Healthcare Career Options

career options in heatcare

It is common knowledge that the healthcare field is full of high-growth and good paying opportunities.  You may be drawn to healthcare for a wide variety of reasons, but what if you aren’t quite sure which specific career path to pursue?  Maybe you are thinking about nursing, but at the same time you are wondering about other options as well.  You may even already have a college degree in another field.  Let’s explore some of the high-demand healthcare career possibilities.

Dental Hygienist

As the importance of good oral hygiene and its relation to overall health becomes clearer, the demand for this field increases.  Entry level education includes a mix of associate’s and bachelor’s degree programs, as well as certificate programs, and the education required for certification generally takes 3-4 years to complete.  Most dental hygienists work in private dentists’ offices cleaning and checking teeth and performing other preventative dental services.  Besides offering a $70,210 median wage (according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics), CareerCast ranks dental hygiene as the second best healthcare career, due to demand and it typically being a low-stress career with flexible scheduling.

Speech-Language Pathologist

Sometimes called speech therapists, these professionals work in schools or other settings, helping both children and adults alike with speech issues and other communication problems.  A Master’s degree or other graduate level program is required for certification.  Median pay ($69,870) is quite similar to dental hygiene, although job growth (19%) and demand (26,000 employment increase by 2022) is somewhat lower than the other careers we are discussing here.

Diagnostic Medical Sonographer

These professionals use ultrasound machinery to view and record images of the internal body.  They generally work one-on-one with a patient in a hospital or physician’s office.  Education programs include associate’s degree and certificate programs, as well as some bachelor’s degree programs.  With a $65,860 median pay and high job growth (39%), this is also a promising healthcare career.

Radiologic/MRI Technologist

Closely related to a diagnostic medical sonographer, radiologic and MRI technologists operate x-ray, MRI and related equipment in hospitals, doctors’ offices and other medical facilities.  These education programs also typically result in an associate’s degree or certificate, although some schools confer a bachelor’s degree.  The 2012 median pay was $55,910 with 21% projected growth and 48,600 expected employment increase by 2022.

Occupational Therapy Assistant

Occupational therapy assistants (OTAs) work individually with patients to help them with everyday tasks related to work and general life.  Whether patients are limited in mobility due to an injury or disability, occupational therapy helps these individuals perform tasks again or find new methods of completing the tasks needed for everyday life.  Accredited occupational therapy assistant programs generally result in an associate’s degree.  This is also a high growth field (41%) with a median pay of $53,240.

Physical Therapy Assistant

Physical therapy assistants work to get patients their previous range of motion or as much range of motion as now possible.  They work under the supervision of a physical therapist in much the same way an OTA works under the supervision of an occupational therapist.  Physical therapy assistant education programs also generally result in an associate’s degree.  Median pay ($52,160) and high growth (41%) are two more similarities with the OTA occupation.

Registered Nurse

According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing and Bureau of Labor Statistics, nursing is the largest healthcare occupation in the United States.  With 2.7 million registered nurses already employed in the US, another one-half million will be needed by 2022.  There are more entry-level education pathways available to registered nurses than most other medical or even non-medical professions.  Registered nurses can start out with a diploma, associate’s degree or bachelor’s degree program, or in some cases even begin their nursing career with a master’s degree program.  Each state’s board of nursing generally provides a comprehensive list of accredited programs and available degree tracks.

Nursing also has clear pathways towards more advanced degrees, with several options for becoming an advanced practice nurse, such as a nurse practitioner, nurse midwife, clinical nurse specialist or nurse anesthetist with graduate-level education.

Besides the potential to earn a $65,470 median annual wage in the largest high-growth medical field, many find they do not want to go back to school to pursue an associate’s degree if they already have a bachelor’s degree in another field.  Utica College, which has two locations in Syracuse, New York and Tampa, Florida, offers a 16-month online nursing program and results in a bachelor of science in nursing.

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