Healthcare in America is big business. Really big business.
Forbes Magazine (February, 2, 2014) estimates the total spent in the healthcare industry in 2012 surpassed the $3 trillion mark, with $408 billion spent in administrative costs and $197 billion in non-physician/nurse professional services. With over 12 million professionals currently working in the healthcare field (Kaiser Family Foundation, May, 2014), the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimates employment opportunities in healthcare will continue to grow in the coming years. The BLS cites healthcare occupations with the largest projected employment increases are registered nurses; personal and home care aides; home health aides; nursing aides, orderlies, and attendants; medical assistants; and licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses.
Employment and earnings (not including physicians) for those working in healthcare range from $20,000 to $80,000 annually and requires individuals with diverse educational backgrounds to qualify for positions in the clinical and non-clinical healthcare setting.
President Obama placed community colleges and Associate Degrees center stage in the national spotlight with his 2015 State of The Union proposal for free tuition for students attending two-year community colleges. Several states currently offer free tuition for residents attending local community colleges and many community colleges offer degrees that qualify students to work in well-paying healthcare professions.
Not all jobs in healthcare require a medical degree, with allied health and supportive staff positions increasingly needed to support the clinical, technological, social, financial and administrative areas of the industry. Using Bureau of Labor Statistics data, we've compiled a listing of the top employment opportunities by educational degree and estimated salaries as a guide to students seeking a career in healthcare.
Most jobs in the medical field will require state licenses or, at the very least, certifications; and, the regulations for licenses and certifications will vary from state to state. Be certain to determine your state's requirement in making your selection of a program.
#1. Dental Hygienist
Assisting dentists, Dental Hygienists clean and examine patients' teeth for disease or problems and provide additional preventative dental care.
Typical Coursework: Anatomy, Physiology and Radiography
Annual Salary Estimate: $70,210
Job Growth Outlook 2012-2022: 33%
#2. Diagnostic Medical Sonographer
There are several specializations in medical sonography; but in all areas, diagnostic medical sonographers observe ultrasounds during scans, identify most useful images, and provide written summaries of technical findings. Medical sonographers work closely with physicians.
Typical Coursework: Anatomy, Instrumentation, and Medical Ethics
Annual Salary Estimate: $68,390
Job Growth Outlook 2012-2022: 39%
#3. Cardiovascular Technologist
Operating imaging equipment, Cardiovascular Technologists develop images and conduct diagnostic tests used by physicians to diagnose and treat various cardiology conditions and can assist physicians and surgeons in surgery. CTs help prepare patients and imaging equipment, analyze images and results and provide summaries of findings for physicians. Most CTs work in hospitals, outpatient clinics and medical and diagnostic labs.
Typical Coursework: Anatomy, Medical Terminology, and Applied Sciences
Annual Salary Estimate: $65,860
Job Growth Outlook 2012-2022: 46%
#4. Respiratory Therapist
Respiratory therapists assist patients who, due to asthma, emphysema or other chronic lung disorders, have difficulty breathing. Therapists may also work with premature infants with underdeveloped lungs as well as the elderly, suffering from lung disease such as pneumonia, chronic bronchitis or other lung disorders. Most states require licensure as well.
Typical Coursework: Microbiology, Patient Assessment, and Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation
Annual Salary Estimate: $56,000
Job Growth Outlook 2012-2022: 19%
#5. Radiologic Technologist and Technician
These technicians take x-rays, MRI and CAT scans, administer non-radioactive materials for diagnostic purposes and prepare patients for radiologic testing. Radiologic technologists work in hospitals, physician offices, medical and diagnostic laboratories and outpatient centers.
Typical Coursework: Anatomy, Pathology, Patient Care, Radiation Physics and Image Evaluation
Annual Salary Estimate: $54,520
Job Growth Outlook 2012-2022: 21%
#6. Physical Therapist Assistant
Working under the direction of a physical therapists, these assistants help patients regain mobility and management of pain following injuries or illnesses. Physical Therapist Assistants work in hospital rehabilitation centers, outpatient centers or physician offices. Programs are usually about two years in length including clinical experience.
Typical Coursework: Algebra, English, Anatomy, Physiology, and Psychology
Annual Salary Estimate: $52,160
Job Growth Outlook 2012-2022: 41%
#7. Occupational Therapy Assistant
OT Assistants help patients recover and improve their skills needed for living and working, following an accident, stroke or other debilitating condition. Assistants are directly involved in working with patients in therapy for patients, under the supervision of occupational therapists. This is a fast growing field with projected growth at 41%.
Typical Coursework: Psychology, Biology and Pediatric and Geriatric Health
Annual Salary Estimate: $47,800
Job Growth Outlook 2012-2022: 41%
#8. Licensed Practical/Vocational Nurse
The Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurse administers basic patient care in hospital, home health agencies, long term care facilities and physician offices. Patient care encompasses providing basic comfort (bathing, dressing), treating wounds, inserting catheters, monitoring patient health vitals (blood pressure, pulse, etc.). Depending on state regulations, LPNs or LVNs are limited in their tasks and may only conduct certain care under direct supervision. Length of study required to become a LPN or VPN is usually around one year, but can be longer; and, includes supervised clinical experience.
