Healthcare Careers

Medical professionals diagnose and treat illnesses and injuries, prevent disease, and promote health and wellness among the general public. From medical office supervisors to specialty physicians, jobs in this field are wide-ranging and available for qualified applicants from various educational backgrounds. Health careers are universally in demand in both rural and urban areas across the globe, as all communities depend on reliable healthcare services and provisions. Medical careers continue to offer stability in the workforce, and according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the need for qualified healthcare workers is projected to grow 19% in the next decade to meet the medical needs of an aging population.

While there are careers in the medical field for all levels of formal education and experience, healthcare practitioners and technical occupations typically require an advanced degree. Jobs in the medical field are ideal for those with advanced interpersonal skills. Individuals who are compassionate and sensitive to the needs of others are a good fit for this profession, as are those who exude a positive, upbeat attitude and a caring bedside manner while treating patients.

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Many factors affect healthcare employment from state to state. Healthcare employment tends to thrive, for example, in highly populated states with large, well-funded medical facilities concentrated in urban metro areas. California leads healthcare employment in the U.S., with over one million medical jobs, though Texas and Florida are not far behind, reporting nearly 900,000 and roughly 700,000 healthcare jobs, respectively. Encompassing countless diverse health careers and healthcare jobs, each state’s grouping of healthcare occupations differs slightly, with some states employing more registered nurses than physicians or surgeons, for example. The following map explores healthcare employment statistics in each state.

Healthcare Employment Snapshot

Source: The Kaiser Family Foundation

There are a broad range of options available to students choosing an academic track towards a healthcare career. Associate degree-holders may be qualified for medical assisting and healthcare technology jobs, while bachelor’s degree graduates may choose to go into nursing or a specialized medical field. Those with an advanced degree are typically eligible for health careers that require highly specialized skills and additional field experience. Below, we have a list of just a few examples of medical careers that are possible at each level of education and experience.

Associate Degrees

Diagnostic Imaging

Diagnostic imaging students in an associate program learn how to perform ultrasounds and other diagnostic imaging to treat patients. Courses cover the use of equipment, protective garments, and operation and quality control of technical, digital, and computerized sonography and radiography machinery. Typically, students must complete a practicum or clinical experience as part of their required curriculum. Aspiring radiologists may be eligible upon graduation to sit for the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT) test or the American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography (ARDMS) to receive certification in their state. Graduates are qualified to perform diagnostic imaging testing in a variety of medical facilities, including hospitals, clinics, and military institutions.

Medical Assisting

Medical assistants are trained in both administrative and clinical duties in order to assist healthcare professionals in providing patient care. While graduates of a medical assisting program may choose to enter a healthcare job that emphasizes clerical or clinical skills exclusively, they typically learn how to perform basic duties in both categories, such as keeping medical records and taking vital signs. Aspiring medical assistants are eligible upon graduation to sit for the Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) test, and may also be required to obtain additional state registration/certification. Graduates are qualified to perform general medical assisting duties and may also study assisting duties specific to Phlebotomy.

Health Information Technology

Health information technicians are responsible for keeping computerized patient records. Students in this field study data and coding and EHR systems in addition to anatomy, physiology, and micro- and macro-economics. Typically, there is no clinical work or field practicum required, as the primary emphasis of this work is in administrative and clerical capabilities. As more healthcare facilities become completely dependent on electronic methods of billing and records maintenance, these professionals will continue to be in high demand. Graduates are qualified to maintain records and perform advanced diagnosis and procedure coding in electronic medical records systems for hospitals, clinics, and medical offices.

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Bachelor's Degrees

Nursing

Nurses perform a myriad of duties and are a crucial element of the healthcare industry. While doctors and physicians tend to specialize in a particular area of healthcare, nurses are responsible for a broader scope of responsibilities, often utilizing different skills from one case to the next during any given work shift. Many schools offer RN to BSN programs for registered nurses with an associate degree who are looking to obtain the minimum bachelor’s degree required for entry-level medical jobs in nursing. Students are required to complete a clinical experience to graduate, and must be licensed in their state to practice clinical care.

