When the economy slumps, many people head back to school for a fresh start. One of the fastest ways to a career in healthcare is through a two-year college.


The Twin Cities abound with two-year colleges offering healthcare degree and certificate programs, from biomedical technology to surgical technology and many others in between. Each of the Twin Cities-based institutions affiliated with the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system offers nursing, while several others offer dental assistant and medical administrative assistant programs. Other offerings include laboratory fields such as cytotechnology and histotechnology and administrative courses, such as health unit coordinator.

Nursing Still Popular

Janis Hollenbeck, dean of academic affairs at Minneapolis Community and Technical College (www.minneapolis.edu), reports that nursing is as popular as ever. "We generally have 600 plus applications, and we are able to accept only 76 students each to the two terms," she says.

Popular courses of study at Anoka Technical College include surgical technology, occupational therapist assistant (OTA) and phlebotomy. All normally have waiting lists, according to college spokeswoman Bobbie Dahlke.

"OTA is a very strong program and one of the only ones in the area, so a lot of people come here," Dahlke says. The same goes for surgical technology. "One of the attractions of two-year colleges is that students can get in two years what they need to start a job."

Keeping Tabs On Industry Needs

Community colleges work closely with the healthcare industry to determine the need for healthcare workers, according to Hollenbeck. "Generally, everyone is going to be looking to decrease costs and often that happens by hiring different kinds of service providers," she says. "Also it happens in part by offering services in a different venue, for example in a clinic or a home rather than in an emergency room or in acute care.

"The ones with the greatest need in the future, with baby boomers retiring and aging, will be nursing and nursing assistant/home health aide," Hollenbeck adds. "The latter is a very short-term course, and the healthcare industry is using a lot of home health aides and nursing assistants to help people in homes so they don't have to go to long term care or to the hospital. There will be a huge need for nursing assistants as well as LPNs and RNs."