Medical Careers with two-year degrees

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When you think of a career in the medical field, you may think it takes years of schooling. In some cases you are right. For example, it takes a minimum of eight years to become a doctor or dentist.

Other careers in medicine, such as becoming a physician assistant may take four years or more. Some people are willing to invest a number of years in school to work in the medical field. But not everyone wants to spend that much time in school.

The good news is there are other options. There are plenty of jobs in medicine, which do not require five plus years of schooling. In fact, there are several jobs in the medical field, which only require an associate degree. Consider some of the following jobs in healthcare, which only require two-year degrees to get started.

Cardiovascular Technician

Cardiovascular technicians work with doctors to diagnose and treat various cardiac conditions, such as congenital heart defects, coronary artery disease and vascular conditions. They may assist in noninvasive procedures, such as stress tests and echocardiograms or invasive procedures including angioplasty.

Responsibilities of a cardiovascular technician may vary but often include preparing the patient, setting up equipment, monitoring the patient during the procedure and assisting the doctor as needed.

Although bachelor degree programs are available, most programs for cardiovascular technicians are two years long. Associate degree programs are offered at community colleges and vocational schools. Admission requirements vary by school.

The first year of the program is often spent taking classes in anatomy, cardiovascular diseases and procedures performed. The second year will often include a hands-on internship where specific skills needed are learned. Although it varies, some states require cardiovascular technicians to be licensed and state requirements are different.

X-ray Technician

X-rays are one of the most common diagnostic procedures performed. X-rays can help a doctor determine a variety of problems with bones, muscles, joints and various organs of the body. Although the job of an x-ray technician may not seem too complicated, it involves more than you think.

X-ray technicians must have a thorough understanding of anatomy in order to perform the procedure correctly. Technicians must position the patient properly, adjust the machine and troubleshoot problems as they develop to ensure a quality image is captured.

In order to work as an x-ray technician, you must have a minimum of an associate degree in radiologic technology. Many vocational schools and colleges throughout the United States have radiologic technology programs. Classes often include patient positioning, anatomy, medical terminology and radiation protection.

Clinical experience in a hospital setting is also often part of the curriculum. If you are interested in a career as an x-ray tech, look for a program, which is accredited by the Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology.

Respiratory Therapists

Various medical conditions and diseases can affect a person’s ability to breathe properly. Illnesses, such as pneumonia, emphysema and congestive heart failure, all can lead to respiratory failure. Respiratory therapists treat patients who have conditions, which interfere with breathing.

Therapists may perform various diagnostic tests to determine what type of lung disease a person has. They also administer several types of therapy including medication, breathing treatments and chest percussion. Respiratory therapists operate lifesaving equipment, such as mechanical ventilators, which are used to assist a person’s breathing.

Most programs for respiratory therapists are two years, and an associate degree is awarded. Most RT programs involve a combination of classroom lectures, laboratory skills and clinical rotations in healthcare facilities. Students study pharmacology, respiratory diseases and cardiopulmonary anatomy.

During laboratory skills, students may learn how to perform a respiratory exam and assessment, differentiate lung sounds and draw blood from the arteries. Clinical rotations will allow students to have hands-on experience with patients.

After graduating from a two-year program, state licensure is required in all states but Alaska. A criminal background check, as well as an exam, is required to obtain a license. Respiratory therapists most commonly work in hospitals. But jobs are also available in nursing homes, rehabilitation facilities, home health agencies and medical equipment companies.

Medical Sonographers

Another career in the medical field, which only requires an associate degree to get started is medical sonography, which is also referred to as ultrasound. Ultrasound technology uses sound waves to create images of different parts of the body for diagnostic purposes.

In some situations, an x-ray does not provide detailed information to make an accurate diagnosis. Ultrasounds can often provide more detailed images of certain parts of the body.

Ultrasound programs are offered at colleges and vocational schools. The associate degree program includes classes in anatomy, physics and pathophysiology. Students will also be required to complete a certain number of clinical hours performing various types of ultrasounds involving different regions of the body.

After graduating from an ultrasound program, optional certifications is available through the American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography (ARDMS). Although not all employers require certification, it is helpful to gain employment. Specialty certifications are also available from the ARDMS in abdominal ultrasound, obstetrics, fetal echocardiography and vascular technology.



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Gap Medics provides year-round hospital work experience for people aged 16 and over. Our shadowing placements offer a unique insight into the work of doctors, nurses, midwives, and dentists – helping students to focus their career aspirations before embarking upon medical training.

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