Top Paying Med Tech Jobs with an Associate's Degree
In an industry with life-and-death stakes, there’s no such thing as a big player. Doctors and nurses may be the all-stars on TV, but healthcare remains a team sport. And you don’t need to spend a decade of your life in school to get into the game.
As the Baby Boomer generation heads into retirement, the need for medical services is set to rise drastically. And, given the influx of highly sophisticated medical technologies, there’s an increased demand for specialized talent trained in their operation. As such, practically every medical technology sector is forecast to grow faster than average. Many of those jobs only require an associate’s degree (or an equivalent post-secondary certificate), featuring high-intensity classes that are short in duration to get people into the field as quickly as possible.
Below, MedicalTechnologySchools.com collected the top-paying med tech jobs that require no more than an associate’s degree. While the pay is lower than that of a doctor or nurse, it’s also higher than the national average, and, in some cases, it’s double the national average. When one considers the money saved by attending school for one or two years instead of four or eight, there are some extremely attractive opportunities in medical technology careers. And while the jobs are often linear and specific in their operations, they are not cul-de-sac positions and opportunities for advancement and management exist in practically every position.
If you’re ready to join a team of healthcare professionals, check out the top-paying jobs in medical technology below.
Please note that all data was taken from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (unless otherwise specified) in January 2023. The latest data available was from May 2021.
In comic books, radiation can turn you into a superhero. In real life, radiation can save your life if you have a radiation therapist to help. Radiation therapists treat cancer and other diseases by administering targeted radiation treatments.
Typical responsibilities for this job include explaining procedures to patients; securing the facility from improper exposure to radiation; operating complex machinery like linear accelerators; monitoring patients both before and after radiation has been administered; and rigorously documenting both radiation procedures and results.
Degree options for this field often cover radiation oncology; therapeutic radiation safety; human anatomy and physiology; radiation pathology; clinical radiobiology; and dosimetry planning. The BLS (2022) projects that job openings for radiation therapists will grow by 6 percent between 2021 and 2031, a rate that’s faster than the national average (5 percent).
Nuclear Medicine Technologist
Nuclear medicine technologists prepare and administer radioactive drugs to patients for purposes of imaging and treatment. They also handle complex equipment, such as computed tomography (CT) machines. Furthermore, they’ll need social skills and empathy to explain the procedures they’re performing to the patient. Throughout all of this, safety is of critical importance.
Degree programs for this career focus on topics such as atomic and nuclear physics; radiochemistry and radiopharmacy; health physics and radiation safety; radiobiology; instrumentation and computer applications; and clinical nuclear medicine procedures. According to the BLS (2022), openings in this profession are projected to grow 2 percent between 2021 and 2031.
On most of your dentist’s visits, you’re likely spending more time with a hygienist than a dentist. Simply put, dental hygienists clean teeth. Typical responsibilities include the removal of plaque and tartar, applying sealants and fluorides, administering dental X-rays, educating patients on good dental hygiene, and delivering patient assessments to the supervising dentist.
Degree programs for this field typically involve classes in dental radiology; dental materials; dental hygiene theory; community dental health; head and neck anatomy; pharmacology; dental embryology and histology; and oral pathology. The BLS (2022) forecasts a 9 percent increase in openings for dental hygienists (2021-2031), amounting to over 19,000 new jobs.
Diagnostic Medical Sonographer
You could be forgiven for calling a diagnostic medical sonographer “the ultrasound person,” but you could also be missing the bigger picture. Diagnostic medical sonographers use sonographic imaging to several ends: identifying blood flow patterns, checking organ health, and, yes, viewing babies in the womb. Diagnostic medical sonographers can work in many areas, including pediatrics, gynecology, obstetrics, and cardiology. Typical daily responsibilities include ensuring patient safety, detailed record-keeping of patient data, and using complex sonographic equipment.
Degree programs for diagnostic medical sonographers often cover areas such as ultrasound physics and instrumentation; sonography theory; basic pharmacology; anatomy and physiology; abdominal sonography; and obstetrical and gynecological sonography. The BLS (2022) projects that openings in this profession will grow by 15 percent between 2021 and 2031, adding 12,100 jobs.