Nutrition

Nutritionists are responsible for advising patients on best practices for adjusting dietary nutrition to treat a condition or illness, as well as promoting general health and wellness through proper nutrition. Aspiring nutritionists in a bachelor’s degree program study the science of nutrition, socioeconomic factors of human nutrition, and dietary medicine through holistic practices. Students typically also learn about farming and food distribution and develop skills in the culinary arts. Though a practicum is not typically required to graduate with a bachelor’s degree in this field, internships and/or residencies are encouraged. Most states require official licensure in order to practice as a nutritionist. They may practice privately, or as part of a team of medical professionals at a clinic or rehabilitation facility.

Speech Language Pathology and Audiology

Speech language pathologists, or speech therapists, work with patients who have or are at risk of developing speech or swallowing conditions. These professionals may help diagnose, treat or prevent disorders resulting from a stroke, Parkinson’s, or a cleft palate, for example. Audiologists help to diagnose and treat hearing and inner-ear balance problems in patients. The two professionals often work in conjunction with one another, as the functions of speech and hearing are so interconnected, and many bachelor’s degree programs also combine these skills. Students study biology, psychology, and linguistics, among other subjects, and must complete a clinical practicum in an approved facility. With certification, as required by most states, speech language pathologists and audiologists may work for specialty clinics, diagnostic or medical facilities, or in private practice.

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Master's Degrees

Public Health

Professionals in the field of public health are responsible for acting as a liaison for community health programs and public healthcare initiatives. Master’s degree programs in public health emphasize assessment and research skills, along with health education strategies, health policy and management, and social and behavioral sciences. Students are required to complete a clinical experience, and in most cases a capstone project, to graduate. Some employers require the Certified Health Education Specialist (CHES) credential, though it is not mandated by the state. Professionals with a master’s degree in public health often become community health educators or human rights advocators.

Healthcare Management

The field of healthcare management, or healthcare administration, involves planning and coordinating medical care and healthcare services. In a healthcare management master’s degree program, professionals gain expertise in a combination of unique skills, including technology, management and leadership, operations, finance, and health policy. Students may select a specialty from an area similar to the ones listed above as a concentration, if offered at their school. Students are typically required to complete a residency course to graduate. Healthcare managers may supervise a small medical office, individual physicians or physicians’ team, or large medical facility. States require licensure for managers of nursing homes, specifically, however most other areas of healthcare management do not require certification.

Nursing

Obtaining a master’s in nursing is essential for those looking to become nurse practitioners (NPs) or those looking to focus their nursing skills in a particular area of expertise, such as family practice, adult care, or geriatrics. At the master’s level, nursing students learn advanced assessment and diagnostic skills, and incorporate research, health policy, and leadership expertise. Applicants for a master’s program should have proof of existing RN status, so further non-specialty certification is typically not required. Graduates of a master’s degree in nursing must have completed a clinical experience and/or practicum and are also prepared for doctoral study in a related specialty area.

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Distance Learning Opportunities

While many study tracks for healthcare careers require a hands-on component, such as a clinical experience, residency, or practicum, there are a growing number of partial and fully online learning opportunities for aspiring healthcare professionals. Many schools offers comprehensive distance learning programs in areas of healthcare that emphasize technology, such as health information technology and diagnostic imaging. In addition, popular options such as online RN to BSN programs allow students to start their medical careers as soon as possible by offering the majority of coursework through an online learning platform. Distance learning also allows professionals already working in a healthcare job to easily and conveniently incorporate an additional specialty into their skillset, train for a new career, or maintain certification through continuing education courses. Today, nearly every type of healthcare career is offered through distance learning, many of them offering local practicum options in conjunction with online coursework where necessary to meet the requirements of the degree.

Healthcare Certification

There are hundreds of healthcare certifications designed to standardize qualifications among professionals in all specialties and practice areas. Some fields categorically require certification for clinical practice, and some states require individual certification of professionals practicing within a certain healthcare field. For example, registered nurses (RNs) in practice must be certified in all 50 states, but healthcare managers are only required to be certified if they are practicing in a nursing home, and not necessarily in other medical facilities. In some cases, certification is not required, however it may be desired by employers to show that a candidate has specialty skills above and beyond basic operating competencies. Because the requirements of healthcare certification are so diverse, students should consult the credentialing agency over their particular field to learn more about certification in each area.

