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A Guide to Getting a Job in Healthcare

Whether you are entering the workforce initially, or switching career paths, navigating your way through a new industry can be challenging — especially if you are starting a new career without any experience. This is especially true for individuals attempting to enter the healthcare industry. If you are planning on beginning a career in the healthcare industry, there are some things that you can do to help ensure a smooth entry or transition.

Pursue Education

One of the most common ways to gain entry into the healthcare industry is to first pursue a healthcare education. Pursuing an education is one of many ways to increase earning potential. Since there are so many different jobs within the healthcare industry, there are jobs available at almost every level of education, as well as jobs that pay well without a degree. If you find a specific job that you are interested in, you will want to understand the different education or certification requirements for entry.

Most healthcare occupations require some sort of traditional education, certification/licensure application, and national examination — although some healthcare facilities have workshops or training for specific jobs like front desk, sterilization, or other entry-level jobs. Although requirements will vary from healthcare organization to organization, traditionally, the education levels are as follows:

  • Workshop/In-House Training: healthcare facilities offer workshops or in-house training for entry-level positions like front desk representatives or office workers. More often than not, the training involves job-specific uptraining and CPR training;
  • Certification: healthcare facilities sometimes require certification from a trade or technical college that is specialized and takes anywhere from 6 months to 18 months to complete. Positions that require certification include jobs like occupational therapists, emergency medical technicians, and phlebotomists;
  • Associates degree: healthcare facilities often require associate’s degrees for jobs like surgical technologists, lab technicians, and specialized aides/assistants. These programs generally last around two years, and they are taken at a community college or technical college;  
  • Bachelor’s degree: healthcare facilities generally require bachelor’s degrees for nurses, compliance officers, health educators, and health informatics. These programs are generally taken from a four-year college or university, and they take anywhere from 3 to 5 years to complete;
  • Master’s degree: healthcare facilities require master’s degrees for those aiming to become nursing anesthetists, physician assistants, nurse practitioners, or occupational therapists. These programs generally take between 2 to 4 years to complete;
  • Doctorate degree: healthcare facilities often require doctorate degrees for those aiming to become healthcare administrators, advanced practice nurses, chiropractors, physicians, dentists, and pharmacists. These programs can take up to 8 years to complete.

It should be noted that education requirements will vary from healthcare organization to healthcare organization based on personal preference, and by national, state, or local healthcare laws. For example, you may need an associate’s degree to work as a surgical technologist for one healthcare organization, while for others you may only need to complete a certification program.

Get Experience

An alternative to pursuing education is to gain experience. This will help you expand your resume with healthcare-specific experience that can help you stand out from other applicants. In some cases, gaining hands-on healthcare experience can deliver more value in your job search than an array of academic accomplishments. It can be difficult to gain experience while in school, or just in general, but there are a couple of options:

  • Volunteer Work: doing pro-bono work in healthcare can show employers just how passionate you truly are about the healthcare industry — so much so that you are willing to work for free. Skills-based volunteer work benefits the community as well;
  • Internships: internships are common ways to gain experience. Sometimes they are paid, and in other cases, they do not offer any monetary compensation. Many degree programs require some sort of internship as well to gain experience prior to graduating;
  • Entry-Level Roles: entry-level roles are great options for expanding your healthcare experience. Although you may be overqualified, it shows that you are willing to take the time and put in the work. Many organizations prefer to promote or hire internally, and this is a great way to get your foot in the door while gaining experience.

If you are a student, talk to your academic advisor, or your professors (both clinical instructors and classroom instructors) to figure out volunteer work, internships, or entry-level role recommendation. If you are not currently in school, reach out to local healthcare organizations or government agencies to help you uncover options for gaining experience.

Start in an Entry-Level Role

As mentioned above, entry-level roles can help you gain experience and get your foot in the door. Additionally, entry-level roles can help you decide whether or not you enjoy working in that specific field, prior to going through vigorous training or completing academic requirements. Below are common entry-level roles in the healthcare industry.

Certified Nursing Assistant

A certified nursing assistant — or CNA — is a medical professional that provides various levels of care to support individuals who are unable to take care of themselves (both mentally and physically). CNAs are an important part of the healthcare industry, so the employment outlook for this specific job is high.

The salary of a CNA will vary depending on location (geographical location and what kind of facility you work in) and experience. Many CNAs advance into careers as registered nurses (RN), licensed practical nurses (LPN), nurse practitioners (NP), or home care management professionals. T

The cost of CNA training will vary depending on a variety of factors, but specifically the geographical location of where you are doing your training. You can find CNA training available by state online to help you gain your CNA certification.

Medical Assistant

A medical assistant is a medical professional that is trained to perform and assist in various administrative and clinical tasks. The occupational outlook for medical assistants is great since they make an average of just under $35,000 annually, and the number of jobs is rising at 19% (much higher than the national average) — as mentioned above, this can fluctuate depending on experience and location.

Medical assistants can progress into a variety of different career fields including (but not limited to) clinical team leadership, medical assistant management, healthcare administration, and medical records management. The cost of training will also vary, but you can find medical assistant training available by state online to help you gain your medical assistant credentials.

Home Health Aide

A home health aide — or HHA — is a medical professional that assists patients in daily living tasks. Although this may appear similar to a job as a CNA, there are differences between a CNA vs. an HHA. The occupational outlook for home health aides is encouraging since they make just over $25,000 annually, and the number of jobs available is growing at a 34% rate (much faster than the national average). On par with the rest of the jobs, these numbers can fluctuate based on a variety of factors.

Many HHAs go on to open up their own practice and, in some cases, they go on to become registered nurses, licensed vocational nurses, or licensed practical nurses. The cost behind training will vary depending on the training required in your local jurisdiction, but you can find HHA training near you online.

Administrative or Support Role

Although less of a specified role, there are certain administrative or support roles available in healthcare that are generally entry-level. Some examples include front-desk customer service representatives, medical transcriptionists, administrative assistants, shift scheduler, medical billing, etc. These roles are designed to help support the rest of the healthcare facility, so it is a great way to gain experience while getting insight into the parameters of how healthcare facilities function administratively.

The job outlook and salary will vary depending on where you are located, the facility that you work for, and your prior experience. Since administrative and support roles help employees get their bearings for administrative work, a lot of these roles can easily progress into high-level administrative jobs.

Try Networking

Much like getting a job in any industry, who you know can play a large role in finding a job. If you do not have current connections in the healthcare industry, look for professional groups to join. A great way to network is to talk to any advisors you may have or by shadowing or volunteering at a healthcare facility. By creating these relationships, you may also create future opportunities.

Find a Mentor

Just like having an academic advisor makes navigating college easier, having a medical mentor in healthcare can make all aspects of working (or advancing) in healthcare simpler. Mentorship in healthcare can help you find the direction you want to go in, and help provide the stepping stones for getting there in the process. Talk to human resources (HR) or your manager about getting a mentor if a mentor is not automatically assigned to you.

Alternatively, if you are still a student, get to know faculty and more advanced professionals to see if you can find a mentor. Not only can this help you academically, but it may better prepare you and give you insights into career paths and other networking opportunities. A good mentor can be a resource for making decisions, keeping you on track, and developing your outlook for a future in healthcare.


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