“The college diploma is the new high school degree.” That’s a well-known statement heard in the New York City of 2007 – and there’s a lot of truth to it. However, not everyone wants – or needs – to attend a four-year university to begin a career. Many people are turning to healthcare programs that feature rapid training time, lower tuition costs, and a faster path from school to the work force. Many of these schools offer new alternatives – such as a dental technician track and assistant nursing program – to the classic college degree.Healthcare programs: The career wave of the futureAmerica is getting older – and there are not enough workers to help her age well, just yet. The upcoming wave of Boomer retirements means a significant number of job vacancies, and an American economy that demands more skilled healthcare workers. And retirement isn’t the whole story: As the Baby Boomers reach their geriatric years, they will need skilled nursing care. As they retain more of their natural teeth, they will need skilled dentists and dental technicians. School programs that focus on allied health address that critical job and care gap by offering a quick path to a career.Higher tuition, more problems: Healthcare programs offer cost-effective alternatives to the traditional four-year system Money is often a would-be student’s biggest barrier to attending a nursing school or M.D. program. As tuition soars and students increasingly turn to private loans to finance their educations, many find school to be beyond the reach of their financial means. Allied health programs can offer lower-cost training courses, with classes that are relevant to the specific functions the student will perform on the job. After attending a career-focused allied health program, the newly graduated student can enter the job market proficient in the skills he or she will need to be a nursing assistant, medical assistant, or dental technician in New York City – or elsewhere in the nation. More importantly, the student can begin working without onerous loans.The experience gap: Addressed by healthcare program internshipsNew York City is a tough, competitive job market – witness the huge numbers of liberal arts grads working as baristas or waiters. Sources as varied as the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Penn State University, and The Guardian report that in today’s job market, education – and nothing but – is old hat. Employers want demonstrable, real-world experience, too. A healthcare program dedicated to the training of allied health professionals like nursing aids and dental technicians typically offers professional externships in the student’s field of study. For example, an aspiring dental technician might spend hours assisting chair-side in a private dental practice – or, a budding nursing assistant might clock in some hands-on work hours at the New York Presbyterian Hospital. This type of experience is career-focused, and can be put on a future job seeker’s resume.Many four-year colleges put an emphasis on a liberal arts education. What this means is that the academic programs demand exposure to many areas of human thought and achievement: science, mathematics, arts, languages, philosophy, and so on. So, a student might leave a four-year Ivy League school knowing Nietzsche backwards and forwards, but he or she can’t apply that skill to a specific career. Healthcare programs that focus on allied health careers – the catch-all term for jobs like nursing assistant, dental technician, and medical biller and coder – typically offer only courses that are relevant to the student’s eventual career. This saves the student time, and money. And, the hands-on skills taught in allied health care programs can’t be had just by going to the library, attending lecture, or studying texts. They must be practiced in real life settings before the student signs his or her first employment contract.Outsourced and right-sized: How the new economy makes healthcare school programs necessaryThe current American economy is service- and ideas-based, according to market periodicals such as BusinessWeek. The Internet makes the exchange and purchase of new ideas easy, and rapid. Unfortunately for U.S. workers, it makes ideas cheap, too. Some Americans remember the halcyon 1990s as a period of great economic growth. However, many of the ideas-based jobs such as computer programming and software engineering have since been outsourced to developing countries that boast cheaper labor.Service jobs are here to stay, for now. You can’t telecommute a restaurant meal or a tire rotation. However, most service-sector jobs require no education, and thus, offer only menial wages. Allied health careers, by contrast, offer significantly higher entry level wages, with only a short commitment to training time. As the United States economy continues to evolve from the labor economy of its inception to the service economy of today, more and more students – from Dallas to Los Angeles to New York – choose allied healthcare school programs to secure their working futures.