Maybe it's always been your dream to be a doctor – or maybe it's always been your parents' dream that you be a doctor. Either way, the costs and dedication required to earn your MD means this career is not for everyone.
For the 2010-2011 school year, first-year tuition fees at Harvard Medical School were $45,050; by the time you add in additional school fees and living expenses, Harvard's website estimates a total cost of $70,000 for the first year alone. And that's before any travel costs if you don't happen to live in the northeastern United States. According to a New England Journal of Medicine article from September 2009, 25% of medical school graduates have debt exceeding $200,000 – and that's not including the cost of their undergraduate degree.
Luckily, if you are unable, or unwilling, to take on that staggering level of financial burden, there are many careers in the medical field that require less schooling, and therefore comparatively more manageable levels of student debt.
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1. Medical Perfusionist - $93,500
If you watch any medical drama, you're likely familiar with characters undergoing surgery that requires them to be on a bypass machine. Those who operate these machines, as well as other equipment that temporarily controls a person's circulation and respiratory function, are called perfusionists.
Perfusionists are certified by the American Board of Cardiovascular Perfusion, which involves an examination and clinical evaluations. Some programs require a completed bachelor's degree before entering into masters or certificate program, but some schools offer a bachelor's degree specifically in perfusion. (For more, see How To Avoid Medical Debt.)
2. Clinical Trial Manager - $92,600
Clinical trials are crucial to advancements in drug therapies and other medical protocols. Clinical trial managers are responsible for overseeing these trials and ensuring they adhere to FDA regulations and in-house protocols. This job may also be referred to as a Clinical Research Manager.
Some employers may require a master's degree, but others may only need applicants to have completed a certificate program. (For more, see Pharmaceutical Sector: Does The FDA Help Or Harm?)
3. Product Manager, Health Care - $87,800
Product managers do just what the title implies: They manage products. In the health care industry, this might include drugs or other health products. Product managers would be responsible for coordinating product development to marketing and ultimately sales strategies and results.
Successful product managers in the health care industry will have a bachelor's degree in business, business administration, marketing, or a health-related field with relevant industry experience.
4. Sales Representative, Pharmaceuticals - $84,200
This career may not be the most hands-on in terms of medical practice, but it will mean connecting with doctors, patients and hospital staff. If working in sales is your strong suit, acting as a coordinator to ensure patients are receiving the best drugs and medical products could be right up your alley.
(For related reading, see Fighting The High Costs Of Health care.)
5. Transplant Coordinator - $76,400
Organ transplants don't happen without a team of hardworking individuals participating in both the medical and administrative tasks these procedures require. Transplant coordinators may be involved in many steps, from evaluation to pre-transplant workups and post-surgical care and follow up.
Transplant coordinators will likely have a bachelor's degree in a medically related field, and may also be registered nurses.
6. Radiology/Diagnostic Imaging Director - $76,400
If you've ever seen an x-ray, you know how hard it can be to interpret what's going on. Imaging techniques include x-rays, CT scans, MRIs, and ultrasound, among others. Radiology/Diagnostic Imaging Directors are in charge of such medical imaging programs. They oversee staff and ensure professional standards are met and maintained. (For more, see Get Sale Prices On Healthcare With Discount Plans.)
7. Hand Therapist - $70,200
You may not have heard of hand therapy, which, according to the Hand Therapy Certification Commission (HTCC), is "the art and science of rehabilitation of the upper limb, which includes the hand, wrist, elbow and shoulder girdle." Hand therapists work with patients who are pre and post-operative, as well as those requiring preventative care and pain management.
Certification with the HTCC is voluntary with extremely high standards, and to apply one must provide documentation of five years as a practicing occupational therapist or physical therapist.
TUTORIAL: Student Loans: Paying Off Your Debt Faster
The Bottom Line
If your dream job is to be a doctor, hopefully you will be able to make that happen financially. But if you'd like to earn good money elsewhere in the medical field, these options could keep your tuition debt costs down. (For more, see How To Choose A Health care Plan.)
Source: All salary data is provided by online salary database PayScale.com. Annual salaries listed are for full-time employees with five to eight years of experience and include any bonuses, commissions or profit sharing.