Top 50 Healthcare Careers for 2020 - Career Outlook & Salary
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The healthcare sector is booming, due to a growing population that will require increasing care with age.
Baby Boomers—those born between 1946 and 1964—are retiring at the rate of thousands per day. In contrast, Pew Research Center (2018) reports that Millennials—ages 23 to 38—currently make up the largest portion of the US labor force, having surpassed Generation X in 2017. This means that about 35 percent of the American workforce carries the burden of the economy during their prime childbearing years.
With large segments of the population entering their senior years and another with growing families, health professionals will be in demand to meet these increasing needs.
Fortunately, there is no shortage of promising healthcare careers in 2020.
Here’s how we broke down the top 50 health careers for 2020:
- Career growth, as predicted by the Occupational Outlook Handbook (OOH) from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), was taken into consideration, since having a positive employment outlook is an essential component of making a career an attractive path. These measurements included both the projected growth percentage as well as growth in the absolute number of jobs available.
- Salary was also a factor, with higher paying jobs getting a boost even if their demand outlook was not as strong.
- Flexibility and return on investment also influenced the selection of careers, although to a lesser degree than projected career growth or salary. Physical therapy, for instance, affords practitioners the flexibility to determine and adjust their own schedules.
Please note that unless otherwise specified, all BLS career growth figures are projected increases in jobs in the US between 2018 and 2028, and all salary figures are from May 2018— the most recent data available as of January 2020.
List of Top Careers in Healthcare for 2020
- Physical Therapist – Physical therapy tops this health career list because it is a lucrative position with tremendous growth expected in the coming years. It also offers a relatively flexible and comfortable lifestyle. As of May 2018, the median annual wage for physical therapists was $87,930 and demand for these health professionals is expected to grow by 22 percent in the decade preceding 2028. Unlike some other health professionals, physical therapists are often able to make their own hours, choose their clients, and are more likely to be self-employed.
- Dental Hygienist – Between 2018 and 2028, more than 23,700 new dental hygienist jobs are expected to be available. That represents an impressive growth rate of 11 percent, which is considered much faster than average. Dental hygienists earn a median annual wage of $74,820, and typically hold at least associate degrees.
- Physician Assistant – Not to be confused with medical assistants, physician assistants are highly trained health workers with advanced degrees who work closely with medical doctors to diagnose and treat illness. In 2018, the median salary for a physician assistant in the US was $108,610, helping to make this challenging career one of the most lucrative in healthcare.
- Nurse Practitioner – In many states, nurse practitioners are licensed to do much of what physicians can do. As the demand for healthcare services increases over the next decade, the demand for nurse practitioners is expected to increase 26 percent. With a median salary of $113,930, this career is even more lucrative than that of physician assistants, particularly for in-demand specializations like adult care, gerontology, neonatal, pediatric, and more.
- Physician – Becoming a physician carries a great deal of prestige and requires a significant investment of time and financial resources. But the tangible rewards in this field are also pronounced. The median salary for a physician in 2018 was more than $208,000 annually. It should be no surprise that this is among the top healthcare careers available. Please note that most physicians require 11 to 15 years of postsecondary schooling and training. They also usually incur substantial student loan debts.
- Registered Nurse – As of 2018, there are over three million registered nurse jobs in the US and that number is expected to swell 12 percent through the year 2028. Nurses enjoy a median salary of $71,730 for their work providing and coordinating care, as well as educating and supporting patients in their wellness journeys.
- Occupational Therapist – The BLS has noted that demand for occupational therapists is expected to grow much faster than average at a rate of 18 percent by the year 2028. This growth coupled with a relatively high median salary of $84,270 per year make this a highly desirable career pursuit. OTs typically have at least a master’s degree.
- Home Health Aide – Not every health worker spends their days in a hospital or clinic. Home health aides have the opportunity to assist patients in the comfort of the patient’s home and while doing so enjoying a wide open employment market with a 41 percent projected growth-rate. Although the salary is just slightly higher than the minimum wage of many states ($11.57 hourly), with 1,185,800 jobs being added by 2028, there are expected to be many opportunities in this field. Highly accessible, the educational requirement for home health aides is a high school diploma or an equivalency exam.
