There’s no argument that healthcare is one of the fastest growing careers in the United States. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), jobs in healthcare are expected to grow at an astonishing rate of 23% job growth over the next decade, with an estimated 974,000 new jobs expected. This rapid growth is due, in part, to greater health insurance accessibility and the maturing of the large Baby Boomer population. Hospitals, health systems, private practices, long-term care facilities are looking to boost their services with qualified, licensed clinical and support (or ancillary) staff.
Salary ranges for healthcare professions vary depending on the degree, area of study and licensure. Employment and earnings (not including physicians) for those working in healthcare range from $20,000 to $102,950 annually and requires individuals with diverse educational and technical backgrounds to qualify for positions in the clinical and non-clinical healthcare setting.
Depending on the career path, students should be aware of requirements for specific healthcare positions. For instance, students may obtain a Registered Nurse (RN) degree at a two-year community college or a Bachelor of Nursing (BSN), a Master of Nursing (MSN) or Doctor of Nursing Practices (DNP) at a four year school. Not all careers require graduate education; but, salaries will, naturally, be higher for more advanced degrees.
Many medical careers stipulate students attend an accredited institution. Referring again to nursing as an example, most states recognize the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) or Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) educational standards. Depending on the career, be certain your school of choice is properly accredited for your field.
Additionally, most of the higher paying healthcare careers require either certification, licensure or both. It’s important you determine that your educational program of choice meets your state’s specific licensure requirements.
To become a Pharmacist, students must complete a Doctor of Pharmacy degree from an accredited pharmacy school. There are three and four year program options, requiring a Bachelor’s degree for admission; and, some pharmacy schools even accept high school graduates into six-year programs. Pharmacists fill medical prescriptions per physician orders, educate patients on how and when to take a prescribed medicine and inform them about potential side effects they may experience from taking the medicine. Pharmacists may find employment in hospitals, clinics, pharmacy or drug stores. The median salary for Pharmacists is $120,950 annually.
Becoming a Podiatrist requires a four year graduate program to obtain a Doctor of Podiatric Medicine (DPM). Coursework includes anatomy, physiology, pharmacology, and pathology among other subjects; and, a clinical rotation is required. Podiatrists diagnose foot, ankle, and lower leg problems through physical exams, x rays, medical laboratory tests, and other methods. They provide treatment for foot, ankle, and lower leg ailments, and may prescribe special appliances to help the patient with mobility. Some, accredited online degree programs are available. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a 14% ten-year job growth and a median salary of $120,700.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates advanced Master Degrees in Nurse Anesthesia, Nurse Midwives and Nurse Practitioner positions to grow 31% over the next decade with an average annual salary of $102,670. These specialized nurses provide primary and speciality care. An undergraduate degree in nursing is required before entry into a master’s program in APRN.
Requiring a four-year Doctor of Optometry (O.D.) degree, optometry students study anatomy, physiology, biochemistry, optics, visual science, and the diagnosis and treatment of diseases and disorders of the visual system. There are some online programs available which also require clinical experiences and students may choose a speciality in family practice, low vision rehabilitation, pediatric or geriatric optometry, and ocular disease, etc. The average salary for licensed, certified Optometrist is an annual $101,410 and can expect, according to the BLS, a 27% job growth over the next ten years. U.S. News and World Report ranks this career #11 in its Best Jobs report.
Depending on the educational level and career path, median salaries in the field vary, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook. Graduates working as human resources managers can earn up to $100,000, while graduates working as counselors in schools, social work, non profits, etc., may see salary ranges from $39,000-$56,000. Approximately 50% of psychology prepared graduates work in hospitals or other health services, 10% in private business or nonprofit, 16% in governmental agencies, with the remainder in schools and universities.
The Doctor of Nursing Practice concentrates on the clinical practice of nursing and provides employment opportunities in nursing administration and/or clinical nursing faculty positions, as well as direct patient care. The BLS estimates salaries for this degree to be an average of $96,940 with a 34% job growth projected over the next decade.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, MSN and Nurse Practitioners with gerontology specialties enjoy a median salary of $96,460 (2012) and the job outlook is growing at an amazing 31% average rate over the next few years. These nurses can expect to find employment in hospitals, physician offices, outpatient and long-term care facilities. With the large Baby Boomer population aging, schools of nursing, in an attempt to address this rising need for qualified gerontology nurses, are providing online nurse practitioner, Clinical Nurse Specialists (CNS) and MSN programs with gerontology specializations. Several schools offer either an acute care or primary care track option.
Physician Assistants are state licensed clinicians who examine, diagnose and treat patients, order tests such as X-rays and blood work and prescribe medications. Ranked #4 in Best Jobs by U.S. News and World Report, Physician Assistants hold either bachelors or masters degrees with the masters degree considered to be the terminal degree. Most programs may be completed within two years, although some may require longer. Programs for MSPA (Master of Science Physician Assistant) are accredited by the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant (ARC-PA). Working physician assistants holding a bachelors degree, may want to obtain a Master of Health Science (MHS) or Master of Science Degree in Physician Assistant Studies (MSPA) to allow for better career flexibility. The BLS estimates PA salaries to be averaged at $95,820.
The government regulations contained in the 2012 Affordable Care Act requires healthcare providers to integrate electronic health records technology opening job opportunities for qualified, masters prepared Health Information Managers. Positions in HI and HIM include: Clinical data analysis, application analysis, health information management, information technology consultant, clinical informatics manager and chief information officer. U.S. News and World Report estimates the median salary range for clinical data analysts at $55,000 to about $95,000 for clinical informatics managers.
