Working within healthcare appeals to our society in a way virtually no other professional sector does. The mystique of making medical diagnoses, the desire to help those in need, the adrenalin surge that comes with working at a fast pace and in stressful situations, and the allure of earning a handsome salary. If you need further proof that we like the idea of healthcare jobs, just think about how many movies and televisions shows (reality, dramas, and comedies) take place or have taken place inside hospitals.
Our attraction to this industry will probably always be well-matched with the necessity to educate and employ more qualified healthcare professionals—especially right now, as a substantial portion of our population is aging and requiring more medical care. In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that there will be more employment growth within the healthcare and social assistance sector than in any others this decade.
Here's a snapshot of the 24 healthcare professions that we at U.S. News have labelled the best to break into, either this year or in the years to come.
The Doctors Are In
What's a list of healthcare jobs without doctors? For 2013, we highlight a handful of professions that utilize this title, although the long road to earning the honor is different for each job. Whether you choose to be a Medical Doctor (M.D.), a Doctor of Dental Medicine (D.M.D.), a Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD), or even a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (D.V.M.), you can expect to spend at least two years following undergrad completing a professional degree and residency program. Some medical specialties require up to eight years working as a resident.
The initials behind your name are only part of the payoff for all those years of training: Doctors are imperative to providing quality healthcare, as they're the ones who make the medical diagnoses and final decisions on how to treat patients. The four categories of doctors we highlight this year could together see nearly 300,000 new hires between 2010 and 2020.
Expected Openings: 27,600
Expected Openings: 69,700
Expected Openings: 168,300
Expected Openings: 22,000
Some of the most significant work in a healthcare facility is performed by medical secretaries, technologists, and technicians. And like the doctors, therapists, and nurses who they support, these workers undergo specialized training to become qualified to properly operate complex medical equipment, decipher prescription orders, prepare patients for procedures, keep detailed medical records, and possibly even perform initial analyses and medical examinations.
However, you won't find yourself in a four-years-or-more learning purgatory (er, training period) to enter one of these six positions from our Best Jobs list. And job prospects are excellent, as healthcare facilities strive to meet the demand to treat more patients by hiring these types of workers to provide general care and free up registered nurses, therapists, and doctors. Keep in mind that technologists are senior to technicians, typically earn higher salaries, and often need a bachelor's degree and credentials.
Expected Openings: 23,800
Expected Openings: 23,400
Expected Openings: 210,200
Expected Openings: 108,300
Expected Openings: 61,000
Expected Openings: 41,700
[See: The 100 Best Jobs.]
In the Trenches
If doctors are the industry's healers, then the professionals who fill these seven gigs are the industry's heroes. They're intrinsic to patient, pain, and symptom management; they examine patients, draw blood, provide emergency/first-response care, perform tests, assist in surgeries, monitor healing, change dressings, and more. They might also educate: For instance, a dental hygienist doesn't just clean a patient's teeth; he or she might also instruct the patient on proper oral care. A respiratory therapist might teach a parent how to administer a breathing treatment to their child, or a smoker on ways to kick their habit.