Nursing is a widely-recognized and wide-ranging profession. Currently, there are over 3.8 million registered nurses (RNs) in the United States, and the vast majority (almost 85%) are actively working in the nursing field. Despite these statistics, however, nursing is not the only field available to RNs, or even to those seeking a central role in the healthcare field. There are a variety of other career options and majors similar to nursing that are available to aspiring caregivers.
Perhaps you desire to help others in need, but do not wish to be working on the frontlines of a busy hospital or emergency room. Maybe you prefer behind-the-scenes work in the healthcare field. Or, perhaps you are looking for a more stable schedule than what nurses typically work. Maybe you desire to see patients regularly, rather than encounter new cases every day. Or, perhaps you simply do not have the time to commit to nursing school right now. No matter where you are, rest assured there are alternative options for you.
In fact, the healthcare field is full of other promising professions and areas of study—many of which can be achieved in two years or less. Like nursing, there are a few other healthcare majors that only require an associate degree. Below, we detail the top majors similar to nursing—similar in timeline, subject matter, and career outcomes.
- Medical Assisting
Like nurses, medical assistants work alongside doctors and nurses in a variety of healthcare settings, including doctors’ offices, hospitals, health clinics, and more. Medical assistants typically take on a combination of clinical and administrative duties in a healthcare setting. They greet patients, schedule appointments, take patient vital signs, prepare exam rooms, and more. The difference between a medical assistant and a nurse is the scope of work and autonomy. Medical assistants provide more basic patient care, coupled with admin tasks, while nurses practice and provide care under a nursing license.
Medical assisting majors benefit from a shorter course of study, however. To become a medical assistant, you simply need some postsecondary education to get started. Most medical assistants will pursue a certificate or associate degree, which can take between 12 and 18 months. Medical assistant majors learn all about human biology, medical terminology, medical law and ethics, laboratory procedures, office management, diagnostics, and more.
- Health Science
For those who are interested in more behind-the-scenes work, or who want to explore their options in healthcare, health science is a great alternative major to nursing. A health science degree can lead to many different careers, from a healthcare administrator to medical biller and coder. Some health science majors go on to become medical research associates, health educators, and registered dieticians. If you are looking to explore all your options and land an important role in the health and science field, this major is for you.
In addition to an array of career options, health science majors have a couple different options regarding their level of degree. At Goodwin University, for example, health science majors can pursue an associate degree or bachelor’s degree in this field of study. A bachelor’s degree in health science can lead to more advanced career outcomes, due to the expanded curriculum and level of education. In a health science program, students cover topics in public health, healthcare, psychology, chemistry, research methods, and more.
- Respiratory Therapy
Respiratory therapy is a wonderful major for students who wish to make an impact in healthcare, help those who are in need, and specialize in a certain area of study within the greater medical field. Respiratory therapists, much like their name implies, provide care and treatment to those struggling with breathing conditions. For example, respiratory therapists can often be found treating patients with asthma, emphysema, bronchitis, lung disease, or even the recent COVID-19. They may work in emergency rooms, intensive care units, nursing homes, outpatient clinics, or even sleep centers.
Becoming a respiratory therapist, like nurses, only requires an associate degree to get started. An associate degree in respiratory care will provide you with all the knowledge needed to succeed in this field, including classes in cardiopulmonary anatomy, critical care, pediatric respiratory care, mechanical ventilation, and more. As part of their degree program, students must also complete clinicals to prepare for the hands-on work and direct patient care associated with this role.
- Occupational Therapy Assisting
Occupational therapy assistants (OTAs) are like nurses in that they provide direct care to patients in need. However, OTAs take on a narrower scope of work, in that they specifically work with patients who are struggling with limited function that is disrupting their day-to-day. OTAs help patients develop the skills and the motor function they need to carry out tasks and live independently. This may include helping a patient who injured his hand in an accident on the job. It may involve teaching skills to someone struggling with a physical disability. It may mean helping a child develop the skills needed to carry out certain mental or emotional tasks. The goal of an OTA is to help patients live a fulfilling life.
Like nurses, occupational therapy assistants also require an associate degree to earn licensure and practice in their field. An associate degree in occupational therapy assisting can be completed in just 16-months full-time. Courses in this major will cover human movement and function, behavioral health, as well as how to work with adult, pediatric, and geriatric patients.
Do you enjoy science, research, and laboratory work? Do you prefer a behind-the-scenes role where you aren’t working directly with patients, but are still making an impact in the medical field? Histology is an incredible field that many prospective students do not know about. Histology is the study of microscopic cells and tissues of plants and animals. Histologic technicians and technologists study these cells to identify microscopic structures, detect abnormalities, and ultimately help physicians diagnose disease. Histology is critical—without this field of study, we wouldn’t be able to detect signs of illness and disease.
Histology majors benefit from the option of pursuing a postsecondary certificate or associate degree, which can be completed in one to two years. Courses you can expect to take include Histology Techniques, Histology Laboratory Application, Staining and Fixation, a clinical experience, and more.
Nursing and Beyond
Nursing is an exciting, rewarding, and essential profession where you can make a difference. In fact, many consider nurses the backbone of the healthcare field. However, nursing can also be challenging and demanding at times, and is not right for everyone. If you are looking for healthcare careers and majors similar to nursing, where you can also make a difference in the lives of patients, know there are options for you. The above examples are just some of the many options you have beyond the nursing field—and all can be accomplished in just two years or less.
Goodwin University is a leader in healthcare education in Connecticut. If you are interested in pursuing a career where you can help those who are sick, injured, and disabled, you can always contact us for guidance. Our admissions team is available at 800-889-3282, or you can request more information online.
Goodwin University is a nonprofit institution of higher education and is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE), formerly known as the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC). Goodwin University was founded in 1999, with the goal of serving a diverse student population with career-focused degree programs that lead to strong employment outcomes.