6 Fastest Growing Careers in the US: Healthcare Related Employment

What are the fastest growing careers in the US in the healthcare industry? According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupation Finder, the following six occupations hold the greatest promise for job seekers.

These healthcare related occupations are growing at a 29 percent or greater rate, and there are at least 50,000 new jobs projected in each of these occupations.

1. Physical Therapists

Physical therapists help people manage pain caused by illness or injury and increase their mobility and movement. They may diagnose, design and implement treatment plans, recommended and oversee exercise programs or other therapeutic measures, and consult with families and patients. In addition, they might supervise physical therapy assistants or physical therapy aides.

Their patients might included but are not limited to amputees, individuals special needs such as spina bifida that are caused by birth conditions or defects, or people injured at work or in sports.

According to the BLS, the 2010 median pay for physical therapists was $76,301 per year, and growth rate of job opportunities in the industry was 39%. Those wishing to pursue this career path should be aware a doctoral or professional degree is required. 

Physical therapist at work

2. Dental Hygienists

Because of an increased public awareness of the link between good oral health and good physical health, the employment potential for dental hygienists continues to be above average. The BLS estimates a 38% rate of growth for this occupation which requires at least an associate’s degree, state licensure, and paid a median salary of $68,250 per annum in 2010.

In addition to cleaning teeth, dental hygienists may examine or x-ray teeth, provide preventative dental care or educate patients about proper oral hygiene methods. The dental hygienist is part of a dentist’s professional team, which may or may not include a dental assistant.

3. Dental Assistants

The scope of tasks that dental assistants can performed is state regulated and may vary from state to state. However, some typical tasks include preparing the dentist’s work area, caring for the dental instruments, assisting the dentist during dental procedures or perhaps administering fluoride treatments. 

Educational requirements are also state regulated and may include formal or on-the-job training and at least a postsecondary non-degree award. A state license is required, and the industry is expected to have a 31% growth rate. The 2010 median salary for dental assistants was $33,470. 

4. Healthcare Social Workers

With the increased complexity of navigating the healthcare system due to the numerous changes caused by the implementation of Obamacare, more and more patients and their relatives are turning to resources such as healthcare social workers to help them find the answers to their questions and the resources they need. 

Healthcare social workers help patients and their families locate resources such as financial aid, legal help or even appropriate healthcare services. They may facilitate support groups and other educational services or assist their clients in finding the appropriate resources. In addition to working with families and patients, they may work with those in the healthcare community to obtain the help their clients need.

According to the BLS, these occupations may require a bachelor’s degree or a master’s degree, state licensing, and paid a 2010 median salary of $42,480. The projected growth rate for this industry is 25%.

5. Emergency Medical Technicians – Paramedicals

Just like dental assistants, the scope of tasks performed by emergency medical technicians (EMT’s) and paramedicals is state-regulated and varies from state to state. Typical duties include responding to calls to care for injured or sick people in emergency settings. They use the appropriate methods and may transfer the patients to a hospital or to other facility. They also create records of the patient’s treatment and maintain and replace equipment as necessary.

The main difference between EMTs and paramedicals is in the scope of their duties; generally, paramedicals have obtained additional formal training or on-the-job experience and can provide more extensive patient care. Both must complete any state required formal training and be licensed. Formal education requirements vary but might start at the post-secondary non-degree level.  The BLS’s projection for this occupation is a 33% growth rate with an annual median salary of $30,360.

6. Medical Assistants

Medical assistants and physicians assistants are not the same occupation although people sometimes confuse the two. Unlike physicians assistants, medical assistants do not examine, diagnose or prescribe treatments for patients.

Specific duties will vary depend on any state regulations and their work environments, but could include tasks such as checking a patient’s vital signs, giving injections, setting appointments, or filing insurance claims.

While specific educational qualifications vary from state to state, according to the BLS, most states do not require any formal education for medical assistants. The minimum acceptable level of education is a high school diploma or the equivalent; some on the job training could be required. Employment opportunities are good with an estimated 31% growth rate, and 2010 median salaries were $28,860. 

If you are interested in a specific health care occupation but don’t see it listed here, that doesn’t mean it is not a good career or lacks potential. The US job market is fluid and changes can happen rapidly in industries, especially when it comes to the fastest growing medical careers.

The information presented here is based on statistics gathered by the Bureau of Labor Statistics and compiled in their Occupational Outlook Handbook  but is subject to change or human error.  
If you have your heart set on a particular career in the healthcare industry, follow your dream. After all, when you are doing a job you love, it often does not even seem like work. If you haven’t decided on a career path yet, you might want to read “Your Guide to the Best Career Paths and College Majors to Pursue.”

Resource material: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook
Image by LuisSolis under royalty free license via SXC