Want to get in on the health care career boom? Check out some hot options - and see what it takes to prepare.
It's no secret that careers in health care are booming. In fact, the U.S. Department of Labor expects the health care and social assistance industry to add 5.6 million jobs from 2010 to 2020 - more than any other field.
And going to medical school isn't the only path to prepare for the growing health care industry.
"The vast array of positions - as well as the varying degrees of education needed - make health care one of the best industries to be involved in," says Andrea Santiago, the About.com guide to health careers.
If you're interested in pursuing a job in the health care industry, check out our list of thriving health care careers to find the one that could be right for you.
Career #1: Medical and Health Services Manager
Want to pursue a health care career where you could put your people skills to good use? Consider a career as a medical and health services manager.
How is it booming? The U.S. Department of Labor projects 68,000 new medical and health services manager jobs to be added from 2010 to 2020 - that's a 22 percent rise in employment! As the baby boomer population gets older, we should see an increase in the number of facilities providing health care, says the Department of Labor, and these facilities will need administrators to run them.
And while this career is indeed growing, Santiago offers this advice: "There is a demand for health care administrators, but it's not as intense as the demand for clinicians. Don't think this is an automatic job."
Typical duties: As a medical and health services manager, you might manage a facility or a specific clinical department. Some common duties include handling finances, developing work schedules, and communicating with your medical staff, according to the Department.
Education options: To prepare to pursue this career, most medical and health services managers need at least a bachelor's degree. But master's degrees in health services, long-term care administration, public health, public administration, or business administration are also common credentials, says the Department.
Career #2: Dental Assistant
Are you interested in helping people take care of their teeth? Consider pursuing a growing career as a dental assistant.
How is it booming? With the aging baby boomers keeping more of their original teeth compared to previous generations, a greater number of people will require dental practices longer in life, says the U.S. Department of Labor. Perhaps that's why employment of dental assistants is projected to increase by 31 percent from 2010 to 2020 - adding 91,600 new jobs.
"This career is among the top health care careers in terms of demand," Santiago says. "And dental assisting education requirements are relatively minimal compared to other health care careers, like nursing."
Typical duties: As a dental assistant, you could help patients feel more comfortable during dental procedures. Your duties could include everything from sterilizing and arranging instruments to maintaining patient records and scheduling appointments, according to the Department of Labor.
Education options: While some states do not require formal education, others may require dental assisting hopefuls to graduate from an accredited program, as well as pass a state exam. Programs in dental assisting are offered at the certificate and associate's degree level, says the Department.
Career #3: Registered Nurse
Are you a natural nurturer who is interested in the health care field? A career as a registered nurse could be a good fit for you.
How is it booming? The U.S. Department of Labor says that employment for registered nurses is projected to increase by 26 percent, or 711,900 new jobs, from 2010 to 2020. More nurses will be needed as the large baby boomer population ages and more technological advancements treat health problems and extend lives, adds the Department of Labor.
"Nursing is one of the largest segments of the health care industry," Santiago says. "The latest figures put the number of working nurses between two and a half and three million. And among nurses, RN is one of the most popular designations."
Typical duties: As a registered nurse, you could provide patient care by discussing treatment with doctors, performing diagnostic tests, giving medications, and monitoring medical equipment, according to the Department. Other duties could include educating patients about health conditions and providing them with emotional support.
Education options: If you're interested in pursuing a career as a registered nurse, consider these two education paths: earning an associate's degree in nursing (ADN) or a diploma from an approved nursing program, says the Department. After you graduate, you'll need to pass the national nursing exam (NCLEX-RN) in order to get licensed.
Are you good at reading and understanding detailed documents? Consider pursuing an in-demand career as a medical records and health information technician.
How is it booming? With the population aging, more people will require more medical tests and procedures, which could lead to a growth in technicians who can keep medical records organized, as well as those who can process claims for reimbursement from insurance companies, says the U.S. Department of Labor. This could explain why medical records and health information technicians are projected to grow by 21 percent from 2010 to 2020 - adding 37,700 new jobs.
"This is a health care job where you aren't dealing directly with patients," Santiago says. "With everything going computerized, you'll need to be proficient with computers and able to learn new software quickly."
Typical duties: As a medical records and health information technician, you could make sure that medical records - including a patient's medical history, symptoms, and test results - are accurate and secure in both paper and electronic systems, according to the Department of Labor. You might also use classification systems to code and label patient information for insurance reimbursements or medical databases.
Education options: A certificate in health information technology is generally needed to prepare to pursue this occupation, though the Department notes that medical records and health information technicians may have an associate's degree. It's important to note that many employers require applicants to have a professional certification.
Career #5: Physical Therapy Assistant
Are you intrigued by the idea of helping others recover from illnesses or injuries? If so, consider pursuing an in-demand career as a physical therapy assistant.
How is it booming? The U.S. Department of Labor projects employment to increase by 46 percent from 2010 to 2020 - adding 30,800 new physical therapy assistant jobs. With baby boomers maintaining active lifestyles and reaching an age with a greater chance of heart attacks and strokes, demand for cardiac and physical rehabilitation could rise, and as a result, there could be a greater need for physical therapy assistants.
The Department of Labor adds that "Medical and technological developments should permit an increased percentage of trauma victims and newborns with birth defects to survive, creating added demand for therapy and rehabilitative services."
Typical duties: As a physical therapist assistant, you can help patients regain movement by implementing techniques like massage and stretching, assisting with certain exercises, and teaching them how to use equipment such as walkers, according to the Department.
Education options: Have your sights set on this career? If you want to prepare to pursue this career, it should help to know that most states require physical therapist assistants to earn an associate's degree from a physical therapist program - that's accredited, of course, notes the Department.
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