On this page we have put together healthcare related resources to help you pick a health care career that best fits your skills and interests. In addition to informative health care job and career articles, we also have hundreds of health care career descriptions (including average salaries) that you can browse through.
Health care careers are booming for two reasons: The population is aging, and people want to live as long as they can in good health, and new health care technologies add considerably to their options and your career opportunities. In this article we discuss twenty of the best paying health-care positions available if you don’t want to be a doctor.
Health care is a growing career area
Health care is a growing industry, largely because the need increases with age. Between 1960 and 2008, average life expectancy in the United States rose from 70 years of age to 78.41 (male: 75.78 years/female: 80.81 years)2. Current trends suggest that longevity will at least stabilize and perhaps increase. Often, people considering health care careers imagine that exceptional empathy, grueling hours, or ability in science are required. In fact, the field is now so broad that many different academic achievements, skill sets, and lifestyle preferences can be rewarded.
Financial reward varies by years of study and patient demand
Think of a dentist’s office, for example. There is the dentist, of course. Having majored in sciences in high school, the dentist, who is considered a physician, completes 6-8 years of specialized medical school (for dentists), and takes post-graduate exams. The dentist usually sets up in private practice. That includes the expense of buying equipment, renting space, and paying assistants. He or she may earn $112,000–$164,000 per year, with a 2009 median of $146,000.
But the office also offers other careers in dentistry. The dental assistant does office work and tool maintenance, and possibly X-rays for the dentist. An assistant typically has a high school diploma, majoring in sciences, and can learn on the job. Salaries range from about $27,000–$39,000 a year (the 2009 median was $29,000). Some are paid as high as $47,000 a year.
A dental hygienist generally has both a high school diploma, and two years at a dental hygiene school. The hygienist assists dentist with operations, does diagnostic tests and primary care, and perhaps some office work. The compensation is $57,000–$73,000 (2009 median $59,000).
The dental laboratory technician prepares dental chemicals and products, and manufactures dentures and artificial teeth, taking measurements as needed. The technician has a high school diploma, but mostly learns on job. He or she may benefit from a Bachelor’s degree in a related subject like art and ceramics. That offers a clue: Health sciences careers do not exclude people with arts degrees. It is just a question of finding out where an arts degree can be an asset. The compensation is $27,000–$45,000 a year, up to $47,000–$54,000 annually.
As we can see from observing the dental office as a whole, there are at least four types of occupation to consider. The compensation for each one varies by the years spent in training and also—because dentistry is a private business—by demand. Put another way, a busy dentist is financially secure enough to reward trusted assistants with higher pay.
Careers in health care meet a variety of needs
Many promising careers in health care use skill sets you may have but have never associated with medicine. For example, are you having trouble putting a music degree to work? Consider audiology. The audiologist usually works with a physician, evaluating hearing, identifying problems, and prescribing and administering increasingly sophisticated hearing devices, mostly aimed at a growing aged population. An audiologist typically has an MA, but there is a trend toward PhDs. The compensation is $60,000–$77,000 per year (2009 average $63,200).
Or perhaps you need a low-stress job to reenter the work force, or would prefer to work mainly at home? If you have up-to-date computer skills, consider becoming a medical records technician. Maintaining the records of a healthcare institution pays $23,000–$56,000 per year. A low stress, flexible position that may accommodate working at home is medical transcriptionist ($23,000–$38,000), recording and transcribing key meetings. Accuracy and good judgment are the main requirements, and a high school diploma may be acceptable.
A person with a friendly and motivated personality who needs to get into the work force now could consider being a personal and home care aide, providing basic personal assistance to people with disabilities and injuries. The $15,000–$30,000 per year compensation might seem low, but the job offers paid experience with patients that can lead to contacts and more opportunities.
Health care careers suit a variety of lifestyles
A number of alternative medicine careers have gained acceptance in recent years, including acupuncture. An accredited 3–5 year program can lead to $32, 000–$65, 000 earnings per year as a self-employed practitioner. Similarly, a naturopathic doctor can earn $45,000–$100,000 treating patients willing to consider natural treatments.
One key consideration in any health care career is the tradeoff between types of rewards. Consider, for example, the difference between the doctor who is a hospitalist and the emergency room physician. A hospitalist ($145,000–$180,000) specializes in managing the treatment of other physicians’ patients in hospital. An emergency room physician ($145,000–$278,000) addresses life-threatening or serious conditions of patients brought in off the street. Both medical vocations are rewarding, but the latter can also be much more stressful. Across the health care professions, there is a tradeoff between stress and financial reward, and prospective health care providers must decide where they should draw the line for themselves.
Everyone needs health care, and the growth in the number of seniors, the group most likely to need it, guarantees that a broad variety of careers is now available.
The following is our curent list of careers in health care: