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What Careers are Similar to Nursing?

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The duties of a nurse include treating patients by administering medicine, taking their history and by offering medical advice. Nursing is not for everyone, though. If you want to work in the healthcare industry, which is the fastest-growing industry in the country, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, but do not want to become a registered nurse or nurse practitioner, you have several other options.

Medical Assistant

Medical assistants usually perform both administrative and clinical tasks, although their specific role will vary depending on what sort of practice they work in. A medical assistant may work with patients, taking blood samples, vital signs and medical history. She may also be responsible for keeping the exam areas clean and orderly and for properly sterilizing and disposing of medical equipment such as needles. Other duties of a medical assistant include organizing patient's charts, scheduling appointments and completing insurance documents.

A medical assistant earns less than a nurse. In 2008, the median salary for a medical assistant was $28,300 per year, compared to $62,450 for a registered nurse. Training to be a medical assistant takes less time as well. Some medical assistants learn on the job while others may complete a one-year diploma course. Medical assistants may also earn an associate's degree.

Physician Assistant

Physician Assistants work directly with a doctor to treat patients. The role of a physician assistant is more advanced than that of a medical assistant or registered nurse, as they can diagnose patients and order tests and prescriptions. In some cases, they may be the primary care provider when a doctor is present only part-time. They must report to and confer with a doctor on specific cases.

A physician assistant will usually complete a two-year program after she has received a bachelor's degree. She may also already have some experience in a healthcare setting. After completing a program of study, a physician assistant obtains certification by passing the Physician Assistant National Certifying Examination. To maintain his certification, a physician assistant must take at least 100 hours of continuing education biannually.

Physician assistants earn slightly more than registered nurses. In 2008, the median yearly salary was $81,230, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Dental Hygienist

A dental hygienist cleans a patient's teeth, takes oral x-rays and instructs patients on good oral health. A hygienist may also assist a dentist performing oral surgery and can sometimes administer local or general anesthesia.

Dental hygienists must successfully complete a post-secondary dental hygiene program. Most programs result in an associate's degree, though some offer bachelor's or master's degrees as well. After completing a program, a hygienist must become licensed by completing a written test and an exam in a clinical setting.

The average salary for a dental hygienist is similar to that of a registered nurse. In 2008, hygienists earned a median salary of $66,570. Job prospects for hygienists are slightly better than those for RNs. The Bureau of Labor Statistics expects the number of hygienist jobs to increase by 36 per cent between 2008 and 2018.


Based in Pennsylvania, Emily Weller has been writing professionally since 2007, when she began writing theater reviews Off-Off Broadway productions. Since then, she has written for TheNest, ModernMom and Rhode Island Home and Design magazine, among others. Weller attended CUNY/Brooklyn college and Temple University.

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