Updated November 2023
Nursing is a great career path for those with a passion for providing care and helping others. But what about people who don’t want to pursue nursing, but still want to positively impact those around them?
While it may be an essential role in healthcare, nursing is not the only way to make a difference in the lives of patients.
So, if you want to go into healthcare, but don’t want to become a nurse, rest assured that there is a path for you—it’s just a matter of finding the right one. Use this guide for an overview excellent entry-level (non-nursing) roles in the healthcare field.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that healthcare jobs will grow by 13% in the next ten years. With a growth rate that’s much faster than the average across all occupations, it’s a great time to enter the field of healthcare.
Entry-level healthcare roles can help you to enter the field with minimal training and often little to no experience. Of course, you can always add to your expertise with advanced degrees and certificates as your career progresses, but it’s not necessary right out of the gate.
Because of this, entry-level roles (like the ones on this list) remove certain social or economic barriers of advanced degrees or training. And they can open the door to a career in healthcare for candidates of diverse backgrounds.
10 Entry-Level Roles in Healthcare
Each entry-level role in healthcare may vary in terms of daily tasks, hiring requirements, and career outlooks. By exploring each one individually, you can get the information you need to choose a career path that aligns with your goals, strengths, and passions.
To help you get started, here’s a look at everything you need to know about popular entry-level roles in healthcare.
1. Medical Assistant
Medical assistants help doctors care for patients by performing key clinical and administrative tasks. This entry-level healthcare role serves as a liaison between the doctor and their patients to help provide a positive care experience and outcomes, and more than 123,000 openings for medical assistants are listed each year.
Depending on the clinic’s size, location, and specialty, medical assistant job duties may include:
- Welcoming patients to the clinic
- Taking, assessing, and recording vital signs
- Helping with patient’s physical exams
- Performing blood draws as needed
- Scheduling patient appointments
To become a medical assistant, you need a high school diploma or GED in most areas. Advanced training and certifications may not be necessary, but can help you further excel in this role. The salary can vary from $20,000 to $60,000 per year, but the median annual pay rate is $39,500.
2. Lab Technician or Technologist
Using high-tech equipment, clinical lab technicians or technologists perform tests on patients’ blood, urine, and tissue samples. Their findings help doctors diagnose, treat, and prevent disease in their patients and support excellent care outcomes.
Common lab technician or technologist job duties include:
- Maintaining and setting up lab equipment, like microscopes, for testing procedures
- Performing tests on patients’ bodily fluids as requested by their doctors
- Running multiple tests at the same time as needed to maintain the lab’s efficiency
- Recording test data in the medical system for prompt retrieval by the care team
- Sharing test results with physicians to best aid in the care process
While still considered entry-level, if you’d like to have this healthcare role, you should have an associate degree at a community college or university. In some states, you may also need to get certified and registered. To advance your career, you’ll want to complete a bachelor’s degree program in medical laboratory technology. The median annual salary is $50,954, but annual wages range from $41,000 to $62,000.
Phlebotomy—the act of drawing blood—is a key function in the field of healthcare. An entry-level phlebotomist safely and efficiently draws blood from patients for use in medical lab tests, transfusions, and research. They may also collect blood for donations while working for organizations that run blood drives.
In a typical day, phlebotomy technicians may be:
- Verifying each patient’s name and birthdate
- Following best practices in drawing blood from patients
- Aiding people who feel anxious or experience an adverse reaction
- Labelling vials of blood and sending them out as instructed
- Maintaining a clean and sanitary work area at all times
To become a phlebotomist, you will just need to complete a short certificate program at a community college or vocational school. Most often, this program only takes one year or less to complete. In some cases, you can find an opening with on-the-job training instead. The median yearly salary for this role is $38,594, although annual wages can range from $31,000 to over $47,000.
4. Home Health Aide
Home health aides provide assistance to elderly adults, people with disabilities, and other individuals who need support with daily care activities. At the entry-level, they may also work under the supervision of a healthcare provider to check vital signs, administer medication, and provide wound care services.
On any given day, duties of a home health aide may include:
- Helping their patients complete daily personal care activities, like bathing and dressing
- Completing housekeeping and meal prep tasks to support their patients’ health and safety
- Helping with appointments and social outings by arranging transportation and accompanying their patient
- Working under the supervision of a doctor to perform healthcare tasks, like giving medications
The total amount of training or certifications you’ll need to become a home health aide depends on your state board of health. At the very least, you will likely need to complete CPR and First Aid training. The annual salary for this role ranges from $24,000 to $33,000, although the median rate is $27,897 per year.
5. Medical Secretary or Receptionist
Medical secretaries and receptionists provide both front office and behind-the-scenes support services at healthcare centers. They complete all the tasks needed to keep the clinic running efficiently, from scheduling appointments to completing billing procedures.
The job duties for medical secretaries and receptionists vary from day to day but may include:
- Greeting patients and checking them in for their appointments
- Answering the phones to schedule appointments and handle patient concerns
- Updating and compiling medical records and other reports for the providers
- Ordering and stocking supplies to keep the clinic running at its best
- Following all HIPAA regulations to protect each patient’s privacy
You typically need a high school diploma or GED to work as an entry-level medical secretary or receptionist. Completing an administrator certificate program can help you stand out from the crowd, but it’s not required. Annual wages for this role range from $29,040 to $53,630, with a median yearly salary of $37,450.
