Forget what you have seen on certain nightly network dramas (that you may or may not admit you watch). The healthcare industry does not solely consist of thirty-something former models with a penchant for love triangles and capital-d Drama. Rather, they are millions and millions of educated and dedicated professionals who have a passion for what they do. Birth, death, and everything in between-the circle of life and all it entails-the medical professions participate in it all. Or in less dramatic, Disney-fied wording, they have the capability to help people through difficult times and actually change lives.

First, let's address the alleged downsides of careers in this industry. The supposedly extensive training and long work hours may have kept you from seriously considering these professions, but there are many opportunities to be a part of the medical professional community without the same levels of intensity on a daily basis. Even if you do not feel a "calling" to be a healer, you can still be an important part of the healing process, to help people and help them care for themselves. This career category includes chiropractors, massage therapists, physiologists, dieticians, midwives, paramedics--even animal health care and veterinarians!

Healthcare is a massive industry, providing many opportunities for employment and advancement, which will only continue to expand in the coming decade. As the overall population ages and the generation of Baby Boomers graduate into retirement, new resources and opportunity must be made available to meet people's healthcare needs. That means jobs, and far more career opportunities than doctor, nurse, and dentist, too. Even the most straightforward injuries and illnesses can require an experienced team of medical professionals and technicians, all working together to make someone feel better now and live better tomorrow.

Because so many positions are available in this category, the duties are responsibilties can vary greatly. They may include:


The amount of education and training required to work in this industry varies widely, depending on the type of position. Doctors, nurses, and veterinarians must have years of formal education in addition to years of supervised training and experience. Workers in the clerical aspects of this category, such as records and billing management, as well as some aide and technician positions do not require college or additional training except for what they may receive on the job. (Of course, more education and experience generally makes a person a more competitive applicant for open job positions.)

Additional education and experience allows a person to improve their skills and expand their knowledge, useful in assisting patients and advancing a career. Dental hygienists, for example, may only require an associate's degree, but earning a bachelor's or master's provides opportunity to teach, research, and participate in higher levels of work in the field. State regulations can also regulate the minimum requirements to work and will vary from state to state. Some professions, like audiologists, require certification or licensing from accredited institutions in order to be cleared to practice.

Careers as assistants and technicians generally require some post-high school education but not a bachelor's degree. For more intensive careers like physicians, chiropractors, and dentists, a bachelor's degree is just the beginning; they must also earn, at minimum, a specialized graduate degree. These graduate schools are highly competitive. All necessitate extensive coursework in the sciences, and some schools assemble undergraduate "premed" programs specifically to prepare students for medical school. Students must also pass standardized exams somewhat similar to the SATs and have an impressive resume overall to compete for entry to the top schools. As medicine evolves along with our understanding of biology and medical conditions, doctors, nurses, technicians, and others will have to adapt to new techniques, treatment, and technology. In other words, in this industry you do not stop learning just because you have earned your degree.


  • Communication skills Workers, whether doctors, aides, or technicians, need to be able to clearly and effectively communicate with patients and other healthcare workers. Because treating medical conditions needs to be carefully and precisely executed, it is crucial that workers understand the information the patient gives them and knows how and when to ask additional questions or provide answers.
  • Compassion. The "customer" of the healthcare industry is someone who needs just that-care. Whether getting a yearly physical, a routine teeth cleaning, or treatment for a serious medical problem, being a patient can be very stressful. A good healthcare worker can understand the difficulties a patient faces and can help make the patient feel calmer and receptive to treatment.
  • Critical-thinking skills. These careers require workers to frequently and critically assess the patient's condition overall and complaints specifically. This can involve a great deal of research and knowledge to be able to assess this and match the condition with a diagnosis and a plan for treatment. They also need to be able to find solutions when the first treatment plan does not work-it can become complicated quickly, and all aspects of the patient's needs and complaints must be carefully weighed and considered.
  • Interpersonal skills. Most careers in this industry operate within a team of healthcare workers. Being able to listen to patient complaints and histories in a compassionate but professional manner is a highly valued skills, but that is only the beginning of the utility. Workers must be able to communicate and coordinate with a variety of other employees in different departments-billing, technical, primary care, etc. in order to provide the best care possible.
  • Organizational skills. Accurate and thorough record keeping is imperative, especially when a patient is being seen by multiple doctors or healthcare professionals. Keeping patient charts organized with clear plans for treatment and future interactions is a big job and critical to effective and efficient care.


