The Best Ways to Get into Healthcare Without Attending a Traditional College

You don't necessarily need to take the typical route for a career in the medical field.
October 16, 2020
16 mins read

There are many reasons why some people decide that the traditional college setting isn’t the best place for them. Perhaps you don’t want to start your life in debt, or maybe you want to get straight into the working world. Whatever the reason you have for opting out of the traditional college experience, it does not have to mean that your ability to work in healthcare is in any way more limited. From online FNP courses to healthcare startup possibilities, there are many different ways to gain qualifications and excel in your future healthcare career without the conventional on-campus college experience. The list below outlines some of the best ways to progress and expand your prospects of working in healthcare outside of the traditional college route.

Why are people put off the traditional college?

It is not always the college experience that puts people off, but rather the investment of both time and money that it requires. Many nurses who are interested in furthering their careers believe that taking further education will mean having to quit their current day job. With a traditional college, this might be the case and could be why so many people are putting off furthering their education.

What is appealing to people about alternatives is that they can have smaller class sizes, flexible schedules and the ability to work while studying. Plus, taking an online FNP program, for example, doesn’t mean that the qualifications are any less valued than from a traditional campus setting. In fact, it is quite the opposite. For many, studying online is an appealing quality because you can work and study at the same time, which can help you obtain a number of high-quality healthcare jobs such as:

  • Diagnostic medical sonographers
  • Dental hygienists
  • Radiation therapist
  • Physical therapy assistants
  • Occupational therapy assistants
  • Phlebotomist
  • Medical assistant
  • Medical secretary
  • Respiratory technologist
  • Medical coder
  • Cardiovascular technologist and more

With such varied options online, people are jumping at the chance at the alternative options to the traditional college route.

Online Courses

Times have changed since the only way to gain a degree was to attend a college for four years. One of the best alternatives to a traditional college education is online courses. The reason that this form of learning is so valuable is due to the fact that you are able to graduate with the same level of qualification as you would from a traditional university. Unlike trade school or community college, you are not limiting your potential career opportunities by studying with an online course. In fact, online FNP courses are one of the best ways to break into the healthcare profession as you graduate with a degree that qualifies you to work as a family and practice nurse.

A career in healthcare is probably the one that’s most associated with a lengthy and expensive college education, but this does not need to be the case for you. Online FNP courses are one of the best alternatives to the typical college experience. With online FNP courses, you will learn everything you need to know to graduate as a Master of Science in Nursing.

Unlike a traditional college program, online FNP courses are designed to fit around your lifestyle. They are more affordable and flexible, enabling students to work as they complete their studies. Not only will doing online FNP courses enable you to acquire all of the theoretical knowledge necessary to start a career as a family nurse practitioner, but they offer the opportunity of hands-on experience with a clinical placement too. Online FNP courses offer the same investment return as their on-campus equivalents and leave you with a qualification that will boost your earning potential. Online FNP courses are one of the best ways of gaining the qualifications necessary to start a career in healthcare, without having to go to a traditional college. 

Hands-on Learning

If the idea of attending a traditional college does not appeal to you because you dislike the idea of learning only by studying, then you might want to consider other styles of learning. Fellowships and apprenticeships are a great way of learning outside the classroom, but they can also be a great thing to combine with online learning if you truly want to expand your knowledge.

By taking online FNP courses and opting for hands-on learning, you are offering yourself even more chances to expand your knowledge and experience. Although the majority of hands-on experience is not specifically dedicated to the healthcare field, there are many benefits to completing this type of learning alongside your online FNP course:

  • Learn Real-life Skills

Some hands-on experiences allow you to explore and volunteer within the United States, focus on your interests and learn skills before you are launched into the “real world” with the support of the program’s mentors and coaches.

  • Earn Money

Are you questioning the value of a traditional college education? You are not alone; in fact, the billionaire Peter Thiel believes a traditional college education to be so unimportant that he actually pays young people not to attend. If you want to work in healthcare and have an idea for a great healthcare startup, then look to see if you can get grants to help set up your own practice as you develop your education.

  • Become a Leader Who Solves Important Problems

Some hands-on learning experiences allow people to realize their vision of making the world a better place. If you have an idea for a healthcare social enterprise, then this might be the right college alternative for you.

Getting started in health care with trade school

Before you enter the healthcare and think about taking online FNP courses as you progress your career, you first have to think about how you can enter the field to begin with. If the reason that you do not want to attend a traditional college is that you do not believe that a bachelor’s degree is going to benefit your future healthcare career choice, then you might want to consider attending a trade school. A trade school education is one that is hands-on, focused on helping you learn the specific skills that you need to be able to excel in your future career.

