Without doubt, healthcare is big business in the United States. The American Hospital Association reports over 5,000 registered hospitals in the US and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states over 18 million people work in healthcare, with women representing nearly 80% of those employees. But, before you think the majority of healthcare jobs require years of education, training and internships, think again.
[See our list of the Top Medical Careers Requiring a Master’s Degree.]
Today’s healthcare careers extend well beyond physicians and nurses, offering a range of opportunities for technicians, administrators and supportive staff. With healthcare job growth projected at 27% in 2014, employers are reaching into diverse job pools to find, educate or train workers for employment in a variety of healthcare fields. Larger health systems sweeten the pot by offering tuition assistance and above average healthcare benefits in hopes of recruiting and retaining quailified employees.
Although certainly not inclusive of all careers available in healthcare, here’s a list of the top paying careers in the health field, with salary estimates according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, and some careers may require certification or specialized, technical training, but don’t necessarily require a graduate degree:
30. Medical and Health Services Manager/Administrator ($40-110k)
Medical and Health Services Managers are responsible for the day-to-day operational services of hospitals, clinics or physician offices; and, depending on the size of the organization, can draw hefty salaries. Health and medical administrators are expected to understand and adapt to changes in healthcare regulations and laws, as well as staying current in technological changes and managing a myriad of issues. A Bachelor’s Degree in Health Administration is required for most hospital and physician group administrators.
29. Cardiovascular Perfusionist ($94k)
Responsible for maintaining heart and lung functions during surgery, cardiovascular perfusionists monitor blood pressure, heart rate, respiratory rate and blood gases during surgery. While most perfusionists work in operating rooms, some perfusionists work in Intensive Care Units with patients whose heart/lung functions may be compromised. A perfusion training program is required after obtaining a Bachelor’s Degree in Health Studies or another health-related field before gaining perfusionist certification.
28. Physician Assistant ($90k)
Working under the direct supervision of a physician, Physician Assistants, or PAs, are licensed to examine, diagnose and treat patients. Educational requirements to become a PA vary from state to state, but generally require completion of a bachelor’s degree in a field such as nursing followed by training in a certified and accredited Physician Assistant educational program.
27. Biomedical Engineer ($86k)
A relatively new field, biomedical engineering, merges research and development of diagnostic medical devices (such as clinical and imaging equipment), prostheses and pharmaceuticals. Biomedical engineers (BME) analyze and design solutions in biology and medicine, with the goal of effectively improving patient outcomes. Equipped with a bachelor’s degree in biomedical engineering and some on-the-job-training, biomedical engineers can work in medical equipment manufacturing, hospitals, university or research facilities.
26. Radiation Therapist ($75k)
After receiving 2-year Associates Degree, or Bachelor’s Degree, in Radiation Therapy, “Rad Techs”, as they’re known in the field, administer radiation treatments to patients to control or kill cancer cells. Working with radiation oncologists and radiation physicists, Radiation Therapists are responsible for operating equipment to deliver precise and targeted radiation treatments to patients with cancer. Radiation therapists may work in hospitals, cancer centers or outpatient clinics.
25. Nuclear Medicine Technologist ($70k)
Nuclear Medicine Technologists need an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in nuclear medicine technology to become licensed in most states. Nuclear Medicine Technologists operate scanners and administer radioactive drugs to create images of a patient’s body to assist in the diagnosis and treatment of various conditions, illnesses and diseases. Technologists may work in hospitals or free standing imaging centers.
24. Registered Nurse ($68k)
Most nursing programs have moved from the two-year diploma model in favor of a two-year Associates Degree or four-year Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) and the nursing field is steadily growing at nearly 20%. RNs must be state licensed in order to practice in hospitals, physicians offices, nursing home or home healthcare services.
23. Medical Sonographer ($64k)
Sonography can include diagnostic medical sonographers and cardiovascular technologists/technicians who operate and conduct tests using special imaging equipment. Some technologists assist physicians and surgeons during surgical procedures as well. Training for sonographers and techinicians requires, at least, an associate’s degree or postsecondary certificate; and, most hospitals and clinics require a professional certification.
22. Cytotechnologist ($61k)
If being on the cutting edge of medicine appeals to you, cytotechnology may be for you. With a baccalaureate degree, and graduation from an accredited cytotechnology program, these laboratory professionals study cells and cellular anomalies. Cytotechnologists play a vital role in the diagnosis and treatment of diseases and illnesses in the early stages. The demand for experienced cytotechnologists is growing and will continue to grow over the next twenty years as genetic research continues to uncover clues in early detection of cancer, hereditary and infectious diseases.
