15 Medical Certifications That Can Pay Well & Are In Demand

Jill Caren
By Jill Caren
Updated January 28th, 2024

These quick medical certifications can offer great wages, opportunities, and have a low barrier to entry.

It can take anywhere from 2-24 months to start any one of these medical certification careers.

In this article we will cover some of the best medical certifications that pay well. You can find some basic information, including salaries, to decide if one is right for you.

Medical Certification Jobs To Consider

Below is a summary of the health certifications that pay well. Some only need a few months of training, others 1-2 years, but all offer solid wages and opportunities.

Below is a table with a quick summary of each career.

CareerMedian Annual Wage10 Year Job Outlook
Medical Assistant$37,19016% growth
Phlebotomist$37,38010% growth
MRI Technologists$80,0906% growth
Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA)$30,3105% growth
Nuclear Medicine Technologist$78,7607% growth
7% growth
Surgical Technologist$48,3206% growth
Radiologic Technologist$77,3606% growth
Dental Hygienist$77,8109% growth
Respiratory Therapist$70,54014% growth
Medical Records Technician$46,6607% growth
Pharmacy Technician$36,7405% growth
Occupational Therapy Assistant$61,73025% growth
Physical Therapy Assistant$61,18026% growth
Diagnostic Medical Sonographer$60,57010% growth
all data from Bureau of Labor Statistics

You can get more details one each healthcare job below.

Medical Assistant

Medical assistants perform administrative and clinical tasks in various healthcare settings. This might include clinics, hospitals, and physicians’ offices.

The median annual salary for a certified medical assistant is $37,190.

Certification options include:

  • American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA)
  • National Center for Competency Testing (NCCT)


Phlebotomists are responsible for drawing blood from patients. The blood is then used for medical testing, donations, or transfusions.

The median annual salary for a certified phlebotomist is $37,380.

Certification options include:

  • National Phlebotomy Association (NPA)
  • American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP)

Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA)

CNAs provide care to patients in nursing homes, hospitals, and other healthcare settings. They are responsible for assisting with activities of daily living and other tasks.

The median annual salary for a certified nursing assistant is $30,310.

Certification options include:

  • National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN)
  • American Red Cross

Nuclear Medicine Technologist

Preparing radioactive drugs to administer to patients for imaging procedures is the primary focus of this job.

The median annual salary for a certified home health aide is $78,760.

Certification options include:

  • American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT)
  • Nuclear Medicine Technology Certification Board (NMTCB)

Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) and Paramedic

EMTs and paramedics provide pre-hospital emergency medical care and transportation.

The median annual salary for an EMT or paramedic is $35,470.

Certification options include:

  • National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians (NREMT)
  • State EMS offices (requirements vary by state)

Surgical Technologist

Surgical technologists assist surgical teams before, during, and after procedures. Making sure the operating room is sterile and equipped is a top priority.

The median annual salary for a surgical technologist is 48,320.

Certification options include:

  • National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting (NBSTSA)
  • National Center for Competency Testing (NCCT)

Radiologic Technologist

Radiologic technologists operate medical imaging equipment, such as X-ray machines and CT scanners.

The median annual salary for a radiologic technologist is 77,360.

Certification options include:

  • American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT)
  • Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology (JRCERT)

Dental Hygienist

Dental hygienists clean teeth, examine patients, and provide preventive dental care. They work under the supervision of a dentist to ensure a patient has good oral health.

The median annual salary for a dental hygienist is 77,810.

Certification options include:

  • American Dental Association (ADA)
  • Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA)

Respiratory Therapist

Respiratory therapists assist patients with breathing difficulties. They administer treatments and therapies to manage respiratory conditions.

The median annual salary for a respiratory therapist is $70,540

Certification options include:

  • National Board for Respiratory Care (NBRC)
  • American Association for Respiratory Care (AARC)

Medical Records Technician

Medical records technicians organize and manage patient medical records. They are responsible for ensuring accurate documentation and confidentiality.

The median annual salary for a medical records is $46,660.

Certification options include:

  • American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA)
  • American Academy of Professional Coders (AAPC)

MRI Technologists

These professionals operate MRI machines and read results. They are responsible for making sure MRI scans produced can be read by physicians.

The median annual salary for a medical coders is $80,090.

Certification options include:

  • American Registry of Magnetic Resonance Imaging Technologists (ARMRIT)

Pharmacy Technician

Pharmacy technicians assist pharmacists in dispensing medications, managing inventory, and interacting with patients.

The median annual salary for a pharmacy technician is $36,740.

Certification options include:

  • Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB)
  • National Healthcare Association (NHA)

Occupational Therapy Assistant

Occupational therapy assistants help patients develop and recover skills needed for daily living. They work the guidance of an occupational therapist.

The median annual salary for a occupational therapist assistant is $61,730.

