An aging U.S. population is just one factor that's fueling the longevity of health care professions.
If you're looking to get into a hot career field, look no further than health care.
With more aging baby boomers seeking treatment for aches, pains, and illnesses, the need for qualified health care workers increases, according to career expert Laurence Shatkin.
In fact, the U.S. Department of Labor projects the health care industry - including hospitals and nursing care facilities - to add 5.7 million new jobs between 2010 and 2020.
More good news: You don't necessarily need a PhD to find your place in the field.
"In general, it doesn't matter what level of school or amount of school you are willing to invest in," Shatkin says. "There is a health care career out there that you will find satisfaction in having."
So, if you have an interest in pursuing a health career with great hiring potential, take a closer look at the following five health care career options.
Career #1 - Medical Assistant
2010 to 2020 Job Growth: 31 percent*
Think you might be ready for an in-demand health care career that requires a good dose of people skills? Consider pursuing a career as a medical assistant.
Taking on a mix of administrative and clinical tasks, medical assistants might be responsible for duties such as scheduling patient appointments, assisting with patient examinations, and measuring vital signs, says the U.S. Department of Labor.
Why it's built to last: According to Shatkin, a growing number of patients is helping create a need for more workers in this occupation. And more patients means more administrative duties.
"The position is going to be around because there is a lot more billing and tons of paperwork," Shatkin says. "Granted, some of the paperwork is going to be computerized, but people (workers) are needed to make appointments (with patients)."
On another positive note, the Department of Labor says that cost-cutting measures might help increase the hiring potential of medical assistants, who could be used in place of more expensive workers like nurses.
Education options: Want in on this hands-on health career? Because standardized education prerequisites depend on the state, make sure to check your state's medical assistant requirements. Note that the Department does say that some employers might prefer candidates with a certificate or associate's degree in medical assisting.
Career #2 - Health Care Administrator
2010 to 2020 Job Growth: 22 percent*
Health care administrators are usually the ones responsible for supervising and coordinating health care services at hospitals, nursing homes, and outpatient care facilities, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. Duties might include anything from creating work schedules for employees to monitoring finances.
Why it's built to last: Health care administrators are the glue that holds health care facilities together, says Shatkin.
"Practices don't run themselves," Shatkin says. "They need people to run them because there is a need to contain costs with good management."
This need for administrators will especially be seen in offices of health practitioners, according to the Department of Labor. Employment of health care administrators is expected to grow as services provided in hospitals shift to these types of offices.
Education options: Think this career might be a good fit for you? According to the Department, a bachelor's degree in health administration is one education path to prep for a career as a health care administrator. Other common credentials include master's degrees in health services, public health, or public administration.
Career #3 - Dental Assistant
2010 to 2020 Job Growth: 31 percent*
Are you someone who enjoys putting smiles on people's faces? If that's among your professional interests, then you might want to consider pursuing a growing career as a dental assistant.
Dental assistants generally handle both clinical and administrative duties in dental offices, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. In fact, they could do everything from helping patients stay comfortable in the dentist chair, to sterilizing instruments, to giving patients instructions regarding proper dental hygiene.
Why it's built to last: What's helping to create a continued demand for dental assistants? "People are keeping their teeth longer than they used to and that's creating a need,"? according to Shatkin.
Additionally, Shatkin notes that, "...dental assistants are going to be around because of the paperwork associated with the practice. There is a lot of billing and appointment making involved."
And here's some positive news from the Department of Labor: Dentists are hiring more dental assistants to perform routine duties. Then dentists will have additional time to see more patients and perform more complex procedures.
Education options: Interested in pursuing this built-to-last career? While some states require no formal training, other states require assistants to graduate from an accredited program, such as a certificate or associate's degree in dental assisting, according to the Department.
2010 to 2020 Job Growth: 21 percent*
If you are seeking an in-demand career where your organizational skills can be put to good use, a medical records and health information technician might be worth considering.
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, these technicians typically spend their day reviewing patient records for accuracy, organizing clinical databases, and protecting patient confidentiality.
Why it's built to last: When it comes to an increased need for medical records and health information technicians, the aging U.S. population plays a big role.
How so? According to Shatkin, more patients create more records. In turn, the increase in health data will require more technicians to review and distribute to doctors or insurance companies.
"To find effective remedies for patients, technicians have to shoot their records around from one place to another," Shatkin says. "Workers are needed to compile, store, and retrieve them."
And as more health care providers start using electronic health records (EHRs), more techs will be needed to learn how to use the software and analyze electronic data, according to the Department of Labor.
Education options: Want to pursue a career as a medical records and health information technician? You may want to look into earning a postsecondary certificate or associate's degree in health information technology. According to the Department, that's what these workers typically need.
Career #5 - Physical Therapist Assistant
2010 to 2020 Job Growth: 46 percent*
Does a hands-on health career with a bright future grab your attention? If so, consider pursuing a career as a physical therapist assistant.
In this role, assistants generally help patients recovering from injuries, illnesses, and surgical procedures, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. In fact, they could do everything from observing a patient's progress to helping a patient with certain exercises to trying treatment techniques like massage and stretching.
Why it's built to last: With more aging baby boomers suffering from chronic and debilitating conditions, the demand for physical therapy is expected to increase, notes the Department of Labor.
"Because people are living longer, they are going to get more aches and pains that need a physical therapist," says Shatkin.
And physical therapy can be used instead of medication to treat pain, says Shatkin. For example, a tender elbow could be fixed with physical therapy.
Education options: If you are interested in pursuing this career, keep in mind that most states require an associate's degree from a physical therapy program, according to the Department. When choosing your program, you'll want to make sure that it's accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education.
*2010-2020 projected job growth rates are from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition, at http://www.bls.gov/ooh/home.htm (visited Oct. 18, 2012).
Next Article: Degrees That Busy Adults Can Earn Anytime »