Neurodiagnostic technologists want to read your brain. Using sophisticated machinery, they apply different neurological scans to analyze a patient’s brain patterns, which can help them identify and mitigate neurological disorders.
Typical responsibilities for this job include collaborating with physicians to determine the proper neurological test, administering complex neurological tests; interpreting various EEG patterns; and educating patients on the types of tests being performed.
Degree options for this career include courses in topics such as CNT techniques (EEG); CNT techniques (NCS); anatomy and physiology of the nervous system; CNT instrumentation; bioethics; biology; and physics.
Taking a long, deep breath is the simplest cure for many of life’s small injustices. But when someone can’t easily take that breath, that’s when respiratory therapists step in. Respiratory therapists care for patients with trouble breathing, both in emergency and non-emergency settings.
Typical responsibilities for respiratory therapists include interviewing and examining patients; collaborating with physicians to develop treatment plans; administering chest physiotherapy and aerosol medications; and educating patients on how to use specialized breathing equipment.
Degree options for this profession often include classes in cardiac anatomy and physiology; pulmonary anatomy and physiology; cardiopulmonary diseases; critical care techniques; and emergency care. The BLS projects that jobs for respiratory therapists will increase by 14 percent nationally, which is almost triple the rate of all professions nationally, adding 18,400 jobs between 2021 and 2031.
A radiologic technologist can see right through you. Also known as radiographers, radiologic technologists work with diagnostic imaging like x-rays or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machines.
Typical responsibilities include maintaining and adjusting imaging equipment, preparing and positioning a patient for imaging, operating computerized equipment that captures the images, coordinating with physicians to identify the need for additional imaging, and keeping detailed patient records.
Degree programs for this career often cover areas such as radiographic procedures, principles of radiographic imaging, fundamentals of radiographic technology, and radiation physics. The BLS (2022) projects that over 14,000 radiologic technologist jobs will be added between 2021 and 2031. This profession is projected to grow 6 percent from 2021 to 2031, which is faster than the average for all occupations (5 percent).
Medical Laboratory Technician
Medical laboratory technicians, sometimes referred to as MLTs, are a laboratory’s jack-of-all-trades, performing various laboratory tests that can aid in treating and diagnosing various conditions. Often working under the direction of medical laboratory technologists, their typical duties can include analyzing bodily fluids, operating sophisticated laboratory equipment, logging test results and patient data, and discussing their findings with laboratory technologists and physicians.
Degree programs for this career will often cover clinical chemistry, urinalysis, hematology, microbiology, immunology, and immunohematology. The BLS (2022) projects there will be over 21,800 new jobs for clinical laboratory technicians between 2021 and 2021, with a growth rate of 7 percent.
While a surgeon is often the star of the show, they’re still just one cast member in a surgical theater, and surgical technologists play a critical supporting role. Working under the direction of a surgeon to assist in a surgery, a surgical technologist’s typical responsibilities include maintaining surgical equipment, preparing a sterilized setting for surgery, and calmly performing complex functions in a high-intensity setting.
Degree options for this role often include classes that cover clinical microbiology; basic surgical concepts and techniques; specialty surgical procedures and pharmacology; and human anatomy and physiology. The BLS (2022) projects that openings for surgical technologists will grow 6 percent between 2021 and 2031, adding 6,500 jobs.
Anesthesia technicians work with some of the most powerful tools in a medical facility: the ones that neutralize the pain. Supporting anesthesiologists and other clinical staff, anesthesia technicians maintain and operate anesthesia equipment for surgical procedures. Typical responsibilities include setting up, cleaning, testing, and maintaining anesthesia equipment; facilitating patient care; stocking anesthesia supplies; and collaborating with care providers to determine the proper administration of anesthesia.
Degree programs for anesthesia technicians usually cover the following topics: anesthesia technology instrumentation; anesthesia pharmacology; anesthesia care techniques; anatomy; medical ethics; EKG analysis; and medical terminology.