With the advent of more health related services, in hospitals, out patient clinics, long-term care facilities and physician groups, the need for qualified healthcare managers or administrators (the title is interchangeable) is growing at a steady pace. Medical administrators typically hold, at least, a Bachelor degree; but, many go on to receive an Master of Business Administration. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates median salaries for this category to be $92,810 with an expected job growth increase of 17% over the next decade.
Following accidents, strokes or illnesses, patients may need assistance in returning to normal activities. Physical Therapists consult with physicians to develop rehabilitation plans to help patients achieve optimum mobility. Ranked #12 in US News and World Report’s 100 Best Jobs. Physical Therapists must obtain a graduate degree from an accredited institution, which typically takes three years, and be state licensed. Earning an estimated $82,390 annually, the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a 34% job growth in the profession over the next decade.
Radiation Therapists earn an average of $80,090 annually and has a projected job growth of around 14% over the next ten years. An Associates Degree in nuclear medicine technology is required with studies in human anatomy and physiology, physics, chemistry, radioactive drugs, and computer science. Radiation Therapists work in hospitals and specialized oncology clinics. The Joint Review Committee on Educational Programs in Nuclear Medicine Technology accredits nuclear medicine programs and most require a clinical experience and licensure is required by most states.
Occupational Therapists work with patients following accident, surgery, stroke or other illness, that leaves patients needing help to relearn everyday tasks. Occupational Therapists develop treatment plans to affect a patient’s abilities to conduct daily activities and recover their abilities necessary for daily living or work. Masters degrees are required for this profession which can lead to an average salary, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, of $78,810 with a rapid 27% job growth projected over the next decade.
Specializing in hearing, Audiologists examine patients who have hearing, balance, or related ear problems, examine and diagnose problems, develop and administer treatment, fit and dispense hearing aids and determine causes and treatment of balance disorders and hearing loss. Audiologists are required to have a doctoral degree in audiology (Au.D.) to become licensed, a requirement in all states. The BLS estimates an average salary of $73,060 and a faster than average job growth projection of 29% over the next ten years.
This profession, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, has an above average 19% 10-year job growth expectation and a median salary of $72,520 per year. It is recognized as #2 in U.S. News and World Report’s Best Health Care Support Jobs. Responsible for cleaning patients’ teeth by removing tartar, stains, and plaque from teeth as well as accessing patients’ oral health and providing education on proper dental care. Hygienists also take and develop dental x-rays and apply sealants and fluorides for dental protection. This career requires licensing and certification.
Speech Language Pathologists typically work in hospitals, outpatient clinics, homes or schools. Theses specialists diagnose and assess a variety of swallowing disorders and speech communication problems in patients. Working with patients who have had a stroke or brain injury, developmental issues, physical malformations and/or emotional problems, Speech Language Pathologists assist patients in developing speech language skills. Masters prepared, these healthcare professionals have an estimated annual salary of $71,550 and a 21% job growth outlook for the next ten years, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Requiring a minimum of three years undergraduate study and a four year program in Doctor of Chiropractic (D.C.) degree and a state license, Chiropractors analyze patients’ posture, spine, and reflexes and conduct tests to evaluate a patient’s posture. Chiropractors also employ neuromuscular therapy to assist in the alignment of the spine and other joints. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates these professionals may earn $66,720 a year and the career has a 17% job growth estimate and comes in at #24 in Best Jobs of U.S. News and World Report.
The role of Registered Nurse in healthcare has long been a respected career. While the career is moving toward the Bachelor of Nursing (BSN) degree, Associate Degree nurses (ADN) are also in demand; and, can expect an average salary of $66,640, and an estimated 16% job growth over the next ten years. With a national shortage of nurses, many employers are offering tuition assistance for ADN nurses to obtain their BSN degrees. U.S. News and World Report ranks this career at #16 in its healthcare support category and #22 in its 100 Top Jobs.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics put a ten year, 24% employment rate for sonographers and a mean salary of $62,540 annually. Employment may be found in hospitals, physician offices and outpatient clinics. U.S. News and World Report cited this career as #42 in its 100 Best Jobs. Students with an Associates Degree or Bachelor Degree with studies in anatomy, medical terminology, and applied sciences. Most studies will include a clinical experience and all sonographers must be licensed and certified.
Dietitians and Nutritionists, as experts in food and nutrition, assess patients’ individual needs and counsels regarding appropriate diets and nutritional habits to promote healing and patients overall health. Dietitians and Nutritionists work in hospitals, clinics and outpatient centers. Requiring a Bachelor’s degree in nutrition science, the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates a 16% job growth and $56,950 annual salary for this profession. Many states require licensure for this career. This career ranked #23 in Best Jobs in U.S. News and World Report.
Respiratory Therapists (RT) work with patients having difficulty breathing, as a result from injury, asthma, lung disease or from heart attacks. The Bureau of Labor Statistics cites this profession as having a median income of $56,730 and a 12% job growth outlook over the next ten years. Approximately 4 out of 5 Respiratory Therapists work in hospitals with others working in healthcare facilities, physician offices or home health agencies. Respiratory Therapy students enrolled in an Associates Degree program will focus on diagnostic and therapeutic assessment and procedures, CPR and clinical experience. These therapists are licensed and requirements vary from state to state and the career is rated #25 in Best Jobs of U.S. News and World Report.