- Diagnostic Medical Sonographer – Diagnostic medical sonographers get to work closely with physicians but do not require nearly as much training, which means a faster track to employment. Demand for medical sonographers is expected to grow 19 percent through 2028, which translates into ample opportunities for graduating students. Sonographers generally have at least an associate’s degree and certification. They earn a median annual salary of $67,080 and work in hospitals, laboratories, or medical office settings.
- Licensed Practical or Licensed Vocational Nurse – It’s no secret that the demand for all types of nurses is high, with some even terming the shortage a crisis. In response, the demand for licensed practical and vocational nurses is expected to climb, with nearly 78,100 more jobs being added between 2018 and 2028. Working under the supervision of RNs and physicians, LPNs and LVNs provide nursing care to individuals of all ages.
- Physical Therapist Assistant – With a high demand and salary for PTs, it should come as no surprise that physical therapist assistants are not far behind. The median salary for this career comes in at $48,090 and demand is expected to grow by a whopping 26 percent through 2028. Similar to LPNs, PTAs work under the guidance of a physical therapist to assist patients with mobility, physical wellness, and pain management.
- Dental Assistant – The field of dentistry is growing and dental assistants are in demand. These professionals earn a median annual salary of $38,660 and have 11 percent expected job-growth between 2018 and 2028. With no graduate degree requirements, this job is a relatively quick way to start working in dentistry.
- Medical Assistant – A medical assistant can work anywhere from a physician’s office to an emergency room, giving this career a lot of variety. More importantly, 154,900 jobs are expected to be added to this profession by 2028, meaning that there will be plenty of open positions in the next decade.
- Medical or Clinical Laboratory Technician – As medical technology expands, the need for trained professionals to maintain and interpret that technology grows. That is why the demand for medical and clinical laboratory technicians is expected to increase by nearly 11 percent in the coming years. Professionals in this field can expect to earn up to $40,350 as a median annual salary, and with 23,100 jobs to be added between 2018 and 2028, you can expect the positions to be around after students complete their postsecondary nondegree award.
- Pharmacist – While the need for pharmacists is actually expected to decrease between 2018 and 2028, the salary is much higher than most. The median income for this health career is $126,120, making it an attractive opportunity for students willing to pursue an advanced degree. Pharmacists are responsible for filling and dispensing medications, in addition to counseling patients on their use.
- Surgeon – A career in surgery is certainly not one to take on lightly. It requires years of schooling as well as specialized training. However, surgeons can expect to earn more than $208,000 per year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
- Radiologic Technologist – Diagnostic imaging techniques such as x-rays have been around for many years, and they’re still one of the most effective ways to diagnose tumors and cancers. Radiologic technologists are expected to be in high demand, with 23,300 expected positions added through 2028. Radiographers also earn a decent living at $61,240 yearly with an associate’s degree.
- Surgical Technologist – While we know that surgeons are well compensated, their assistants, who require much less school and fewer training hours, are also in-demand. The demand for surgical technologists, also known as operating room technicians, is expected to grow by at least 9 percent through the year 2028.
- Dentist – With more school required and less job growth expected, dentistry is a bit lower ranked than dental hygienist or dental assistant. However, on average, dentists make an annual salary of $156,240 and may own their dental practices, which makes it relatively flexible for scheduling.
- Emergency Medical Technician/Paramedic – The life of an emergency medical technician (EMT) or paramedic is certainly never dull. These life-saving health professionals are also in high demand with more than 18,700 jobs expected to be added through the year 2028. With training required beyond high school (non-degree), EMT and paramedic services may be a good career path for individuals contemplating a career in the medical field or who thrive on adrenaline and helping others in crisis.
- Nursing Assistant – In another instance of nursing skills being in high demand, more than 137,800 new nursing assistant jobs are expected to be added to the field by the year 2028. Nursing assistants also have a range of work environments available to them, including nursing homes, hospitals, and private physicians’ offices.