The field of healthcare is vast, and offers a variety of opportunities for countless specialties within each sector of medicine. Often, patients do not even realize that their physician may actually have special training and qualifications in their primary area of practice, focused on a particular demographic, anatomical organ, or type of care. The specialities listed are among the most popular and in-demand in healthcare today.

Cardiology

Cardiologists specialize in diagnosing and treating heart conditions and diseases, including those affecting the surrounding blood vessels and the entire cardiovascular system. Patients are often referred to a cardiologists by a primary care physician once a cardiovascular issue requiring specialty care is detected.

Emergency Medicine

Emergency medicine specialists are trained to diagnose and treat unforeseen injury and/or illness. These specialists must possess a variety of skills, such as collating patient records from previous sources. These professionals must remain calm and collected in order to treat life-threatening medical issues in a timely manner, often under duress or in a crisis situation.

Family Medicine

Family medicine practitioners specialize in treating the entire patient holistically, rather than focusing on a particular part of the body or medical condition. Family medicine is rooted in moving toward integrated care of patients of all ages and conditions. These specialists may also act as advocates for patients navigating the complex healthcare system.

Internal Medicine

Internal medicine specialists, or internists, are often called upon by other doctors to apply their expertise in the body’s internal systems. Though their experience is general and far-reaching, internists specialize in adult care and are not interchangeable with family practitioners.

Neurology

Neurologists specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of brain and nervous system disorders. Not to be confused with neurosurgeons, neurologists have expertise in evaluating neurological issues related to the brain and are able to recommend an appropriate course of treatment. Some may practice a subspecialty such as stroke recovery, epilepsy, or movement disorders.

Oncology

Oncologists specialize in studying, diagnosing, and treating tumors, but are more widely known simply as cancer treatment specialists. They often focus on care in one of three concentrations: radiation therapy, medical treatment, or surgical treatment. Some oncologists specialize in a subfield such as pediatric oncology or gynecologic oncology.

Optometry

Optometrists are primary care providers for the eyes, independently diagnosing and treating optical diseases, injuries, and disorders. Optometrists may perform eye examinations, make recommendations for medications or eye exercises, and coordinate vision-correction procedures through surgical or non-surgical means.

Orthopedics

Orthopedists specialize in treating injuries and diseases affecting the body’s musculoskeletal system, including bones, nerves, joints, tendons, ligaments, and muscles. These specialists often help treat a wide variety of both unforeseen and long-standing issues in patients, including broken bones, spinal deformities, clubfoot, and arthritis.

Pathology

Pathologists are experts in evaluating the body’s fluids and tissues to diagnose and help treat abnormalities or harmful toxins in the blood stream or within the soft tissues. Pathologists perform comprehensive blood tests and genetic testing using blood samples and also examine biopsies for the presence of malignant cancer cells.

Radiology

Radiologists specialize in the use of medical imaging techniques to diagnose and treat injuries and diseases. Radiology resources include ultrasounds, x-rays, MRIs and pet scans, among other imaging tools. Radiologists are required to devote a substantial part of their postgraduate education to mastering safe radiology protocol.

Women's Health

Women’s health specialists focus on medical issues and conditions specific to female patients, including pregnancy and childbirth, menopause, and reproductive health. Other common areas of expertise under the women’s health specialty include breast and ovarian cancers, osteoporosis, and women’s sexual dysfunction. These specialists may also help connect female patients to other doctors and services, including helping them find mammography providers and educating them about birth control and hormone therapy.

There is something for everyone in the field of healthcare, and the demand for qualified workers to fill jobs is growing each year. Healthcare provides not only a stable workforce for professionals from all educational backgrounds, but also a diverse selection of job options to fit a range of skills and interests. Generally, healthcare job opportunities are tiered, with undergraduate degrees leading to entry-level employment and advanced degrees yielding greater opportunities for management and specialist positions. In the field of healthcare, specifically, understanding both the education and certification requirements of your area of interest is the first step toward the career of your choice. Below are some of the most common medical jobs at each level of education, according to data provided by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Dental Hygienists
  • Mean Annual Salary: $72,330
  • Degree/Certification Required: Associate degree; must be licensed in all states
  • Projected Job Growth Outlook (2014-24): 19%
  • Number of People Employed: 200,500

Dental hygienists are responsible for examining patients’ teeth and gums for gingivitis and other oral diseases and conditions, cleaning teeth, and providing preventive care for overall oral health. They may also educate patients about positive oral health practices and maintenance.

