March 2, 2015

Starting Out in the Healthcare Field

Opportunities abound for entry-level job seekers

Want to get your foot in the door of the health care industry but do not want to spend the years necessary to be a doctor or nurse? Opportunities are available for many entry-level health care jobs that will get you started on a rewarding career in no time.

If you enjoy the prospect of working one-on-one with people and are looking for a career that offers variety and flexibility, one of the allied health professions may be a good career choice for you.

Allied health workers are involved with the delivery of health or related services pertaining to the identification, evaluation and prevention of diseases and disorders; dietary and nutrition services; and rehabilitation and health systems management, among others, according to the Association of Schools of Allied Health Professionals.

Entry-level jobs can have a career growth path for those who are interested in advancing their careers in health care. Typical allied health positions include phlebotomist technicians, certified pharmacy technicians, certified nursing assistants, dental assistants, medical assistants and sleep lab technicians, among others. There are also clerical entry-level positions in health care such as patient registrars, health unit coordinators and medical secretaries.

At Montgomery College, workforce development programs that can be as short as 10 weeks can prepare students for such entry-level positions as a pharmacy technician, occupational therapy assistant, certified nursing assistant, home care companion and medicine aide.

One of the most popular entry-level jobs in the healthcare field is that of pharmacy technician, according to Janet Clarke, program director of Workforce Development and Continuing Education. “Enrollment in this program has tripled,” she said, noting, “There are pharmacies everywhere, from hospitals to grocery stores to your neighborhood Target.”

As the population ages and older adults require more medical exams and services, there will also be increasing numbers of positions in entry-level jobs such as phlebotomy technician, EKG technician and home care as baby boomers seek to “age in place,” Clarke added.

Interested in health care as a possible career but not sure what area would suit you best? Try volunteering. You will not make money, but the experience can help you get started on a rewarding career.

To choose a volunteer setting, ask yourself the following questions: What types of healthcare settings appeal to you (i.e., hospitals, nursing homes, rehabilitation centers, etc.)? Do you have an interest in a particular type of patient–children, perhaps, or cancer patients? What kinds of health professionals would you like to work with–doctors, nurses, physical therapists, etc.?

Once you have a clearer idea of what you hope to gain from the experience, you can look for volunteer opportunities in a number of ways. If you are a student, check with your school’s career services center. If you are interested in volunteering in a hospital, contact the hospital’s volunteer coordinator. If you want to learn more about specific illnesses–such as diabetes or heart disease–contact the national associations to find out what volunteer opportunities exist where you live.