8 Entry-Level Medical Jobs That Pay $40K/Year or More

A group of doctors and surgical technicians prepare for a surgery inside a hospital.
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Not all entry-level medical jobs require a bachelor’s degree or higher. In fact, except for doctors and nurses, many don’t.

A high school diploma and certification is good enough for some jobs, such as medical assistant. The same goes for surgical technicians, a crucial member of the operating team. And while the training is important, it’s not as time-consuming or expensive as for some other positions, like a psychiatrist or anesthesiologist.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics expects jobs in the healthcare industry to grow by 13% through 2030 with 2 million new jobs added.

There are some well-paying entry-level medical jobs with little schooling that might be a good fit for now. They can also launch you into other jobs in the medical field later, such as registered nurses and occupational therapists. Both of those jobs require more education and job training. They pay more, too.

But even without extra schooling, you will be working in the growing health care field.

If you’ve been considering a job in health care but don’t want to spend loads of time and money to pursue a career that takes years of extra education, you’ve come to the right place.

8 High-Paying Medical Jobs that Don’t Require a Bachelor’s Degree

We’ve rounded up a list of some of the best jobs in health care that pay salaries of $40,000 or more and only require a few years of school — mostly associate degrees and/or credentials. Here are eight health care jobs that will help you bring home the bacon, minus all that college debt.

1. Medical Assistant

If you want to work in a clinical setting without spending half your life studying (and amassing loads of college debt), then you might consider working as a medical assistant. To become a medical assistant, you’ll typically have to complete a certificate program or an associate degree — either of which can be done in two years or less.

Medical assistants help doctors and nurses by checking in patients, scheduling appointments, taking vitals and performing other administrative tasks that keep the practice running smoothly. You can expect to earn an annual salary anywhere from $30,000 to $51,000 per year as a medical assistant, depending on where you work and live.

2. Surgical Technician

For those who aren’t afraid of hospitals — specifically the operating room — becoming a surgical technician is a career path that also happens to pay pretty well. With as little as one to two years of school, surgical techs are ready to go to work in the OR preparing patients and the operating room itself for surgeries and medical procedures.

Because of the many skills surgical techs are required to have, these positions also pay well with a median salary of $56,000, and the top 10% of techs earn over $78,000.

3. Ultrasound Technician

Want to work with patients but not so much in the operating arena? Then you might be interested in learning more about becoming a sonographer, aka ultrasound technician. Sonographers are responsible for operating ultrasound imaging equipment, which helps doctors in treating pregnant patients, or those with cancer or heart issues.

Although this position won’t involve cleaning up after surgeries, it does require good bedside manner, and you will have to complete a certificate program or associate degree. But the earning potential for ultrasound techs is really, really good —  with a median annual salary of $81,000.

medical coder working in office
Raina Diaz works as a certified medical coder specializing in radiology at Orion Medical Management in Tampa, Florida. “I like the solitude, keeping busy reading the reports and figuring everything out,” she says. Tina Russell/The Penny Hoarder

4. Medical Coder

For a health care job that leans more toward medical technology, you might be interested in exploring a career as a medical coder. Medical coders are the people who translate medical services into “codes” that can be used for billing patients.

These roles have a variety of certifications that you can achieve to move up in the field, but even those with the most basic training earn roughly $47,000 per year, with more experienced medical coders earning anywhere up to $70,000.

Since these jobs can often be done from any secure computer, they also come with more flexibility. Medical coders may be permitted to work flexible hours or even remotely if they can safely access secure patient information from their location.

5. Dialysis Tech

Another important health care position that helps patients immensely (and pays really well) is working as a dialysis tech.

As a dialysis tech, you’ll need to complete a two-year program after you earn a high school diploma. Then you’ll do some additional equipment training to prepare as the main person operating and regulating the use of dialysis equipment in the treatment of patients with kidney disorders.

While this job does take place in a clinical setting, it mostly involves ensuring dialysis treatments run smoothly for patients, operating machinery and working with patients to make sure they’re comfortable. The national average salary for dialysis techs is just over $43,000, but some of the highest earners take home as much as $54,000.

6. Massage Therapist

If you want to get really hands-on in the health care industry, then you might consider becoming a massage therapist. Massage therapists generally complete a one-year certification program and earn an average salary of $57,000, with the highest earners (especially those in states with a higher cost of living) making as much as $90,000.

Besides the great salary, massage therapy is a pretty rewarding job that allows you to treat patients in a non-clinical setting (usually a massage parlor or spa) and help them feel better just with the power of your own two hands.

7. Dental Assistant

For those who don’t mind going to the dentist’s office (and working in one), then you might consider the highly lucrative role of dental assistant, which generally only requires nine months to two years of training, depending on the state you live in.

This job involves supporting dentists and dental hygienists with a variety of administrative tasks. In addition to booking appointments, you’ll also be working directly with patients to gather medical history, preparing them for appointments and checking them out afterward. The median salary for dental assistants is just under $45,000, with the highest earners making as much as $59,000.

A woman places a blanket over a man before putting him in an MRI machine.
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8. MRI Technician

With an associate degree, you could be well on your way to earning top dollar as an MRI technician. From helping patients prepare for magnetic resonance imaging to assisting doctors with reading results, this is an important role in any medical office, and it also pays pretty well. The average income for MRI techs is around $81,000 annually.

Certification programs vary by state, but are regulated by the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists. The programs generally take associate degree holders several weeks to complete, followed by a waiting period to receive your certification to begin work.

Bottom Line

Getting a master’s degree or a bachelor’s degree isn’t for everyone, and fortunately, there are a variety of well-paying jobs that don’t require those. Besides finding a career that requires minimal education, you might also consider increasing your income with a lucrative side hustle or even applying for one of the many jobs you can do from home.

However you choose to reach your financial goals, remember the most important skills you’ll need aren’t necessarily the ones that can be taught in a classroom. While some jobs require more training than others, nearly all jobs require some degree of dedication and hard work. Spend some time perfecting your job application skills, and let that dedication shine on through.

Contributor Larissa Runkle specializes in finance, real estate and lifestyle topics. She is a regular contributor to The Penny Hoarder.