Job growth overall is expected at higher rates than the national averages for all jobs, for the next several years. (For individual career growth, check out the profile page for more information.) As a significant portion of the population ages and enters retirement age, demand for medical services, technologies, and supportive health care services will greatly increase. This may be tempered in some ways by improvement in medical technologies that reduce recovery times and health care period. New workers will also be needed to replace those retiring or leaving the industry. For individual careers that are highly competitive, greater-than-average education, training, and experience can make a worker a better applicant for better jobs.

  Occupation Description Entry-Level Education 2012 Median Pay
Athletic trainers and exercise physiologists Athletic trainers and exercise physiologists

Athletic trainers specialize in preventing, diagnosing, and treating muscle and bone injuries and illnesses. Exercise physiologists develop fitness and exercise programs that help patients recover from chronic diseases and improve cardiovascular function, body composition, and flexibility. '

Bachelor's degree $42,690
Audiologists Audiologists

Audiologists diagnose and treat a patient's hearing and balance problems, using advanced technology and procedures.'

Doctoral or professional degree $69,720
Chiropractors Chiropractors Chiropractors treat patients with health problems of the neuromusculoskeletal system, which includes nerves, bones, muscles, ligaments, and tendons. ' Doctoral or professional degree $66,160
Dental assistants Dental assistants

Dental assistants have many tasks, ranging from providing patient care and taking x rays to recordkeeping and scheduling appointments. Their duties vary by state and by the dentists’ offices where they work.'

Postsecondary non-degree award $34,500
Dental hygienists Dental hygienists

Dental hygienists get their training through either an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in dental hygiene. In some cases, students will have to have completed some general education credits before being accepted or continuing on to a dental hygiene program. College programs for this professions typically require coursework in the sciences and math, through class time, lab time, and clinical practice.

Associate's degree $70,210
Dentists Dentists

Dentists diagnose and treat problems with a patient’s teeth, gums, and related parts of the mouth. They provide advice and instruction on taking care of teeth and gums and on diet choices that affect oral health.'

Doctoral or professional degree $149,310
Diagnostic medical sonographers and cardiovascular technologists and technicians, including vascular technologists Diagnostic medical sonographers and cardiovascular technologists and technicians, including vascular technologists

Diagnostic medical sonographers and cardiovascular technologists and technicians, including vascular technologists, operate special imaging equipment to create images or conduct tests. The images and test results help physicians assess and diagnose medical conditions. Some technologists assist physicians and surgeons during surgical procedures.'

Associate's degree $60,350
Dietitians and nutritionists Dietitians and nutritionists

Dietitians and nutritionists are experts in food and nutrition. They advise people on what to eat in order to lead a healthy lifestyle or achieve a specific health-related goal.'

Bachelor's degree $55,240
EMTs and paramedics EMTs and paramedics

Emergency medical technicians (EMTs) and paramedics care for the sick or injured in emergency medical settings. People’s lives often depend on their quick reaction and competent care. EMTs and paramedics respond to emergency calls, performing medical services and transporting patients to medical facilities.'

Postsecondary non-degree award $31,020
Genetic counselors Genetic counselors

Genetic counselors assess individual or family risk for a variety of inherited conditions, such as genetic disorders and birth defects. They provide information and advice to other healthcare providers, or to individuals and families concerned with the risk of inherited conditions.'

Master's degree $56,800
Home health aides Home health aides

Home health aides help people who are disabled, chronically ill, or cognitively impaired. They often help older adults who need assistance. In some states, home health aides may be able to give a client medication or check the client’s vital signs under the direction of a nurse or other healthcare practitioner.'

Less than high school $20,820
Licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses Licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses

Licensed practical nurses (LPNs) and licensed vocational nurses (LVNs) provide basic nursing care. They work under the direction of registered nurses and doctors. '

Postsecondary non-degree award $41,540
Massage therapists Massage therapists

Massage therapists treat clients by using touch to manipulate the soft-tissue muscles of the body. With their touch, therapists relieve pain, help rehabilitate injuries, improve circulation, relieve stress, increase relaxation, and aid in the general wellness of clients.'

Postsecondary non-degree award $35,970
Medical and clinical laboratory technologists and technicians Medical and clinical laboratory technologists and technicians

Medical laboratory technologists (commonly known as medical laboratory scientists) and medical laboratory technicians collect samples and perform tests to analyze body fluids, tissue, and other substances.'

