Ask Actalent: Niche Healthcare Certifications and Careers with a Bright Future

By Joe Purdy | Modified May 9, 2023
Researcher working in a lab

The healthcare industry is growing rapidly and it's not looking back. We chatted with one our account managers about opportunities for everyone — nurses or not — in healthcare.

Healthcare is one of the most active employment sectors in the United States. And with an aging population, the upward trend in healthcare hiring isn't stopping anytime soon.

But not all healthcare careers are equal in terms of their potential for long-term growth. How do you get your foot in the door? What skills are most in demand and offer the greatest opportunity for growth?

Actalent hiring experts answer these questions all the time. We asked Joe Purdy, an account executive with extensive experience in healthcare to share his advice for health profession hopefuls.

Q: If someone had a desire to pursue a healthcare career, what recommendations would you give them?

A: "In typical Actalent fashion, I would ask more questions to understand the person's specific goals. My first question would be what do you really want to do? Do you have a passion for helping people and being hands-on with people clinically? If so, then I would look at healthcare systems and hospitals. There are so many different specialties that are needed within a typical hospital, you can see what speaks to you most and find what niche you want to aim for."

Q: How would somebody get a start without necessarily committing the money and time required for advanced degrees?

A: "There are some great entry-level positions in healthcare, like medical assistants, phlebotomists and pharmacy technicians. Depending on requirements that can vary state to state, these jobs often have certification requirements. But even in states where there isn't a certification requirement, if you go the extra mile to take that test and obtain that license, you'll have a better chance to get placed into an entry-level position even if you don't have direct on-the-job experience. Certifications offer a great opportunity to get your foot in the door. They never hurt your case."

Q: Is there a particular healthcare certification that is the gold standard for helping candidates get a leg up in their careers?

A: "Well there's the CCM Certification to become a Certified Case Manager. That's not an entry-level certification. It's more for people who are already registered nurses or social workers or pharmacists who are looking at becoming case managers. But the CCM definitely sends a strong signal to employers that the candidate really knows what they're doing. It has a requirement where you have to be sponsored by a CCM supervisor, or someone experienced in case management, so you have to do some legwork to qualify, but it's worth it."

"For more entry-level positions like medical assistant or pharmacy technician, definitely go for those certifications. A lot of candidates for those positions have a diploma but not the certification, so going ahead with the certification can give you a foot in the door."

Q: Let's say somebody has certifications and a certain amount of experience already, what are some next steps they can take to grow their career?

A: "Well, in terms of the greatest areas of employer need that I see, it's registered nurses who can do utilization review, HEDIS (Health Effectiveness Data Information Set), and quality assurance review. All those are niche skill sets that really stand out as particularly rare and valuable."

"Registered nurses often work 12-hour shifts on their feet, moving heavy bodies around the hospital, and a lot of them are working on a PRN (pro re nata - basically on call rather than full time) basis. And I've seen a lot of people actually end up being really successful who go in never having done HEDIS before; now they have a permanent job where they've become a supervisor. It can be a great path forward for anybody who's worried about burnout and looking for a niche that'll propel them off the nurse's floor."

Q: Any advice for people looking to move into placements that will help develop these niche skills?

A: "A lot of nurses have somewhat jumpy resumes because they've worked in as-needed jobs on a PRN basis. Sometimes it's hard to tell from the job history on the resume if these are PRN assignments or full-time placements that didn't last very long. So, I always tell people to go ahead and make it as clear as possible on their resume exactly what the parameters of each position were. That way everybody who sees it has a good understanding of their work history."

Interesting in a career change? Check out healthcare jobs with Actalent.

Originally published date: October 26, 2017

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