Cardiovascular Technologists and Technicians
  • Mean Annual Salary: $63,630
  • Degree/Certification Required: Associate degree
  • Projected Job Growth Outlook (2014-24): 24%
  • Number of People Employed: 112,700

Cardiovascular technologists and technicians are trained in either invasive or noninvasive cardiovascular technology techniques. They are responsible for performing diagnostic imaging and treating cardiovascular diseases and conditions using various technology and specialized sonographic machinery. They may also assist surgeons before a procedure by recording patients’ medical history and answering questions about the surgical operation.

Radiation Therapists
  • Mean Annual Salary: $80,220
  • Degree/Certification Required: Associate degree; must be licensed or certified in most states
  • Projected Job Growth Outlook (2014-24): 14%
  • Number of People Employed: 16,600

Radiation therapists use radiation technology to administer radiation to treat cancer patients and those suffering from other diseases that may benefit from such treatments. They are trained to prepare patients and machinery for treatment. They must follow strict safety precautions and keep detailed treatment records.

Radiologic and MRI Technologists
  • Mean Annual Salary: $58,120
  • Degree/Certification Required: Associate degree; must be licensed or certified in most states
  • Projected Job Growth Outlook (2014-24): 9%
  • Number of People Employed: 230,600

Sometimes, called radiographers, radiologic and MRI technologists perform patient exams via diagnostic imaging techniques, including x-rays. MRI technologists, specifically, utilize magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanners for diagnostic imaging, allowing for images that can capture more information than the traditional x-ray. These professionals prepare patients and machinery for diagnostic tests and keep detailed records of test results.

Respiratory Therapists
  • Mean Annual Salary: $57,790
  • Degree/Certification Required: Associate degree; license requirements vary by state
  • Projected Job Growth Outlook (2014-24): 12%
  • Number of People Employed: 120,700

Respiratory therapists focus on helping patients find relief for breathing issues, such as chronic respiratory disease, asthma, or emphysema. They may treat a range of patients in different age groups and with varying conditions. Many specialize in providing emergency care to patients who have suffered a debilitating event resulting in respiratory problems.

Careers Requiring a Bachelor’s Degree

Athletic Trainers
  • Mean Annual Salary: $44,670
  • Degree/Certification Required: Bachelor’s degree; most states require licensure or certification
  • Projected Job Growth Outlook (2014-24): 21%
  • Number of People Employed: 25,400

Athletic trainers are actually specialists in the healthcare field, focusing on ways of preventing, diagnosing, and treating medical issues affecting the body’s muscular and skeletal systems. These specialists work in a variety of settings with students, athletes, and other patients to apply injury-protection devices, develop rehabilitative exercise plans, and provide first-aid/emergency care.

Dietitians and Nutritionists
  • Mean Annual Salary: $57,910
  • Degree/Certification Required: Bachelor’s degree; most states require licensure
  • Projected Job Growth Outlook (2014-24): 16%
  • Number of People Employed: 66,700

Dietitians and nutritionists use their expertise in nutrition and food to encourage health and wellness through a proper diet and nutrition regimen. They help patients to manage disease by counseling them on the intake of healthy foods, leading a healthy lifestyle, and/or achieving a specific goal, such as weight loss or lowering cholesterol, through the proper balance of diet and nutrition.

Exercise Physiologists
  • Mean Annual Salary: $47,010
  • Degree/Certification Required: Bachelor’s degree; Louisiana is currently the only state to require licensure, though additional legislature is currently pending in other states
  • Projected Job Growth Outlook (2014-24): 11%
  • Number of People Employed: 14,500

Exercise physiologists, sometimes called kinesiotherapists, aim to improve a patient’s overall health, cardiovascular function, flexibility and composition by providing health education and planning an appropriate exercise regimen. They also develop fitness and exercise plans to aid patients recovering from chronic diseases such as cardiovascular or pulmonary disease.