Bachelor's degree $47,820
Medical assistants Medical assistants

Medical assistants complete administrative and clinical tasks in the offices of physicians, podiatrists, chiropractors, and other health practitioners. Their duties vary with the location, specialty, and size of the practice.'

Postsecondary non-degree award $29,370
Medical records and health information technicians Medical records and health information technicians

Medical records and health information technicians, commonly referred to as health information technicians, organize and manage health information data. They ensure its quality, accuracy, accessibility, and security in both paper and electronic systems. They use various classification systems to code and categorize patient information for insurance reimbursement purposes, for databases and registries, and to maintain patients’ medical and treatment histories.'

Postsecondary non-degree award $34,160
Medical transcriptionists Medical transcriptionists

Medical transcriptionists listen to voice recordings that physicians and other healthcare professionals make and convert them into written reports. They may also review and edit medical documents created using speech recognition technology. Transcriptionists interpret medical terminology and abbreviations in preparing patients’ medical histories, discharge summaries, and other documents.'

Postsecondary non-degree award $34,020
Nuclear medicine technologists Nuclear medicine technologists

Nuclear medicine technologists use a scanner to create images of various areas of a patient’s body. They prepare radioactive drugs and administer them to patients undergoing the scans. The radioactive drugs cause abnormal areas of the body to appear different from normal areas in the images.'

Associate's degree $70,180
Nurse anesthetists, nurse midwives, and nurse practitioners Nurse anesthetists, nurse midwives, and nurse practitioners

Nurse anesthetists, nurse midwives, and nurse practitioners, also referred to as advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs), provide and coordinate patient care and they may provide primary and specialty health care. The scope of practice varies from state to state.'

Master's degree $96,460
Nursing assistants and orderlies Nursing assistants and orderlies

Nursing assistants and orderlies help provide basic care for patients in hospitals and residents of long-term care facilities, such as nursing homes.'

High school diploma $24,400
Occupational health and safety specialists Occupational health and safety specialists

Occupational health and safety specialists analyze many types of work environments and work procedures. Specialists inspect workplaces for adherence to regulations on safety, health, and the environment. They also design programs to prevent disease or injury to workers and damage to the environment.'

Bachelor's degree $66,790
Occupational health and safety technicians Occupational health and safety technicians

Occupational health and safety technicians collect data on the safety and health conditions of the workplace. Technicians work with occupational health and safety specialists in conducting tests and measuring hazards to help prevent harm to workers, property, the environment, and the general public. '

High school diploma or equivalent $47,440
Occupational therapists Occupational therapists

Occupational therapists treat injured, ill, or disabled patients through the therapeutic use of everyday activities. They help these patients develop, recover, and improve the skills needed for daily living and working.'

Master's degree $75,400
Occupational therapy assistants and aides Occupational therapy assistants and aides

Occupational therapy assistants and aides help patients develop, recover, and improve the skills needed for daily living and working. Occupational therapy assistants are directly involved in providing therapy to patients, while occupational therapy aides typically perform support activities. Both assistants and aides work under the direction of occupational therapists.'

Associate's degree $48,940
Opticians, dispensing Opticians, dispensing

Dispensing opticians help fit eyeglasses and contact lenses, following prescriptions from ophthalmologists and optometrists. They also help customers decide which eyeglass frames or contact lenses to buy.'

High school diploma or equivalent $33,330
Optometrists Optometrists

Optometrists examine the eyes and other parts of the visual system. They also diagnose, and treat visual problems, and manage diseases, injuries, and other disorders of the eyes. They prescribe eyeglasses or contact lenses as needed.'

Doctoral or professional degree $97,820
Orthotists and prosthetists Orthotists and prosthetists

Orthotists and prosthetists, also called O&P professionals, design medical supportive devices and measure and fit patients for them. These devices include artificial limbs (arms, hands, legs, and feet), braces, and other medical or surgical devices.'

Master's degree $62,670
Personal care aides Personal care aides Personal care aides help clients with self-care and everyday tasks, and provide companionship.' Less than high school $19,910
Pharmacists Pharmacists Pharmacists dispense prescription medications to patients and offer expertise in the safe use of prescriptions. They also may provide advice on how to lead a healthy lifestyle, conduct health and wellness screenings, provide immunizations, and oversee the medications given to patients. ' Doctoral or professional degree $116,670
Pharmacy technicians Pharmacy technicians Pharmacy technicians help licensed pharmacists dispense prescription medication to customers or health professionals.' High school diploma or equivalent $29,320
Phlebotomists Phlebotomists Phlebotomists draw blood for tests, transfusions, research, or blood donations. Some explain their work to patients and provide assistance when patients have adverse reactions after their blood is drawn.' Postsecondary non-degree award $29,730
Physical therapist assistants and aides Physical therapist assistants and aides

Physical therapist assistants (sometimes called PTAs) and physical therapist aides work under the direction and supervision of physical therapists. They help patients who are recovering from injuries and illnesses regain movement and manage pain.'