Trade schools have smaller class sizes and cost far less than traditional colleges. It is not only the smaller fees and class sizes that attract trade school students but the ability it gives you to quickly begin your future career.

Even for specialized industries like healthcare, you can get into the workforce in as little as six to nine months to work as a nurse or medical assistant, which is a great stepping stone to becoming a leader in nursing once you take online FNP courses. Not only are you able to graduate from a trade school much faster than a traditional college but your earning potential after graduation isn’t as compromised as you might think. In fact, according to the National Centre for Educational Statistics, trade school graduates make a median salary of $35,700 a year, whereas graduates of traditional colleges make a median salary of $46,900 a year.

The comparison between the salaries of trade school and college graduates are made more significant when you consider that the trade school graduate will be entering the working world with substantially less debt than the college graduate. Some of the healthcare jobs available to trade school graduates include:

  • Respiratory therapist
  • Dental Hygienist
  • Diagnostic medical sonographer
  • Cardiovascular Technologist
  • Licensed vocational nurse


Volunteering is another route you can take to get into a career in healthcare, combined with online learning, as you will learn useful skills as well as learn more about the practicalities of how big organizations are run while helping a worthy cause. Choosing to volunteer rather than go straight into a traditional college education will not only help broaden your mind and see more of the world, but it will bring a lot of practical benefits too. By choosing to do online learning alongside volunteering, you are taking steps to stand out. Some examples of the benefits of volunteering include:

  • Volunteering Benefits your Resume

According to the Corporation for National and Community Service, having volunteering experience on your resume is associated with having a 27% higher employment rate. Volunteering experience will also make employers look more favorably at possible candidates. Employers are 82% more likely to choose a candidate who has volunteering experience on their resume and 85% more likely to ignore flaws or holes in a resume if the candidate has volunteering experience.

  • Develop Valuable Skills

Volunteering is a great way of learning new and valuable skills such as leadership, organization, problem-solving, time management and how to work in a team in addition to healthcare-specific tools and techniques. Not only are you able to learn these skills but actively practice them in real-world settings where your actions can bring real benefits to communities. This will all help you as your navigate your way through online FNP courses too.

  • Make Connections

It is not only those looking for an alternative to a traditional college education who choose to do volunteering. You can use volunteering to grow your network, but also make connections with the other volunteers and the businesses that support and sponsor charities and volunteering organizations. The connections you make with businesses and other volunteers might prove invaluable as you enter the working world.

  • Feel Better

Volunteering has been shown to both have practical benefits for your future career and positive effects on your mental health. There have been many studies on the benefits that volunteering has on mental health and functioning. One study, conducted by United Health Group in 2008, found that 94% of respondents who had volunteered in the last year reported that they experienced an elevation in their mood.

  • See the World

There are many volunteering organizations that operate overseas and give those looking for an alternative to college an opportunity to see the world. Living abroad can be an invaluable experience, especially for young people, expanding your mind and helping you develop new skills.


If you want to enhance your online FNP course, then an internship will offer you the opportunity to discover more about the world of work, where you excel and which specific jobs within the healthcare industry interest you the most. You also learn more about yourself and the type of work you are interested in while you are learning valuable skills and making useful connections. Internships are a great opportunity that can help you make more informed decisions about your future.

Although many internships are unpaid, it is common for employers to hire interns as full-time employees once they have completed their internship. Internships do not need to continue into a full-time job, and many people choose to intern in a few different industries before they choose what sector interests them most.

Other people try interning before continuing with their studies to ensure that the qualification they are working toward will really benefit their future career. If you want to learn more about working in the healthcare industry, you could partake in a few different internships, such as working with a dentist, in a doctor’s office, and in a hospital to understand more about how each environment and job differs.

Whatever reason you have for taking part in an internship, it is guaranteed you’ll learn valuable skills for your future, no matter what industry you are working in. You are also likely to make some useful contacts and improve your resume with the experience.

From online FNP courses to volunteering, whether you want to gain real-world skills and experience or qualifications, there are many more cost-effective alternatives to the traditional college education out there, all of which enable you to work in healthcare. In fact, the knowledge, experience and qualifications necessary for you to land your dream job in healthcare can be obtained through many different pathways, which means that if the traditional college experience does not appeal to you, then you are free to choose a path more suited to you.

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