Certification options include:

  • National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy (NBCOT)

Physical Therapy Assistant

Physical therapy assistants work with physical therapists to help patients recover from injuries . Helping patients build strength and improve mobility are part of the daily tasks.

The median annual salary for a physical therapy assistant is $61,180.

Certification options include:

  • Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy (FSBPT)

Diagnostic Medical Sonographer

Sonographers use ultrasound technology to create images of the body’s internal structures. This can help aid in the diagnosis of medical conditions.

The median annual salary for a sonographer is $60,570.

Certification options include:

  • American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography (ARDMS)
phlebotomist at work in a certified medical career

Obtaining A Medical Certification

Once you decide on a career, you should research the specific certification requirements.

Some certifications need specific training, others a certain amount of experience. It’s important to research the requirements for the specific certification you’re interested in.

You can look on the certification organization’s website for details. You can also talk to those that work in the career and get details.

Below is a summary of the traditional steps to getting certified for a medical job.

Medical Certification Process

  1. Complete the necessary education or training. Ensure that you have met the required educational requirements. Only then can you apply for the exam.
  2. Apply for the certification exam. The application process may vary by certification. It usually involves submitting proof of education, experience, and any other required documentation.
  3. Take the certification exam. Prepare for the exam by studying the material covered and taking practice tests. The format of the test may vary by certification, so be sure to review the specific exam procedures. It may be a combination of written and practical testing.
  4. Maintain the certification. After passing the exam, you will need to maintain your certification. This can involve taking continuing education courses to stay up to date.

Medical Certification Benefits

A medical career that requires certification is the first step to a better future. Below are a few benefits to getting a certified medical job.

Salaries & Benefits

Some of the jobs on this list you can do without any certification. But those will result in wages and less opportunity for growth. Getting certified will bring higher wages and better job opportunities.

Healthcare careers of all levels also usually come with great benefits. From healthcare to a 401K, benefits can make up a generous part of your employment package. Hiring a healthcare specific financial advisor can help you maximize your earnings and savings.

Financial Tip

Kelly C. Long, a CAP/PFS, CFP and founder of Financial Bliss recommends the following for healthcare workers.

“Make the most of your employer match by saving at least that much in your 401k or 403b plan. Then also make a plan to add 1% to your contribution amount each year until you’re either at the maximum amount allowed per year or at least 10%. (More if you’re getting a late start on saving)

If you have an HSA-eligible plan, make sure you are using your HSA in the best way by contributing as much as you can then allowing funds to accumulate to help pay for bigger expenses rather than every eligible expense. For example, you CAN use your HSA to pay for things like prescription drugs or even OTC meds, but it’s better to use your regular checking account for those smaller expenses so that if you have a big medical expense like an ER visit or surgery, you’ll have the savings available to offset the big expense. Ideally you’d go into retirement with some HSA savings to help pay for healthcare in retirement. 

Take advantage of other workplace benefits like a financial wellness program, which may offer access to one-on-one coaching where you can work with a qualified financial planner who can help you make a plan specific to your life and goals. I used to work as a financial wellness coach and many of our callers were healthcare professionals that kept the system running – these were my favorite folks to talk to because they had so much opportunity to increase their financial situation, they just hadn’t had the personalized support to best apply it to their lives. “

Enhanced Career Opportunities

Medical certifications can also open doors for better career opportunities. Advanced certifications can help get a position with reputable employers that pay better.

Opportunities for leadership and management are also possible.

Improved Patient Care

Pursuing medical certifications contributes to improved patient care. You can provide more accurate diagnoses, treatment plans, and better patient outcomes.

Medical Certification Challenges

College is not needed for these jobs, but that does not mean they are easy! Below are some of the challenges you might face when obtaining medical certification.

Intensive Study

Pursuing a medical certification requires a dedication to learning and extensive study. You will need to understand complex medical concepts, practices, and procedures. From the human body to diseases, the pressure to learn will be high.

Examination Pressure & Cost

Medical certifications often involve difficult exams to test your knowledge and competency. The cost of these exams can also be very high, with the average fee for initial written exams nearing $2,000.

Some specialty boards require expensive oral exams for initial certification. It can be an emotionally and financially challenging to prepare for these exams.

Continuing Education Requirements

Continuing education is necessary to maintain your certification in most medical careers.

You should attend conferences, complete online courses, or enroll in extra training programs. This will make sure you stay up-to-date on technology and advancements in your industry.

We hope this article inspired you enough to consider one of these careers. The opportunities are great and you can build a great life with any of them.

Jill Caren is an international SEO consultant and founder of 2Dogs Media. She is also a trainer, journalist, and speaker who helps brands increase their organic search visibility, traffic, and conversions. She is also the co-founder of Blue Collar Brain, a resource for those looking to enter a trade career.

She has been featured on MSN, Wealth of Geeks, Hubspot, SEO Powersuite, and other publications for her work as an SEO and advocate for skilled trades.