With job growth projected to increase across the industry, choosing to work in health care could be a smart career move.
There's good news for people interested in working in health care: The industry is projected to boom for years to come.
In fact, according to a 2012 study titled "Healthcare" from Georgetown University's Center on Education and the Workforce, the demand for health care workers will grow twice as fast as the national economy from 2010 to 2020, adding 5.6 million new health care jobs.
And with several different career paths in the health care field that are projected to grow in the future, there's something for everyone.
"Typically, when individuals think of a career in health care, the first areas of study that come to mind are nursing, physician assistants, pharmacy, and dental or medical doctors, but there are more than 200 careers within health care," says Shannon Ydoyaga, interim executive director of the Dallas Community College District Careers Resource Center.
Read on to learn more about which careers in health care are growing - and how the right education can help prepare you to get your foot in the door.
Career #1: Medical Assistant
Medical assistants play an important role in assisting physicians with patient care, so it's no wonder it's such a booming career. In fact, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, 162,900 new medical assisting positions are projected to be added between 2010 and 2020.
Why It's Booming: There are a lot of factors accounting for the strong growth in this field; one big reason is the aging baby boomer population. You can think of it as a chain reaction: the baby boomers cause a higher demand for services, which means more work for physicians. As a result, doctors will need more medical assistants to perform the routine tasks that eat into physicians' time with patients, according to the Department of Labor.
What Medical Assistants Do: Medical assistants might do everything from measuring vital signs to scheduling patient appointments, and assisting the physician wherever necessary, the Department says. Responsibilities, however, will vary by practice.
Education Options: While most states have no formal educational requirements for medical assistants, the Department notes that most medical assistants have at least a high school diploma, and some graduate from formal education programs. Employers prefer some type of preparation, adds the Department.
Career #2: Medical and Health Services Manager
Demand for medical and health services managers is booming, with the number of jobs in medical and health services management projected to increase by 22 percent - roughly 68,000 new openings - from 2010 to 2020, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.
Why It's Booming: As the baby-boom population grows older and people remain more active later in life, the need for physicians and other health care professionals climbs. The result? More managers will be needed to organize and manage both medical information and staff members throughout the health care industry, according to the Department of Labor.
What Medical and Health Services Managers Do: According to the Department, medical and health services managers might manage finances of the facility, create work schedules, and keep up to date on new laws and regulations. They might even manage a specific clinical area or department, a medical practice for a physicians' group, or an entire facility.
Education Options: "Individuals can advance into medical and health services manager positions from medical insurance coding and billing, medical assisting, registered nursing, or with a bachelor's or master's degree in business," Ydoyaga notes. However, the Department notes that aspiring medical and health services managers typically have a bachelor's degree in health administration.
Career #3: Dental Assistant
The U.S. Department of Labor reports that dental assisting jobs are expected to grow by 31 percent. That's 91,600 new dental assisting jobs that may be added between 2010 and 2020. Now that's a career worth smiling about.
Why It's Booming: As research continues to link oral health to general health, the demand for preventative dental services will continue to climb, says the Department of Labor. It also notes that as dental practices grow, so will the need for dental assistants to support them. Another factor at play here is the aging baby-boomer population - and the fact that people are keeping more of their original teeth.
What Dental Assistants Do: Dental assistants take care of a number of responsibilities that can help dentists operate more efficiently. For example, according to the Department, they might prepare the work area for treatment, sterilize dental instruments, and schedule patient appointments.
Education Options: According to the Department, education requirements vary by state, with some states requiring candidates to complete an accredited program and pass a state exam.
Another growing career option in this industry: medical records and health information technician. The U.S. Department of Labor projects 21 percent growth for this career from 2010 to 2020.
Why It's Booming: The aging population will need more medical tests and procedures, all of which will need to be documented, says the Department. Someone has to create and manage all that information, and in medicine, that job usually goes to medical records and heath information technicians.
According to Bill Rudman, vice president of education visioning for the American Health Information Management Association, dramatic changes in technology and government initiatives, along with health information exchanges that center on patient care, have also increased the need for Health Information Management (HIM) professionals.
What Medical Records and Health Information Technicians Do: According to the Department, medical records and health information technicians might expect to organize and maintain data, use software to classify treatments by clinical codes, and track patient outcomes for quality assessment.
Education Options: Typically, those working as technicians in medical records and health information management need a postsecondary certificate, though many have an associate's degree, says the Department. Many employers also require professional certification.
Career #5: Pharmacy Technician
The U.S. Department of Labor predicts 32 percent growth over the 2010 to 2020 time frame for pharmacy technicians, making this another smart career option to consider.
Why It's Booming: There are a variety of factors at play in terms of why this career is growing. For one, advances in pharmaceutical research mean that more prescription medications are being used to fight diseases. The growing elderly population will equal more prescription drug use as well.
What Pharmacy Technicians Do: Pharmacy technicians might perform tasks like compounding or mixing medications, counting tablets, or answering phone calls from customers, according to the Department. Pharmacy technicians working in hospitals may also have different duties, like making rounds in the hospital to give medications to patients.
Education Options: The Department says that pursuing a career as a pharmacy technician usually requires earning a high school diploma. Some states may also require completing a formal education program and passing an exam, so be sure to check what the requirements are in your state.
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, from 2010 to 2020, the demand for medical laboratory technologists is expected to grow by 11 percent, with jobs for medical laboratory technicians projected to increase by 15 percent.
Why It's Booming: The aging population means more tests are needed to diagnose medical conditions like cancer or type 2 diabetes, the Department of Labor says. In fact, 70 percent of medical decisions are based on laboratory findings.
What Medical and Clinical Laboratory Technologists/Technicians Do: Both technologists and technicians might be responsible for performing tests and procedures on body fluids such as blood, urine, and tissue samples using sophisticated lab equipment. However, medical laboratory technologists typically perform more complex procedures than technicians do, and technologists usually supervise the technicians, according to the Department.
Education Options: Educational requirements for laboratory technologists and technicians differ, the Department says. Medical laboratory technologists typically need a bachelor's degree, but technicians usually need an associate's degree or a postsecondary certificate. Some states require technologists and technicians to be licensed.
Next Article: Hot Careers That Are Built To Last »