Occupational Health and Safety Specialists
  • Mean Annual Salary: $70,210
  • Degree/Certification Required: Bachelor’s degree
  • Projected Job Growth Outlook (2014-24): 4%
  • Number of People Employed: 70,300

Occupational health and safety specialists are responsible for evaluating various kinds of professional environments and standardized procedures. They perform workplace inspections to ensure that they are in accordance with safety, health, and environmental regulations. They also develop programs designed for disease and injury prevention to protect workers and to reduce environmental damage.

Registered Nurses
  • Mean Annual Salary: $67,490
  • Degree/Certification Required: Bachelor’s degree; RNs must be certified in all 50 states
  • Projected Job Growth Outlook (2014-24): 16%
  • Number of People Employed: 2,751,000

Registered nurses (RNs) perform a wide variety of tasks to provide and coordinate medical care and support for patients and their families. Registered nurses often act as public health promoters and educators, teaching patients to look for warning signs to manage disease and prevent chronic health conditions. They may also manage community outreach programs. Some nurses practice in an administrative, educational, or marketing division of nursing as opposed to providing direct patient care.

Careers Requiring a Master’s Degree

Genetic Counselors
  • Mean Annual Salary: $72,090
  • Degree/Certification Required: Master’s degree; some states require licensure with certification
  • Projected Job Growth Outlook (2014-24): 29%
  • Number of People Employed: 2,400

Genetic counselors evaluate individuals and families in terms of risk for a variety of inherited conditions, including genetic disorders, diseases, and birth defects. They often work in conjunction with other healthcare providers to perform tests and interpret results. They inform and counsel individuals and families about the potential risks of certain inherited conditions.

Nurse Practitioners and Nurse Midwives
  • Mean Annual Salary: $104,740
  • Degree/Certification Required: Master’s degree; certification is required in most states
  • Projected Job Growth Outlook (2014-24): 31%
  • Number of People Employed: 170,400

Nurse practitioners and nurse midwives are also sometimes called advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs). Nurse practitioners coordinate all aspects of general patient care and may also provide care in a primary area or specialty. Nurse midwives are responsible for prenatal and postnatal women’s healthcare issues, delivering babies, and assisting with cesarean births. They are also responsible for helping women practice health and wellness before and after childbirth. Duties of nurses in these areas vary from state to state.

Orthotists and Prosthetists
  • Mean Annual Salary: $64,430
  • Degree/Certification Required: Master’s degree; some states require certification
  • Projected Job Growth Outlook (2014-24): 23%
  • Number of People Employed: 8,300

Orthotists and prosthetists are responsible for developing and forming medical supportive devices. They measure patients for these devices and tailor them to fit patient needs. Prosthetic devices may include artificial limbs such as arms, hands, legs, and feet, as well as braces and surgical devices. Orthotists specialize in supportive devices such as knee braces, and prosthetists work specifically with prosthetic devices, such as artificial limbs.

Physician Assistants
  • Mean Annual Salary: $98,180
  • Degree/Certification Required: Master’s degree; all states require licensure
  • Projected Job Growth Outlook (2014-24): 30%
  • Number of People Employed: 94,400

Physician assistants, or PAs, practice medicine as part of a supportive team for physicians, surgeons, and other healthcare professionals. They pre-screen patients, as well as diagnose and treat a variety of conditions, injuries and illnesses. Many PAs have experience as registered nurses, EMTs, or paramedics. To gain experience, some aspiring PAs serve in one or more clinical rotations in various specialties under the supervision of a hiring physician in order to be eligible for permanent employment.

Speech-Language Pathologists
  • Mean Annual Salary: $73,410
  • Degree/Certification Required: Master’s degree; licensure is required in almost all states
  • Projected Job Growth Outlook (2014-24): 21%
  • Number of People Employed: 135,400

Speech-language pathologists, or speech therapists, evaluate patients for the presence of communication and swallowing disorders and help to diagnose, treat, or prevent symptoms. Disorders affecting speech, language, and swallowing can be caused by strokes, brain injuries, hearing loss, or developmental problems. In some cases, Parkinson’s disease, a cleft palate, or autism may also cause speech or language disorders.