Associate's degree $39,430
Physical therapists Physical therapists Physical therapists, sometimes called PTs, help injured or ill people improve their movement and manage their pain. These therapists are often an important part of rehabilitation and treatment of patients with chronic conditions or injuries.' Doctoral or professional degree $79,860
Physician assistants Physician assistants Physician assistants, also known as PAs, practice medicine on a team under the supervision of physicians and surgeons. They are formally educated to examine patients, diagnose injuries and illnesses, and provide treatment.' Master's degree $90,930
Physicians and surgeons Physicians and surgeons Physicians and surgeons diagnose and treat injuries or illnesses. Physicians examine patients; take medical histories; prescribe medications; and order, perform, and interpret diagnostic tests. They counsel patients on diet, hygiene, and preventive healthcare. Surgeons operate on patients to treat injuries, such as broken bones; diseases, such as cancerous tumors; and deformities, such as cleft palates.' Doctoral or professional degree $0
Podiatrists Podiatrists Podiatrists provide medical care for people with foot, ankle, and lower leg problems. They diagnose illnesses, treat injuries, and perform surgery involving the lower extremities.' Doctoral or professional degree $116,440
Psychiatric technicians and aides Psychiatric technicians and aides

Psychiatric technicians and aides care for people who have mental illness and developmental disabilities. Technicians typically provide therapeutic care. Aides help patients in their daily activities and ensure a safe, clean environment.'

High school diploma $27,440
Radiation therapists Radiation therapists

Radiation therapists treat cancer and other diseases in patients by administering radiation treatments.'

Associate's degree $77,560
Radiologic and MRI technologists Radiologic and MRI technologists

Radiologic technologists perform diagnostic imaging examinations, such as x rays, on patients. MRI technologists operate magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanners to create diagnostic images.'

Associate's degree $55,910
Recreational therapists Recreational therapists

Recreational therapists plan, direct, and coordinate recreation-based treatment programs for people with disabilities, injuries, or illnesses. Recreational therapists use a variety of modalities, including arts and crafts, drama, music, dance, sports, games, and community reintegration field trips to help maintain or improve a patient’s physical, social, and emotional well-being.'

Bachelor's degree $42,280
Registered nurses Registered nurses

Registered nurses (RNs) provide and coordinate patient care, educate patients and the public about various health conditions, and provide advice and emotional support to patients and their family members.'

Associate's degree $65,470
Respiratory therapists Respiratory therapists

Respiratory therapists care for patients who have trouble breathing for example, from a chronic respiratory disease, such as asthma or emphysema. Their patients range from premature infants with undeveloped lungs to elderly patients who have diseased lungs. They also provide emergency care to patients suffering from heart attacks, drowning, or shock.'

Associate's degree $55,870
Speech-language pathologists Speech-language pathologists

Speech-language pathologists (sometimes called speech therapists) assess, diagnose, treat, and help to prevent communication and swallowing disorders in patients. Speech, language, and swallowing disorders result from a variety of causes, such as a stroke, brain injury, hearing loss, developmental delay, a cleft palate, cerebral palsy, or emotional problems.'

Master's degree $69,870
Surgical technologists Surgical technologists

Surgical technologists, also called operating room technicians, assist in surgical operations. They prepare operating rooms, arrange equipment, and help doctors during surgeries.'

Postsecondary non-degree award $41,790
Veterinarians Veterinarians

Veterinarians care for the health of animals and work to improve public health. They diagnose, treat, and research medical conditions and diseases of pets, livestock, and other animals.'

Doctoral or professional degree $84,460
Veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers Veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers Veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers look after animals in laboratories, animal hospitals, and clinics. They care for the well-being of animals by performing routine tasks under the supervision of veterinarians, scientists, and veterinary technologists and technicians.' High school diploma or equivalent $23,130
Veterinary technologists and technicians Veterinary technologists and technicians

Veterinary technologists and technicians perform medical tests under the supervision of a licensed veterinarian to help diagnose the illnesses and injuries of animals.'

Associate's degree $30,290

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