What Kinds of Jobs Can You Get With an Associate Degree in Health Studies?



by Aanya Rose
The health-care industry is growing rapidly, with up to 28 percent of all new jobs expected to be in this field, including jobs in public and private hospitals, nursing and residential care facilities, and individual and family services, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics. And, many jobs will go to people who earned associate degrees in health sciences. The health-care field is expected to grow 33 percent, providinf just under 6 million new jobs through 2020. That is good news for anyone with an associate degree in health science, and fortunately, there are a lot of options for someone with this degree.

(1)   Health Information Technologist

A health information technologist works with medical records. Health info techs can specialize in one area of medical records, such as cancer registrars or in medical billing or medical coding. Health info techs are increasingly working with digital records, as more offices are switching from paper to electronic medical records, or EHR. As more offices do this there is a growing demand for trained health info techs. Good software and computer skills are necessary for this job, as is attention to detail. While certification is not required, there are certification courses available from the American Health Information Management Association. An associate degree is all the college education that is typically required to get a job as a health information technologist.
 

(2)   Medical Assistant

An associate degree also is useful for applying for a job as a medical administrative assistant or medical assistant. A medical assistant performs many duties in a medical office, hospital or nursing home. The duties may include taking a patient’s vitals, updating medical records, creating patient charts, and performing basic medical billing duties. Some private physician offices will offer medical assistant training, but most will require a minimum of an associate degree. Further training is available as a certified medical assistant, which will help you to advance your career.
Where do medical assistants work?
“Most MAs will work in an ambulatory setting,” says Denise Pufall, chair of the Medical Assisting program at Rasmussen College. These clinic-based settings used to be your average doctor’s office. But now, Pufall is seeing MAs land in a much wider variety of locations. “They are moving into different types of positions: eye clinics, chiropractic locations, long-term nursing home facilities and, of course, hospital settings, too.”
Medical assistants in some of these different settings can have job duties specific to their location. These days they may even specialize in a certain area, according to the BLS. For example, ophthalmic medical assistants help ophthalmologists provide eye care, showing patients how to use contact lenses.
What skills do medical assistants need?
Above all, medical assistants need to be compassionate, Pufall says. “You might see a patient who just learned they have cancer. You aren’t there just to write things down, but to be a support. You have to show in your face that you are listening.”
“You also need to be versatile, quick on your feet and able to take good direction,” Pufall says. MAs have to make quick decisions within the scope of their practice and know when to bring a nurse or a doctor into a problem.
Active listening is also a very important skill, according to Pufall. MAs are often the ones responsible for patient screening. During this process, MAs ask questions that could raise red flags about domestic violence, bullying, depression, suicidal thoughts and other dangers. “You have to be able to get a feel for the patient, their answers and whether they may not be telling you everything,” Pufall says. “You alert the physician if you notice something.”
What is the medical assistant salary and job outlook?
In 2017, medical assistants earned an average of $32,480 per year according to the BLS.*
The job outlook for medical assistants is excellent, with employment opportunities expected to grow at a rate of 29 percent through 2026, which is much faster than the average occupation.
This tremendous growth is because the healthcare industry is starting to realize just how versatile medical assistants are, Pufall says. “It’s one of the fastest-growing careers in healthcare. There’s a high demand,” Pufall says.

(3)   Pharmacy Technician

According to the National Pharmacy Technician Association, job growth in this field is expected to be 28.8 percent in the next few years. No formal training is required, although an associate degree is preferred and will help you get a head start when applying for a position as a pharmacy technician. There is national pharmacy technician certification, but some pharmacies will offer this on-the-job training to candidates that they hire. You will have an edge if you know brand names and generic names for medicines. You can take classes to gain this information. Pharmacy technicians help to answer the phones, make calls to physician offices and request authorizations for prescription refills. They help to count pills, mix medications, compound medications and fill prescriptions. They also enter data into a computer and communicate with insurance companies. They also communicate with customers who come into the pharmacy.
Where do pharmacy technicians work?
Pharmacy technicians can work wherever pharmacies are located. Over half of pharmacy technicians work in pharmacies and drugstores. Some find employment in hospitals and others work in pharmacies located in grocery stores or general stores like Target, Walgreens and Costco.
What skills do pharmacy technicians need?
“Attention to detail and accuracy are two vital traits to have working within the healthcare field because even a small mistake can have serious consequences for patients,” Barthels says. “Pharmacy technicians work directly with a patient’s prescription by preparing and filling it.  The wrong dosage and/or medication can have serious consequences for patients, so a pharm tech’s ability to be detailed and accurate is a must along with having strong mathematical skills.”
Barthels says a large portion of pharm techs also interact with patients face-to-face and need strong communication and customer service skills. “Finally, an interest and knowledge of prescription medications is required to be successful in this role along with the ability to identify possible mistakes and concerns with a patient’s prescription,” Barthels says.    
What is the pharmacy technician salary and job outlook?
In 2017, pharmacy technicians earned an average wage of $31,750 per year, according to the BLS.*
The job outlook for pharmacy technicians is excellent, with employment opportunities expected to grow at a rate of 12 percent through 2026, which is faster than the average occupation.
“The pharmacy technician market is adapting to changes in the federal healthcare laws and to the current opioid crisis within the U.S.,” Barthels adds. “Both are changing the ways pharmacies interact with patients and insurance companies. There is a trend of pharmacies investing in and operating larger pharmaceutical distribution centers that employ a large number of pharmacy technicians for various roles including insurance verification along with medication preparation and filling.”

(4)   Surgical Technologist

Surgical technologist programs are generally open to anyone with an associate degree. For most jobs, certification as a surgical technologist is voluntary, but it can help you demonstrate that you are committed to the job and give you a better chance at getting the job that you want. Surgical technologists are important members of the surgical team at every step of the surgery process. They help to prepare the operating room, set up equipment, sterilize supplies, prepare the patient, take them to the operating room, check the patient’s vitals, cover them with drapes. They also help the surgical team to "scrub in" and prepare for operations. They may also help the surgical team during the operation by handing them the tools they need to operate. Following the surgery, they will take the patient to the recovery room and clean the operating room is cleaned.

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