Do you have an abiding interest in the workings of the human body? Does the idea of making the world a better place by helping people improve their health and wellness appeal to you?
If this sounds like the type of career that might suit you, you should consider pursuing a profession in the red-hot health care field. According to data analyzed by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, health care is one of the fastest-growing sectors of the economy, and the field is poised to expand rapidly in the years to come, adding more than three million new jobs in the period from 2008 to 2018.
If you think that preparing for a career in health care means dedicating years of your life and thousands of dollars to the pursuit of a post-graduate degree such as an MD or a PhD, think again. Some of the fastest-growing health care occupations are those that require only an associate degree or a bachelor's degree. What's more, with the widespread availability of online learning opportunities, it may be possible for you to complete some or all of requirements for a health care degree at your own pace and in the comfort and privacy of your own home.
Read on to learn more about five professional paths that can lead you to a lucrative and rewarding health care career.
1. Health Information Technicians
With the advent of new record-keeping regulations, the health information field is booming. Technicians are responsible for entering, maintaining, updating, and accessing various electronic patient records and the systems used to manage them. A relatively small number of entry-level positions may be available for job seekers without degrees, but the best jobs should go to candidates with an associate degree or bachelor's degree in an applicable subject. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median pay for this role was $37,710 in May 2013.
2. Diagnostic Medical Sonographers
These professionals use state-of-the-art imaging tools to help identify or rule out illnesses, diseases, and other health conditions. Most sonographers are employed in hospital settings and work standard 40-hour weeks. Though some in this role receive on-the-job training, the best roles should go to candidates with an associate degree or bachelor degree in a health care-related major. In May 2013, the median pay for a diagnostic medical sonographer was $67,170.
3. Registered Nurses
The single largest health care occupation, registered nurses performs a vast array of duties in domains such as patient care, record keeping, triage, health counseling, performing tests, and operating medical equipment. Those with an advanced degree in the field, such as a master's, may have direct patient care and diagnostic responsibilities. However, those with associate degrees or bachelor's degrees can also qualify for registered nurse positions. The median annual salary for a registered nurse as of May 2013 was $68,910.
4. Radiologic Technologists
These technicians use cutting-edge imaging tools to take X-rays of patients for diagnostic purposes. Jobs in the radiography field are open to candidates with one of several different degrees in radiologic science, including a certificate, an associate degree, a bachelor's degree, or an advanced degree. Federal data from May 2013 indicated that the median salary for radiologic technologists is $56,760.
5. Dental Hygienists
One of the fastest-growing roles in health care, dental hygienists clean patients' teeth, take X-rays, and perform some preventive procedures. Most states require completion of an accredited training program in order to attain licensure in the field; programs are available at the certificate, associate degree, bachelor's degree and master's degree levels. As of May 2013, the median annual salary for dental hygienists was $71,530.
Though they rank among the fastest-growing roles in the health care field, these five jobs represent just a sampling of the dozens of professional opportunities that are available. You can learn more about the health care field--and determine whether a health care career might be right for you--by enrolling in an introductory online learning course in an area that piques your interest.
Bureau of Labor Statistics - Medical Records and Health Information Technicians
Bureau of Labor Statistics - Diagnostic Medical Sonographers
Bureau of Labor Statistics - Registered Nurses
Bureau of Labor Statistics - Radiologic Technologists
Bureau of Labor Statistics - Dental Hygenist