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Not only do healthcare jobs comprise the fastest-growing employment sector in the nation, but estimates predict that they will continue to boom beyond the end of the decade.

Degree Programs for the Fastest-Growing Healthcare Careers

Not only do healthcare jobs comprise the fastest-growing employment sector in the nation, but estimates predict that they will continue to boom beyond the end of the decade. The U.S. Department of Labor estimates that 3.6 million new wage and salary healthcare jobs will be created through 2014. If the projection is accurate, people completing their healthcare education will assume almost 20 percent of all new jobs during the next decade. In short, says the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), new healthcare jobs will grow much faster than all other employment groups.

Early retirements in the existing workforce, the ever-increasing need to fill additional medical career positions, and the aging American population requiring health services only increase the demand for people with a healthcare education. If you're considering pursuing a bachelor's degree, training programs in medical technology and assisting, or a nursing degree, the professions are calling.

Top Fast-Growing Jobs for Healthcare Graduates
The BLS claims that 8 of the 20 fastest-growing occupations are in healthcare. Workers will need a traditional or online high school diploma, associate's or bachelor's degrees, or technology certification diplomas for many of the positions available in the 545,000 establishments that make up the healthcare industry.

Professions comprising the fastest-growing careers requiring a healthcare education include Registered Nurses, Dental Assistants, Home Care Aides, Physical Therapists, Medical Laboratory Technicians, and Paramedics. Of course, training and licensing requirements for these careers vary, and salaries reflect increasing levels of training and experience.

The good news is that, for busy adults, there are flexible online degree programs leading to qualifications and licensing in many of these fields. Let's examine the educational requirements and respective salaries for positions in these leading healthcare professions.

Registered Nurses and Nursing Degrees
Registered nursing enjoys the top position among BLS projections for fast-growing occupations in healthcare and is predicted to be second in job growth for all employment fields. More than half of working registered nurses are employed at hospitals, currently holding 2.5 million jobs. Most RNs complete their training through nursing bachelor's degree programs. The bachelor's of science degree in nursing (BSN) or RN-to-BSN degree programs are among the most popular routes to competency.

According to Salary.com, floor nurses earn a median salary of $64,400 in Los Angeles, $67,400 in San Francisco, $59,100 in Houston, $67,400 in New York, $61,500 in Chicago, $57,200 in Atlanta, $60,300 in Minneapolis, and $63,700 in Boston.

Dental Assistants
Dental assistants are also in the fastest-growing group of occupations in the BLS 2004-2014 period, holding more than 260,000 jobs in 2004. Almost half of all working dental assistants work part time, which adds up to a great combination of job flexibility, good pay, and job satisfaction.

Nearly all states have their own certification or licensing requirements for dental assistants. Most assistants receive a formal healthcare education, whether in community colleges, dedicated medical-dental schools, or university degree programs. Programs range from 10 months to a year in length.

Salary.com estimates wages for dental assistants across the nation at $40,000 in Los Angeles, $41,800 in San Francisco, $36,700 for Houston, $41,900 in New York, $38,200 in Chicago, $35,500 for Atlanta, $37,500 in Minneapolis, and $39,600 in Boston.

Home Care Aide
Jobs for home care aides will grow faster than the average for all other occupations, according to the BLS. Although wages for these positions are relatively low, many people take these jobs as stepping stones while they train and qualify for other healthcare professions.

You'll still need a healthcare education to work as an aide. You can take training programs to help meet the minimum of 75 hours of supervised training for home care aides suggested by the federal government. Certification is available through The National Association for Home Care.

Salary.com projects wages for home care aides at $22,107 in Los Angeles, $ 23,100 for San Francisco, $20,300 in Houston, $23,100 in New York, $21,100 in Chicago, $19,600 in Atlanta, $20,700 in Minneapolis, and $21,900 in Boston.

Physical Therapists
Physical therapists will enjoy the shared distinction of being among the fastest growing occupational groups through the next decade, while receiving a strong matching salary. More than half of the 155,000 physical therapists who worked in 2004 were employed by hospitals or private physical therapy practices. The BLS reports that excellent job opportunities for physical therapists through 2014 will be at acute care hospitals, orthopedic settings, and rehabilitation clinics.

All states in the union require physical therapists to have a healthcare education and pass a licensure exam. There are hundreds of accredited physical therapist programs in the country, offering bachelor's and master's degrees.

Median wages for physical therapists, according to Salary.com, include $70,200 in Los Angeles, $73,300 in San Francisco, $64,400 for Houston, $73,500 in New York, $67,000 in Chicago, $62,400 for Atlanta, $65,700 in Minneapolis, and $69,000 in Boston.

Medical Laboratory Technicians
The combination of an increasing service population along with ongoing development of a new generation of lab tests makes the medical laboratory technician career a prime opportunity over the next decade. According to the BLS, more than 300,000 lab techs worked in hospitals, clinics, and testing labs across the country in 2004.

Each state has its own licensing requirement for lab techs, but most require a healthcare education and lab experience, earned typically through a bachelor's degree program.

Lab tech salaries, according to Salary.com, currently average $41,000 in Los Angeles $42,800 in San Francisco, $37,600 for Houston, $42,900 in New York, $39,100 in Chicago, $36,400 for Atlanta, $38,300 in Minneapolis, and $40,500 for Boston.

Paramedics
Emergency Medical Technicians (EMT) and Paramedics have replaced trauma nurses on the front lines of crime and rescue operations. The BLS reports that job growth over the next decade will be exceptionally brisk with police, fire, and rescue teams, and especially good for people holding advanced certifications.

You'll need a formal healthcare education and a state license to assume most EMT or paramedic positions. Formal training is currently offered through many degree programs leading to certifications from beginning to expert levels, known as EMT-1; EMT-Intermediate, or EMT-2 and EMT-3; and EMT-Paramedic.

Salary.com reports current pay rates for paramedics at $42,500 in Los Angeles, $44,400 in San Francisco, $39,000 for Houston, $44,500 in New York, $40,600 in Chicago, $37,800 in Atlanta, $39,800 for Minneapolis, and $42,077 in Boston.

This list is far from exhaustive. There are other fast-rising careers for people with solid healthcare educations. But it's safe to say that if you're pursing a bachelor's in nursing degree, or medical lab technology, paramedic, dental assisting, physical therapy, or home care aide degree program, you'll be working steadily for the next 15 or 20 years.

Interesting Links
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Salary.com

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