6. Medical Billing or Coding Specialist
Medical billing or coding specialists, sometimes referred to as medical records specialists, help healthcare facilities maintain their financial integrity by overseeing patients’ medical information. They use their medical expertise to compile and classify patient data into the healthcare industry’s numerical coding system.
On a typical day, a medical records specialist would fulfill the following duties:
- Gather patient medical histories, test results, treatments, and other health information into electronic health records (EHR) systems.
- Maintain patient records to ensure completeness, timeliness, and accuracy.
- Assign clinical codes to patient procedures and diagnoses to provide data to clinicians or submit insurance reimbursements.
- Follow ethical, legal, and administrative requirements when handling sensitive medical records.
- Ensure patient record confidentiality and compliance.
There are no formal education requirements to become a medical records specialist, but many employers seek candidates with certifications such as Registered Health Information Technician (RHIT) or Certified Billing & Coding Specialists (CBCS). Employment for medical records specialists is expected to grow by 8 percent between 2022 and 2032, with an average annual salary of $47,180.
7. Patient Services Representative
Patient services representatives act as the first point of contact when patients enter a healthcare facility and are responsible for creating a positive patient experience. They rely on strong communication, organizational, and problem-solving skills to field patient inquiries and fulfill administrative duties.
Patient services representative roles will vary based on the healthcare facility they’re supporting, but they traditionally help with tasks including:
- Patient check-in and intake: Verify patient identities, collect insurance information, and prepare patients for their appointments.
- Appointment management: Schedule patient appointments, match patient preferences with the provider’s availability, and registered new patients in the EHR system.
- Insurance verification: Validate patient insurance and inform patients about their coverage and co-pay.
- Billing and patient discharge: Assist patients with billing inquiries, process payments or co-pays, assist with the check-out process, and schedule follow-up appointments.
In the U.S., patient services representatives make $18.70 an hour on average.
8. Pharmacy Technician
Pharmacy technicians are another highly sought-after role within healthcare. They work under the supervision of pharmacists to dispense medications, manage inventory, and provide prescription information to patients. In most states, technicians are also able to mix/compound some medications with pharmacist authorization.
When entering a role as a pharmacy technician, candidates can expect the following daily functions:
- Collect all necessary information from patients or healthcare professionals to fill a prescription.
- Measure, package, and label medication for prescriptions.
- Maintain inventories and alter pharmacists to supply shortages.
- Process prescription payments and process insurance claims.
- Field patient inquiries, answer incoming calls, and arrange for patients to speak with pharmacists.
To become a pharmacy technician, most employers require a high school diploma with on-the-job training. The American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP) offers accredited training with at least 600 hours of instruction so individuals can complete the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB).
Once an individual has completed their certification, they can expect to earn $37,790 a year according to the BLS.
9. Clinical Research Coordinator
Coming out of the pandemic, clinical research is booming and there is a growing need for new clinical research coordinators. They play a crucial role in clinical trials and medical research by coordinating everything from study setup and patient recruitment to data management and compliance.
Although the role of clinical research coordinators is broad and depends on the types of research they’re supporting,g common daily tasks include:
- Identifying and recruiting eligible clinical trial participants.
- Assisting with the development of research protocols and study design.
- Obtaining informed consent from study participants, ensuring they understand the study’s requirements and associated risks.
- Collecting and recording patient medical data, vital signs, lab results, and other pertinent information.
- Monitoring participant progress through the trial.
- Reporting any adverse effects or side effects occurring during the study.
- Ensuring all aspects of the trial adhere to regulatory standards such as Good Clinical Practice (GCP).
Qualifications to become a clinical research coordinator vary based on location and employer. In many cases, employers will seek candidates with a bachelor’s degree in a science, nursing, or a healthcare field and healthcare industry experience. Some employers require credentials such as the Certified Clinical Research Coordinator (CCRC). Once employed, clinical research coordinators can expect an average of $52,459 a year.
10. Mental Health Technician
Mental health technicians, also referred to as psychiatric technicians, provide patient care under the supervision of psychiatrists, psychologists, or social workers. The growing awareness of mental health issues has increased the demand for this role, and they can be found in hospital settings as well as mental health facilities.
The daily functions of a mental health technician typically include:
- Monitoring patient conditions and listening to their concerns.
- Reporting changes in patient health or behavior.
- Overseeing medications or other treatments for patients, following instructions from clinicians.
- Assisting patients with intake, discharge, and daily living activities.
- Restraining patients who become physically violent.
To enter the occupation, many employers require a high school diploma with associated licenses and on-the-job training. Given the sensitivity of supporting patients’ mental health, employers may prefer candidates with experience in a related field such as registered nurses or nursing assistants, or with certification, such as the American Association of Psychiatric Technicians. When entering the occupation, candidates can expect an annual wage of around $37,160.
Start your Career in Healthcare Today
If you want to pivot into a non-nursing role in entry-level healthcare, now is the time. What role you select is up to you, so explore all your options and then pick the path that speaks to you the most.
And when you’re ready to pursue your career in healthcare, we’re here to help you find the perfect job opportunities and transition into your next role with ease. To get started, check out the Insight Global job board where you’ll find thousands of listings.