- Family Physician or General Practitioner – A physician does not have to be highly specialized to be in demand with an enviable salary. Family physicians and general practitioners, many of whom are self-employed, can earn an average salary of more than $208,000 per year.
- Speech-language Pathologist – Also known as speech therapists, speech-language pathologists are certainly in demand with an expected growth-rate of 27 percent through 2028. While a master’s degree is required to start this career, speech-language pathologists earn a median annual salary of $77,510 per year.
- Occupational Therapy Assistant – With an expected growth of 31 percent through 2028, occupational therapy assistants are one of the most in-demand careers in healthcare. Occupational therapy assistants earn a median annual salary of $57,620 and with a minimum requirement of an associate’s degree, this can be an attractive career for anyone seeking relatively quick employment in a helping profession.
- Anesthesiologist – The only physician specialty that is higher paid, on average, than general surgery is anesthesiology. These highly trained physicians earn a median annual salary of $265,990. While the overall demand is less than some other healthcare careers, the high salary was an important factor when ranking this job.
- Medical Records or Health Information Technician – Not all health professions involve a high degree of patient contact. Medical records and health information technicians work to organize and manage health information data, usually far from patients. The demand for these professionals is expected to grow at least 11 percent through 2028, with 23,100 new jobs being added during that time-span.
- Nurse Anesthetist – Just as anesthesiologists are in high demand and command high salaries, nurse anesthetists are also needed around the country. Nurse anesthetists garner a median salary of $113,930 and require a master’s degree.
- Cardiovascular Technologist or Technician – Another career that specializes in medical imaging is the cardiovascular technologist and technician career. These professionals most often work full-time in hospitals, maintaining and running cardiovascular monitoring equipment. The demand for cardiovascular technologists and technicians is expected to grow 7 percent through 2028. These technicians can expect to make a median annual salary of $67,080.
- Phlebotomist – With an expected growth rate of 23 percent between the years of 2018 and 2028 and a median annual salary of $34,480, phlebotomists are situated firmly in the middle section of this list. These medical personnel withdraw blood or plasma from patients for a wide variety of purposes.
- Pharmacy Technician – A pharmacy technician is an assistant to a pharmacist with much less training. As the need for prescription medications expands, so too does the demand for this particular career. About 31,500 jobs for pharmacy technicians are expected to be added by 2028. Professionals in this field can expect to make a median annual salary of $32,700.
- Health Technologist or Technician (Other) – The Bureau of Labor Statistics created this category for those technicians not explicitly named in other classifications. An example would be the dialysis technician. The need for these technologists and technicians as a whole is expected to increase 11 percent from 2018 through 2028.
- Massage Therapist – Individuals interested in pursuing a health career who want to work for themselves may consider a career in massage therapy, as nearly half of all massage therapists are self-employed. The demand for massage therapists is also high, expecting to increase 22 percent by 2028. The BLS states that massage therapists only require a postsecondary nondegree award and make a median salary of $41,420.
- Optometrist – Another career requiring a doctoral degree, optometrists can expect to earn about $111,790 annually. The demand for these specialists is also high, with more than 4,000 jobs expected to be added by 2028. In addition to performing eye exams, optometrists diagnose and treat problems with vision, eye diseases, injuries, and disorders.
- Respiratory Therapist – These medical professionals help patients to treat the symptoms of chronic respiratory diseases, such as asthma or emphysema. To pursue this career, students must earn at least an associate’s degree and can look forward to a median salary of $60,280 per year.
- Veterinary Technologist or Technician – Of course, not all health careers involve taking care of humans. Veterinary technologists care of animal patients of all shapes and sizes and are rewarded for those efforts with a median salary of $34,420. The demand for veterinary technologists and technicians is expected to grow by almost 19 percent by 2028.
- Physical Therapist Aide – A physical therapist aide does work that is slightly different from that of a physical therapist assistant, but the position is still in demand. Physical therapist aides assist physical therapists and physicians with whatever administrative, clinical, or scheduling needs they might have. Through 2028, a 26 percent increase in demand in this particular career is expected, which means more than 38,000 new jobs around the country.
