The 8 Blazing Healthcare Jobs of 2012

A closer look at the healthcare professions on our Best Jobs of 2012 list.

Medical assistant helping a patient

In Pictures: Best Healthcare Jobs of 2012

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Quality healthcare is the great equalizer, even if access to it is not. Whether you're young or old, financially well-to-do or fiscally in-between, the need for sound healthcare remains the same. Today, this requisite reaches well beyond the routine six-month physical or dental cleaning; it affects wellness as well. And for many, achieving psychological stability has become as crucial as having a healthy heart.

Because of the industry's persistent presence in our everyday lives, it's no surprise that the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that these eight outstanding healthcare jobs will continue to add positions well into 2020; many of these careers (like medical assistant and clinical laboratory technician) will support the many doctors and nurses who work in hospitals and private practices throughout the nation. Here's more information about the eight Best Healthcare Jobs:

1. Registered Nurse. Present in hospitals, schools, and the corporate sphere, registered nurses console patients after life-altering surgeries, update their records, and sometimes assist during procedures. Employment growth for this profession will increase 26 percent by 2020, adding more than 700,000 jobs. Most entry-level jobs require a bachelor of science, associate's degree in nursing, or a diploma earned through a certified program at a hospital.

2.Pharmacist. Prevalent in retail and hospital settings, pharmacists serve as the gatekeepers (and openers) of medicine and medical advice, enhancing the lives of the patients they serve. Prospective pharmacists should undertake at least two years of professional study at a college or university prior to starting a Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm.D.) program at a four-year collegiate program. Their profession will expand 25.4 percent by 2020, according to the BLS.

3.Medical Assistant. Today's medical assistants are more than sideline players. They actively assess patients' weights and prep them for examinations prior to their consultations with a nurse or doctor. Their profession will grow 30.9 percent in the next decade. Certifications are helpful, but not required.

4.Physical Therapist. Found in hospitals and clinics or in private practices and residences, physical therapists monitor and assess the muscle strength, coordination, and range of motion of injured victims, ensuring they rehabilitate properly. Their profession is expected to increase 39 percent by 2020, the BLS projects. A master's degree and a state license are required.

5.Occupational Therapist. Occupational therapists help rehabilitate sufferers of mental and physical pain by assisting them in daily tasks like eating, dressing, and operating machinery. The BLS predicts 33.5 percent employment growth for occupational therapists by 2020. Also keep in mind that this job requires a master's degree.

6. Clinical Laboratory Technician. Clinical laboratory technicians rely on the latest technology and equipment to run tests and examine body fluids at medical facilities. Their profession will expand 14.7 percent in the next decade, and an associate's degree is the minimum educational requirement.

7. Paramedic. Paramedics bear the weighty responsibility of being first on the scene of an emergency, providing prompt and competent care. Their profession will grow 33.3 percent by 2020, according to the BLS. A high school diploma is required for admittance to most emergency medical technician training programs.

8.Massage Therapists. The 153,700 certified massage therapists who use their healing hands to relax muscle cramps and spasms will see their profession expand 20.1 percent by 2020. Successful completion of a training program and examination are musts.

It's one thing to be aware of the hottest healthcare jobs; it's another to actually snag one. Here are eight tips on how to break into this industry:

1. Shadow a healthcare professional. One of the best ways to get a feel for a particular healthcare profession is to plant yourself in the environment. Afton Yurkon, associate director of management and student affairs at the National Community Pharmacists Association, says this is an effective method for prospective pharmacists. "If you're interested in pharmacy in general, find local pharmacy owners and see what a typical day is like at their stores," she says. "[Or] intern at a hospital and see what a day is like there."