Careers Requiring a Doctoral or Professional Degree

Dentists
  • Mean Annual Salary: $158,310
  • Degree/Certification Required: Doctoral or professional degree; all states require licensure
  • Projected Job Growth Outlook (2014-24): 18%
  • Number of People Employed: 151,500

Dentists are responsible for diagnostics and treatment of problems relating to patients’ teeth, gums, and overall mouth health. They often advise patients on how to properly take care of their teeth and gums, as well as how to make dietary choices for good oral health. Private-practice dentists also oversee a variety of administrative duties such as ordering supplies and billing patients. They also supervise other dental support staff.

Physical Therapists
  • Mean Annual Salary: $84,020
  • Degree/Certification Required: Doctoral or professional degree; all states require licensure
  • Projected Job Growth Outlook (2014-24): 34%
  • Number of People Employed: 210,900

Physical therapists, also referred to as PTs, help patients who are injured or ill improve movement skills and practice pain management. These therapists play an important role in the rehabilitation process, aiding in relieving symptoms and preventing recurrences of symptoms of chronic conditions, illnesses, and injuries.

Physicians
  • Mean Annual Salary: Greater than $187,200
  • Degree/Certification Required: Doctoral or professional degree; all states require licensure
  • Projected Job Growth Outlook (2014-24): 14%
  • Number of People Employed: 708,300

Physicians are responsible for diagnosing and treating a wide variety of injuries and illnesses. Physicians perform patient exams, record medical histories, prescribe medications, and interpret diagnostic test results. They advise patients on dietary and hygienic adjustments and methods of preventive healthcare. Physicians hold one of two corresponding degrees/designations: MDs (Medical Doctors) or DOs (Doctors of Osteopathic Medicine.) Each title implies most of the same capabilities, except that DOs have additional specialty training in the body’s musculoskeletal system, as well as preventive medicine and holistic healthcare.

Radiologist
  • Mean Annual Salary: Greater than $187,200
  • Degree/Certification Required: Doctoral or professional degree; all states require licensure
  • Projected Job Growth Outlook (2014-24): 14%
  • Number of People Employed: 708,300

Radiologists, a specialty of some licensed physicians, perform examinations using diagnostic imaging, including x-rays, MRIs, and CT scans. These professionals are trained in the operation of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanners and other machinery to perform and interpret tests such as mammograms, x-rays, and other tests that show both hard and soft tissues via digital imaging.

Surgeons
  • Mean Annual Salary: Greater than $187,200
  • Degree/Certification Required: Doctoral or professional degree; all states require licensure
  • Projected Job Growth Outlook (2014-24): 14%
  • Number of People Employed: 708,300

Surgeons are trained in all of the same far-reaching diagnostic, treatment, and patient care methods as MDs and DOs, but are responsible specifically for performing operations on patients to correct injuries and help the healing process, including broken bones, as well as removing cancerous tumors and treating deformities, including cleft palates.

Careers in Medical Support

Though not clinically medical by nature, medical support jobs are equally crucial to ensuring proper functioning of the healthcare industry. Without the support of healthcare professionals in technical, managerial, counseling, transcriptionist, and interpreter roles, medical providers on the front lines would not be able to do their jobs. Medical support jobs include technical, therapeutic, and management services provided by healthcare industry professionals with acute support skills. Professionals looking to enter the world of healthcare in an administrative or clerical role will find numerous opportunities requiring a combination of skills in the latest health information technology systems and advanced customer care.

Medical Records and Health Information Technicians
  • Mean Annual Salary: $37,110
  • Degree/Certification Required: Postsecondary nondegree award
  • Projected Job Growth Outlook (2014-24): 15%
  • Number of People Employed: 188,600

Medical records and health information technicians, or health information technicians, organize health information data and manage patients’ medical records. They ensure that information remains high-quality, accurate, accessible, and secure. These professionals must be trained in keeping both paper and electronic files using classification and coding systems. They also track insurance and billing information, as well as patients’ medical histories.

Health Services Manager
  • Mean Annual Salary: $94,500
  • Degree/Certification Required: Bachelor’s degree
  • Projected Job Growth Outlook (2014-24): 17%
  • Number of People Employed: 333,000

Health services managers, sometimes referred to as healthcare executives or healthcare administrators, are charged with planning, directing and coordinating healthcare and medical services. They sometimes manage an entire facility or particular clinical area or department. They may also supervise administrative activities for a medical practice or team of physicians. These professionals must understand and adhere to current healthcare laws, policy and regulations, as well as technology used to manage a healthcare office.

