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Clinical vs. non-clinical healthcare careers 

Michael Feder

Written by Michael Feder

Mark Johannsson, Dean of the College of Health Professions

Reviewed by Mark Jóhannsson, DHSc, MPH, Dean, College of Health Professions

Cropped photo of a male doctors torso, showcasing his outfit, clipboard, and medical tool

At a glance

  • A clinical healthcare career is one in which a provider is directly involved with helping patients. A non-clinical healthcare career involves helping behind the scenes and away from patients.
  • One example of a clinical healthcare career is working as a nurse. Non-clinical careers include such roles as healthcare managers, health information technicians and medical coders.
  • Learn more about online healthcare programs with flexible schedules and fixed tuition at University of Phoenix.

The healthcare field is vast. Hospitals operate like small cities with dozens of departments working to make their communities healthier.

The opportunities to support patients are equally diverse, from roles that embrace a specialty (e.g., nursing) to those that are non-patient-facing. Both types of employees are important.

As you explore a future in healthcare, learn more about clinical and non-clinical jobs to determine which option might best fit your interests. Here, Heather Steiness, PhD, MPH, associate dean in the College of Health Professions at University of Phoenix, shares what you need to know about these roles.

Clinical careers in healthcare

Clinical healthcare jobs support patients directly. These healthcare experts are involved in the treatment, diagnosis and follow-up of patient care. Consider this path if you are searching for more hands-on experience in the field and want to work with patients daily.

Registered nurse

registered nurse (RN) is a healthcare professional responsible for providing direct patient care in settings like hospitals and clinics. Their duties include recording patients’ medical histories and symptoms, administering medications, monitoring vital signs, and collaborating as part of a team. RNs may also educate patients about health conditions and treatment plans. 

To become an RN, one can pursue a nursing diploma, an associate degree or a bachelor’s degree in nursing. After completing education, passing the NCLEX-RN and obtaining state licensure is required. Key qualities are compassion, effective communication, emotional stability and physical stamina.

Nurse practioner

nurse practitioner (NP) is an advanced practice registered nurse with an expanded scope of responsibilities in healthcare. NPs often work independently and are authorized to diagnose and treat various medical conditions. Their role includes ordering and performing diagnostic tests, diagnosing and treating acute and chronic conditions, prescribing medications and managing a patient’s overall well-being.

To become a nurse practitioner, individuals need to complete at least a master’s degree program designed for advanced practice nursing. Such programs include clinical experience and prepare students for certification in their chosen specialty. NPs play a crucial role in providing primary and specialized care and, amid a primary care shortage in the U.S., provide needed access to healthcare services.

Non-clinical careers in healthcare

Non-clinical professionals don’t typically work with patients directly or diagnosis or provide treatment. These professionals are still essential to healthcare. They often keep hospitals and clinics running so professionals in clinical positions can focus on patients.

Steiness explains: “Non-clinical roles in healthcare are essential for ensuring high-quality healthcare is delivered to patients. Medical providers would be challenged to provide good outcomes for their patients without the support of facility and staff managers, medical records processing, equipment technicians, quality improvement specialists and many others who aren’t directly working with patients.”

Here are a few examples of non-clinical medical careers.

Healthcare manager

Healthcare managers are also known as health services managers. They directly manage hospitals and other healthcare facilities. They are often in charge of handling the budget, managing staffing needs and training programs, creating work schedules and organizing facility records. They are required to set and carry out policies and procedures within their workplace.

To work in this role, one typically needs a bachelor’s degree, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. In some cases, an employer may hire someone with an associate degree for this role.

University of Phoenix offers dedicated health administration master’s degrees for people who are interested in gaining more knowledge in this career path.

“Our MHA and MHA-CB programs are accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Management Education (CAHME) and all of our health administration programs are aligned to industry-recognized standards for healthcare administration,” Steiness says.

Health information technician

Health information management involves collecting and processing patient data securely. This can range from tracking patient health records to securing data from a clinical trial. Professionals in this space might also work with billing services or with researchers to track trends.

To become a health information technician, one needs at least a high school diploma or GED, according to Nurse.org. However, some employers hire people with an accredited associate or bachelor’s degree in a related field. Many seek certification by taking the Registered Health Information Technician (RHIT®) examination.  

Medical coder   

Modern hospitals run through a series of codes. Every treatment and medication is assigned a universal code so doctors can track a patient’s journey. Medical coders document the codes and ensure patients are billed accurately. These positions require immense attention to detail; otherwise, patients might get billed for treatment they didn’t have or have medications they didn’t receive.

To become a medical coder, one needs at least need a high school diploma or GED. A degree in a related field from a college or university is not necessarily required, but some employers prefer it. From there, you can complete a certificate program or pursue a four-year degree.

The University of Phoenix offers a Medical Records Certificate that teaches skills such as claims submission, insurance verification, medical billing and coding, and regulatory requirements. This typically aligns to other non-clinical healthcare roles such as medical records coordinator, medical records technician and health information technician.

Clinical and non-clinical healthcare roles: An overview

Working in healthcare is as rewarding as it is robustly full of diverse opportunities. From clinical roles to administrative ones, there are pathways for a variety of interests and skills.

Healthcare and nursing programs at University of Phoenix

If you’re interested in a career in healthcare but need certificate and degree programs that offer flexible scheduling and fixed tuition, consider programs at University of Phoenix. Here are just a few to consider:

Headshot of Michael Feder

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

A graduate of Johns Hopkins University and its Writing Seminars program and winner of the Stephen A. Dixon Literary Prize, Michael Feder brings an eye for detail and a passion for research to every article he writes. His academic and professional background includes experience in marketing, content development, script writing and SEO. Today, he works as a multimedia specialist at University of Phoenix where he covers a variety of topics ranging from healthcare to IT.

Headshot of Mark Johannsson

ABOUT THE REVIEWER

Mark Jóhannsson is the Dean of the  College of Health Professions. He has a career spanning over 35 years of healthcare management, public health practice, higher education administration, teaching and clinical/behavioral research within corporate, community and academic settings. He has served as both an educational and keynote speaker, and he has been published in a variety of peer-reviewed and periodic literature.

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This article has been vetted by University of Phoenix's editorial advisory committee. 
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