Typical Coursework: Nursing, Biology, and Pharmacology
Annual Salary Estimate: $41,540
Job Growth Outlook 2012-2022: 25%
#9. Surgical Technologist
Commonly known as operating room technicians, Surgical Technologists play an important role in the smooth running of surgical operations, by preparing surgical rooms, maintains equipment and sterile environments and assists during surgeries. Surgical Technology programs may range from several months up to two years and trains students in setting up equipment, sterilization techniques and infection prevention.
Typical Coursework: Anatomy, Biology, Medical Terminology, Pharmacology
Annual Salary Estimate: $41,790
Job Growth Outlook 2012-2022: 30%
#10. Medical Assistants
Handling administrative and clinical tasks in physician offices, Medical Assistants work with patients in taking medical history, measuring vital signs, assisting with patient exams and preparing blood samples for laboratory testing. Technology advances in the area of patient records is changing the way Medical Assistants are trained and many are now required to be trained in the proper use of Electronic Health Records (EHR).
Typical Coursework: Biology, Chemistry, Anatomy and EHR
Annual Salary Estimate: $41,570
Job Growth Outlook 2012-2022: 29%
#1. Clinical Trial Manager
These specialized managers typically have a bachelor's degree in nursing or health services management and are responsible for assuring compliance with FDA regulations and clinical trials protocols. Clinical trials are a vital segment of medical research and the Clinical Trial Manager is charged with maintaining quality controls.
Typical Course Work: Hospital Organization and Management, Accounting and Budgeting, Human Resources Administration, Law and Ethics, Health Economics and Health Information Systems
Annual Salary Estimate: $88,580
Job Growth Outlook 2011-2022: 23%
#2. Medical and Health Services Manager
The growth of the healthcare industry has also increased the need for qualified executives and administrators to oversee the day-to-day functioning of acute and long term care facilities, outpatient clinics and physician groups. Medical and Health Services Managers are required to keep current on healthcare laws and regulations, improve efficiency and quality of healthcare services and oversee reimbursements for services offered.
Typical Course Work: Hospital Organization and Management, Accounting and Budgeting, Human Resources Administration, Strategic Planning, Law and Ethics, Health Economics, and Health Information Systems
Annual Salary Estimate: $88,580
Job Growth Outlook 2011-2022: 23%
#3. Occupational Health and Safety Specialists
The majority of Occupational Health and Safety Specialists work for federal, state or local governments and analyze work environments and work place procedures. They design programs to prevent workplace injuries, disease or environmental damage.
Typical Coursework: Radiation Science, Hazardous Material Management and Control, Risk Communications and Respiratory Protection
Annual Salary Estimate: $66,790
Job Growth Outlook 2011-2022: 7%
#4. Registered Nurse
The role of the Registered Nurse cannot be underestimated and has, over the years, become an increasingly important role in successful medical outcomes. As the "face of healthcare", Registered Nurses provide and coordinate patient care, relay information to physicians and surgeons, provide emotional support to patients and family members as well as administer treatments and medications. Registered Nurses work as team members with physicians and other healthcare specialists to assure quality medical care.
Typical Coursework:Anatomy, Physiology, Microbiology, Chemistry, Nutrition, Psychology
Annual Salary Estimate: $65,470
Job Growth Outlook 2011-2022: 19%
#5. Dietitian and Nutritionist
Eating well is a critical component in wellness and recovery from illness or surgery. 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.
Typical Coursework:Nutrition, Psychology, Chemistry, and Biology
Annual Salary Estimate:$55,240
Job Growth Outlook 2011-2022:21%
#6. Health Educator
Health Educators work to improve the quality of health through education and behaviors that encourage wellness. Often working in communities, the Health Educator develops strategies intended to improve the overall health of individuals by collecting and analyzing data and promoting healthy alternatives. Health Educators help people find health services, understand health conditions and develop educational programs designed to improve healthy choices.
Typical Coursework: Health Education, Health Promotion, Wellness, Ethics, and Cultural Awareness
Annual Salary Estimate: $48,790
Job Growth Outlook: 21%
#7. Clinical Laboratory Technician
Working in medical labs, these technicians collect samples from patients and perform testing on body fluids, tissues, etc. and analyze them using complex tests as well as routine medical testing. Technicians operate sophisticated laboratory equipment and computers to determine results used in diagnosis and treatment.
Typical Coursework: Chemistry, Biology, Microbiology, Mathematics, and Statistics
Annual Salary Estimate: $47,580
Job Growth Outlook 2011-2022: 14%
#8. Athletic Trainers & Exercise Physiologists
Developing fitness and exercise programs for patients, Athletic Trainers specialize in diagnosing, preventing and treating muscle illnesses and injuries. Exercise Physiologists specialize in helping patients recover from strokes, heart attacks and pulmonary diseases by developing special exercise programs.
