Six Hot Health Care Careers

Thriving Health Careers

Learn more about health care careers that are projected to see high growth from 2010 to 2020.

By Amanda Hearle

Want to take advantage of the growing career opportunities in health care? Now is the time to start preparing, as the industry is showing no signs of slowing down.

"Whether the economy is up or down, people's need for health care doesn't change," says Andrea Santiago, About.com's Guide to Health Careers.

In May alone the industry added 33,000 new jobs, bringing the over-the-year health care employment to 340,000, according to the U.S. Department of Labor's "Employment Situation Summary" released in June.

According to Santiago, factors leading to the demand in health care include "an industry-wide shift in focus to preventative care, combined with a growing need for diagnostic and therapeutic care among the older baby boomer generation."  

Ready to prepare to pursue a career in this growing industry? Check out these six hot health care careers...

Career #1: Medical Assistant

2010 to 2020 Job Growth: 31 percent*

If you're looking for a health care career where you can act as a jack-of-all-trades, then medical assisting is a growing field that could use more people like you.

By handling administrative and clinical tasks, medical assistants could help make sure that doctors' offices run smoothly and efficiently. Their duties can range from scheduling appointments and filling out insurance forms to measuring patients' vital signs and assisting the doctor with medical exams, says the U.S. Department of Labor.

Why it's a hot career: "More people are getting insured and entering the health care system," says Santiago. "That increases the number of patients doctors are seeing, which places a greater burden on support staff." And this support staff she's referring to? That includes medical assistants.

Click to Find the Right Medical Assisting Program.

Education options: Most medical assistants have at least a high school diploma and develop skills on the job, but some employers may favor candidates who have completed a formal education program, says the Department of Labor. These formal education programs could include a certificate or associate's degree in medical assisting.

Career #2: Medical and Health Services Manager

2010 to 2020 Job Growth: 22 percent*

Medical facilities would be chaos without a behind-the-scenes medical and health services manager calling the shots. If you're interested in a health care leadership position, consider pursuing a career in this expanding field.

As a medical and health services manager, you could use your management skills to direct and organize medical and health services at a health care facility or in a clinical department, says the U.S. Department of Labor. Common duties could include staying updated on new laws and regulations, handling finances, making work schedules, and communicating with the medical staff.

Why it's a hot career: "As the large baby-boom population ages and people remain active later in life, the health care industry as a whole will see an increase in the demand for medical services," according to the Department of Labor. This increase will in turn spur the demand for medical and health services managers to coordinate medical information and staff.

Click to Find the Right Health Care Administration Program.

Education options: Medical and health services managers need at least a bachelor's degree to prepare to pursue this field, says the Department. Other common credentials include master's degrees in health services, long-term care administration, public health, public administration, or business administration.

Career #3: Medical Records and Health Information Technician

2010 to 2020 Job Growth: 21 percent*

Are you a computer whiz who's looking to pursue a career in health care? If so, consider exploring the growing number of opportunities in the field of health information technology.

As a medical records and health information technician, you could spend your workday organizing health information data and making sure that it's accurate and secure in paper and electronic systems, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. You could also be responsible for coding patients' health information with classification software.

Why it's a hot career: With the aging population requiring more tests, treatments, and procedures, there will be an increase in insurance claims and the need for people who can organize and manage these records, says the Department of Labor.

Santiago adds: "As the health care field is forced to update its technology, the need for people who can create and maintain these systems increases."

Click to Find the Right Health Information Technology Program.

Education options: To prepare to pursue a medical records and health information technician position, you typically need to earn a certificate or associate's degree in health information technology, says the Department. And most employers prefer candidates with professional certification, which could be based on passing an exam or completing an accredited program, adds the Department.

Career #4: Registered Nurse

2010 to 2020 Job Growth: 26 percent*

When you consider how much patient care falls to nurses, it's no wonder nursing is seeing an increase in employment opportunities.

As a registered nurse, you could be accountable for performing diagnostic tests, administering medications, creating treatment plans, and educating patients and the public about health conditions, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

Why it's a hot career: "The increased emphasis on preventative care is definitely driving up the demand for more primary care givers like nurses," says Santiago. "Nurses frequently take over aspects of patient care that doctors are too busy to do themselves." 

Click to Find the Right Registered Nursing Program.

Education options: To prepare to pursue a nursing career, you could earn an associate's degree or diploma in nursing from an accredited nursing program, says the Department of Labor. Then you need to pass the national nursing exam (NCLEX-RN) to get licensed.

Career #5: Pharmacy Technician

2010 to 2020 Job Growth: 32 percent*

If you want a health care career that's focused more on medicine and less on hands-on patient care, then the expanding pharmacy technician field may be a good fit for you.

As a pharmacy technician, you could work alongside pharmacists in retail pharmacies or hospitals, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. Common duties include mixing medications, measuring prescription dosages, packaging prescriptions, and taking payments from customers.

Why it's a hot career: "As a result of advances in pharmaceutical research, more prescription medications are being used to fight diseases," says the Department of Labor. "Also, the number of older people is growing, and older people use more prescription drugs than younger people."

Click to Find the Right Pharmacy Technician Program.

Education options: Most pharmacy technicians have a high school diploma and gain their knowledge on the job, but some states require candidates to pass an exam and complete a formal education program - like a certificate in pharmacy technology, says the Department. Check with your state to find out more about your requirements.

Career #6: Physical Therapist Assistant

2010 to 2020 Job Growth: 46 percent*

Want to spend your workday helping people recover from physical trauma? Consider pursuing a thriving physical therapist assistant career.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, physical therapist assistants could help patients recover from injuries, illnesses, or surgery. By teaching certain exercises and providing therapeutic methods like massage or electrical stimulation (under the supervision of a physical therapist), you could help patients manage their pain and regain mobility, adds the Department of Labor.

Why it's a hot career: Because "baby boomers also are entering the prime age for heart attacks and strokes, increasing the demand for cardiac and physical rehabilitation," says the Department.

Santiago adds: "Physical therapy facilities are now about to reduce their costs, making treatment more accessible to more people."

Click to Find the Right Physical Therapy Assistance Program.

Education options: Education requirements vary by state, but most states require physical therapist assistants to earn an associate's degree from a physical therapist program accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education, says the Department. Check your state's requirements to see if you must earn an accredited degree and pass a licensing exam.

*Potential job growth information is 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 June 1, 2012).

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