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.

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
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.”
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?
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
“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.
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.
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.


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?
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?
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.”
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.
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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