21. Dietician and Nutritionist ($55k)
Dieticians and nutritionists need a Bachelor’s Degree in Nutrition Science followed by some supervised training. Working in collaboration with physicians, dieticians and nutritionists develop dietary plans and schedules to assist patients in maintaining a healthier lifestyle. Nutritionists and dieticians can work in hospitals, long-term care facilities or cancer centers where dietary needs are individualized for optimum patient care and recovery. The national trend towards healthier eating habits and lifestyles means the job market for dieticians and nutritionists is on the increase.
20. Respiratory Therapist ($54k)
Respiratory therapists concentrate on assisting those patients who, due to asthma, emphysema or other chronic lung disorders, have difficulty breathing. Therapists may also work with premature infants with underdeveloped lungs and the elderly, suffering from lung disease such as pneumonia, chronic bronchitis or other lung disorders. Typically, an Associates Degree is required to become a Respiratory Therapist and most states require licensure as well.
19. Medical and Clinical Laboratory Technician ($49k)
To work as a Medical and Clinical Laboratory Technician requires an Associate’s or Bachelor’s degree, preferably in Medical Laboratory Science or some health-related field, or a postsecondary certificate, followed by a course of study which includes chemistry, biology, mathematics, and microbiology; in addition coursework in clinical laboratory skills and management may be required. Technicians collect samples and do laboratory testing on body fluids, tissue and other substances using sophisticated equipment and computers. Hospitals, medical and diagnostic laboratories, physician offices and clinics all employ Medical and Clinical Laboratory Technicians. A fast growing field, it’s estimated that employment in this field could grow by 30% over the next ten years.
18. Social Worker ($46k)
With a Bachelor of Social Work (BSW), social workers are finding well paying, entry-level positions in hospitals, clinics, long-term care facilities, veterans clinics and mental health clinics. Working with patients to identify their specific issues, Social Workers are able to identify patient needs and serve as advocates for patients’ care and long range progress. Certification and licensure of nonclinical Social Workers vary state to state.
17. Recreational Therapists ($42k)
Recreational therapists develop, plan and coordinate recreation-based training programs for people with physical injuries, disabilities and illnesses by utilizing a variety of activities such as dance, sports, arts and crafts in their rehabilitation therapies. These therapists usually have a bachelor’s degree in recreational therapy; and, less common, an associate’s degree. To become a recreational therapist requires coursework in assessment, human anatomy, medical terminology and characteristics of illnesses and disabilities is required. Recreational therapists typically work in hospitals, special rehabilitation clinics, long-term care facilities and/or homehealth agencies.
16. Physical, Recreational and Occupational Therapy Assistants ($42k)
One of the fastest growing healthcare professions, therapy assistants work under the supervision of certified therapists in the rehabilitation of patients recovering from injuries, strokes and other physical disabilities. Training to become a Therapy Assistant involves a two-year therapy program that may include classroom and clinical experience. Therapy Assistants work in hospitals, long-term care facilities or rehabilitation centers.
15. Healthcare Educators ($41k)
Healthcare Educators work in the community teach healthy behaviors and promote wellness. Reaching over a wide range of services, Healthcare Educators access community healthcare needs, develop educational programs, assist in linking patients to healthcare services and serve as healthcare advocates for communities and individuals.
14. Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurse ($41k)
Licensed Practical Nurses (LPNs) and Licensed Vocational Nurses (LVNs) provide basic nursing care under the supervision of Registered Nurses and physicians. After completing a year-long, state-approved educational program (commonly through technical schools), and obtaining their license, LPNs and LVNs are provided direct patient care in hospitals, long-term care facilities, physician offices or home healthcare services. General duties of LPNs and LVNs will vary from state to state, but in general, these clinicians administer basic patient care, such as helping patients bathe or dress, wound care, monitoring of vital signs, etc.
13. Surgical Technicians ($41k)
Surgical Technicians work in operating rooms, assisting in the preparation of operating rooms, organization of surgical equipmnet and assisting physicians during surgeries. Requiring an associates degree or postsecondary certificate, Surgical Technicians study a variety of medical topics ranging from medical terminology and anatomy. Surgical Technicians work in hospitals or outpatient surgical clinic settings.
12. Emergency Medical Technicians (EMT) ($34k)
EMTs, or paramedics, are considered the first responders in emergencies or disasters. Education and training for Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs) requires a minimum of a high school diploma, as well as a postsecondary educational program in emergency medical technology through technical or community colleges or programs that specialize in emergency medical training. The work of EMTs is both physically and mentally demanding, but, equally rewarding.
11. Health Information Technician ($34k)
Patient records are a huge part of the healthcare industry and the role of Health Information Management (HIM) is a crucial one. Training to become a Health Information Technician requires a minimum of a post-secondary certificate, although some employers prefer an Associate’s Degree in Health Information Technology, that includes courses in healthcare reimbursement, coding and classification systems and general medical terminology. These healthcare employees can work in hospitals, physician offices or even government agencies.