Medical Transcriptionists
  • Mean Annual Salary: $34,890
  • Degree/Certification Required: Postsecondary nondegree award
  • Projected Job Growth Outlook (2014-24): -3%
  • Number of People Employed: 70,000

Medical transcriptionists, also called healthcare documentation specialists, listen to and transcribe voice recordings made by physicians and other healthcare workers to transform them into written form. They also are responsible for reviewing and editing medical documents through an extensive understanding of how to use speech recognition technology. These professionals regularly use various methods of interpreting medical terminology and abbreviations into summaries of patients’ medical histories and other documents.

Healthcare Social Workers
  • Mean Annual Salary: $54,020
  • Degree/Certification Required: Bachelor’s degree; most states require licensure or certification
  • Projected Job Growth Outlook (2014-24): 1.8%
  • Number of People Employed: 155,590

Social workers operating in healthcare are responsible for providing psychosocial support to individuals, families, and groups suffering from chronic, acute, or terminal illnesses. These professionals may specifically counsel medical caregivers, educate patients, and refer clients to other professionals for related services. They may also provide case management services or perform interventions as needed for general healthcare promotion, disease prevention, and policy reform for healthcare services.

Medical Interpreters and Translators
  • Mean Annual Salary: $44,190
  • Degree/Certification Required: Bachelor’s degree
  • Projected Job Growth Outlook (2014-24): 29%
  • Number of People Employed: 61,000

Medical interpreters and translators working in healthcare settings may assist hearing- or speech-impaired patients in communicating with doctors, nurses, and medical technicians and administrators. Professionals in this field must have a thorough understanding of medical terminology and of commonly used healthcare vocabulary.
They may also provide translation services for speakers of foreign languages, as well as written or recorded information such as patient handouts, prescription information, and medical records.

Medical Careers in Rural Communities

Many professionals choose to establish a medical career in the country’s more populous and flourishing urban areas. However, rural areas are where qualified medical professionals are needed most. According to the Association of American Medical Colleges’ Center for Workforce Studies, only 11.4% of physicians practice in rural locations of the U.S., despite the fact that 19.2% of Americans reside in these areas. Research further shows that 77% of U.S. rural counties are considered primary care health professional shortage areas (HSPAs) – in 2005, at least 165 rural counties were without a primary care physician. Unfortunately, education options to train qualified students are limited in rural areas, as are properly functioning utilities and resources, which amounts to generally poorer, sicker, and less-insured populations in need of medical care that is not available in the area.

To help solve this problem, the government has implemented several key initiatives designed to supply medical care and attract medical professionals to the rural areas in-need. Federal programs including Area Health Education Centers (AHECs), Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs), and the National Health Services Corp (NHSC) are aimed at promoting the rural physician supply and providing makeshift medical services in these areas until permanent care is in place. Those considering medical field jobs in rural areas will find less competition, increased virtual peer support, and student loan repayment assistance provided by federal incentive programs.

Traveling Healthcare Jobs

Traveling healthcare jobs offer a unique work situation and way of life for the right candidate. Those seeking perks such as flexibility, variety, generous compensation, and additional benefits while seeing other parts of the world are well-suited to a traveling healthcare job. Some traveling healthcare workers also appreciate the added benefit of being able to escape dramatic medical office politics by changing scenery every year. Professionals in this diverse area of medicine span a variety of fields and specialties, including nursing, physical therapy, and even radiologic technology. Traveling healthcare jobs typically last for around 13 months and require a commitment to the facility offering the program for the duration of the travel job or “assignment.” The employer typically covers travel costs, and pays for housing arrangements, licensing requirements, and other accommodations associated with relocating temporarily.

Sherif El-Refai, PharmD, MBA PhD Candidate at the University of Kentucky College of Pharmacy

Please summarize your academic and professional experience.

I am a pharmacist by training (PharmD), and in pursuit of a career as a translational scientist.

The PharmD gave me an appreciation for direct patient care and the essential role pharmacists play on the healthcare team. I pursued an MBA to gain an understanding of how the pharmaceutical industry works and how research is managed.