- Medical/Clinical Laboratory Scientist – The career of a medical or clinical laboratory scientist can prove a rewarding one. With an 11 percent expected increase in job openings by 2028, it’s expected to grow faster than the national average for all careers. These positions pay a median annual salary of $52,330.
- Therapist – The therapists in this BLS category may include music, art, or family therapists, or others that do not fit into another category such as psychologists. This is another job with a great deal of flexibility since more than half of these therapists are self-employed and can still command a median salary of more than $50,940. A minimum education requirement for therapists is usually a master’s degree.
- Dietitian/Nutritionist – Working with patients to help them live healthier lives can be extremely rewarding, as any dietitian or nutritionist will know. These professionals have a job that is expecting to see a more than 11 percent increase in demand by 2028. Dieticians and nutritionists have a wide variety of backgrounds, but degrees in health or science will help prepare those interested in this field.
- Optician, Dispensing – A dispensing optician assists people in finding and fitting eyeglasses and contacts by following the prescriptions provided by ophthalmologists and optometrists. More than 5,400 dispensing optician jobs are expected to be added by 2028.
- Internist, General – A general internist, who may also be known as a doctor of internal medicine, can earn about $200,000 per year with the proper training. The primary role of internal medicine doctors is to provide non-surgical treatment of injuries and diseases of the internal organs of their adult patients.
- Audiologist – Although audiologists do need an advanced degree, they do not require a medical degree. They usually hold master’s degrees. These hearing and balance specialists earn a median salary of $75,920 per year and there is expected to be 16 percent growth nationally in opportunities for these medical professionals between 2018 and 2028.
- Veterinarian – Though veterinarians do not have quite the job outlook of their related technicians, they can expect a higher-than-average salary. The median annual salary for a veterinarian is $93,830 and 18 percent growth is expected through 2026.
- MRI Technologist – MRI technologists get to work alongside physicians with some of the most sophisticated medical equipment available to diagnose and treat patients. With just an associate’s degree, new MRI techs can enter this well-paid field that is expected to grow by 9 percent by the year 2028. MRI technologists make a median annual salary of $61,240, according to the BLS.
- Ophthalmic Medical Technician – Another field experiencing a boom in growth is that of ophthalmic medical technicians. The demand for this career in which specialists construct, fit, and repair eyeglasses is expected to grow by an impressive 11 percent through 2028. Ophthalmic technicians also counsel patients on treatments, schedule appointments, and assist eye doctors with in-office procedures.
- Radiation Therapist – Working with cancer patients and individuals with other serious illnesses is not easy, but it can be very rewarding. Radiation therapists, for their hard work, earn a median salary of $82,330 per year and 1,600 radiation therapy jobs are expected to be added nationally by 2028. The job is one that requires a relatively short period of education, only as much as is necessary to obtain an associate’s degree. This is typically a period of two years.
- Pediatrician – Physicians who specialize in working with children can be among the most compassionate individuals. They can be found working in hospitals, clinics, emergency rooms, and various specialty centers. Like all professionals with a medical degree, pediatricians are in high demand at all times, so much so that the field is expected to grow 7 percent, with median salaries of $183,240.
- Nuclear Medicine Technologist – Nuclear medicine technologists are one of the highest paying healthcare careers that does not require an advanced degree, although an associate’s degree and 1,300 practice hours are required. Growth for this career is projected to be strong nationally (7 percent by 2028), although jobs are concentrated heavily in certain regions, such as California and the District of Columbia. The median pay for these skilled professionals is $76,820 per year, which is equal to $36.93 per hour in a 40-hour work week.
- Orthotist or Prosthetist – Orthotists and prosthetists, or O&P professionals, design devices that support patients with a medical need, including prosthetics. The demand for these skills is expected to increase by 20 percent, which is much faster than average, through 2028. O&P professionals always have master’s degrees and must have completed an internship or residency prior to employment in the field.
- Psychiatrist – A psychiatrist is a physician who is specially trained to deal with mental and other psychological illnesses. These physicians can command a median salary of more than $216,000, depending on location, expertise, and type of practice. Psychiatrists hold doctorates in their fields and usually operate their own practices, where they maintain professional relationships with many different clients.