Typical Coursework: Science, Biology, Anatomy, Physiology and Nutrition
Annual Salary Estimate: $42,090
Job Growth Outlook 2011-2022: 21%
#9. Biological Technician
Assisting in laboratories, Biological Technicians work with scientists in conducting medical tests and experiments. Technicians are responsible for the preparation of samples for analysis, gathering data and interpreting results and writing summarizing reports. Technicians work on teams, under the supervision of scientists, using traditional laboratory equipment and computers to analyze and understand data.
Typical Coursework:General Biology, Ecology, Microbiology, Physiology, Chemistry, Mathematics and Physics
Annual Salary Estimate: $39,750
Job Growth Outlook 2011-2022:10%
#10. Recreational Therapist
Following disability or injury, people sometimes need help in resuming day to day activities. Utilizing a variety of activities, Recreational Therapists work with patients in therapy sessions employing arts and crafts, music, dance, sports and drama to help improve the patient's physical and social well-being. Recreational Therapists are specially trained to assess the individual needs of a patient to relearn skills lost as a result of a stroke, accident or other illness.
Typical Coursework: Assessment, Human Anatomy, Medical and Psychiatric Terminology
Annual Salary Estimate: $42,280
Job Growth Outlook 2011-2022: 13%
#1. Advanced Practice Registered Nurses
This particular category of nurses, includes Nurse Anesthetists, Nurse Midwives and Nurse Practitioners who have both classroom and clinical experience in their specific field. Most APRNs have a bachelor's degree in nursing, but some schools offer bridge programs for nurses who have either an associate degree or nursing diploma.
Typical Coursework: Anatomy, Physiology, Pharmacology and intensive coursework in the specialized field
Annual Salary Estimate: $96,460
Job Growth Outlook 2011-2022: 31%
#2. Physician Assistant
As part of a medical team, Physician Assistants work under the supervision of physicians and surgeons to examine patients, diagnose illnesses and injuries and provide treatment. PAs may prescribe medications when needed, treat injuries and immunize patients. The role of a Physician Assistant varies from state to state, depending on their speciality and requires licensure. Physician Assistant programs typically take up to two years to complete.
Typical Course Work: Pathology, Human Anatomy, Physiology, Clinical Medicine, Pharmacology, Physical Diagnosis, and Medical Ethics
Annual Salary Estimate: $90,930
Job Growth Outlook 2011-2022: 38%
#3. Occupational Therapist
Working in homes, outpatient clinics or hospitals, Occupational Therapists treat patients who have been ill, injured or disabled, and help them to return to as full a life as possible. OTs develop treatment plans of daily activities and specific goals using special equipment or day-to-day objects in order to strengthen and promote functioning activity.
Typical Coursework: Anatomy and physiology, Statistics and Psychology
Annual Salary Estimate: $75,400
Job Growth Outlook 2011-2022: 29%
#4. Speech Language Pathologists
Most Speech Language Pathologists work in hospitals, outpatient clinics, homes or schools and 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.
Typical Coursework:Age Specific Speech Disorders, Alternative Communication Methods, Swallowing Disorders and Anatomy
Annual Salary Estimate: $69,870
Job Growth Outlook 2011-2022:19%
#5. Orthotists and Prosthetists
With improvements in prosthetics, a growing need is emerging for specialists who design medical supportive devices (i.e., arms, hands, legs and feet) and braces. Prosthetists evaluate patient needs based on physician prescriptions, educate and train patients in using supportive devices and work with patients in the proper use of orthotics.
Typical Coursework:Upper and Lower Extremity Orthotics and Prosthetics, Spinal Orthotics, Plastics and Anatomy
Annual Salary Estimate:$62,670
Job Growth Outlook 2011-2022:36%
#6. Genetic Counselor
Research and study in the field of genetics has opened a new opportunity in the genetics counselor field for professionals to assess individual and family risk of inherited medical conditions, genetic disorders and birth defects. Working with other healthcare providers, the Genetic Counselor provides information used in treatment and diagnosis.
Typical Coursework:Public Health, Epidemiology, Psychology and Developmental Biology
Annual Salary Estimate: $56,800
Job Growth Outlook 2011-2022: 41%
If you recall the U.S. Ebola scare of 2014, you may realize the role of Epidemiologists as one of providing information during a public health concern. As public health officials, Epidemiologists take a lead role in identifying and preventing significant outbreaks of disease and illness. Epidemiologists study community and public health problems, collect and analyze data and work with the public to reduce negative health outcomes.
Typical Coursework:Public Health, Biological and Physical Sciences, Statistics, Causal Analysis and Survey Design
Annual Salary Estimate: $65,270
Job Growth Outlook 2011-2022: 10%
#8. Clinical Social Worker
Although one can become a social worker with a bachelor's degree, Clinical Social Workers are required to have Master's Degree and two years post-masters work in a clinical setting. Clinical Social Workers are trained to help people with mental, behavioral and emotional problems and are able to diagnose and treat patients. Clinical Social Workers may work in hospitals, outpatient clinics as well as public and private schools.
Typical Coursework:Biology, Chemistry, Psychology and Sociology
Annual Salary Estimate: $44,200
Job Growth OUtlook 2011-2022: 19%