10. Medical Records Coder ($34k)
Going hand in hand with Health Information Management, Medical Records Coders are key to hospitals, physician offices and clinics receiving reimbursement for services provided to their patients. In some cases Medical Coders can telecommute from home. Medical Coders are required to be certified and coursework in a diploma or Associate’s in Medical Coding program will include medical terminology, anatomy and an understanding of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-9).
9. Medical Assistants ($30k)
Medical Assistants perform routine clinical and administrative tasks in physician offices and clinics. They may greet patients, complete medical records, handle correspondence or billing. Clinical Medical Assistants will take medical histories, assistant patients in preparing for examinations and/or help with basic laboratory tests. There are formal training programs for medical assisting careers offered in vocational, post-secondary and community colleges that result in certification.
8. Pharmacy Technician ($30k)
Working with a pharmacist to dispense prescription medication is not as easy as it may look. Pharmacy Technicians are involved in the accuracy and timeliness of filling prescriptions in hospitals, drug stores or grocery stores, by assisting in the measuring, labeling and counting of medication doses. While not required, attending a post-secondary training program in pharmacy technology is helpful and often preferred by employers.
7. Phlebotomists ($29k)
Phlebotomists are responsible for drawing patients’ blood for a variety of reasons including testing, transfusions, blood donations or other reasons. No specific degree is required to become a Phlebotomist, but postsecondary phlebotomy training is required. Working primarily in hospitals, physician offices and clinics, most Phlebotomists are required to be certified.
6. Nursing Assistants and Transporters ($25k)
Most states require Nursing Assistants to be certified by an approved, post-secondary, training program before working with patients. Nursing Assistants have direct patient care in bathing, feeding, monitoring vital signs, repositioning and moving patients in hospitals, long-term care facilities and home health. Transporters do not require certification, but, also work in hospitals and long-term care settings, but work as patient transporters.
Healthcare in the US will continue to expand over the next ten years; and, with that expansion, will come career opportunities that don’t fit into what is considered a ‘traditional’ healthcare career. Some of those careers may include:
5. Marketing Managers ($88k)
In an ever growing, competitive market environment, healthcare systems, hospitals, outpatient clinics and other healthcare services find themselves marketing and promoting their services in their local communities and beyond. Healthcare Marketing Managers wear a variety of hats in promoting physician services, hospital specialties (think, “The Region’s Best Heart Hospital”), outpatient, speciality services (such as women’s services or oncology clinics). Marketing Managers will be expected to plan, coordinate and direct various marketing plans including print, video and special events promotions. The higher paying positions will require a bachelors degree in marketing, advertising, or even, journalism.
4. Compliance Officer ($70k)
More and more, healthcare systems, physician offices and outpatient clinics are facing federal and state compliance requirements in order to be reimbursed through Medicare and Medicaid. Legislation such as the Health Insurance Portability and Privacy Act (commonly known as HIPPA) legislates hefty fines for violations of protected patient health information and, increasingly, hospitals and other healthcare facilities are focusing on compliance. With millions of dollars in potential fines possible, Compliance Officers are in demand. This is an attractive field for people with a bachelor’s degree in health care administration and an ability to understand healthcare legislation. Compliance Officers will work with administrators and healthcare educators, as well as lawyers, in their role.
3. Healthcare Navigator ($48k)
Unless you’re fortunate enough to have health insurance through your employer, chosing a health insurance plan can be more than a little perplexing. Healthcare Navigators are specially trained individuals who work with communities, individuals and businesses to help navigate the complexities of the new Affordable Care Act. Healthcare Navigators, and training, are funded through grants provided by state Exchange funds. Check with local organizations such as United Way, community health centers, universities and various foundations for Healthcare Navigator opportunities in your area.
2. Biomedical Equipment Technician ($48k)
According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, Biomedical Equipment Technician positions have an astounding 30% job growth expectation over the next ten years. Educational requirements to become a Biomedical Equipment Technician vary, depending on the type of equipment being serviced. For instance, to work installing, calibrating and maintaining sophisticated CAT scanning equipment, an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in biomedical technology or engineering may be required, while on the job training of repair of hospital beds and wheelchairs is sufficient. Biomedical Equipment Technicians may work in hospitals, clinics, medical device companies or home care agencies.
1. Home Health and Hospice Aides ($21k)
The need for home health aides is estimated to grow at a whopping 48% over the next ten years. Home Health Aides provide general assistance for those who are disabled, chronically ill or in need of assistance to remain in their homes. Requiring little formal education, Home Health Aides typically work for agencies that receive reimbursement from Medicare or Medicaid; and, some agencies and states require a minimum certification.