Licensure Examination, or NCLEX-RN. The BLS recorded median pay for registered nurses at $64,690 in May 2010, and it projects that jobs will grow 26 percent between 2010 and 2020.