Currently, I am at the University of Kentucky College of Pharmacy pursuing my PhD in pharmaceutical sciences to conduct research that pushes forward the treatment of cancer.

What type of person would excel in pharmaceuticals?

I believe that a student who is independent, ambitious, and manages their well time can go very far in this field. Same goes with a person who is independent enough to complete work on their own yet collaborative enough to seek out potential partners in research.

I feel lucky to be at UK as the NCI-designated Markey Cancer Center and the College of Pharmacy are deeply intertwined and allow me to interact with clinicians on a regular basis allowing the research to move forward readily.

What do you find most fulfilling about the path you’ve chosen?

A translational scientist’s job is to push the boundaries of the medical field and ensure that it can affect patients directly. It is fulfilling to know that the work I am doing today will improve cancer care on a national and international basis.

The days when your experiments confirm your hypothesis on the biology of cancer provide an inexplicable feeling of joy and that fortify my resolve in pursuing this career path.

What’s your greatest day-to-day challenge?

Research is a largely collaborative process that involves many people and many moving parts. In other institutions, where research departments and hospital staff are isolated, it can be difficult to build the team necessary to complete your proposal. However, in an institution like UK, where there are interdisciplinary seminars, grants and practices, it has been largely streamlined.

What additional advice can you give to someone pursuing a career in pharmaceuticals?

Along the road, you may experience setbacks. Grants may not be fulfilled, papers may be rejected, or collaborators may leave your institution, but it is important to remember why you are doing this in the first place and maintain your determination.

Healthcare Job Boards

  • HealthcareJobs.org – Job site featuring a collection of healthcare jobs and continuing education opportunities, searchable by category, specialty, and location.
  • National Healthcare Corporation – Job board for national organization encompassing numerous locations across multiple states, including NHC health centers, NHC rehab, and NHC home care.
  • National Healthcare Career Network – Aggregate site featuring jobs in nearly every specialty available in healthcare today, with additional resources for job-seekers aimed at far-reaching exposure of education and employable skills.
  • National Healthcare Associates, Inc. – Recruiting for a 40-system healthcare network concentrated in the east coast and the tri-state area, this site features online job postings but also allows job-seekers to apply in-person or by mail.
  • National Healthcare Review – With satellite offices across the U.S., NHR employs a variety of professionals in administrative, legal, and management areas of the healthcare industry.

Continuing Education for Healthcare Careers

  • ContinuingEducation.com – This site features continuing education opportunities for professionals in nearly every healthcare specialty, with courses credentialed by all of the national medical boards.
  • Alliance for Continuing Education in the Health Professions – Features information on credentialing exams and certification requirements per specialty, and also includes upcoming events, workshops, and grant opportunities for healthcare workers.
  • PESI Healthcare – Features live seminars and interactive continuing education events for nurses and those employed in other healthcare jobs who are looking to maintain certification.
  • NetCE – Offers high-quality courses at affordable costs for physicians, dentists, nurses, social workers, and other healthcare specialists looking for continuing education opportunities. Students may receive up to 15 credits per course in some cases.
  • Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality – This site features a variety of continuing education opportunities, as well as numerous learning tools for healthcare workers and in-person enrichment via the AHRQ annual conference.

Professional Organizations for Healthcare Careers

  • Foundation for Continuing Education in the Health Professions – Created in 2013, the Foundation aims to develop professional areas in the healthcare field that are currently the most critical by expanding professional resources and standardizing high-quality patient care.
  • World Health Organization – In addition to posting employment opportunities for satellite offices around the world, this site offers extensive information on numerous careers related to policy reform and emergency healthcare services.
  • National Union of Healthcare Workers – Encompassing roughly 25 participating healthcare facilities and organizations, members of the NUHW can explore topics in healthcare reform and job trends, as well as join or renew membership, online.
  • American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees – This sector of the AFSCME is dedicated to healthcare workers in all fields and specialties; the website includes resources for nurses, home health workers and other healthcare professionals such as downloadable policy and regulations forms and a virtual network of healthcare employees.
  • Occupational Safety and Health Administration – Through the U.S. Department of Labor, OSHA is the gold standard among national workers in healthcare and related occupations for researching and understanding workers’ rights, examining employment laws, and regulations and filing workplace complaints.